The perfect French Riviera itinerary – 5 Days of cities and beaches

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The French Riviera is one of the world’s most charming destinations. With its stunning landscapes, natural wonders, Mediterranean climate, and rich cultural heritage, it’s a dream holiday destination for many. And the perfect way to get to know this stunning region in France is by following this French Riviera itinerary that combines the best cities and beaches.

A stunning view of Monaco French Riviera. Yacht charters and private boats are moored at the town marina.
One of the amazing views you’ll have on the French Riviera. Monaco is waiting for you!

If you look at the French Riviera map, you will see a magnificent stretch of land that sits between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. Going from Tulon or Saint Tropez to Menton on the French-Italian border, including the Principality of Monaco.

The French Riviera (also called Côte d’Azur), It’s not a proper territory or a historical region. In fact, the name was created by the French writer Stephen Liegeard in 1887, when he mentioned the region and called it Côte d’Azur. Interesting, right?!

In addition to its natural and historical beauty, what makes the French Riviera holidays so unique is the number of places and activities to explore in the region.

But with so much to see and do, planning your French Riviera itinerary can be daunting (especially if you are short on time!).

Personally, I have been living here for a few months now and still discover something new every day. It can be a lovely small beach town or unseen colorful streets with historic houses.

That’s why I’ve put together this 5-day French Riviera itinerary to make sure you get the most out of your trip to the Côte d’Azur!

Keep reading for the perfect itinerary for a first-time visit to the French Riviera.

How many days on the French Riviera?

It’s recommended that you spend at least five days on the French Riviera, as this will give you enough time to explore the area and get a good feel of it.

Historical building in Nice, France.

In fact, I recommend spending even more than five days if possible, as there is so much to see and do on the French Riviera’s iconic beaches and coastal towns.

If you have less time than that, that’s perfectly okay too, but you will need to reduce the list of places to visit or consider booking one of these tours from Nice to save time and be able to see more of what this beautiful region has to offer.

When is the best time to visit the French Riviera? 

Now that you know how many days you should stay on your French Riviera itinerary, let’s talk about the best time to visit this incredible region in Southern France.

French Riviera weather is pleasant all year around, and it can be a great destination even during winter if you know what to expect and where to go. That’s why it is so important to plan your itinerary on the French Riviera wisely.

Spring and Summer are the best times to visit French Riviera beaches. But keep in mind that from mid-June to August the popular beaches are packed, the hotels are more expensive and you will need to book your activities and restaurants in advance.

Beaches in the French Riviera
Spring and Summer are the best time to visit French Riviera beaches.

The fall brings rain and quieter beaches. You still can swim and enjoy the French Riviera cities’ attractions. 

French Riviera winter is mild when compared with the rest of France, but it’s not ideal for a beach holiday.

Christmas Holidays and the Carnaval in February are busy times, with a lot of people traveling to the French Riviera.

Talking about busy times, keep an eye on the French Riviera events, as they attract a lot of tourists. During those periods the cities are super busy and booking anything on those dates is very hard and expensive.

If you want to attend one of these events you better plan and book your trip way in advance.

Some of the most famous events on the French Riviera:

  • Fête du Citron in Menton (February)
  • Nice Carnaval (February)
  • Cannes Film Festival (May)
  • Monaco Grand Prix (May)
  • Monte Carlo Fashion Week (May)
  • Nice Jazz Festival (July)
  • Nice Pink Parade (Gay Pride – July)
  • Cannes Firework festival (July to August)
  • Cannes Yachting Festival (September)
  • Monte Carlo Jazz festival ( November)

Choose Nice as your French Rivera travel base!

I highly recommend staying in Nice and doing day trips to the French Riviera’s pristine beaches and charming villages, as the region is very well connected by train and bus. 

That way, you don’t need to spend time packing and unpacking, checking in and out of a different hotel every day. Less stress, more fun!

Beach in Nice, France. It's a pebble beach with crystal clear blue water. in the back is the city, a promenade with palm trees and historical buildings.
Nice offers a great mix of beach, history, culture and food!

