Getting Oriented

The French Riviera can supply visitors with everything their hearts desire (and the purse can stand). Home to sophisticated resorts beloved by billionaires, remote hill villages colonized by artists, Mediterranean beaches, and magnificent views, the Côte d'Azur (to use the French name) stretches from Marseille to Menton. Thrust out like two gigantic arms, divided by the Valley of the Var at Nice, the peaks of the Alpes-Maritimes throw their massive protection, east and west, the length of the favored coast all the way from St-Tropez to the Italian frontier.

  • The Western French Riviera. Put on the map by Brigitte Bardot, St-Tropez remains one of France's flashiest vacation spots, small and laid-back. Conspicuous consumption characterizes the celluloid city of Cannes when its May film fest turns it into Oscar-goes-to-the-Mediterranean, but the Louis Vuitton set enjoys this city year-round. For the utmost in Riviera charm, head up the coast to Antibes: once Picasso's home, it has a harbor and an Old Town so dreamy you’ll be reaching for your paintbrush.
  • The Hill Towns. High in the hills overlooking Nice are the medieval walled villages of St-Paul-de-Vence and Vence, invaded by waves of artists in the 20th century. Today, you can hardly turn around without bumping into a Calder mobile, and top sights include the famous inn La Colombe d'Or, Matisse's sublime Chapelle du Rosaire, and the Fondation Maeght—probably the best museum this side of the Louvre.
  • Nice. Walking along the seaside promenade des Anglais is one of the iconic Riviera experiences. Add in top-notch museums, a charming old quarter, scads of ethnic restaurants, a world-class Carnaval, and the new 30-acre promenade du Paillon and you'll see why Nice is one of France’s most rewarding cities.
  • The Eastern French Riviera. The 24-karat sun shines most brightly on the glamorous ports of Villefranche-sur-Mer and St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. If you want to kiss the sky, head up to the charming, mountaintop village of Èze. To the east lies Menton, an enchanting Italianate resort where winters are so mild that lemon trees bloom in January.

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