If you are heading to the Cote d’Azur this summer, here are some great ideas for unforgettable day trips in the South of France, and you can even pop into Italy for lunch!
Planning our Cote d’Azur day trips
For this trip, we joined another couple and their one year old in their family’s house in Villefranche-sur-Mer. We rented a car, and used this for all our day trips in the south of France, though we had heard several good reports of the cheap trains in the Nice area.
The house in Villefranche-sur-Mer was absolutely amazing, especially the view from the main living room. We planned to eat most of our meals in the house, and so our day trips only covered lunch time. We bought ingredients from the local markets or Carrefour and cooked at home in the evenings, while drinking wine.
5 day trip ideas in the Cote d’Azur
Monaco, Ventimiglia, and Eze
With this day trip you can actually visit three countries in one day!
Go to the tiny principality of Monaco and ogle at the glamour and glitz of casinos, Ferraris, and super yachts. Be sure to visit the Old Town that sits on the rocky promontory and is also the site of the Palace, the Oceanographic Museum made famous by Jacques Cousteau, and the Cathedral where Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier lie entombed. You can pop into a casino if you like, (no children allowed) and take a look at the golden ceilings and chandeliers while you play on the roulettes.
For lunch you can visit the charming town of Ventimiglia, in Liguria, Italy. On a Friday, head to the market to pick up supplies for dinner, including fresh vegetables and fruit, and meats. If you decide to stay out and explore more of Liguria, consider joining a walking tour with a local guide in the stunning national park of Cinque Terre.
On the way back you could stop at Eze, the perfectly preserved medieval village that appears to have grown out of the rock. This is not an easy place to negotiate if you have a stroller, so leave that in the car and use the baby carrier while at Eze. Walk to the top of the hill and admire the cathedral at the top. The ceiling is breathtakingly beautiful.
Eze is a town of art and gastronomy, so there are little rooms off the main path, which you will see artists at work. You can also buy their work, as many of the workshops double as shops.
Nice is full of attractions , though for us it was all about the ice cream!
While in Nice, don’t miss the Cathedrale Sainte Nicholas, which is a stunning Russian Orthodox church, with spires and turrets that look just like you might find in St Petersburg.
Cannes is a little bit like Monaco, in that if you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it, but there are lots of things to see and do, and not all of them are spotting the mega rich walking their tiny dogs. Don’t miss Le Suquet with its narrow streets which climb to the 12th century Tour de Mt Chevalier and the church of Notre Dame de l’Espérence. Tours are in English on Fridays at 2:30pm. Villa Domergue is one of Cannes’ hidden treasures. The house and grounds were designed by the artist Jean-Gabriel Domergue, who is claimed to be the inventor of the pin-up, and threw lavish parties as well as the first film festival.
Villefranche sur Mer
We were staying high on a hill in Villefranche, and a walk down to the bay in the morning felt like a long trek, so I’m absolutely including this as a day trip. Unlike other beaches in many Riviera coastal towns, the beach in Villefranche is free! The long strip of Plage des Marinieres has coarse sand. Nearby, there are plenty of snack bars if you want to stay out to eat.
Villefranche is also home to the port where many cruise ships stop, so the town is well used to people of all nationalities, and you will be able to pick up free information on the surrounding areas in the Port of Nice Convention and Visitors Centre.
Frejus and Saint-Tropez
There are loads of things to do in Frejus, but we visited for lunch on our way to Saint-Tropez. The road to Saint-Tropez is long and winding, and it isn’t too unfair to compare it to a car park. So leave early, and plan a place to stop along the way – Frejus is perfect for this! You can also see the 40km of 2000 year-old aqueduct (Arcs Sénéquier) which is close to the A8 road between Cannes and the turn off for Saint-Tropez.
When in Saint-Tropez, don’t miss a tour of the superyachts in the marina, lunch in a posh restaurant, and a walk around the citadelle.
Built in 1602 to defend the coast against Spain, the citadelle dominates the hillside overlooking St-Tropez to the east. The views are fantastic. The dungeons are home to the Musée de l’Histoire Maritime, an interactive museum, retracing the history of humans at sea, from fishing, trading, exploration, travel and the navy.
More tips for your days trips in the South of France
Use viamichelin.com to plan your route. It gives you good time estimation of time, fuel, and toll expenses
Use my trip planner to get a free personalised itinerary of your time in and around the Cote d’Azur!
If you’d like to read a book set in the area, try Villa America.