French Riviera 5-Day Itinerary – Highlights of Côte d’Azur

  • 10.04.2024 18:41
  • Bruno Arcos

Best things to see and do in the French Riviera in 5 days, including visits to the likes of Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Saint-Tropez. Discover the region’s most famous landmarks and tourist hotspots in our French Riviera 5-day itinerary!

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This French Riviera 5-day itinerary is a part of our broader travel guide for the region. We recommend you check it out for the best travel tips and the most accurate information on transportation, hotels, restaurants and safety tips in the French Riviera.

French Riviera 5-Day Itinerary – Best places to visit

Probably the most appropriate time for a short-but-sweet experience that won’t completely blow your budget out of the water, with 5 full days you may at least see the classics of the French Riviera, including Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Saint-Tropez. It’s true there’s not much leeway to go off the beaten path, but you’ll still have a pleasant experience while roaming through some of the world’s most famous and exclusive tourist destinations.

That being said, whether you have more or less available time in your hands, feel free to explore our alternative routes in the French Riviera:

So, without further ado, here are the cities, places and tourist attractions you should visit in a 5-day itinerary through the French Riviera:

French Riviera 5-Day Itinerary: Day 1 – Nice: Vieille Ville

Unsurprisingly, your journey along the French Riviera will start in Nice, the most important city in the region. Despite its upscale status and neat looks, Nice is actually France’s 5th largest city, and one of the south’s key economic, urban and industrial hubs. With two full days to explore, your adventure begins with the charming Vieille Ville, the name given to the Old Town of Nice. Bordering the historic center, your first stop will take place at Place Masséna, the vibrant square that is considered the bustling heart of the city, home to the stunning Fontaine du Soleil. From there, take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Promenade du Paillon, connecting Jardin Albert 1er to Jardin de la Bourgada, before delving deep into Vieille Ville via the bustling Cours Saleya. One of the most famous streets in the Niçoise downtown, this is where you can find many of the city’s daily street markets, such as the Marché aux Fleurs.

Walking around the Old Town, it’s impossible not to be in awe at its narrow alleyways and colorful baroque architecture. Given its geographic position, there’s a very strong Italian influence, so don’t find it too odd if parts of Nice remind you of the neighboring country. Within Vieille Ville, be sure to visit notable landmarks such as the magnificent Nice Cathedral, probably the most famous building in the quarter, and the Palais Lascaris (€5,00), whose interiors rank among the most impressive in the city. While you’re at it, you may also discover hidden gems like the Eglise Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur and the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation, both boasting exquisite frescoes. As you exit the Old Town, take a detour and have your lunch break in Le Petit Marais, a trendy neighborhood brimming with chic cafes, bars and eateries around Place Garibaldi.

Finally, and to help you burn out some of those plat-du-jour calories, make your way up to Parc de la Colline du Château. Despite its name, there is no castle/palace atop the hill, mas it’s still an incredibly popular place with locals and tourists for the panoramic views of the city and the sea. Although there are several different viewpoints scattered across the park, the best ones can be found in Tour Bellanda and Point de Vue – the perfect spots to catch the sunset! To get back down, you can either walk back the same way or take the Ascenseur du Château.

First day wrap-up:

  • Vieille Ville – Old Town
  • Place Massená
  • Fontaine du Soleil
  • Promenade du Paillon
  • Cours Saleya
  • Marché aux Fleurs
  • Nice Cathedral
  • Palais Lascaris
  • Eglise Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur
  • Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation
  • Place Garibaldi – Le Petit Marais
  • Parc de la Colline du Château
  • Tour Bellanda AND/OR Point de Vue Colline du chateau

Where to eat in Nice – Best restaurants in Vieille Ville

French Riviera 5-Day Itinerary: Day 2 – Nice: Promenade des Anglais

Now that you’ve explored Nice’s ancient and historic side, it’s time to spend a few hours by the sea and have a little taste of the quintessential Côte d’Azur beach experience. Although not a beach per se, but rather an extensive waterfront promenade spanning over 7 km, the Promenade des Anglais stands as a true icon of Nice. Along the promenade, you’ll find literally dozens of public and private beaches – they may not be the most beautiful or well-maintained, but they’re the quickest solution for when it gets too hot in the region’s largest city. The avenue is also flanked by some of Nice’s most monumental buildings. Most of them have been converted into hotels, but it’s still possible to admire the exterior architecture of the likes of the Palais de la Méditerranée or Le Negresco. Behind the latter, you may also pay a visit to Villa Masséna (€10,00), a 19th-century mansion nestled amidst a lush tropical garden.

