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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
This modern 2 bedroom apartment was totally renovated in August 2012. It is on the third floor of a classic building, located in the heart of Cannes and with a lift (elevator). The apartment is a few steps from Meynadier street, the oldest and m...
Located in Cannes Grand Parc, a secure fenced estate with 24 hours security in the Croix des Gardes - a 35 acre parkland from which you can admire the stunning views over Cannes and the clear blue Mediterranean sea. A high quality villa with a la...
Comfy and authentic flat offering an excellent Price/Surface ratio (69sq m) in residence with a private park, incl. two heated swimming pools (one of which for children) and table tennis, supermarket 100 m, bakery-pastry 150 m bar 200 m, chemi...
Apartment fully renovated in September of 2012, carefully decorated, boutique hotel type, uncluttered with vintage or reissued furniture, new and comfortable bedding, 2 large and bright bedrooms with twin or double bed, cupboards, living room with...
This ancestral property that is composed of a main country house and Provencal small country houses with all modern conveniences, offers stunning panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Ideally located on the heights of Grasse, you can reach the...
Apartment completely renovated, two bedroom waterfront open to the living room, kitchen, bath, separate toilet, bedroom, living room, small balcony on the 1st floor with beautiful sea views Located on the seafront promenade of English. The apartme...
Ideally located by the sea above a sandy beach, 5 minutes from the village on foot.
Holiday villa with large terraces and panoramic view on the bay of Cannes, large wooded property below the road towards the sea and sandy beaches. Air-conditioning...
3 rooms in the Heart of Old Nice - the most beautiful place
50m2 apartment with 2 bedrooms, 3rd floor of a building in the center of old-nice
Southern exposure very sunny, fully equipped and modern decor.
2 Twin room for 2 people: 140
Modern 3 Pieces. Capacity: 4 people. US kitchen. Terrace and small garden. Private estate, new and quiet. With children park and green space. Pool area: beautiful swimming pool, children's pool, sun beds / umbrellas.
Welcome in our Suite-Apartment located on Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais. In the very heart of Nice “Carré d’Or” on the Promenade des Anglais, with sea and beaches views and pool at roof top.
Close to the old Nice and from the main amenitie...