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Things To Do in France

Get more out of your vacation to France. Book tours, attractions and activities in advance at Viator.com.

Juan-les-Pins, France

The charming seafront of Juan-les-Pins

The French Riviera has been one of the world’s great holiday destinations for many years and has always attracted a celebrity clientele.  It’s not hard to see why, when you consider its many attractions.  The region combines a relaxed pace with stylish flair and natural beauty.  Despite the warmth, the scenery is lush and green and the Alps make a spectacular backdrop.  Whether you prefer to take in a sophisticated floorshow, enjoy a meal in a gourmet restaurant, try your luck in a casino, or savour the ambiance and watch the world go by at an al fresco café, this is the place to be seen.

Cannes, France

The cosmopolitan seafront of Cannes

Apart from being seen, there’s so much for you to see and do.  The Cote d’Azur enjoys long, warm summers and short, mild winters.  Stretching along the warm, blue waters of the Mediterranean, it’s unsurprising that the beaches are a great attraction for visitors and locals alike.  Some of the best sandy beaches are those of Cannes and Juan-les-Pins.  Watersports are popular.  Windsurfing, snorkelling, jet skiing, waterskiing, parascending, boat trips, SCUBA diving, sailing and boat hire are all available.

Petanques (boules), tennis and cycling are all popular and well-catered-for.  In the winter, the mountains provide excellent skiing and snowboarding within a short driving distance, while they are the perfect place for climbing, hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and nature watching in the summer.

The region is a golfer’s paradise, with many courses, including The Royal Mougins, Riviera Golf at Mandelieu, Royal Mandelieu, Valescure/St. Raphael and Opio/Valbonne.

The views along the coast are beautiful and can be enjoyed by car or by train.  The train service is excellent, clean and reliable.  The coastal route from Cannes takes you through Juan-les-Pins, Nice, Eze-sur-Mer, Beaulieu, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Monaco and on to Ventimiglia in Italy. You can alight at any station along your route to explore a town, then continue your journey.

Cannes has the obvious attraction of the International Film Festival every May, when the stars come to be seen on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals.  The old section of the town, Le Suquet, is next to the Palais and has an abundance of gourmet restaurants and street cafés.  From the harbour next to the Palais, you can take a short boat trip to the beautiful and peaceful Iles de Lérins (Lérins Islands), once the prison home of the man in the iron mask, now home to a maritime museum.  Also, a boat-bus runs to St. Tropez in the summer, especially on a Saturday for the St. Tropez market.  From Cannes harbour, you can also visit the Ile de Porquerolles, Monaco and San Remo in Italy by boat.  The beautiful Boulevard de la Croisette stretches along the coast from the Palais, with the beach on one side and hotels, casinos and designer boutiques on the other.  (The casinos are in the Carlton Hotel, the Noga Hotel and the Palais des Festivals).  At the end of the Boulevard de la Croisette is the fabulous Palm Beach area, with two magnificent beaches (both free and less crowded than those along la Croisette), the impressive yacht marina and the Palm Beach Casino.  The main shopping street in Cannes is the pedestrianised Rue d’Antibes.

Picturesque villages around Cannes include Mougins (gastronomic heart of the Côte d’Azur), Grasse (famous for its world-class perfumeries) and Vallauris (known for its pottery).

Juan-les-Pins boasts fine, sandy beaches and a vibrant nightlife.  Famed for its jazz festival in July and its August season of music with fireworks displays there are many other festivals throughout the year.  Click here for details.  Juan-les-Pins merges into Antibes, home of the largest private yacht marina in Europe.  This is situated next to the walled old town, with its many pavement cafés, restaurants, churches, art galleries and shops; a delight to explore.  Here you will also find Renoir’s home and, situated in the Château Grimaldi, the Picasso museum.  Antibes was founded in the fifth century B.C. and the archaeological sites and Fort Carre will appeal to all with an interest in history.

Nice boasts a wealth of traditional Provençal architecture, and the narrow streets of the old town, with their many shops and cafés are a joy to explore.  At the edge of the old town, the Cours Saleya is lined with excellent cafés and is home to the flower market.  From the old town, the Promenade des Anglais stretches along the coast right alongside the beach.  It is a lovely place to stroll or to take a horse-drawn carriage ride.  Nice, once a part of Italy, has a long history which can be explored in its many museums.  The largest city on the Côte d’Azur, Nice has a wide range of excellent ethnic restaurants including Tunisian, Iranian and Afghan.  Another annual attraction is the lively Nice carnival.

Monaco has many attractions for the visitor.  This independent Principality comprises two towns set on hilltops.  The older town of Monaco with its narrow cobbled streets full of cafes and shops is full of character.  Here you will also find the Royal Palace and the Napoleon Bonaparte museum.  The newer, though still historic, town of Monte Carlo is home to the world renowned casino, which is open to visitors as well as high rollers.  The bay which lies between the two towns is the site of the yacht marina, housing some of the largest and most exclusive private yachts in the world.  The Monaco Formula One Grand Prix is one of the most famous sporting events in the world, drawing afficionados from far and wide each May.  Another noteworthy annual sporting event is the Monte Carlo tennis open, held at the Monte Carlo Country Club each April.  The train makes a special stop for the tennis spectators just beyond Monaco and the views of the bay from the platform are spectacular.

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What to Buy

France is famous for the quality of its haute couture.  Designer boutiques are plentiful in the Côte d’Azur, and particularly in Cannes and Monaco.  Look out for Bulgari, Cartier, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Yves St. Laurent among others.  There are also many exclusive jewellers.  France is also famous for its artistic tradition, and there are many studios where excellent art to suit all tastes can be found.  Artists gather in the old town of Antibes to sell their works on Saturdays.

The town of Grasse is known for its many perfumeries which are open to visitors and, of course, their perfumes make excellent gifts.  France is also justifiably famous for its many gastronomic delights.  Among these, wines and cheeses also make ideal gifts.

The Côte d’Azur has many tourist shops selling beach goods and a wide range of souvenirs. The traditional brightly-coloured Provençal household textiles are good quality and are particularly popular. The markets of the many towns and cities of the region are very interesting and browsing for bargains can be very rewarding.

Get more out of your vacation to France. Book tours, attractions and activities in advance at Viator.com.

For more information about the South of France, please check the website of AMB Côte d'Azur. This site has a wide range of information in English about the area and, in their own words:

"The website’s aim is to be your internet companion and guide to the French Riviera and parts of the South of France, and sometimes a little further afield, whether you want to work, retire or holiday here. You’ll find personal and comprehensive accounts on towns, events and festivals, as well as a blog, interviews, recipes, reviews on books about the region and extensive web links. "Living in France" contains in-depth articles covering a variety of topics to make your transition to the South of France an easy and happy one."

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