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Somerset Maugham famously described the French Riviera as a ‘sunny place for shady people’ and it has a gloriously nefarious reputation, what with its world-famous casino and Grand Prix in Monaco, the glamfest of the Cannes Film Festival, and as home to that most glamorous of glamorous resorts, legendary St Tropez. What brought people here in the first place, though, were its famously balmy climate and the necklace of beaches that still make it ideal for a sunny break.
The French Rivera, or Côte d'Azur as its known locally, stretches its glitzy tentacles all the way from the bustling city of Marseilles in the west through to Menton in the east close to the Italian border. En route are those beaches, with everything you could wish for, whether you are looking to strut your stuff alongside the international jet set, find a family-friendly sweep of sand or even just your own little stretch of beach heaven for two. So get your sunglasses and your swimmers on and join our exclusive beach tour!
Jump in your open-top Ferrari for Robin's tour of the French Riviera's best beaches
St Tropez: jet set playground
St Tropez is the quintessential Riviera resort, which has attracted millionaires, models and celebrities of all types ever since Bridget Bardot spectacularly emerged from the Mediterranean on to Pampelonne Beach in the movie ‘And God Created Woman’ in 1956. The famous Bardot beach actually lies a few kilometres from St Tropez and you wouldn’t know it out of season as it is pretty much left to the elements. As soon as the mercury rises again, though, the bikinis, chic beach bars and exclusive restaurants flood back, along with a flurry of watersports. The cool cognoscenti arrive by super yacht or helicopter, but even if you come by bus you can snatch a free slice of sand as it’s still a public plage.
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Cannes: film fun
Cannes is most famous for its annual film festival, but it has got sand too. Lots of it! There are over 7km of sandy littoral spread in and around Cannes with over a dozen beaches to choose from. Beware that some are private and that others, particularly on the main Promenade de la Croisette, charge for entry and then charge exorbitant prices for drinks et al too. Plage Macé is run by Cannes’ municipality, though, with cheaper rates for sunchairs, umbrellas and lockers. Next door is even a smaller free public stretch of sand, though get here early for a coveted spot.
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Nice: pebbles for painters
Stick with me here, but the resort of Nice has no sand. Nope, the long sprinkling of beaches in front of the legendary Promenade des Anglais are only populated by large smooth pebbles, or galets as the locals call them. This means, though, that you don’t get sand everywhere – and the other good news is that there is plenty of free-to-the-public beach where you won’t struggle for space for most of the year. You’ve got a lively city on hand to explore after the beaches too, plus a wealth of art galleries and museums thanks to the slew of artists such as Matisse and Picasso who flocked here and were not put off by a few pebbles.
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Theoule-sur-Mer: for couples
Couples Cove. The beaches around Theoule-sur-Mer are real gems, little stretches of sand dotted between rugged cliffs and hidden in small coves. The pick of the bunch is the Plage de l'Aiguille, which is part of a regional nature park that has been set up to protect the fragile coastal cliffs and the surrounding environment. Forget row upon row of buzzing lounge bars and pumping DJs here. This is a chilled-out escape for couples who just want to spend precious time together.
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The historic town of Antibes makes for a very relaxed beach holiday in a resort that is neither too glamorous nor too crowded. Plage de la Gravette is a glorious public beach just beyond the rambling ramparts of the old town with a decent sweep of clean sand and tempting family-friendly shallow waters. After your swim, the myriad cafés, bars and restaurants of atmospheric Antibes await exploration, as well as all the facilities you might need with the wee ones.
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Main image by Fredrik Enestad
St Tropez by Erica Ashleson
Cannes by Wazzza
Nice by Oiva Eskola
Antibes by shansby
French Riviera Holiday Rentals
Certainly one of the most beautiful vacation rentals nice! 300 m from one of the main arteries of nice. no need to visit nice vehicle! bus and tram to more 1am daily. stop in front of the property. view! Location: villa on 3000 m2. Hire independen...
This superb property sits amongst the pine trees and small lanes of exclusive Cap d'Antibes between Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. Fully enclosed and private, the house has a lawned garden, large pool and private tennis court.
5 bedrooms / 4 bathroom...
Set in a prestigious building in a great location, Ivy is spacious and light with a touch of real class. For those people who want a touch of traditional French furnishings, parque floors and large light French windows this is for you. Each of the...
Violet is a stylish, contemporary two bed, two bathroom apartment in one of the finest holiday locations of Nice. With air conditioning, a spacious balcony and all mod cons, who could ask for more? Located on the quiet yet residential Avenue des F...
Pastorelli is a chic and tasteful two bed apartment combining modern furnishings with a sprinkling of classical features. This is the perfect place to stay if you love the idea of an apartment with the sophistication and glamour the French Riviera...
Azur Fleurs is an exclusive apartment in a fashionable area with a truly penthouse feel. Located within a concierge serviced building, this apartment is one in a million! You can truly relax with a glass of bubbly in your private jacuzzi, surround...
Spectacular rooftop views from this old town hideaway in a recently restored building.
Sunlit and quiet (you can even hear the sound of the castle waterfall !), tastefully furnished and decorated, this apartment can cater for up to 4 people. The o...
The 40m2 south facing garden is main feature of this apartment, relax in a sun lounger or dine at the six seater table whilst surrounded by flowers, vines and the smell of jasmine.
The living area is at the front of the apartment and overlooks a ...
A wonderful 120 m² apartment with a 100 m2 terrace and a magnificent view situated in Palm Beach, Cannes.
100-200m to beaches, sailing and surfing schools.
50-100 m to local shops such as bakery, butcher, fishmonger, pharmacy and more.
Jasmine Terrace is a one bedroom house tucked away in a quiet private courtyard in a central street in the heart of Nice. The decor is modern and fresh and it has the open spacious feel of a beach house with lime washed wood, stripes, decking and ...