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Top things to do on the Côte d'Azur: Towns and villages to visit near Monaco

Published on November 30, 2023Updated on December 14, 2023

Some authentic villages stand atop rocky peaks or hide behind ramparts. Others lie peacefully on the coastline along sandy or pebble beaches or cling to capes. During your vacation in Monaco, once you’ve wandered through Le Rocher, admired the Principality’s sumptuous architecture, and enjoyed the countless cultural and festive attractions on offer, set off to explore hilltop villages, medieval citadels, and famous seaside resorts between the sea and mountains to discover the best spots on the Côte d'Azur.

1. Èze: A medieval eagle's nest 

8 km from Monaco 

On a craggy outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea lies a village... Set in the heart of the Grande Corniche park, Èze offers one of the best panoramic views of the French Riviera. After passing through its 14th-century fortified double gate, known as a postern, wander through the intertwining narrow streets lined with art and craft galleries and steeped in over 1500 years of history! Accept this kind invitation to get lost in space and time. And to dream.  

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The exotic garden

At the top of the village, a magnificent exotic garden of cacti, agaves, and aloes adorns the ruins of a medieval castle. It's one of the most visited sights on the Côte d'Azur and offers a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Beaulieu, and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. 

Jardin Exotique Eze - Que faire sur la Côte d'Azur

Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption church  

The listed Notre-Dame de l'Assomption church stands slightly apart from the rest of Èze and features a Neoclassical ochre facade adorned with an oculus. Inside is a single nave with Baroque side chapels.

Eglise Notre-Dame-del'Assomption Eze

Nietzsche path 

Don't miss out on a walk along this pretty path linking Èze-village to Èze-sur-Mer below the historic center. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is said to have wandered here in search of inspiration. It takes just over an hour and a half to reach the beach in the pine-lined bay between Cap Roux and Pointe de Cabuel.

Eze - Que faire en Côte d'Azur

2. La Turbie: The majestic Roman 

10 km from Monaco

Welcome to one of the jewels of the Côte d'Azur... Overlooking the Principality, La Turbie offers a unique panorama of the Mediterranean Sea, from the mountains of the Estérel massif to the shores of Italy’s Liguria region. In ancient times, this commune was strategically located on the Via Julia Augusta, a military and commercial route linking the Côte d'Azur to what is now transalpine Liguria. The remains of the Trophée de La Turbie, or Tropaeum Alpium, still stand at its highest point.

Tropaeum Alpium

It has overlooked the sea and mountains for over two thousand years! Built from limestone in the 1st century BC by the first Roman emperor Augustus, it physically marked the definitive victory of the Empire over the last Alpine peoples hostile to Rome. One of the few structures of its kind still standing today, it is surrounded by a vast landscaped park!

Trophée d'Auguste - La Turbie

Tête de Chien promontory

From La Turbie, climb up to the rocky end of this ridge, emerging from the Alps. At an altitude of 550 meters, it offers spectacular views over Monaco and the Riviera.

Principauté de Monaco

From Peille to Peillon: The region's most beautiful "clifftop villages”

In the Monegasque hinterland, sheltered behind Mont Agel and built on steep inclines, perch the hilltop villages of Peille and Peillon. These two marvels of medieval architecture feature houses in the ramparts, narrow alleyways, vaulted passageways, and cobbled steps. The two villages were one entity until the 13th century. Today, they are only linked by the Circuit de Lourquière. Why not set off on a challenging hike along this age-old trail, which winds along the mountainside for some ten kilometers?

3. Roquebrune-Cap-Martin: The belle of the Côte d'Azur   

 6 km from Monaco 

During your vacation in Monaco, you’re bound to visit its pretty neighbor, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. And you’re also bound to fall for the charms of this pearl of the Riviera, which, hanging above the Mediterranean, boasts some of the finest treasures on the Côte d'Azur: Architectural treasures with its ancient medieval village, natural treasures with the verdant Cap-Martin peninsula, and cultural treasures thanks to the legacy of architect Le Corbusier, who summered in Cap-Martin.

