FranceWeekend trips

French Riviera in 3 days: visit Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez, Monaco and St. Paul de Vence

posted by Liza 27th April 2016 2 Comments
French Riviera in 3 days

We just arrived from our last trip and would like to share with you some great lifehacks and tips about visiting French Riviera in 3 days.

Well, at first, I was very skeptical about our upcoming trip to French Riviera, since I wasn’t convinced, that we could see enough in just 2 and a half days because this place is marvelous and people are coming for at least 2 weeks (or the whole summer if they are lucky enough). But well, now I can say that I’m very satisfied with the trip and wouldn’t change pretty much anything in it. So French Riviera in 3 days was just fine for us!

Once we arrived at the airport in Nice, we hired a car ( hiring a car in Nice DEFINITELY needs another post & I’ll tell you about the accident that happened to us, which we are still trying to solve). Driving in Nice isn’t complicated as long as you have a phone with Google maps and 3G. We arrived at our lovely apartment which we hired via AirBnB (btw, do you want a free 30 euro-coupon from AirBnB? Click here!) and as it was my birthday, went to the city centre to walk and wait for amazing dinner.

I must admit, that at first, I was really disappointed by Nice. We went to Gare (Railway Station) in order to find the nearest money exchange office and this part of the city looked quite dirty. Moreover, it wasn’t possible to eat literally anywhere. It was around 4:40 pm and the service in the restaurants stopped. 

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Tip: In case you want to eat around 4-6 pm, look for a restaurant in advance! Some spots in the city centre don’t stop their service, but most of the places do. Alternatively, you can eat fast food or sandwich (those places are always open).

We took a tram to the city centre in order to walk around & try to find something to eat. Finding a place in the city centre was much easier, so we grabbed a «french pizza» and continued walking.

Later at night, we arrived at the Cafe de Turin (it’s one of the best places for Seafood in Nice AND it doesn’t accept reservations) for my birthday dinner. I would definitely recommend cafe de Turin to everybody. We ordered a set of oysters & seafood for 45 euros and it was huge and very delicious. Just look at this magical set:

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On the next day, we decided to discover Nice for a while: we went to the Promenade des Anglais and enjoyed the sunny weather while walking on the beach.

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Finding where to park near the beach wasn’t hard at all: there are plenty of underground parking lots and they even allow to leave your car for free for 1 hour.

Later, we took a highway A8 to go to St. Tropez.

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The highway has some pay tolls, so the total cost of going to St. Tropez is around 5.7 euros (maybe a bit more if you stay on the highway a bit longer). Because of some heavy traffic in different parts of the route, getting there took longer than expected: around 2 hours. But it was totally worth it. St Tropez is a very cozy small Mediterranean town with plenty of seaside restaurants, expensive yachts in front of them and souvenir shops selling clothes white as pearl.

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Even though a lunch in St. Tropez is probably going to be quite expensive (around 60 euros for 2 people), you can always stay on budget by ordering a buckwheat crêpe, stopping by an ice-cream cafe or some cake shop.

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The most enjoyable activity in St. Tropez is walking around the town and enjoying the town. Unfortunately, we haven’t been there in the evening to check out the nightlife, so I cannot tell you anything about famous posh lounges and bars in one of the most luxurious places of the French Riviera.

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Just after St. Tropez we went to Cannes. When we arrived at Cannes, it was already growing dark. The situation with the parking lots in Cannes is the same as in Nice: there are plenty of them just near the coast. So we left the car and went for the evening stroll along the promenade. Cannes impressed me even more than Nice because the city is somehow more… posh. That can be seen pretty much in everything: pretentious buildings on the seafront, fancy restaurant and rich guests (or maybe residents) of the city.

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When it was already very dark and started raining, we hid in one of the seafood restaurants, offering dinner menus for 25 euros per person. The dinner wasn’t bad, though incomparable with Cafe de Turin in Nice.

I spotted an interesting thing in Cote D’Azur: people have the dinner a bit late! Most of the restaurants only open around 7-7:30 but start getting full only around 9pm. At 11:00pm, you still can find many restaurants serving food (unlike the UK, for example).

