The French Riviera: 4 Colorful Villages Off The Beaten Path
If you’re planning a trip to the French Riviera, you might be considering some of the more popular hotspots like Nice, Cannes, Saint Tropez, and Monte Carlo. But if you’re looking to get away from the typical tourist track and visit some ultra charming seaside towns, here are 4 amazingly beautiful, colorful little villages off the beaten path that should totally be on your French Riviera bucket list.
Cassis is about a 30-minute drive from Marseille. Marseille and Nice have the 2 biggest airports in the French Riviera and are on opposite ends of the coast. My recommendation would be to fly into one airport, rent a car, drive down the coast, stop at all the cute towns along the way, and fly out of the other airport. It would be like driving down the coast of California from San Francisco to San Diego. Driving is really the best way to get around in the French Riviera, so don’t be afraid! The roads are safe and well-marked.
One of the most amazing views I have ever seen is on the Route des Crêtes (scenic drive) from Cassis to La Ciotat. There are several spots along the way where you can pull over for incredible views from the high cliffs overlooking Cassis. The best overlook is at the parking lot near Klippen von Cassis. You can also do a bit of hiking here along the coast. It’s the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon!
One of my favorite hikes I have ever done with incredible views the entire way is the hike from Cassis to Calanque d’En-Vau in the Calanques National Park.
How To Get There:
You can park at Calanque de Port Miou for 8 euros all day — or there is free parking on the street nearby on Avenue Notre Dame.
From the parking lot at Port Miou, follow the trail marked with the red and white stripes to Port Pin. Once at Port Pin, follow the blue trail along the coast. It’s a moderate hike, but nothing too difficult. I think it took me about 1 hour to reach the top from the parking lot. The breathtaking views along the way will definitely keep you motivated! Once you get close to the top stay left and wander along the cliff edge for spectacular views overlooking the Calanque d’En Vau.
There is a secret, tiny hidden beach down at the bottom of the calanque!
If you continue along the trail, you can hike down to the beach in about 30 minutes.
But of course you’ll have to hike back up!
Tips for Hiking to Calanque d’En Vau:
- Get there early — you’ll find parking easier and the lighting will be better for photographs.
- Wear comfortable hiking or running shoes
- Bring water and snacks
- Plan for around 3-4 hours to hike all the way to the beach and back, allowing yourself extra time for pictures and relaxing / swimming on the beach.
For more information on getting there and how to get the best pictures of the calanque be sure to read this post: Hiking to Calanque d’En Vau from Cassis, France.
Cassis is a small, quiet, laid-back town.
The main attraction is the giant harbor in the center of town, lined with colorful shops and restaurants. There’s also many narrow side streets to explore. From the harbor, you can book boat tours to the calanques if you don’t want to hike!
If you’d prefer to stay in Marseille, you could easily do a day trip to Cassis. Do the hike down to the beach in the morning, then spend the afternoon exploring the town. Do the scenic drive along the Route des Crêtes another day.
Oh my gosh, I fell in LOVE with this beautiful, colorful village on the French Riviera!!!
Look at the color of these houses!! The color of that water!!
Oh my gosh, I wish I had more pictures from Sainte-Maxime! It was such a beautiful town — charming streets, amazing restaurants, fun bakeries and ice cream shops, a beautiful beach. If you just want to chill in a beautiful seaside village, you could easily spend your whole week here.
Sainte-Maxime is less than 30 minutes from Saint Tropez, so you could easily do a day trip to Saint Tropez from Sainte-Maxime as well.
Camargue Natural Park
You guys. There is a PINK SALT BEACH in France!!
The water is naturally pink and the rocks along the beach are covered in millions of salt crystals!! This is where the world famous Fleur De Sel De Camargue Sea Salt comes from.
Park at the Salt Pan Observation Mound for an overlook of the pink salt flats.
Also in this area you can visit Piemanson Beach and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (another charming seaside town). Along the drive we saw flamingos and Camargue horses!
Nice is definitely not off the beaten path, but should not be missed on any visit to the French Riviera! The first time I went to Nice I absolutely fell in love. It’s so beautiful and charming. It reminds me of Paris, but less busy and on the beach!
Must-Do In Nice:
- La Tour Bellanda — spectacular views of Nice and the harbor.
- Flower Market — a long street lined with flowers, artists, organic fruits and vegetables, local spices, handmade soaps, perfumes, and more.
- Place Rossetti — charming narrow streets to explore.
- Nice Port — Colorful buildings line the harbor filled with hundreds of boats.
- Sunset on the Beach — while listening to the unique sound the rocks make as the waves crash over them.
If you read my previous posts on Nice, you’ll know that Fenocchio has my favorite lavender and orange blossom ice cream on the planet! But this last time I was in Nice, I discovered a new favorite ice cream shop. Gelateria Azzurro is right around the corner from Fenocchio and they have creme brulee ice cream. There are actual chunks of bruleed sugar in the ice cream!! It is TO DIE FOR!! This is a MUST try in Nice!!
Where to Stay in Nice
The Negresco Hotel is an icon in Nice. For over 100 years the Negresco’s signature pink dome has been a highlight of the Nice skyline overlooking the beautiful beaches of the French Riviera’s capital city.
The Negresco is almost like a museum. It’s home to a large art collection with over 6,000 unique pieces.
The Negresco has 117 unique rooms — each one is decorated differently. The styles of the rooms range from the period of Louis XIII to modern day. I LOVED this pink princess room! This room is an example of Louis XVI style. This hotel is almost a destination in and of itself. If you happen to have a rainy day, you could easily entertain yourself for an afternoon without ever leaving the hotel. Take the vintage elevator up to the top floor, then take the stairs down. Each floor is different with beautiful art displays. Also definitely be sure to check out the bathrooms on the first floor!
Breakfast is served every morning on the terrace overlooking the beach and in this beautiful dining room. How fun is this carousel-themed restaurant??!
For a truly amazing, unforgettable experience, plan one evening to have dinner at Le Chantecler, the 2-Michelin star restaurant inside The Negresco Hotel. Our evening started out on the terrace overlooking the beach at sunset while sipping custom-made cocktails crafted by Le Chantecler‘s mixologist. Just tell him what you like and he will create a cocktail just for you! I said I loved sweets and he made this delicious drink that tasted like a chocolate truffle!! So good!
A meal at Le Chantecler is the ultimate fine dining experience. It will be some of the best, most beautiful, and most unforgettable food of your entire life. Each course is beautifully presented and served with impeccable attention to detail. Service at Le Chantecler is pure excellence — it is part of the experience itself!
We took the tasting menu and throughout the evening we were served over six courses. Each one was a different experience. I loved the crab and mango cannellonis with citrus fruit marmalade and the Dublin Bay prawns roasted with Espelette chili pepper.
The perfect ending to the perfect meal — this Salted Butter Caramel Delight was fabulous. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they brought out a giant chariot filled with even more pastries and chocolates!
If you’re celebrating a special occasion and want an unforgettable foodie experience, I highly recommend Le Chantecler in Nice.
Thanks so much for reading! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Stay tuned for more!