Roquebrune Cap Martin

The old town

At 300 meters above sea level, this authentic medieval village is the soul of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Stroll along its colorful streets, admiring the picturesque stone houses. Follow Rue Moncollet and its steps carved from rock up to the château. And just a stone's throw away, Roquebrune's ancient olive tree keeps watch – at 2,000 years old, it’s considered the oldest tree in France!

Roquebrune Cap Martin - Vieux Village

Le Corbusier trail

Stroll along the seafront customs path known as the "Le Corbusier" trail, which runs from Roquebrune-Cap-Martin to Monaco. It is the ideal place for a stroll between the Mediterranean and the mountains, combining sea breezes with the scent of pine trees. It also provides a glimpse of Eileen Gray's famous Villa E-1027, an icon of modern architecture, and Le Corbusier's Cabanon, where the master designed seven of his masterpieces.

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Le Buse beach

At the end of the coastal path lies a reward: the idyllic and secretive Le Buse beach. The warm turquoise waters are cooled by several underwater freshwater springs dotted around.

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4. Menton: The pearl of the Riviera

13 km from Monaco

Another seaside gem that you can’t miss during your vacation on the Côte d'Azur is Menton, an unspoiled Eden on the French Riviera. A town of art and history, known for lemons and Jean Cocteau, Menton stretches out along the seafront on the borders of Italy. An incredible patchwork of colorful houses is overlooked by splendid villas nestled higher up in the surrounding mountains. 

Menton - Visiter Cote d'Azur

The old town

Lose yourself between light and shadow in the medieval streets and alleyways of the old town. Marvel at the red, orange, and yellow ochre facades as they blend with the green of the climbing plants. Don't miss the gems of Baroque art: The Saint-Michel Basilica and the Chapel of the White Penitents. The view from the old château cemetery is simply breathtaking: Below lies the Bay of Sablettes and the boats moored in the Old Port.

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Sablettes beach and esplanade

A local favorite, this is a great beach for a refreshing break, protected from the wind and swell. Or, for an exotic botanical walk that you can extend to the Promenade du Soleil via the Old Port.

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The bastion

Standing at the end of the Menton harbor wall between the port and the Promenade du Soleil, this 17th-century former military building now houses the Jean Cocteau Museum.

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Gorbio and Saint-Agnès: Two “balconies” on the Côte d'Azur

Perched high above Menton and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is the authentic and always lively village of Gorbio, set in magnificent greenery. A beautiful 300-year-old elm stands in the center of the square, surrounded by houses with porches. Not far away, Saint-Agnès, the highest coastal village in Europe, sits at an altitude of around 800 meters, overlooked by the remains of a medieval castle and its garden. It is a panoramic viewpoint over the Mediterranean Sea! And the road up to it from Menton is incredible.

5. Beaulieu-sur-Mer: Authentic chic

11 km from Monaco

Stop off at this large waterfront village along the seaside road to Nice. Its motto is "peace in beauty." Lying to the east of Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer reveals its elegance through harbors, beaches, a lush tree-lined shoreline, and Belle Époque architectural gems. Popular with royalty in the 19th century, the pretty city continues to shine as one of the most beautiful towns on the Côte d'Azur.

Villa Kérylos and Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild  

A faithful reconstruction of a sumptuous Ancient Greek residence, Villa Kérylos overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. A little further away, on a hill on the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, lies Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa, a Renaissance-inspired marvel.

Villa Ephrussi - Beaulieu-sur-Mer - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Belle Époque heritage

From the Casino to the Palais des Anglais, via La Rotonde and the former Hôtel Bristol (long one of the Riviera's largest and most luxurious hotels): Immerse yourself in the carefree spirit of the Belle Époque.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer - Patrimoine Belle Epoque

Two bays, two beaches, two ports

On one side lies the family-friendly Bay of Fourmis beach and its picturesque little port. On the other, discover the chic and authentic Petite-Afrique beach, snuggled against its limestone cliffs and backing onto the marina. It is the perfect place to go for water sports.

6. Villefranche-sur-Mer: The former port of Savoy

15 km from Monaco

On the other “side” of Cap-Ferrat, just outside Nice, lies the charming seaside resort of Villefranche-sur-Mer. It is one of the most beautiful harbors in the western Mediterranean, surrounded by lush Provencal vegetation. The old town's winding streets, arcades, and steps, the citadel, the royal port, the harmoniously curved shoreline, and the beach make Villefranche-sur-Mer a typical village in what was once the county of Nice.

