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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
Situated directly on the fabulous Promenade Des Anglais just 2 minutes walk from the famous Negresco Hotel, a more perfect location is not possible. Ten minutes walk to shopping district, Old town and markets. Great supermarket in next street, res...
Villa Lunetta is spread across two spacious floors, with four bedrooms (2 master suites and 2 guest rooms) and four bathroom and shower rooms. Outside you'll find nearly 1,800 sqm of gardens with olive trees that are well over three hundred years ...
Luxury 5 bedroom Villa Ouinade in Villefranche sur Mer overlooking the bay of Cap Ferrat, Cote D'Azur, France. This is one of the most outstanding villas in a quiet area. It is about 2500sq feet with 3 large balconies.
It has been modernised to ...
Villa Sol is a beautiful and sophisticated old villa in excellent condition. It offers a southerly panoramic view over the bay of Villefranche and is 1 mile from Cap Ferrat. The villa has been completely renovated to the absolute highest standard....
(Text automatically translated) Fully equipped one bedroom apartment in the heart of Cannes close to all amenities in a pedestrian street near the Palais des Festivals and the beaches, restaurants etc ... and ideally located for congresses and dis...
Stunning modern penthouse apartment, in the old town, with wide sea views over the bay, St Jean Cap Ferrat, the medieval village and 16th century citadel.
With high speed internet (wifi), french and english TV, modern kitchen and bathroom this...
Cannes central beaches at Square Frédéric Mistral / Bd Jean Hibert bordering Sandy beaches (public / private) in 'beautiful stately home' of 10Apts, peaceful, overlooking the Square; Nice Apartment T3, crossing, 60m2, 3rd / last floor (spacious, g...
Situated in the centre of Cannes, this luxury 2 bedroom, first floor apartment is ideally located in a contemporary gated community. The Palais des Festivals et des Congress, the Boulevard de La Croisette and Rue D'Antibes (the main shopping stree...
Rental located in Cannes-Le Cannet. Very quiet residential district in the heights of Cannes 5 min away from the Croisette and the beaches and many golf courses. South oriented, not overlooked with unobstructed view, on 1500sq.m of an estate plant...
2 Stone 11th century village homes meticulously renovated with no expense sparred. Swimming pool. and garage. all within the walls of Mougins Vieux village. spectacular views of the Mediterranean sea and the cannes harbor. very close to Nice airp...