A Guide to the French Riviera: Where to Swim, Stay and get the best Champagne

Brianna Kozlarek / Tuesday September 17, 2019

We’re closing out our France Travel Guide with the ultra dreamy French Riviera (see the Paris guide here, Provence here). This was a highly anticipated part of our trip. Growing up as a lakehouse kid, I’ve always found water instantly calming and relaxing. So, how could the South of France be anything less that heaven? I’ve also read so many books that have described the location as seemingly the most sought after spot for the chic and rich (a girl can dream right?) We wanted to end our France trip here because we imagined sitting sun soaked by the water each day, rosé in hand. For a psycho planner, I didn’t do the best at planning this leg of the trip, so let’s just dive into what I learned, what we did and how you can make it the best experience possible:

A Guide to the French Riviera

Where to Stay

There are a TON of choices when picking your home base. St. Tropez is mentioned a lot, and while I’m sure it’s fabulous, it’s kind of an isolated location and UBER expensive (in an area that’s already not too budget friendly). Nice and Cannes are both beautiful locations, but there’s not as good of a beach scene. Which is how we landed on Antibes: less touristy, nice beaches, and a good home base to travel around. In Antibes we stayed in an AirBnb, and while it was cute, this was probably a poor choice. I picked it for cost reasons, but I feel like it really impacted our stay. Your absolute best bet would be to stay at a hotel with water access. Lugging your towels, wine and lunch to a tiny public beach in 90 degree heat is less than ideal, and pretty much all of the beach chairs were sold out (#July). SO, stay at a hotel, and these are the ones that looked hella cute:

Eden Roc

I mean, why F* around. If you can swing it, look no further. Fun fact: I have been dreaming about this hotel since I was like 12 years old. It’s the epitome of rich, old money to me (are you turned on yet?). And I had to see that iconic pool. So I figured we could weasel our way in for a drink. We called an uber and pulled up to the gates where a guard asked for our name and reservation (LOL WOOPS). I totally acted like a fancy lady and pretended we had a rez at the bar (we didn’t). By the grace of God, he decided to wave us through and we snuck into the bar. It was EVERYTHING. One of those surreal, “how is this my life” moments.

Eden Roc French Riviera Guide
“No yea I’m totally a guest here,” – the sneakiest bitch in town.
After the drink we walked around the property and, you guys, the beach cabanas here are insane. The hotel looks like, no IS, a palace. We made a promise that if we ever go back to the Riviera, we will one day be guests (instead of posers) at the ultra glam Eden Roc. If that’s too rich for your blood, here’s some alternate yet still very nice options:
Cap D'Antibes Beach Hotel
Cap D’Antibes Beach Hotel
Hotel Belles Rives
Hotel Belles Rives

Where to Eat?

My favorite part of every recap, naturally. As with everything in the South of France, don’t be a fool like ya girl and be sure to make reservations for your dinners a few weeks out. Remember, nothing before 8:30pm at the earliest, and start with a spritz:

For the quintessential French evening, don’t miss the seriously killer dining experience. Le P’tit Cageot is a small restaurant of 30 covered with the authentic decoration. Exposed beams, stone walls and wooden crates set the tone, and the food will knock your socks off.
The prettiest spot for lunch, right on the water. Cool off with some champagne and literally any of their seafood entrees which were all fantastic.
La Tour Antique Restaurant
La Tour Antique (ate too fast to take a pic, please enjoy this photo of our faces)
One of our top meals of the entire two weeks in France, this is a cannot miss spot. We had some of the best red wine I’ve ever had (and I’m a SNOB) and it was 6 Euro a glass. Like, are you kidding? The burrata was a sexual experience and we split steak and the fluffiest gnocchi for our mains. Get thee to this place!!
For a romantic night in this crazy romantic part of the world, watch the sunset while dining at this Michelin star restaurant. You absolutely cannot go wrong with anything here, but we would highly recommend the tomatoes & melon to start, the sea bass and veal chop for entree, and the “how could anything be this good?!” strawberry ginger ice cream for dessert.

What to Do: Activities you can’t miss

Take a swim

I snapped this pic at the Plage de la Baie des Milliardaires. I almost didn’t want to share this little gem, for fear of increased popularity, but what the hell. After waking up on our first morning in Antibes we wanted to hit up a beach. We made our way to Plage Keller to see if we could rent some beach chairs. Rookie mistake! We were also mislead by our AirBnB hosts who assured us we’d be able to get a reservation the day before (when we definitely needed them weeks in advance). The public beaches in Antibes are TINY and a rented beach chair at one of the clubs is one of the only options if you’re #IrishWhite. So I pulled up my trusty Google Maps and found this little alcove on the map. After a seriously hot 30 minute hike to the spot, we were rewarded with an ultra private, stunningly blue escape that was very unpopulated. We found a shady spot on the woods and spent a lovely afternoon there drinking rosé and swimming. Hot tip: bring water shoes! These rocks are no joke and I 100% had to wear my sandals in the water. If you are able to get a reservation, these beaches looked like to rent chairs at: Plage Keller, Plage de la Garoupe, Royal Beach.

Take the train to a nearby village

One of the perks of visiting the Riviera, much like Provence, is the access you have to so many nearby towns. There’s a LOT to choose from, and the the train system makes it so easy to get around. We checked out the medieval village of Eze, and you’ll see why based on this image I snapped: You can see the entire French Riviera from atop this incredible village! We took the hour bus ride from Antibes and then hopped on another bus in Eze that takes you half way to the top. The hike to this view is definitely challenging, but once you’re at the top have a spritz or two and the return trip will amazingly feel much easier 😉 We didn’t get to check out the botanical garden due to our late arrival, but I hear it is just magical and would definitely be sure to check it out next time.

Eze France Street
A Street in Eze, France.

Monaco

Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco
Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco
We didn’t make it to Monaco, but I hear taking a helicopter there is the way to go. This is actually a different country, but you can easily visit. Monaco stirs images of old world class, James Bond and the filthy rich. This is a pretty accurate description. If high end ultra glam is your scene, be sure to check out Monaco and the famous casino. If you’re a beach person like me, have no fear: Monaco has really great beaches and sea views for you to roam and explore.
Monaco France Travel Guide River view
Monaco

On our list for next time

Never satisfied and and overachiever, I still wasn’t able to cross everything off our “must see’ list. The top item was the Gorges du Verdon, which are between Provence and the Riviera. It’s considered the Grand Canyon of Europe and I’m certain the photos don’t do it justice. You can be sure this will be on our itinerary for the next trip 🙂

Gorges du Verdon