Côte d'Azur

Overview

From Andrew Harper

The modern concept of leisure travel evolved in the Côte d'Azur back in the 1920s. Previously, affluent travelers undertook the “Grand Tour” to acquire a veneer of cultural sophistication, or visited the Swiss Alps for the sake of their health, but no one thought to spend time indulging solely in the pleasures of relaxation and sun worship.

After World War I, however, this new trend gathered momentum, thanks to celebrities such as Coco Chanel, who came to the controversial conclusion that she looked more attractive with a suntan. At about the same time, Picasso spent the summer with his family in Cap d'Antibes, an area he loved for its limpid light and vibrant colors (qualities that also attracted Cézanne, Renoir and Matisse). The rest is history.

Nowadays, many feel the lyrical vision of the Côte d'Azur survives in the less developed hinterlands, where travelers can gaze down from peaceful aeries to the dramatic but congested shoreline, overflowing with summer revelers and million-dollar yachts. Whatever your preference, we recommend a visit during the less frenetic month of June, when the weather is delightful and the summer hordes have yet to arrive.

Hotels

All recommended hotels in Côte d'Azur

Cote d'Azur, France
Château Eza
Château Eza

Evocative castle-hotel (formerly the private residence of H.R.H. Prince William of Sweden) clinging to a dramatic cliff above the Mediterranean in the thousand-year-old fortress hamlet of Eze, midway between Nice and Monte Carlo.

Château Saint-Martin & Spa

Mansion-hotel on 35 hillside acres with panoramic views of the French Riviera near Saint- Paul de Vence, 30 minutes north of Nice.

Grand Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat
Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat

Palace-hotel surrounded by a 14-acre private park overlooking the Mediterranean at the very tip of Cap Ferrat, 20 minutes east of Nice and just six miles from Monte Carlo.

Hôtel Belles Rives
Hôtel Belles Rives

Evocative 43-room hotel in a stone villa where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in 1926, in the Mediterranean village of Juan-les-Pins, south of Antibes.

Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc
Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc

Exceptionally luxurious and atmospheric 19th-century mansion overlooking 22 acres of manicured gardens edged by the Mediterranean, at the tip of the Cap d’Antibes peninsula, midway between Cannes and Nice.

La Bastide Saint Antoine
La Bastide Saint-Antoine

Managed by Michelin-starred chef Jacques Chibois, this hotel sits within a terraced park surrounded by acres of cypress and olive trees near the hillside town of Grasse.

La Colombe d'Or
La Colombe d'Or

Evocative, vine-clad wood-and-stone auberge nestled just outside the walls of a 14th-century hilltop village. The famous restaurant (once the haunt of renowned artists) is adorned with original works by Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard, Chagall and Dufy.

La Réserve de Beaulieu
La Réserve de Beaulieu & Spa

Seductive resort fronting the sea in the fashionable town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, 30 minutes from Nice airport.

La Réserve Ramatuelle
La Réserve Ramatuelle

This 28-room (19 suites) and 12-villa hotel provides splendid views of the Mediterranean from the pretty village of Ramatuelle, a comfortable 20 minutes from Saint-Tropez.

Dining

All recommended restaurants in Côte d'Azur

Bistrot de la Marine

Located in a former fisherman’s cottage in Cagnes-sur- Mer just west of Nice, chef Jacques Maximin’s pretty, relaxed bistro serves some of the best and most reasonably priced seafood in the south of France. The menu changes according to the catch of the day, but dishes such as crayfish and artichoke salad, fritto misto of squid and anchovies, and John Dory for two à la Niçoise (cooked with tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, butter and tiny black olives) show why he has long reigned as one of the great chefs of France. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

96 boulevard de la Plage
Cagnes-sur-Mer 06800
France
US$70
Hostellerie Jérôme

Located in an unspoiled medieval village, Bruno Cirino’s wonderful restaurant has elegant dining rooms spilling out onto a sunny terrace. The Mediterranean cuisine is essentially French, but draws on Italian, Spanish and Greek culinary traditions. Typical dishes include sea bass with baby clams, and rabbit stew with macaroni and truffles. Cirino loves cooking with the zesty lemons from nearby Menton, and his lemon tart with lemon sorbet and candied lemon peel is outstanding. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, except in July and August.

La Turbie
Alpes Maritimes 06320
France
US$140
JAN

South African-born chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s casually elegant new restaurant has become a hit in Nice because of his precise and original cooking. The menu follows the seasons, but dishes such as grilled scallops with cauliflower velouté, and a beignet of smoked haddock and guinea hen with raisin-garnished pumpkin purée and pancetta panna cotta are representative. The service is excellent. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

12 Rue Lascaris
Nice 06300
France
L'Armoise

Chef Laurent Parrinello cooked at La Chèvre d’Or in Eze and the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc before setting up shop with this small and charming bistro in the Old Town of Antibes. The Mediterranean cuisine that emerges from his open kitchen has made it a local favorite. Expect dishes such as arugula risotto, and half-salted cod steak with grilled baby onions and chorizo. And don’t miss the local goat cheese. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

2 Rue de la Tourraque Juan les Pins
Antibes 06600
France
Mirazur

Argentine-born chef Mauro Colagreco is a rising star on the Riviera at this dramatically located restaurant with beautiful views over the Mediterranean. Colagreco is a poetic cook who delights in using fresh herbs, vegetables and seasonal fruit in tasting menus that include dishes such as potato foam with cod cheeks and white shrimp, and rack of pork with Swiss chard, baby onions and a sauce vierge (chopped tomato in olive oil). Closed Mondays and Tuesdays; from mid-July to the end of August, open daily for dinner and Thursday-Sunday for lunch.

30 avenue Aristide-Briand
Menton 06500
France
US$150
Restaurant Alain Llorca

After cooking at the famous Le Chantecler in Nice and several other well-known tables along the coast, talented chef Alain Llorca has opened an auberge not far from Saint-Paul-de-Vence. The shaded terrace offers fine views of Saint-Paul and the distant Mediterranean, and the menu runs to sophisticated southern French country dishes such as zucchini flowers stuffed with mushrooms; lobster risotto; and rotisserie-roasted duck breast.

350 Route de Saint Paul
La Colle sur Loup 06480
France
US$130