A Quick Weekend Guide to the French Riviera: Things to Do in Nice and Monaco
With its hilltop medieval towns, waterfront resorts, Michelin-starred restaurants, yacht-filled marinas, high-profile film festivals, and idyllic beaches, the French Riviera is the very definition of glamorous. Here's how JS tastemaker Monica Walton spent a quick weekend in Nice and Monaco—two of our favorite destinations along the Côte d'Azur.
Nice, on the southern coast of France, is the perfect introduction to the French Riviera. It’s both easy to get to and even easier to explore once you arrive. Tourists never tire of its year-round sunshine and glorious water views, and you could spend all morning and afternoon hitting the charming restaurants and shops lining the Promenade des Anglais.
Check in to one of the Côte d’Azur’s storied hotels
You won’t find a better view of Nice’s storied shoreline than from the balconies at Hôtel Suisse, a waterfront boutique in the center of town. If it’s history you seek, consider booking a room at the century-old Le Negresco, whose antiques-filled rooms have hosted everyone from the Beatles to Princess Grace herself. Luxury lovers will do well by the legendary Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, which features an Olympic-size swimming pool and Michelin-starred restaurant.
Sunbathe on the beach
The beaches that border Nice are some of the most iconic seafronts in France. One of the best spots to take in the views and the sun is the pebble-strewn Plage Publique de l’Opera. Located near the Opera House and Castle Hill, it features both a wide stretch that’s open to the public and a private beach-restaurant that keeps the crowds at bay.
Explore the famous flea market
Set aside an afternoon (or more) to explore the colorful Cours Saleya flower market, in the heart of town near the Old Port. Here, stalls brim with fresh blooms, fruits and vegetables, and spices. On Mondays, the area transforms into a flea market peddling arts and crafts and antiques. No matter what day you visit, Cours Saleya is a perfect spot for picking up souvenirs and getting an authentic taste of local life.
From Nice, it’s an easy 15-minute train ride east to Monaco, a glamorous city-state renowned for attracting an international jet-set thanks to world-famous events like the Formula 1 Grand Prix race every May and Monaco’s Yacht Show each September. Even if you’re not among the 1%, the city’s world-class beaches and dreamy architecture are reasons enough to visit. Among the highlights: a tour of the Prince’s Palace (the official royal residence) and the Monaco Cathedral, where Princess Rainier III and Princess Grace tied the knot.
Channel the luxe life at one of Monaco’s five-star sleeps
The luxurious Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo is the city’s grand dame and checks all the boxes for a lavish stay: we’re talking gigantic fresh flower displays, afternoon tea, a Givenchy spa, a rooftop pool and lounge redesigned by Karl Lagerfeld, and not one but two Michelin-starred restaurants. Hôtel de Paris is another legendary favorite thanks to its iconic Bar Américain and three-Michelin-starred restaurant from Alain Ducasse, which pairs plates with vintages from its 500,000-bottle wine cellar (the largest hotel wine cellar in the world).
Dine like an A-Lister
Seafood lover? If so, lunch at La Marée, which sits on top of Hotel Port-Plage and overlooks Port Hercules, is a must. The “fish & chic” tagline says it all: here, fish, oysters, and caviar are all dished up with spectacular views of the port and are often caught and delivered the same day by the restaurant’s own fishing fleet. The menu changes depending on what’s available but has been known to include king crab, Royal spiny lobster, sea bream, sea bass, and turbot.
Gamble with the stars
One can’t visit Monaco without checking out (and laying out some chips) at the iconic Monte Carlo Casino, whose 1863 Belle Époque building has been featured in Bond films like GoldenEye and Never Say Never Again. You’ll have to pay 10 Euros to get in, whether or not you gamble, but a tour makes it worthwhile. After all that excitement, take a stroll over to the Japanese Garden for a far more serene Monaco moment.
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