After a refreshing morning by the Mediterranean, you will slowly get away from the shores to discover a lesser-explored part of Nice. That said, you’ll start off with a visit to the captivating Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, considered one of the prettiest orthodox churches in the West, reminiscent of the traditional onion-shaped architecture found in Russia or Ukraine. Further north, continue your journey towards Cimiez, a quaint district often overlooked by tourists. Besides the Monastery of Cimiez, well worth a visit to see its private gardens, the quarter is famous for the ancient Roman Ruins of Cemenelum, a complex where you can stumble upon archaeological remains of amphitheaters, thermal baths and basilicas. A pretty unique place to add to your itinerary of the French Riviera.

Second day wrap-up:

  • Promenade des Anglais
  • Beaches of Nice
  • Palais de la Méditerranée
  • Le Negresco
  • Villa Masséna
  • Cathedral of Saint Nicholas
  • Monastery of Cimiez
  • Ruins of Cemenelum

Where to eat in Nice – Best restaurants around the Promenade des Anglais

French Riviera 5-Day Itinerary: Day 3 – Monaco

Why limit yourself to one country when you can visit two? While the City-State seems to blend into the stunning landscape of the French Riviera, Monaco stands on its own as an entirely independent nation (the second smallest in the world), with its own legislative, executive and judicial branches. Located just a short 20-km away from Nice, Monaco makes for an excellent day trip before moving on to Cannes! Famous for its opulent casinos and outrageous displays of wealth – 30% of the population consists of millionaires who benefit from Monaco’s status as a tax haven – there’s also a quieter side to this tiny nation. Today, we invite you to experience both! Without further ado, start your day at the iconic Monte Carlo Casino (€17,00 entrance fee), arguably the most famous institution in the country. However, the gambling tables and slot machines don’t really matter (though the rooms are admittedly impressive), as it’s all about the grandeur of the district, its monumental architecture and lavish displays of wealth. It’s a pretty area, but also a fantastic spot for people-watching as you can find all sort of characters around Monte Carlo. Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Salle Garnier (€17,00 for a guided tour), also known as the Monte Carlo Opera House.

Although you’ll then depart from Monaco’s most luxurious district, your next stop is Port Hercules, the country’s largest port, renowned for its bustling marina filled with luxurious yachts and private boats. After all, it’s no coincidence Monaco earned its moniker as the world capital of yachting. Wealth and eccentricities aside, one thing you can’t miss in the country is its magnificent gardens. Throughout its compact 2 square kilometers, Monaco is dotted with beautifully maintained parks offering stunning views of the sea and harbor. Notable among these are the Jardin Exotique (€7,20, including admission to the Observatory Cave), the Jardin Japonais and the Jardins Saint-Martin. From the former, you can then ascend towards Monaco-Ville, the historic district that marks the site of the Old Town. After the high-rise buildings, the private boats and the monumental architecture, this is the place to unwind and enjoy the quarter’s medieval streets. In the Old Town, you can visit the Palais Princier (€10,00, open from April to October), the official residence of the Grimaldi Royal Family; the Monaco Cathedral; and the Oceanographic Museum (€19,00 admission), one of the oldest and most spectacular oceanariums in the world. On your way out of Monaco-Ville, take in the panoramic views of the country from Rue des Remparts, before capping off your visit at Fort Antoine, an innovative open-air theater housed inside an 18th-century defensive fort. At the end of the day, simply hop on a train or bus to Cannes, where you’ll spend the night!

