To be honest, a week is not enough to explore this beautiful coastal strip in the Southeast part of France also known as French Riviera. There are numerous underrated yet gorgeous places that you can see with a little more time apart from the famous ones. And if you are someone like me who loves experiencing the local life by exploring its hidden gems, you need more time!!
But if you are on a tight schedule, a week is still sufficient to get tanned under the French sun exploring the famous towns of Southern France. So keep reading below if you dream of getting drunk on vino or espresso or whatever floats your boat, and swimming in the crystal blue waters . This is my personal itinerary for the journey to the south of France for a week starting from London.
We decided to make Nice as our base for 3 days and cover surrounding areas from there. The public transport is good and quite cheap. Intercity is well connected by trams and AC buses are comfortable to go anywhere outside of Nice like Cannes or Antibes or Monaco. But I would suggest hiring a taxi if you are traveling with family as it is more convenient.
We landed in Cote D’Azur airport at night time and took the airport bus to Cathédrale-Vieille Ville tram stop in the center of Nice. From there we took a tram closest to our Airbnb and I was surprised at how effortless it was for the first timers in France. Make sure you download Google translate as ticket machines and tram stops have everything written in French. This app was our best friend during the trip! My little tip is to always keep change handy with you for metro journeys.
Spend time in Nice
Words can’t describe how beautiful this little town is yet there is so much to do there. You can wander aimlessly for hours in the charming part of old town or lounge whole day on the beach and go for romantic walks along the Promenade in evening. We started our day by checking out the Nice old town or Vieille Ville and walked all the way to Castle hill making our way through old town and Cours Saleya. It was at Lou pilha leva where we had the best Socca, a local dish made from chickpea flour along with some coffee. You can sit down there to have lunch or just for people watching.
There are many cute fashion shops in this part of the town selling vintage clothes and bags, but I found them a little overpriced.
Next head to Cours Saleya, the local flower and vegetable market first thing in the morning as it is open only until 2 pm. Cours Saleya is also known for some of the famous cafes and restaurants in Nice so you can have your breakfast there. You’ll also find some nice cafes lined across the Promenade overlooking the sea and I can’t forget the gorgeous sunset we witnessed from Savoia Caffe one of these evenings.
Castle Hill, which is at walking distance from Cours Saleya is a must-do for a splendid bird eye view of Promenade des Anglais and Nice city. Spend the evening strolling at the Promenade des Anglais, and enjoy the cool sea breeze.
When in Nice you must experience eating outdoors. We stopped by Restaurant du Gesu next to cathedral in old town for an Italian lunch with some wine but there are many restaurants offering international cuisines. Pizza Pili, a local pizzeria famous for its huge variety of pizza was our go-to stop for dinner every night. They only do take-away but their single pizza was enough for the two of us at just 8-9 euros depending on the toppings. I think it was our cheapest meal on this trip and oh so tasty!
The beaches here in Nice are not so friendly for swimmers because of pebbles so we decided to did that in Antibes.
Travel to Cannes and Antibes
Cannes and Antibes are on the same route from Nice and not very far away, so you can cover them together in a day. Hop on the local Bus no. 200 to Cannes which takes about an hour and is a bargain at 1.50 euros. It is the cheapest but not very time-effective way to travel so keep that in mind. We really wanted to rent a self-drive car but our Indian driving license had to be translated in French which we did not know before!
Cannes as we all know is famous for the international film festival but you will find this small town flocked by the rich and wealthy all year round. The perfectly lined yachts and its high end boutiques can make you feel insignificant but that happens to the most of us here!
La Croisette boulevard is a top tourist attraction here lined with luxury designer stores as well as tastefully done restaurants and hotels. If you love fashion like me and enjoy a little window shopping then this is a must do for you. The walk along the boulevard leads to the promenade where you can sit down to relax by the beach!
Next, hop onto a bus from Cannes and pay 1.50 euros for about 20 minutes ride to Gare d’Antibes. This quaint little town has a totally opposite vibe than Cannes. It is laid back with people singing and dancing in its narrow cobbled stone streets and a perfect break from all the glitz and glam of Cannes.
