Three of our favorite spots on the Riviera
By Kelly Cronin
Between the major tourist destinations lie the hidden gems of the French Riviera, and my personal favorite portion of the Côte d’Azur coastline. Five small, pristine towns lie on the coast between Nice and Monaco: Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu, Èze and Cap-d’Ail. Each town has its own unique character, a variety of gorgeous beaches to choose from and of course some incredible fine-dining options. If you can’t spend your entire vacation exploring all of these places, here are our top three hidden gems:
As a first stop on the way from Nice to Monaco, Villefranche-sur-Mer will certainly not disappoint. It has one of the world’s most beautiful bays (seriously – it was voted one of the top five most beautiful bays in the world) with an overall adorable fishing-village atmosphere. The waterfront and bay have plenty of seaside restaurants and cafés, plus a large beach where people often bring their own floats and lounge both in and out of the sea.
The old town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is incredibly charming. All pedestrian access only, incredibly colorful houses and apartments fill tiny, narrow streets and stairwells. There is even an underground road called Rue Obscure that leads through the town. Wander the passageways and shop at the sweetest boutiques before popping out to the road up to the Citadel. Up on the hillside of Villefranche, the Citadel is now home to the Mayor’s office, many free museums, a beautiful garden and even an outdoor theater in the summer. Exploring this unique property will bring you back in time, as well as give you some noteworthy views of the Bay.
Heading towards the principality, a hillside medieval village overlooks the stunning crystal blue waters in Èze. Broken up into both the village and a seaside town, Èze is a very unique area of the Riviera. The village is seriously antique, with the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix (also the oldest building in the village) dating all the way back to 1306.
Today, Èze has many art galleries, small boutiques, jewelry stores and more between steps and steps of stones. One of the best views is in the botanical garden (Jardin botanique d’Èze), which winds up the village before getting to the very top of the hill with 360 degree views. The sight of the Mediterranean will not only shock you from its pure beauty, but also make you want to run and jump into the turquoise water as soon as possible.
Lunch recommendation: Château de La Chèvre d’Or
Plage de la Mala
After all the climbing in both Villefranche and in Èze, you’ll be ready to hit the beach and dip in the sea. Plage de la Mala (plage means beach in French by the way) is a hidden beach in Cap-d’Ail that will be the perfect way to cool off after a long day. Just before Monaco, Cap-d’Ail is a very residential, luxurious town with incredible villas and a beautiful, dramatic, rocky coastline. The oasis of Plage de la Mala is a hotspot for locals and travelers who know the best places to relax, swim and oh party, too.
Plage de la Mala is an inlet beach that will make you feel a bit like you’re in Southeast Asia instead of France. The two beach bars (La Réserve de la Mala and Eden Plage Mala) have incredible dining options, drinks, sun loungers and even entertainment (there were silk dancers last time I was there!) to give a suave, unforgettable beach experience. These full-service beach bars make this little hidden beach on the Riviera feel like a luxury resort you will never want to leave. Spend the afternoon soaking up the sun and swimming in the crystal clear waters before finishing up the night by watching the sunset with a glass of Provençal Rosé in hand. An incredible end to a seemingly tropical escape.
This post is sponsored by THE DRIVER. All opinions and words are my own.
Have any other favorite spots between Nice and Monaco? Let us know and leave us a comment 🙂