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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
The apartment is in a bourgeois building with eight floors, facing the Canto Harbour.
The apartment (95 m²) is located on the 5th floor (with lift) and overlooks the Canto Harbour (kitchen side).
Private parking, secured, 2 minutes away by foot ...
Facing the sea and perfectly located on Cannes' famous boulevard de la Croisette, near the exclusive Hotel Martinez, our luxury apartment has everything for a perfect holiday. It is also ideal for conference delegates with LCD televisions in every...
Perfect for 2 people! The apartment is situated in the most photographed archway in Old Antibes and on small cobbled pedestrian street. It is tranquil, bright and picture perfectly French, lying between the Ancient Stone Sea Wall and the Provencal...
Located on a popular pedestrian street in the old town of Antibes, this beautifully renovated apartment is ideally placed for exploring the old town and beyond. On the 3rd floor and overlooking the old terracotta rooftops, it is both convenient to...
Nice apartment 45 m2 on 3rd floor, in the heart of the historic district of Cros-de-Cagnes. Located on the seafront, this charming 2 bedroom offers stunning views over the blue, promenade and its 3.5 km pebble beach. Let yourself be enchanted by t...
'The Topia' detached house of 20 m2, completely renovated with every comfort: equipped (washing machine, microwave, hot plate) bathroom with walk-in shower kitchen, double glazing, sofa bed with sleeping quality closet, TV, equipped with table, ch...
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...
Ideal location very close to all shops, car is not needed.
3 rooms double-oriented flat, very quiet, well-equipped, with a beautiful view of the Beaulieu Bay and the St Jean Cap Ferrat peninsula and possibility to eat on the covered terrace.
Bright apartment of 46 sq.m on the last floor (rated 3 stars in 2012), for 2 to 4 people, in excellent condition, with a panoramic view over the Bay of Villefranche-sur- Mer and the peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
With a veranda (sliding wi...
Flat for four people with living room and american kitchen, bedroom, toilet room with shower,private garden and individual, private parking lot. Situated right behind the Martinez Hotel, at a very short walk from the beach, the Croisette, commerci...