Third day wrap-up:

  • Monaco
    • Monte Carlo Casino
    • Salle Garnier
    • Port Hércule
    • Jardin Exotique (Observatory Cave)
    • Jardin Japonais
    • Jardins Saint-Martin
    • Monaco-Ville (Old Town)
    • Palais Princier
    • Monaco Cathedral
    • Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
    • Rue des Remparts (for the views)
    • Fort Antoine

Where to eat in the French Riviera – Best restaurants in Monaco

French Riviera 5-Day Itinerary: Day 4 – Cannes

Who hasn’t heard of Cannes? Famous for its international film festival, it stands as one of the most iconic (and exclusive) destinations along the French Riviera, offering a taste of everything that has helped turn this region into a tourist hotspot. Long regarded as the main gathering area in town, any visit to Cannes must start with a stroll along Boulevard de la Croisette, an emblematic promenade filled with palm trees and lined with opulent palace-like hotels. You can kick things off at one end of the sprawling avenue – at La Roseraie garden – and make your way across its 1.5 km stretch until you reach the modern Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, where the illustrious Cannes Film Festival takes places every single year. Once you reach the other end of the boulevard, you’ll come across the Vieux-Port, where yachts are anchored and the Régates Royales set sail.

After a stroll along the bay, it’s time to discover a whole new side of the city. To do so, you’ll climb up the steep streets of Mont Chevalier and explore Le Suquet, aka the Old Town of Cannes. Away from the glitz of the seafront hotels, this is a more local, traditional quarter, with ancient buildings, cobblestone lanes and pedestrian shopping streets like Rue Meynadier. Within the historic core, be sure to visit the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Espérance, feel the atmosphere of the Marché Forville and go up the Chateau de la Castre Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the Old Town and the bay. After lunch, we recommend you take the afternoon off and go for a refreshing dip at one of Cannes’ many beaches. While some of these areas may have been privatized by beach clubs, you can still count on good-old Plage du Midi. While not the most original of recommendations, staying at this beach usually means a well-spent day by the exclusive shores of Cannes.

Fourth day wrap-up:

  • Cannes
    • Boulevard de la Croisette
    • La Roseraie
    • Palais Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
    • Vieux-Port
    • Le Suquet (Old Town)
    • Rue Meynadier
    • Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Espérance
    • Chateau de la Castre Tower
    • Marché Forville
    • Plage du Midi

Where to eat in the French Riviera – Best restaurants in Cannes

French Riviera 5-Day Itinerary: Day 5 – Saint-Tropez

Since this marks the final day of your adventure across the French Riviera, might as well do it in style! While some may argue that this town is not officially part of the Côte d’Azur, it would be a crime not to include the iconic Saint-Tropez in your itinerary. Famous for attracting countless celebrities on vacation, Saint-Tropez may not cater to everyone’s tastes… but one can’t deny its charm! To get a taste of its allure, start your day at the Vieux Port, a charming marina surrounded by pastel-colored buildings and bustling with small markets like Place aux Herbes or Halle aux Poissons. Just steps away from the harbor, it is also mandatory to wander the winding streets of La Ponche, the Old Town of Saint-Tropez.

Originally a quaint fishing village, this historic quarter once encompassed the entire town, long before the arrival of tourism and subsequent modern infrastructure. At the heart of the Old Town, as usual, lies the customary church – in this case, the Eglise de Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. By now, you will have likely noticed the imposing fortress overlooking La Ponche, which will precisely be the next stop on your itinerary. Dating back to the 15th century, La Citadelle (€3,00) now houses the Maritime History Museum. However, while the exhibits are actually quite interesting, the true highlight is the citadel’s hexagonal architecture and the amazing views it offers over the Old Town and the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. After exploring the fortress, make your way down to one of Saint-Tropez’s pristine beaches. While there are closer options, we highly recommend Plage Pampelonne, probably the most famous in the region. Fine golden sands, crystal-clear blue waters and sunshine for most of the year – no wonder why this French haven became trendy 50 years ago. On the way, be sure to check in the lively Place des Lices.

Fifth day wrap-up:

  • Saint-Tropez
    • Vieux-Port
    • Place aux Herbes
    • Halle aux Poissons
    • La Ponche (Old Town)
    • Eglise de Notre-Dame de l’Assomption
    • La Citadelle
    • Place des Lices
    • Pampelonne Beach

Where to eat in the French Riviera – Best restaurants in Saint-Tropez


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