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Road trip on the French Riviera: from Marseille to Menton

Road trip on the French Riviera: from Marseille to Menton

Nice, Cannes, Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez, Monaco, Marseille, Porquerolles… These cities known all over the world embody the so-called French Riviera. An ideal of life, freedom, escape and climate, that we envy the whole world. If you want to discover in a week some of the wonders of the French Riviera, here is a Road trip of 300 km, achievable on 7 days and more, to go along and discover the mythical Riviera!

I have been living in the south on the French Riviera for almost two years. This is certainly the last place I thought I would live for its touristy side and its reputation as a very expensive area. And finally, I took the time to discover the incredible diversity of landscapes, atmospheres, architectures, gastronomies as well, that this corner of France reserves. How can we not succumb to the charm of Provence?

Nicknamed also French Riviera, the Côte d’azur owes its name to a writer Dijon Stéphen Liégeard named it in reference to its original department la Côte d’or. Even if the boundaries of the French Riviera are not really clear, it is considered to extend from Marseille to Genoa, Italy. Favorite resort of artists like Picasso or Matisse, and wealthy Americans and Europeans in search of the sun. It should be known that the region d’azur is the second tourist region of France, behind the Ile-de-France, with more than 10 million nights in 2018 all the same!

The itinerary that I am about today extends about 300km by taking only the national, which allows to go along the coast and thus to enjoy the landscapes to the maximum. Don’t panic if you don’t own a car, it’s very easy to rent one or make this itinerary by train!

step 1: Marseille

Marseille La Rebel, Massilia, is one of the oldest city of France with soon a little over 2600 years of history… Not bad, huh? Cosmopolitan city, it has since ancient times been an important area of passage of men and foodstuffs. It is this incredible low population that gives it such a special character.

By spending only one day in Marseille it is difficult to explore the city thoroughly, the best being to do everything on foot to appreciate the best atmosphere. On the other hand it may be the fight to park, I am every time exit because I have a small car easy to park… Good luck finding a free place! We begin the visit of Marseille by the heart of the city, the Gare Saint-Charles, and its famous staircase, whose terrace offers a magnificent view of the city.

From the station, you just have to go down the Canebière to reach the old Port of Marseille. If you arrive early in the morning you will find some fishermen selling their fish of the day. From here you can explore the famous shopping area. The MUCEM and the Major Cathedral located in the Joliette area are also places to visit. And if your legs allow it, all you have to do is climb up to Our Lady of the guard who dominates the city with all its splendor.

Also to see: The Castle of Yew, the Fort Saint-Jean, the Abbey of Saint Victor, the Parc Borély, the Vallon des Auffes, the Cours Julien
Where to eat?: In the heart of the basket, Chez Fonfon, at Angèle (vegetarians: Grain of sand, green Love, green Bear Coffe)


step 2: Cassis and calanques

Located 30km from Marseille, Cassis and best known for its cliffs and coves. If you want to discover the creeks in summer I advise you to get up, very, very early because it is quickly impossible to park. I have the unpleasant memory of having turned in circles more than an hour throughout the city before giving up…

If Cassis and La Ciotat are very cute and pleasant cities, their real asset remains their natural protected environment because it is a classified natural park. Before you go on the adventure, I recommend a good pair of walking shoes, enough to drink and protect you from the sun. Port-Pin, En-Vau and Port-Miou (the only one accessible by car), offer hiking, kayaking, diving, or boat tour, you just have to choose how to occupy your day! Attention however because the fire safety rules its very strict and the slightest spark can destroy thousands of hectares… The most beautiful road to reach La Ciotat is the famous Route des ridges. Be careful however because it is regularly closed due to the heavy winds and the risk of fires during the summer.

Also to see: The Port of Cassis, the beach of Bestouan, Museum of the Foreign Legion

 Where to eat?: The Stazione, the Cauldron, the Non d’oro (vegetarians: The gastronomic workshop, flowers of Thyme, Triskala Café)

Visit the Cove: Calanc’O Kayak Paddle, Lo’kayak, J.C. F Boat Services

Hiking: Hiking 1, hiking 2, hiking 3

step 3: the peninsula of Giens

For starters, where is the Giens peninsula? Most people don’t know it and have never heard of it yet... If you know Porquerolles it is simply the place where you probably took the boat. I chose to talk to you about GIens rather than Porquerolles, mainly because of the blow of the shuttle boats and the price of renting the bikes that I find particularly excessive. If the peninsula of Giens is less renowned than its famous neighbour it is yet equally beautiful. Both depend on the commune of Hyères-les-palmiers. While the French Riviera has suffered immensely from massive constructions and still suffers much from the pollution of boats, Giens and the Golden Islands are unique natural and ornithological reserves. The salines of Giens are for example a beautiful place to observe the flamingos.

