Ahh, the Riviera. Getaway destination of the stars, the diversity of the region fortunately renders the French summer hotspot accessible to the rest of us as well. Most are familiar with Cannes, Nice, and Monaco, but the Riviera has so much more to offer than crowded beaches and piscine de rosé. The best of the region hides away from its famed, glittering beach clubs. Below I’ve listed 5 of the prettiest villages on the French Riviera, starting from just east of Marseille and stretching all the way to the Italian border. If you’re ever in the south of France and looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, especially during the summer, visit one of these villages for a beautiful taste of the real Riviera!
Cassis will always hold a special place in my heart. Given its proximity to Marseille, it’s one of the first places D ever took me, and it’s a spot we frequently return to when visiting his parents. The furthest west on the list, its adorably colorful port is just begging for photos, and the sparkling clear waters of the calanques are just a short hike away! Bring an ice cream cone to the beach, or spend a warm Sunday evening listen to jazz on a rooftop, glass of vin de Cassis in hand.
Located halfway between Toulon and Saint Tropez, Bormes is one of the Villages Fleuris de France (floral villages of France) and it wears its title well. Everywhere you turn in this picture-perfect little town is covered in colorful flowers, brightly painted shutters and terracotta rooftops. It’s a bit of a hike walking through town, but parking is convenient, and it’s an idyllic spot for a glass of rosé and some people-watching.
Saint Paul de Vence
Of the two popular hilltop villages in the area around Nice, Saint Paul is my favorite- quieter and, on the whole, less touristy than Éze. With walls dating back to Francois 1er, the village has served as an inspiration for many artists over the years, including Marc Chagall, who spent the last two decades of his life in Saint Paul and is buried in the cemetery. Wandering through the cobbled streets, it’s easy to see why so many of these creatives loved to come here, and why others still do, be their medium paint or photograph- it’s absolutely one of the prettiest villages on the French Riviera.
Situated between Nice and Monaco, the view over the Riviera is Éze’s best quality. The Jardin Exotique (exotic garden), designed by the man behind the Jardin Exotique of Monaco and set within the ruins of an ancient castle on the top of the hill, features all kinds of succulents and plants which are suitable for the hot, dry climate. Entry between 6 March and 30 November costs 6€ but is well worth it to see the blue waters of the Mediterranean stretching as far as the eye can see. Be careful though- you may lose your hat, as I almost did! (And you thought I was holding it just to be cute 🙂 )
I’ve saved my very favorite town for last, as this was one I had never
seen on Instagram heard about before. Sainte-Agnès is perched high in the mountains over Menton (also a stunning town, though not on this list because I’ve never been), and an absolute hidden gem- certainly a top contender for one of the prettiest villages on the French Riviera. Getting there involved a 45-minute drive from Nice on winding mountain roads, most of them wide enough for only one car; D got a big kick out of how nervous I got as he steered through the precarious turns (don’t worry Mom, he’s an excellent driver). We parked near an overlook high above the coast and wandered through the sleepy little village, with the little black and white cat in the photos below acting as our tour guide, running along ahead of us but too skittish to be petted. As much as I loved the other villages on this list, this is the one to which I’d most love to return to explore further and take more photos.
Have you been to any of these picturesque villages? Which one was your favorite? What would you add to the list?
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