Antibes also has some of the best sandy beaches in French Riviera besides its chill vibe. The 15 minutes walk down to the old town beach was tiring but we plopped ourselves right next to water as soon as we reached and jumped straight into it moments later. We had picked up some sandwiches and drinks from a local boulangerie on the way and it was a perfect picnic spot by the sea.
After watching the sun set down in water, we packed our stuff and headed back to Nice along with the memories of this tiring but beautiful day.
Tip – Leave early if you are coming from Nice and check out Cannes for its tourist spots. Then spend a quality time lounging at Antibes beach and you can also enjoy the fun night life here before leaving back for Nice.
Eze Village and Monaco city
The direct bus to Eze Village from Nice takes about half an hour and drops you right at the footsteps of the hill from where you can walk up to the old town.
My tip for you is to take a seat on the right side of bus to enjoy the beautiful sea views on this uphill journey.
Be prepared to walk and don’t forget to carry the guide map available at tourist centre as it saves you from getting lost in this little town. It feels like a treasure trove of historical spots and cute shops that show up out of nowhere. Some shops have the tiniest door possible but are beautifully decorated.
Have lunch with a view at any of the hilltop restaurants and wind down with a glass of chilled Rosé and fresh Pizza in the restaurant before leaving for Monaco.
You can explore Eze village in about 4 hours and head to Monaco from there. Now the thing about Monaco is, that it is huge. All the famous spots are spread across the city that you cannot cover by foot, but plan your time accordingly.
Monte Carlo casino is a typical tourist spot but a must visit if you love architecture and grandeur. In case you fancy rubbing shoulders with regulars at the casino, you can buy a ticket and try your luck by all means.
Head to Monaco Ville by local bus and check out the famous Prince’s palace and the huge Saint Nicholas Cathedral which has free entry. Enjoy a beautiful view of city from the gardens or a cafe overlooking the palace.
Don’t forget to get your passport stamped at the tourist center in Monaco as a souvenir from this city.
Day Four and Five
Since we had booked our flight back to London from Grenoble, we got to see this beautiful town in the French Alps. Only con here was the travel time from Nice!
It took us about 8 hours by bus. But in the end it was all worth it to see this old town located at the foot of French Alps, surrounded by stunning mountains. Our Airbnb in Grenoble was the cheapest but tastefully decorated single girl pad with fairy lights, wooden centre pieces, perfect snuggly bed and the nicest host! Plus it was a stone’s throw away from closest metro stop.
Food wise, we were so excited to find the best Indian vegetarian food here. The only touristy thing that we did in Grenoble apart from checking local boutiques and French pharmacies was Bastille cable car tour. I insist you to try it if you ever are in Grenoble. Don’t be surprised to see people trekking to the top of hill while you take a cable car, French people do take their workout seriously!
Grenoble is perfect if you are looking for a pretty location for your next winter vacation and you can add Lake Annecy tour to your itinerary as well.
Tips to save the moolah
- Book your trip in the off-season, somewhere around the beginning of Fall. The weather is still warm and it is not crazy crowded. French Riviera is expensive, yes, but planning ahead and booking well in advance is going to save you a lot of money. Look for free cancellation options on Trip Advisor and reserve the destination but keep looking for good deals.
- We visited in August which is the peak season for travelers from around Europe (holiday season), but planning in advance helped us save some money on flight tickets and we found a good place to stay in our budget.
- Stay in well-connected cities like Nice, it is large but less expensive than Cannes or St. Tropez for example, and has good public transport service.
- Book Airbnb if you enjoy living like a local and you also get to cook your own meals or at least fix some breakfast which can save you cash too. Plus shopping groceries in France is a must to experience.
- A single tram ticket can cost you around 1.50 to 1.80 euros and is valid for about an hour which you can use again for a different journey but within that hour.
- Buy a beach mat and/or umbrella from a local store if you are going to lounge on a public beach with free entry.
- For Private beach experience, be ready to shell out anything from 10 to 20 euros per person per sun bed or find restaurants that give you this option for free if you dine with them.
- Shop in small towns for souvenirs as the prices are not too high and you will definitely find better deals. I found Antibes perfect for shopping.
- Last but not the least, make a daily budget for food and travel and try and stick to that. Tracking your cash will prevent you from spending extra which you can use to buy something nice later.
I hope this article will help you plan your next trip to South of France and do drop me an email if you have any further queries!