VilleFranche-sur-Mer

Rue du Poilu and Rue Obscure

Follow Rue du Poilu, the main thoroughfare in the historic heart of the village, and the astonishing Rue Obscure, laid out in the 13th century along the first rampart... with buildings built atop it, making it tunnel-like for 130 meters!

VilleFranche-sur-Mer - Rue Obscure

A pair of Baroque and Romanesque churches

Don't miss the Baroque Saint-Michel church, with its yellow, white, and pink facade. It is home to one of the oldest organs in the region. Further down, near the port, visit the Romanesque Saint-Pierre chapel, entirely decorated by Jean Cocteau.

Eglise Villefranche-sur-mer

Saint-Elme citadel

Along with Mont Alban fort and Saint-Hospice tower in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, this 16th-century citadel was part of the defensive system built by the Duke of Savoie to defend the harbor basin at Villefranche-sur-Mer, his historic port. It still watches over the city, but it is now a cultural center, housing several museums.

VilleFranche-sur-Mer - La Citadelle

7. Nice: The city of angels

21 km from Monaco

Set between the sea and mountains on the pebbled coastline of the Bay of Anges, the Ancient Greek city has established itself as the must-see capital of the Côte d'Azur. This energetic, multi-faceted city epitomizes the Mediterranean art of living. With the authentic Old Nice district, the blue chairs and palm trees on the Promenade des Anglais, Place Masséna (the jewel in the city’s crown), churches, and museums, there are countless reasons to visit Nice.

Nice - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Old Nice

Discover a labyrinth of lively Italian-style streets fringed with ochre and bright red houses and dotted with Baroque churches and squares. Here, Sainte-Réparate cathedral, there, Place Saint-François and its fish market. Day and night, it's the beating heart of the city... and a shady oasis too.

Vieux Nice - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Colline du Château

This hill overlooks the old town to the west and the port to the east. In addition to Nice château’s remains and cemetery – one of the most beautiful resting places in France – you'll find a breathtaking panorama of the city, the Promenade des Anglais, and the Bay of Anges.

Nice Baies des Anges - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

The Carré d'Or

Previously the Buffa neighborhood, the Carré d'Or is another of the city's iconic sights! Belle Époque and Art Deco buildings rub shoulders in this prestigious district, including Villa Masséna, now an art and history museum, and the sumptuous Le Negresco hotel.

Place Massena Nice - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

The Matisse and Marc Chagall museums

Perched high on the Colline de Cimiez, the city's upscale district, the national museum dedicated to Marc Chagall, with a focus on his religious-inspired work, and the Matisse museum with its trompe-l'oeil façade are well worth a visit. The Russian Orthodox St. Nicholas Cathedral lies a stone’s throw away.

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Lucéram and Sospel: On the salt road between Nice and Turin...

After being shipped by sea from the Hyères saltmarshes to Nice, salt was transported by mule across the mountains of Provence to Savoie and Piedmont. Along these paths, you'll come across several villages, including Lucéram, with Renaissance houses and cobbled streets that provide grip to prevent mules from slipping and losing their precious loads. A bit further east, another trail passes through the village of Sospel, an authentic medieval town with colorful houses. This haven of greenery is a gateway to Mercantour National Park.

8. Saint-Paul-de-Vence: The pretty "land" of artists

42 km from Monaco

Between Nice and Antibes, perched on a hill above Cagnes-sur-Mer, Saint-Paul de Vence has retained its artistic soul. Its narrow streets, countless chapels, light atmosphere, and breathtaking views over Provence have won over Matisse, Braque, Miro, Modigliani, Picasso, Prévert, and Chagall, who incidentally rests in peace in the village cemetery. The village is a delight for the senses and the mind.

The pedestrian heart

When it’s sunny, spend the day discovering the many secrets the village has to offer. A wealth of history and heritage is to be found just around the bend of a street, behind a fountain, and at the foot of a bastion or a chapel – and there is no shortage of them!

