Are you currently trying to plan a trip to the French Riviera and you’re not sure which towns are the best to visit? No need to worry cause this article has got you covered!
I’ve visited the French Riviera now a couple of times and while the bigger cities like Cannes and Monaco are entertaining, to me, they completely fade away compared to the charming small towns.
Imagine small alleys lined with colorful houses, a hidden wine bar around the corner, eating by the waterside while watching the sunset and simply feeling like Brigit Bardot in her golden age.
The allure of the French Riviera is what attracts many visitors to its beautiful coastline every summer.
And with this guide on the best towns to visit on the French Riviera you’re all set to have the best holiday!
The 8 Best Towns To Visit On The French Riviera
1. Saint Tropez, the most famous town on the Côte d’Azur
The iconic town of Saint Tropez is definitely one of the best towns to visit on the French Riviera. It is known worldwide as the epitome of glitz and glamour and you can most definitely feel that vibe when walking around. The main streets are lined with designer boutiques and here you’ll find anything from Hermès to Celine and all that’s in between.
Saint Tropez became as popular as it is today because of the movie “Et Dieu… créa la femme”, staring Brigitte Bardot.
But these days it’s mostly known for being the epitome of luxury where you can admire gigantic yachts in the harbor and exclusive sports cars chasing through the streets (that is if they’re not stuck in traffic :p).
What I love the most about Saint Tropez are its two completely different vibes that seem to perfectly blend together. Cause on the one hand there is the ostentation of luxury in the harbor but then there’s also a really charming side of Saint Tropez. My favorite part are the pastel colored houses that all seem to blend perfectly together.
💡 TIP – Go for a walk along La Ponche and admire the more quiet side of Saint Tropez.
🥘 RESTAURANT – Have dinner at La Ramade for the perfect romantic evening.
🚗 PARKING – There are three parking lots to choose from when visiting Saint Tropez. There’s the parking located near the harbor, parking Place des Lices and parking Foch. All of them are paid parking lots.
The charming village of Ramatuelle is perched on top of a hill overlooking the bay of Pampelonne. It’s about 20 minutes driving from Saint Tropez but during the summer months it can become incredibly busy here during the day.
We explored Ramatuelle in the early morning and while most shops and restaurants were still closed, we did have the town pretty much to ourselves which was incredibly nice.
Ramatuelle is a very small town in the French Riviera and in the timespan of 1 hour you will definitely have seen it all.
💡 TIP – Every Sunday and Thursday morning there’s a traditional market held in the centre.
🚗 PARKING – There’s a small parking lot at the top of the village. From here you just need to take some stairs down and you’ll find yourself in the centre of Ramatuelle.
Grimaud is a small village only a few kilometers from Saint Tropez and should not be confused with Port Grimaud.
Grimaud has a history dating back to the Gallo-Roman age and because of its strategic position the castle of Grimaud dominated the whole area until the 17th century. Actually, what is now known as the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, used to be the Gulf of Grimaud until the end of the 19th century.
The most beautiful part of Grimaud are its old streets where the houses are covered in plants and flowers.
After exploring the town you can hike up to the old castle of Grimaud.
💡 TIP – During the summer months there will also be a couple of events hosted here. For instance an open-air cinema that returns every year with showings of Moulin Rouge, The Greatest Showman, West Side Story and La La Land.
🚗 PARKING – Parking Chateau Grimaud is an easy to get to parking lot and can either take you straight up to the castle or if you walk around you’ll arrive in the heart of Grimaud.
4. Bormes-les-Mimosas, a hidden gem near Saint Tropez
The historic village of Bormes-les-Mimosas was one of my favorite towns to visit in the South of France. It’s a little further from Saint Tropez compared to Grimaud and Ramatuelle but definitely worth the 50 minutes driving!
The romantic sounding ‘les Mimosas’ part of the name was added in 1968 to celebrate the fact that there are so many flowers, trees and bushes in the town – in particular mimosas.
There are two parts to this village, the more recently built modern part that you want to avoid and the historic medieval village further up the hill.
