The French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur) is one of those places that’s straight out of a movie — heck, it’s where the people who make movies go on vacation! Gorgeous blue waters, charming marinas, chic hotels and of course, lots of glitz and glam. Many of us associate the French Riviera with glamour and sophistication, AKA *expensive*. However, it’s still possible to visit this iconic strip without completely breaking the bank! Here are some tips and tricks for visiting the French Riviera on a budget!
Avoid Peak Season
The peak season in the south of France begins in May and continues throughout August. This is essentially the entire summer, which is a bit of a downer since this is when the weather is at its best and everything is open for business. However, as with other Mediterranean cities, you can still get beautiful weather and beach-worthy days in April, September and October. You might have fewer hotel and restaurant options since a lot of businesses are seasonal in that region, but the prices will be significantly reduced. If you must go in the summer, I would aim for June — May is a crazy month since the Cannes Film Festival takes place in the last two weeks of the month. Like most of Europe, July through August is incredibly busy.
Stay in Nice
Another great recommendation is to book your accommodation in Nice and take day trips to the other cities on the coast. Nice is the least expensive of the Cote d’Azur cities and is very central, making it the perfect home base for your vacation. It’s a great city to explore on foot, as it’s relatively flat. There are plenty of very nice (sorry, I had to) spots to check out, such as the Parc De La Colline Du Chateau and the Promenade des Anglais.
Eat like a local! While this is a great recommendation anytime you travel, it is especially true in a luxurious destination like the French Riviera. Going out for all your meals will rack up a huge bill! One of the most endearing things about France is the quality of fresh foods available to purchase at the street markets. There is an open-air market almost daily here, where they serve everything you could ever want — meat, cheese, bread, organic fruits and veggies, snacks and especially regional wines!
Take Advantage of Free Activities
There are a surprisingly large number of free activities along the coastline. For example, in Nice, most museums don’t charge for entry — why not take the time to explore the history of the region? In Cannes, Plage Magé is a free public beach and should not be missed! It has stunning views of the coastline and is known to be very safe. Finally, in Monaco, you can visit the famous Monte Carlo Casino — it’s free! As long as you are appropriately dressed, they are happy to let you in.
Thankfully, the majority of the cities on the Cote d’Azur are relatively flat and very walkable! You can easily get away with walking from your hotel to the beach, to the museum, to dinner and to the market — AND it’s a great way to explore (for free). Get lost in the cobbled narrow streets, admire the elite sports cars, and lead your own walking tour. The only time you’ll need to use another method of transportation is when you’re going from one city to another. For this, I’d recommend taking the train, especially if you’re able to book your tickets in advance.
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Written by: Sacha Vincent-Toskin