Camping Guide to Cote d'Azur & Provence, France

The Côte d'Azur, also known as the French Riviera, belongs to the region, referred to by the French as PACA (Provence-Alpes-Cote-Azur). Officially, there area does not have a border, but it is widely believed that it starts from the border with Italy in the east to Saint Tropez in the west, where it meets with Provence

The area offers an ideal camping destination, it has great beaches, beautiful landscapes and some of the most famous towns in the world to visit. Compare prices on South of France Holidays

Our journey through the region starts in the seaside resort of Frejus...

Visit Cote d’Azur, France - Frejus

Fréjus, on the east bank of the river Argens estuary and its flood plain, is an animated and long-established little beach resort, popular with families. It is close to the Esterel hills and makes a good base for coastal drives. The middle of the town, 3km (2 miles) inland, consists of 17th- to 20th-century districts around an old quarter of narrow streets, many now traffic free or with restricted traffic. At the heart of the old town is the lovely Cité Épiscopale (cathedral close), with a medieval cathedral, cloisters and fifth-century baptistery.

Nearby, there are considerable Roman ruins, including the remnants of an aqueduct, an army base, a fortified quay and a small amphitheatre, where concerts are still held. Out of town, on the D4, there is a surprising African mosque in red stone, a perfect replica of a mosque in Mali, built by African sailors based at Fréjus in the 1920s. Other attractions out of town include a zoo and Aquatica, a huge water park on the N98. Fréjus is big on events and festivals: As well as a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, there are special summer markets, a bravade (religious festival and procession) at Easter and a grape festival in August.

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Visit Cote d'Azur, France - Antibes

Antibes, east of Cannes, is one of the most rewarding and important smaller towns on the Riviera. It is densely packed and attracts its fair share of millionaires, as can be seen from the size of the yachts moored in Port Vauban.

The attractive historic central quarter, Viei Antibes, is still enclosed by Vauban’s 17th-century ramparts and there’s a busy open-air market on Cours Masséna, in the middle of town, every morning except Monday. The world-class Musée Picasso is in a striking medieval fortress on the cliff edge, once owned by the Grimaldi family, the rulers of Monaco.

The gallery contains many ceramics and other works by Picasso (who had a studio here), and also work by Antibes-born Nicholas de Staël, as well as Fernand Léger, Modigliani and Joan Miró. The Musée Archéologique, at Bastion St-André, contains many items from the area’ Antibes was founded by the Greeks and became a busy Roman port. Nearby Cap d’Antibes, a promontory of land extending south, has some sandy beaches and seafront restaurants that are good for lunch. There’s a long public beach’surprising given that this area is a haven of secluded palatial villas and expensive hotels.

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Visit Monaco, France

Big yachts and big money epitomize the tiny principality, which is also the site of one of Europe’s best aquariums.

By a historical anomaly, this beautiful patch of rock hanging off the Provençal coast never became part of France. Instead, it has grown into a super-rich city, tax haven and millionaires’ playground. It’s a place that deserves to be seen, if only for the clever way it has made use of the limited space available. To accommodate the 32,000 people who live here (only 6,000 of whom are native Monégasques), the mini-state has expanded upwards in the form of skyscrapers and outwards into the sea on artificial platforms.

Some streets, sitting almost on top of one another, are connected by lifts. Despite being just under 2km sq (0.75sq miles) in area, Monaco has several districts. Monaco-Ville is the original town on Le Rocher (the Rock); Monte Carlo is the larger new town, with a beach; La Condamine, the harbour district, lies between Monaco-Ville and Monte Carlo; on the steep slope between Monaco-Ville and the French border is the residential district neghetti; and Fontvieille is the area west of Monaco-Ville, which has been artificially extended into the sea.

Monaco-Ville Walk through the pretty, spotlessly clean, narrow streets, with their well-kept, pastel-shaded houses to get to Monaco’s cathedral. It has a Louis Bréa altarpiece, some fine paintings and the tombs of all Monaco’s past princes as well as that of Princess Grace.

The main sight in Monaco-Ville, however, is the small, but sturdily fortified 13th- to 17th-century Palais du Prince, whose rooms are adorned with frescoes, tapestries and paintings. The palace also contains a museum devoted to Napoleon, with an assortment of objects, including one of his hats. In the courtyard you can watch the guardsmen, in their elegant uniforms (white in summer and black in winter), perform the Changing of the Guard.

The Musée Océanographique, carved into the edge of the Rock, has superb aquariums holding 350 species. There are fantastic views from the terrace.

Visit Monaco, France - Monte Carlo

East of the Rock is Monte Carlo, a glitzy area of restaurants, luxurious hotels, beautifully kept palm and flower gardens, and the lavishly ostentatious Belle-Époque Casino. The Salons Européens and Salons Américains in the Casino have slot machines, roulette and gaming tables. To get into the more lavish Salons Privés, which are the real Casino, not much frequented by ordinary visitors, you have to pay a fee and be appropriately dressed.

