There are parts of the world that are so captivating that they need to be savored slowly: the French Riviera is one of them. Instead of taking a train or bus through the area, travelers should plan to delve into the culture and beauty by taking one of the many driving routes of the French Riviera. For travelers who want to experience the best of what the area has to offer at their own pace, a driving tour of Nice, Antibes, and Menton will take them to see the beach, museums, castles and cathedrals.
Begin your tour of the French Riviera by driving in Nice, the fifth largest city in France. Humans have inhabited this area for over 200,000 years and has been ruled by both the Greeks and the Saracens; for many years, Nice was also an independent land until it was made a part of France in the mid-1800s. This rich history, along with the warm, dry climate, has made Nice the perfect place to begin a tour of the French Riviera.
By driving in Nice, visitors are able to coordinate their own schedules rather than rely on public transportation. While in the area, make time to take a walk on the Victorian-era Promenade des Anglais, which was built as a place for wealthy visitors to view the ocean and take the air.
While in Nice, take in a show at the Opera de Nice, visit the botanical gardens, or eat at a cafe in the city’s main square, the Place Masséna. Stroll past the 17th century Nice Cathedral, listen to music each evening in the Place Rossetti, or view the works of one of Russia’s most talented painters at the Musee National Marc Chagall. Pick up some local produce at the Cours Saleya, or find a souvenir at the Marche Artisanal Nocturne before sitting down to dinner at one of Nice’s acclaimed restaurants.
For your second stop on the French Riviera automobile tour, head into Antibes, a resort town on the Cote d’Azur located half an hour from Nice. Driving in Antibes is the best way to get around, as most major sites, hotels, and restaurants are located close to one another.
Originally a Greek colony in 5th century B.C., Antibes was also a part of the Roman empire before it was made a part of France in the 1400s. More recently, the town is associated with Pablo Picasso, who produced multiple works during an extended stay in 1946.
While driving in Antibes, make sure to visit the Chateau Grimaldi, a former town hall and the current Picasso museum. Besides that museum, Antibes is also home to an archaeology museum, a naval history museum, and an absinthe museum. The La Tour Museum teaches visitors about life in contemporary Antibes through tools, photographs, and clothing exhibits. Visitors can also explore the 11th century Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Garoupe Lighthouse, and the Exflora Park. Be one of the rich and famous when you visit the Hôtel du Cap-Eden Roc, where Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Marlene Dietrich have all stayed.
Though there is much to do in Antibes, make time to relax at one of Antibes’ forty-eight beaches! The mild climate makes the area perfect for sunbathing, boating, and water sports. Antibes is home to Europe’s largest marina, Port Vauban, which has more than three thousand moorings.
The final stop on your French Riviera tour is the beautiful yachting community of Menton, located up the coast about an hour from Antibes.
Driving in Menton allows visitors to easily get to the many unforgettable attractions in the area. Menton’s gardens take advantage of the town’s mild climate; they are a popular site for visitors throughout the year. Villa Fontana Rosa, which was built in 1922 by the Spanish novelist Blasco Ibanez, has opened its grounds to visitors, who can view the literary-themed garden and local pottery. The Jardin Serre de la Madone is noted for its collection of subtropical plants, double pool, and terraces. Another local garden, Le Val Rahmeh, is run by France’s Museum of Natural History and is the site of ongoing scientific research; the gardens are open year-round to Menton visitors.
Other local attractions include the 400-year-old basilica of Saint-Michel-Archange, the Bastion Museum which houses the work of Jean Cocteau, and the historic covered market which sells local produce daily.
After taking in the cultural offerings, head down to one of Menton’s many public beaches where you can soak up the sun and participate in water sports.
Menton is one of the quietest corners of the French Riviera, but this hidden gem rewards those travelers who decide to make the trip. Driving in Menton is the perfect end of one of the most picturesque driving routes of the French Riviera.
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