The best thing to do here is simply stroll through its myriad of small alleys lined with beautiful flowers and colorful houses. The Rue des Bougainvilliers between the Church of Saint-Trophyme and the Place Yann Piat is a good place to start. Everywhere you turn you’ll find one cute street after the other and you’ll want to explore and photograph many of them!
💡 TIP – Follow the Boulevard de la République to discover a beautiful viewpoint over the town of Bormes-les-Mimosas.
🚗 PARKING – Park your car at Parking St François for free.
The beautiful coastal town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is a must visit when you’re traveling along the Côte d’Azur. This gorgeous seaside village pretty much has everything: cute colorful streets, a picturesque harbor, crystal clear turquoise water and the perfect beach to relax for the afternoon.
The French Riviera is known for its beautiful beaches and Villefranche-sur-Mer has the perfect white sandy beach one called Plage des Marinieres. The long bay curves around and to top it off gives you excellent views over the colorful houses of the main town wherever you lay down.
During the day it can become pretty busy in Villefranche-sur-Mer cause it’s a stop over for a lot of cruise ships and there are also many daily ferries coming in from Nice.
It’s also the perfect place to stay to explore the next towns that are in this list, with Menton being the furthest one away at 45 minutes driving.
💡 TIP – While the main street can be pretty busy it’s best to wander off to the smaller alleys where you’ll find a lot less tourists.
🏨 HOTEL – Stay at Welcome Hotel for the best experience and wonderful views from your balcony. Make sure to try their charcuterie board and pair it with their excellent rosé in the late afternoon.
🥘 RESTAURANT – We had dinner at Le Trastevere which is an excellent option for price/quality. During the day you can make a reservation and request a table by the waterfront.
The small hilltop town of Eze is located in the South of France is located between Nice and Monaco. The village is famous for its spectacular views, impressive architecture, and stunning geographical location above the French Riviera.
Compared to the other towns on the Côte d’Azur Eze is a little less colorful but that doesn’t take away any of its beauty. The village has been built as a fortified stronghold during the Medieval period, and the beautiful architecture reflects that.
Typical for Eze are it’s stone houses covered in all shades of green and small lanterns dangling from the walls.
Walking the narrow streets of this town is like being transported back to the Middle Ages. But you don’t need much time to explore Eze since the town is very small.
💡 TIP – Plan your visit in the early morning to avoid the big crowds of day tourists.
🚗 PARKING – There’s only 1 small parking lot so I can’t emphasize enough to start your day early here!
7. St Jean Cap Ferrat
St Jean Cap Ferrat is a small peninsula about 15 minutes driving from Villefranche-sur-Mer. In fact the hamlet of Saint-Jean was, until the end of the 19th century, a fishing and farming village forming part of the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
The town itself is pretty small and less picturesque than its neighbor but the main reason to come here is to wander through the winding streets that lead up to the famous Paloma Beach. This public beach is wonderful to relax in the morning and you can even walk around the bay and make your way around the peninsula.
💡 TIP – When visiting Paloma Beach you don’t need to reserve a chair at the private beach club cause it’s actually a public beach. Simply bring your own beach towel and you’re good to go. I had always dreamed of going to this particular beach club but after seeing it in real life I was very disappointed.
🚗 PARKING – There’s a parking lot in the harbor.
8. Menton, the most colorful town on the French Riviera
The last town on this list of best villages in the French Riviera is the colorful town of Menton, located right next to the border with Italy. Because of its close proximity to Italy, Menton can sometimes even feel more Italian than French. but its shuttered houses and terracotta roofs are what Riviera dreams are made of.
Take your time strolling through the old city cause make no mistake, Menton is pretty huge. Luckily the old time is on the smaller side which makes it the perfect day trip from Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Despite the fact that it’s so close to overabundance of Monaco, Menton has retained its original flair and way more affordable prices.
💡 TIP – One of the best views over Menton is from the rocks at the end of the Quai Impératrice Eugénie
🥘 RESTAURANT – Grab a pizza at La Belle Escale and take it with you to the hrabor to enjoy the sunset over Menton with a slice of pizza.
🚗 PARKING – Park your car underground at Parking Old Town – Sablettes.