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Fondation Maeght

Hidden in nature, the foundation designed by Aimé and Marguerite Maeght is an exceptional sight entirely dedicated to modern art and its most eminent representatives, including Giacometti, Miró, Braque, Calder, and Chagall. Designed by Catalan architect José Luis Sert, the building itself is a masterpiece.

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9. Antibes Juan-les-Pins: Singular and multi-faceted

50 km from Monaco

The splendid fine sandy beaches of Juan-les-Pin (the famous, bustling seaside resort) are matched by the more authentic and tranquil old town, surrounded by 16th-century ramparts. With its castle, bastion, and tower, the former Antipolis has preserved the evidence of its rich history. When summer arrives, the whole town starts swinging to the rhythm of its famous Jazz à Juan festival – a favorite of Ella Fitzgerald. But Antibes is also a cape, a verdant wooded peninsula dotted with villas worthy of a dream... An authentic slice of paradise!

Antibes - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

The Safranier district

The Safranier district is undoubtedly one of the most unique areas of old Antibes. It reflects its status as a free commune, which has been promoting its cheerful, festive identity since the 1960s, as well as its resolutely Provencal charm, with its typical alleyways and balconies overflowing with flowers.

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The Garoupe plateau

The plateau stands at an altitude of 75 meters on the eastern shore of the cape. And atop it stands a lighthouse, a semaphore, a chapel, and... in the shade of the Aleppo pines, a café aptly named "Bistrot du Curé" (the parish priest bistro)! On a clear day, you can see Italy to the east and Cap Camarat to the west from this charming spot.

Antibes - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Billionaires’ bay

Long inaccessible by land, Anse de l'Argent Faux, nicknamed Billionaires’ Bay, lies at the end of the old customs path that runs along the Cap d'Antibes coastline. Your route will take in turquoise waters, secret coves, and unspoiled wilderness. And, hidden in the trees, magnificent villas seeking privacy.

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10. Cannes: Natural glamour

Along with Antibes, this former fishing village has become one of the Côte d'Azur's most welcoming seaside resorts. Cannes is all about La Croisette, glitz, and, of course, the film festival. But it's also the Old Port at the foot of Colline du Suquet. And 8 km of white sandy beaches, not to mention the precious natural landscapes of the Lérins Islands, a short boat ride offshore.

Le Suquet and Place de la Castre

From the Old Port, which is one of the oldest on the Côte d'Azur, climb up the narrow streets of Colline du Suquet to reach the serene Place de la Castre, flanked by Notre-Dame d'Espérance church and the remains of the Château des Moines de Lérins. Tour du Suquet tower stands in the middle of the convent, which has now been converted into a museum. Look down for a view of the city and its bay.

Cannes - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Forville market     

Come and experience the Cannes-style art of living by strolling along the alleys of stalls at the Provencal Forville market. This institution gives pride of place to local produce, from the catch of the day to seasonal fruit and vegetables. From the market, continue your immersion in the heart of Cannes life by walking up the picturesque, pedestrianized Rue Meynadier, which is always a hive of activity.

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The Lérins Islands

Bathed in turquoise waters, the island of Sainte-Marguerite, dominated by its royal fort, and the island of Saint-Honorat, a refuge for Cistercian monks, appear like two natural jewels off the Bay of Cannes. The first promises peaceful strolls along paths lined with pine trees and eucalyptus. As for the second, it will be your haven of peace for a serene retreat around Lérins abbey.

Cannes - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

11. Grasse: The world capital of perfume

70 km from Monaco

After a day in Cannes, let the sweet fragrances of the surrounding hills guide you to the delicate, fragrant town of Grasse. The pretty city’s proudest accomplishments remain its prestigious historic perfumeries, including Fragonard, Molinard, and Galimard. A city of art and history, Grasse also boasts incredible architectural heritage, with a cathedral, bishop's palace, fountains, shady lanes, villas, and private mansions. It is adorned with gardens and fields of jasmine, roses, lavender, and mimosa. Breathe it all in! And enjoy!

The International Perfume Museum     

This is the only museum in the world dedicated to safeguarding and promoting the international heritage of scents, aromas, and perfumes. It is a must-see for a unique sensory journey through the cultivation and history of this age-old know-how. Don't miss the museum gardens nestled below...

