French Riviera Itinerary – Nice or Cannes?

roadtrip through the french riviera

Are you overwhelmed trying to map out your tour de Cote d’Azur? Close the 1000 tabs you have open, put on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, pour yourself a glass rosé, and read on.  

southern france itinerary

You’re going to start your trip by flying into Nice. Book a car, preferably something glamorous but compact, and opt for the added insurance – these roads are harrowing to say the least. I should also warn you that you’re going to be doing a lot of reversing on this trip to alleviate two-way traffic jams in streets wide enough for only one car, so start practicing now. But don’t stress, you’ll be staying in Nice the first 3 nights, and it’s lovely!

roadtrip itinerary through south of france

DAY 1

Explore Nice, get your bearings, and recover poolside from jetlag.  Don’t expect beautiful beaches, they don’t exist here.  Do expect a lively and perfectly french city brimming with charm.  I can’t personally recommend it, but I have always wanted to eat dinner at Le Plongeoir in Nice.  I also recommend staying somewhere inexpensive, the trip is only going up in price from here.  Perhaps a cutesy airbnb in old town? Or the reasonably priced Hotel Suisse.

guide to driving through the south of france

DAY 2

Croissants and cappuccinos in town before driving up the coast to Monaco.  Spend the afternoon gambling in Monte Carlo, sipping aperol spritz while you car gawk at Cafe du Paris, and window shopping until your hearts content.   On the way home, stop in Eze for dinner and to explore this Provence-like adorable village.  

road trip itinerary cote d'azur

DAY 3

Eat breakfast at the Nice farmers market and pick up some fresh fruit and snacks for your roadtrip. Drive to Cannes for lunch on le Croisette (or if you prefer good food over tourist food, go to Bobos or Mame).  After lunch continue on to Saint Tropez.  You could stay at Chateau de la Messardiere like we did, or save some money and get a more authentic experience by booking an airbnb near the port. 

DAY 3-6 

Enjoy St Tropez.  Click here for my elongated post on how to do St Tropez right, but basically.. reserve a table and day beds at Club 55, experience L’Opera, brunch at the Dior Cafe, hit up a beach club on Pampelonne, and eat gelato. 

Day 6-7

Either ditch the car and charter a boat to take you back along the coast, staying in Nice for your final night before your flight, OR drive straight to Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, eat the 1600/night price tag (because, it’s worth it), and spend your last day/night at the world’s most glamour hotel. (Now do you see why I’ve been so keen on saving you money this trip?)

Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc pool day with le crew

OR if you have an extra 3-4 days, keep driving onto Provence, stay in Gordes (itinerary here), and fly out of Marsailles airport.

So, why Nice over Cannes?  

Nice to me, is quintessential French living.  It’s lively and fun, quaint and historic, yet with modern accents and a cosmopolitan feel.  It’s a place that you visit and mutter, hm, I could live here.  Sure, the beaches are rocks, and yes, parts of the city could use a fresh coat of paint… but it has character and charm.  Cannes, on the other hand, has the sandy beaches, but lacks that french spirit. It’s just more commercialized, more generic, more industrial. 

Closing Remarks

While it is true that each destination is entirely unique and deserves adequate time to explore – enjoy the ride between. Be enticed by the boulangerie, make a detour to wine taste the crispest rosés in the world, stop at a beach to dive into the refreshing water. While the cities will be lively, glittery and glamorous, the little towns in between will be humble and quaint.

/// SHOP MY LOOK ///

I never take a trip without a Rent the Runway haul! Use code chelsea50 for half off your first month of unlimited!

White & black bikini: Gigi C | Sunnies: Grey Ant via Rent the Runway

Linen white dress: Nasty Gal | Blue Slides: Malvados | Straw Bag: Adorne

Purple Skirt: Dollskill | White top: Zara | woven slides: Carrie Forbes | Sunnies: Quay | Hat: target

If you’re curious as to what I packed for beauty essentials on this trip, click here!

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