Nice is the largest city in the area, with its lovely seafront, beautiful Old Town, and vibrant nightlife, it’s the perfect place to base yourself!

Nice is the hub of the French Riviera and chances are it is where you will be flying into.

Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport is the busiest airport after the ones in Paris. So if you are looking for the best flights to French Riviera you can start searching for flights to Nice on Skyscanner.

Where to stay in Nice?

Nice is a big city and offers all types of accommodation, from luxury hotels to villas for rent, mid-range hotels, hostels, and even camping.

You might not know, but there are many camping sites on the French Riviera and some of them are close to Nice. But as we are planning a 5 days trip, my suggestion is that you book a well-located hotel in Nice, so you can get around easily, saving on transportation costs and time.

How to get around the French Riviera?

All the beautiful beaches and Riviera towns listed on this itinerary are connected by bus or train, which means that you don’t need to rent a car to explore the region.

If you still want to drive, you can compare the rental car prices on Rentalcars and ​​Auto Europe. The French Riviera is one of those incredible road trips that give you incredible views, passing by beautiful villages, hilltop towns, and panoramic views of the Mediterranean turquoise water.

You can French Riviera itinerary by bus and train.

Public transportation work very well in the region. The best places to visit on the French Riviera are close to Nice.

To have an idea, it takes only 30 minutes to go from Nice to Monaco by bus, or 30 minutes to go from Nice to Cannes by train. Other nearby towns will take only 15 minutes by train, super fast and perfect for day trips.

Google Maps is your best friend to plan your routes, and the French SNCF train website is where you can buy train tickets online and in advance, or you can get your ticket at the train station.

The Perfect 5-Day French Riviera Itinerary

Without further ado, here is my ultimate 5-day French Riviera itinerary:

Day 1: Explore Nice, French Riviera’s hub

Start your adventure by exploring Nice’s old town – Vieux Nice. This bustling area is full of colorful houses and narrow cobbled streets lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops.

View of the Quartier du Port in Nice.

Get lost among the winding alleyways as you look for souvenirs or delicious treats to enjoy along the way. Afterward, head up to Castle Hill Park for a stunning view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. And if you have time, Nice’s Old Port is worth visiting as well.

End your day by taking a stroll along Promenade des Anglais or grab some dinner at one of the many amazing restaurants in Nice like La Bocca or the classic brasserie Chez René Socca.

If you want to understand a bit more about the history and culture of Nice, you can join one of the walking tours that will take you to the main attractions. Here is a great 3-hour Nice Walking tour you can join, and there is also a 2-hour Scenic Drive by 3-Wheel Vehicle Tour that looks like so much fun.

Here are other interesting activities and tours you can do in Nice’s city center and around:

Day 2: Monaco & Èze Village, French Riviera’s medieval town

Head east to the small principality of Monaco and see all the luxurious yachts and explore the sights. Start at the iconic Monte Carlo Casino, where you can admire its opulent architecture up close.

From there make your way to the Prince’s Palace and take some pictures of the guard changing ceremony.

Afterward, leave Monaco behind and make your way to Èze Village – a beautiful hilltop village full of winding cobblestone streets and breathtaking views of the sea.

Medieval cobblestone streets of Èze Village on the French Riviera. It shows the old houses and some tourists walking between them.
Èze Village is a must-visit, and you need to add it to your French Riviera itinerary!

This quaint medieval village is known for its spectacular views, striking fragrant botanical gardens, and cozy narrow streets.

Make sure to stop by one of the many restaurants or cafés for dinner before taking the train back to Nice. 

If you don’t want to worry about getting from Nice to Monaco e Èze, you can join a tour and have all the transportation and activities planned for you.

Here is a  half-day tour from Nice to Monaco and Èze main attractions, they even pick you up at your accommodation, sweet!

Day 3: Antibes & Cannes, a must in any French Riviera itinerary

Today we will explore two more of the French Riviera cities: Antibes and Cannes.

Start your day in Antibes, a charming town located on the Bay of Angels. Here you can wander around the old town area and admire the beautiful architecture or visit some of the cozy markets and shops found throughout the city.