Grasse - Musée international parfumerie - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Estates and fields of flowers

From the azure blues and sunny yellows of Route du Mimosa (visit between January and March) to Domaine du Mas de l'Olivine with its delicious floral confections via the Lavanderaie de Marie in Gourdon and Domaine de Manon when roses and jasmine are in bloom: Immerse yourself in the Grasse region and discover an intoxicating landscape of scents and colors that changes with the seasons.

Grasse - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

12. Saint-Tropez: Do you do you do you do you

134 km from Monaco

Although it’s been in the spotlight since the 1960s, Saint-Tropez is still the most glamorous destination on the Côte d'Azur! Its famous port is a meeting place for fishermen, locals, and visitors alike. The citadel, which once defended the port from pirates, privateers, and Ottomans, is now a maritime history museum. On the café terraces, get in tune with the chic, relaxed, typically Tropezian art of living. While in the cobbled neighborhood of La Ponche further out of town, peace and quiet still reign supreme.

Place des Lices

Every Tuesday and Saturday, boules players make way for the colorful display of local flavors and Provencal crafts offered by the historic market of old Saint-Tropez in one of its most emblematic squares.

Saint Tropez - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

A tower tour

Tour du Portalet to Tour Vieille to Tour Jarlier to Tour Suffren: These towers form the four corners of the old ramparts of the fortified village of Saint-Tropez in the 15th century.

Saint Tropez - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

La Ponche beach

This small, quiet pebble beach awaits you after a stroll from the port, past Tour Vieille. It is an excellent starting point for a walk along the coast via the Graniers trail. From there, you can walk to Canoubiers beach, along the slopes of the citadel and Saint-Tropez marine cemetery.

Saint Tropez - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

13. Ramatuelle: An inconspicuous resident of the Var

136 km from Monaco

Undoubtedly a little more inconspicuous than its Tropezian neighbor, surrounded by ramparts on the foothills of the Castellas massif, Ramatuelle unfurls a prestigious panorama over the Bay of Pampelonne. Its pretty flower-covered houses with pink-tiled roofs, narrow alleyways, porches, small squares, wash house, and cemetery provide an authentic, peaceful stop in the heart of the Var countryside.

Pampelonne beach

The beach’s crescent-shaped curve makes it one of the natural wonders of the Saint-Tropez peninsula: 5 km of fine sand between Cap du Pinet and Cap Camarat. The beach was made famous by Roger Vadim's film And God Created Woman, starring Brigitte Bardot. This listed "remarkable site" is ideal for water sports and just as ideal for... doing nothing.            

Ramatuelle - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Cap Camarat lighthouse

At 130 meters high, it is one of the tallest lighthouses in France. It is the perfect starting point for your exploration of Cap Camarat and its forests of Aleppo pines, cork oaks, and holm oaks. This superb natural site is protected by the Conservatoire du Littoral.

Ramatuelle - Que Faire Cote d'Azur

Italy... Neighboring Ventimiglia and Sanremo, the enchanting city of flowers

The most beautiful spots on the Côte d'Azur are followed, on the other side of the border, by the most beautiful spots on the Italian Riviera. From Monaco, it is just over half an hour to Ventimiglia and its pastel-colored houses. Lose yourself in Ventimiglia Alta, "upper Ventimiglia", a picturesque historic district perched high above the sea and a veritable open-air museum. 

Then why not head off to Sanremo (or San Remo), another must-see stop on the Italian Riviera? La Pigna, its medieval old town, clings to the walls of its promontory overlooked by the sanctuary of the Madonna della Costa. Take a stroll through its prestigious Ormond, Nobel, and Zirio villas and enjoy their magnificent gardens. Its elegant rose and carnation fields have earned it the nickname the "City of Flowers".

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Attached to Sanremo, the old town of Bussana, Bussana Vecchia, is a must-see curiosity. A ghost town since 1887, it became an "international artists' village" in the early 1960s.

Round off your discovery of Italy by heading further inland to explore the Ligurian hinterland, from Apricale to Dolceacqua... And if you have time, continue a little further along the coast to Imperia and Noli.

Discover Monaco's legendary hotels for a vacation on the Côte d'Azur
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