A grand staircase goes down to a money-no-object nightclub. For those who have not blown all their cash at the gaming tables, there’s plenty of expensive shopping for jewellery and designer clothes around the casino and on boulevard des Moulins.

Fontvieille is a residential and business quarter standing on artificial platforms of rock, with a yachting marina alongside. Its Roseraie Princesse Grace is an exquisite rose garden with more than 3,500 varieties, dedicated to Princess Grace of Monaco, the former film star Grace Kelly, who died in a car accident in 1982.

There are several museums here’the Musée des Timbres et des Monnaies (stamps and currency), the Musée Naval (model ships) and the Collection des Voitures Anciennes (gleaming classic cars).

Monaco was originally a medieval perched fortress village, its castle a possession of Barbarossa. In the 13th century, the powerful aristocratic Grimaldi family of Genoa acquired the Rock and made it their headquarters, refashioning themselves as the Princ s of Monaco.

Under Napoleon, most of the many independent fiefdoms of Provence were incorporated by force into France, but the Grimaldi influence in Provence and Italy was so strong that Napoleon decided to make an ally of the Grimaldis instead of seizing their lands.

Monaco’s income had come from high taxes on its domains, but the principality found a role for itself as a refuge for the aristocracy, and in the 19th century Prince Carlo III created the glamorous zone called Monte Carlo, where the casino raised more funds for the royal family. It did so well that taxes were eventually abolished.

Law enforcement is rigorous in Monaco, with 24-hour surveillance of the entire principality, including inside public buildings. All driving laws (and most other laws), road signs and drink-driving limits are the same in Monaco as in France. Unless you are into motor racing, don’t come during the Monaco Grand Prix in the second week in May, when tens of thousands of visitors cram into the principality and many roads are closed. Near the Larvotto beach area is the Jardin Japonais, a Shinto garden and a quiet, meditative refuge from the glitz that is Monaco.

Visit Cote d'Azur, France - Nice

The capital of the Riviera is a hectic town and an art lover’s dream, with several major art galleries. Developed in stages by different civilizations, including the Ligurians, Greeks and Romans, Nice was part of Italy until 1860, evident by the beautiful Italian architecture of the old quarter.

Artists began to arrive in the 1920s and there are several important galleries to be found here. At the western end of the stony beach, a handsome 19th-century mansion contains the town’s prestigious Musée des Beaux-Arts. It has extensive collections of 17th- to 19thcentury French and Italian paintings and sculpture.

Close to the luxurious pink-domed Hotel Negresco, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire traces the history of Nice through painting, sculpture, jewellery and tapestries. On the Paillon promenade that divides the old town from the new, there are several galleries, including the famously avant-garde Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, which has the definitive collection of works from the Nice school of 1960s modern artists, including Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can.

At the foot of Cimiez hill, the Musée Marc Chagall/Musée du Message Biblique has a phenomenal collection of Chagall’s work, including stained glass, mosaics and vivid, dreamlike canvases. Farther up the hill, the Musée Henri Matisse shows the artist’s exquisite line drawings and vivid gouaches. Matisse and Dufy are both buried in the cemetery nearby. The old quarter is a delightful tangle of picturesque narrow lanes, with bars, restaurants and little shops.

There are also some interesting small baroque churches. The Cimiez hill has the ruins of a Roman city and a Musée Archeologique. The oval arena is a venue for open-air performances. Don’t miss a stroll on Nice’s waterfront along Promenade des Anglais’a long wide walkway edged by Mimosa and palms, or visit to the big flower market on Cours Saleya.

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Visit Cote d'Azur, France - Cannes

Cannes is a fairly small town with a big reputation. Its name conjures up luxury, glitz and big money, an image stemming partly from the International Film Festival held here in May, but also from its impeccable pedigree as an aristocratic winter resort.

The lively hub of activity is the wide promenade la Croisette, which runs around the beautiful curve of the bay beside a sandy beach, most of which is divided up into pay-to-use or private sections. The latter are largely for the use of guests at the pre-war hotels on the other side of the boulevard. La Croisette begins at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, where you can see the handprints of film stars in the concrete of the plaza in front, although most are now a few decades old.

Lined by designer shops, the promenade is especially attractive at night thanks to floodlighting. Inland, rue d’Antibes is the narrow main shopping street, with boutiques, jewellers and art specialists. West of La Croisette is a more ‘real’ Cannes, with a relaxed air and lower prices. The esplanade La Pantiero, with its cropped plane trees, attracts strollers and boules players, and there are hundreds of café tables. Farther west still is Le Suquet, the small, older area of narrow lanes that was fortified by the monks of the Îles de Lérins.

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You may also be interested to read more about what not to miss in Cote d'Azur and Provence's neighbouring region of
Languedoc. Or return to our guide to France directory list

More tourist information on the region can be found on the official tourism website