Photo of a street in Antibes, with colorful houses in the background and tourists walking.
Antibes’ charming streets attract many tourists during Spring and Summer.

Make sure to check out some of their delicious local seafood specialties like Socca – an oven-baked chickpea pancake that is served as a snack or side dish. 

From there head over to Cannes, known for its luxury shopping, star-studded film festival and private beach clubs. Stroll along La Croisette (the iconic boulevard) lined with exclusive designer stores and get a glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea.

Again, if you don’t want to plan your day trip to Cannes and Antibes, you can book a guided tour. Here is a well recommend half-day tour from Nice to Canned and Antibes, you can just sit, relax and enjoy.

But you like to do different activities, I’ve selected 3 incredible experiences you can only have in Cannes, French Riviera. Check them out!

Unique things to do in Cannes:

Day 4: Villefranche-sur-mer, and incredible seaside village

Back in Nice, it’s time to relax a little bit after all those French Riviera day trips, so why not spend your day at the beach in Villefranche-sur-mer

Located in the heart of the French Riviera, Villefranche-sur-Mer is a picturesque port town full of colorful buildings and cobblestone streets.

Make sure to take advantage of the stunning pebble beaches here – some even offer beach chairs and umbrellas for your convenience. The warm blue waters are perfect for swimming or snorkeling and exploring the many coves around the bay.

Also, bring a pair of water shoes, it will be more comfortable to explore Riviera’s pebble beaches.

If you want to have a unique experience and see the French Riviera beauty from a different perspective, hop on a boat tour. This 1-Hour Sightseeing Cruise to Villefranche Bay that departs from Nice is amazing!

End your day with a romantic dinner at one of Villefranche’s amazing restaurants like L’Ecailler du Chateau or La Palme d’Or.

Day 5: Menton, French Riviera’s last destination

Last but not least, on your last day on the Riviera, I would recommend taking the train to Menton for a little taste of Italy (if you prefer driving or taking a bus, read this article on how to get from Nice to Menton). 

A photo of Menton's famous staircase with a church in the back and colorful buildings in the front is one of the French Riviera attractions.
Menton’s famous staircase!

Another option is to join a guided tour, this Full Day Tour from Nice to Menton and La Turbie is a good option. You feel like going on a Riviera road trip only enjoying the coastal views and without the hassle of driving.

This beautiful town is located right on the border with Italy and its mix of French and Italian culture can be seen throughout.

Start your day by exploring the old town area, full of colorful buildings and interesting sights. Stop at one of the local markets to pick up fresh fruits or a delicious snack before heading over to see some of Menton’s famous gardens and then head to La Sablette beach for some sunbathing or swimming.

Make sure to end your trip with a picnic on the beach – the perfect way to relax after five amazing days on the French Riviera!

Got more days on the French Riviera?

If you have more days to explore the region, that’s fantastic news because it means you can also visit some other amazing places along the coast like Saint-Tropez, Sainte-Maxime, and San Remo, or even go a little further to Marseille.

Also, it allows you to stay longer in some of the places we covered on this French Riviera itinerary or even repeat your favorite ones.

The possibilities are endless.

Five days on the French Riviera Wrap Up

And that’s a wrap!

Now you have on your hands an itinerary for five perfect days of exploring the French Riviera. From Cannes to Menton, you will experience some of the best this region has to offer with exquisite cuisine, culture, stunning architecture, and mesmerizing beaches.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my French Riviera itinerary and please let me know if you decide to take it – I would love to hear all about your experience.

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Here is your perfect 5-Day French Riviera itinerary. The best cities and beaches in the French Riviera, where to stay, and how to get around the French Riviera. Plus, the best time to travel to the French Riviera, international events, weather, tours and activities you can do in this beautiful part of South France.

Author: Camila Neves

Camila is a travel blogger based in Nice, a beautiful city in the heart of the French Riviera. She dedicates most of her time to exploring this beautiful region and writing about it on her blog, Explore the Riviera.

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