été indien presqu'ile de giens
été indien presqu'ile de giens

For the lovers of nature, Giens is a place where to make sublime hikes, there are in particular the path of the coastline that makes all the tour of the island but I advise instead to do it twice over two days in order to take full advantage of the view and count Where to swim! If you are travelling by train, you will have to take the train to Hyères, then a bus.

Whole Article to read on Giens here, and on Hyères here

Also to see: Porquerolles, the Fondue tower, the port Auguier, the port of the Neil and the port of the Madrague

Where to eat?: The three islands, the factory, the Olive tree (vegetarians: Savage café)

Hikes: 1st, 2nd

step 4: Saint-Tropez and Port-Grimaud

These two nearby cities are feasible in the same day as they are connected by a bus-boat system. For obvious financial reasons, I do not recommend looking for a hotel or camping in Saint-Tropez because at €9 the fruit juice, I let you imagine the prices of the rest… Between its port, its Latin sails and its magnificent facades ochre, yellow, orange and pink, Saint-Trop ‘ is really out of season, once the hordes of rich revelers are gone. We can even find this little fishing village that it was still less than a century ago.

Port-Grimaud has everything from a small provencal Venice worthy of the most beautiful postcards. Built from any room, or almost, in the years 60, it is in reality a private city whose access is limited to tourism. You won’t be able to get in by car. No doubt you will be charmed by the elegance of this village!

See also: Citadel of Saint-Tropez-Maritime history Museum, Pampelonne Beach, gendarmerie and cinema Museum 

Where to eat?: Clandestino, the G’envie, the bikini (vegetarian: Gandhi, le Pescadou, au vieux Gassin)

step 5: The Estérel

The Esterel is a massif located between the Var and part of the Alpes-Martime, on the French Riviera. Unavoidable and atypical thanks to its red rock and its rugged terrains, the Estérel massif is actually a volcanic massif of more than 250 million years. During the formation of the Mediterranean, a piece of land gradually detaches and moves away… Thus giving birth to Corsica! Classified area «Natura 2000» Lovers of sports hikes, climbing, mountain biking and even horseback riding, will find their happiness to make the most of this exceptional setting. 

To get there by train, you will have to go to Saint-Raphaël, then take a second TER to Agay which is in the heart of the Estérel, or a bus.

Also to see: Saint-Raphaël, Frejus, Mandelieu la Napoule, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Jerusalem, Jardin Bonaparte, Archaeological Museum of Saint-Raphaël, cloister of the Cathedral of Frejus

Where to eat?: Happy days, the Charivari (vegetarians: The Rose of Damascus, the Acanthus, Cafe Paradis)

Hiking: Hiking 1, hiking 2, hiking 3

step 6: Nice

Located between the sea and the mountains, Nice is undoubtedly the city that best embodies the image of the French Riviera all over the world. Nissa, of its real name, is in fact French only since 1860. She is particularly famous for her English walk along the Bay of Angels. If the Prom ‘ can finally see in real hotels like the Negresco and enjoy the sun; I would advise you not to linger if you really want to discover Nice because the old town deserves to spend time there. Between the smells of cooking (do not leave Nice without tasting a NACCC!), the small colorful alleys, its unique cultural heritage, and the place Masséna, there is enough to do. On the hill of the castle and its park which dominates the city, you will have a panoramic view of the region. If you have time to leave, make a detour to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas.

See also: Matisse Museum, Saleya Course, Phoenix Park, Garibaldi Square 

Where to eat?: The Bistronome, the Route of the Yum, Olim (vegetarians: Koko Green, the jar, Paper plane, Vegan Gorilla)

step 7: Menton

World famous for its lemon feast which takes place every year in February; Menton is located in the extreme southeast of France, just a few kilometers from the Italian border, it is nicknamed “The Pearl of France”. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities of the French Riviera. Classified as “City of Art and history” since 1991, Menton is full of small, typical and colorful streets that will make you dream of Italy. Walking around the sandstone of your desire is the best way to discover it. If you choose the car check out the parking lots in advance because it is difficult to park in Menton, the narrow streets leave little room for cars, with a little luck you will find little to be a free place along the quays of General Leclerc. If you still have the time, do not hesitate to go for a tour in Italy, either by car or TER!

Whole article on chin to read here

See also: Jean Cocteau Museum, Basilica of St. Michael Archangel, Biovès Garden

Where to eat?: La Trattoria, Aqui, Maison Martin and Fils (vegetarians: Leone, La Caz’amis, la Cantinella)

french riviera menton

I hope that this taste will have made you want to come by yourself to browse the little sunny France and all its riches. Far from the clichés, I am sure that everyone can find his account, whether you are lovers of sports, photography, museum or family outing!

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