On the next day in the morning we decided to go to Monaco and for that, we took the famous scenic route (not the A8 highway, even though it’s way faster) and couldn’t miss the opportunity to stop and take plenty pictures of Nice from the top of the hill.

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We passed Eze, a nice French village with a church on top of the hill and many religious shops and drove directly to Monaco, where we were looking for a parking for a while (trying to find the closest one to the city centre). We wanted to visited Eze, but when visiting French Riviera in 3 days, there’s no time to see everything.  Since Monaco is full of underground tunnels, understanding where exactly the city centre was, was quite challenging. In the end, we just left the car at the only parking lot we could find (and it turned our to be quite centric – the exit of it led directly to the Japanese Garden with Koi fishes.

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After discovering the Japanese Garden in Monaco, we went to the Casino in Monte Carlo. It is possible to get inside if you’re dressed properly but it’s strictly prohibited to take any photos. It is also possible to gamble if you want (also, if you follow the dress code). Just in front of the Casino Monte Carlo there is this famous Cafe de Paris (in case you want to dine, you get seated in the fancy part but if you only want to enjoy a coffee and a cake, you need to sit in a separate part of the cafe (where the waiters aren’t really friendly) and 99% of the seats were taken.And trying to squeeze in and try to wait inside the cafe intensively looking for people who are going to leave soon and rushing to take their table sounds more like McDonalds and isn’t worth 9 euros for a coffee, so we decided not to go to the Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo.

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There is not much to do in Monaco besides fancy restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. There is a promenade leading to the beach (looks okay, nothing extraordinary). The whole Monaco looked like an ant hill to me: tiny homes, huge homes and literally no space left. There is not a single style of architecture, so all the houses look a bit differently, not mentioning some «skyscraper» style ugly hotels or offices. And all of them together don’t create a harmonic city panorama. I expected to see a unique posh polished town but Monaco isn’t like that: parking are creepy and ugly, many buildings aren’t renovated, there are construction works everywhere.

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When we left Monaco, it was already around 4 pm and our initial plan of going to Genova had to be replaced with some close town in France. We’ve seen enough of coastal towns within the last two days, so we wanted something different for a change. So after a crazy town-search on Pepe’s iPhone, we found something worth visiting: Saint Paul de Vence. Honestly, I’ve never heard of this town before, but it looked absolutely charming in the photos and was only 40 minutes away from our tiny parking place on the way from Monaco to Nice.

In the reality, Saint Paul de Vence really appeared to be very charming, small and unique. The most similar town to it which I could remember was Obidos in Portugal. But even if they share some similarities, they aren’t identical.
We were a bit concerned that maybe everything will be closed already since we got there around 5:20pm, but it seemed like the life in Saint Paul de Vence has only started.

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We were actually starving but all the restaurants were only (AGAIN!) opening at 7pm. And moreover, they were fully booked. So finding a place to eat really was a challenge. Of course, there were sort of fast food places serving sandwiches all day long but that wasn’t precisely something we wanted to eat in such a romantic town as Saint Paul de Vence. So we walked around, took many photos and finally found some place with 1(!) free table a bit outside the city.

In case you’re planning to go to Saint Paul de Vence, better call beforehand and book a table otherwise you mind up being frustrated that there is no restaurant that could accommodate you.

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We left the town around 8:30 pm and got to Nice very fast, in less than 20 minutes. But in Nice we encountered a new challenge: there was literally no place to park. Nothing. We drove around 50 streets near the flat where we lived and there was nothing! It was more frustrating than anything (I can’t imagine how people live in Nice if that’s the challenge they encounter EVERY day). Finally, we found a spot and parked our car, but just as we left the car, another car arrived and scratched ours while parking. Then there was a huge discussion in French with the car owner, who gave us his name and insurance and assured us that everything is gonna be alright but nonetheless on the next day Avis (the car rental service) blocked 800 euros on the account. The process regarding the accident is still ongoing but when I know the outcome, I’ll write a separate post about how to act if you have an accident in a car you hired abroad.

To summarize: the weather in French Riviera in April is warm but still a bit unpredictable (it could be sunny but it could be also raining a lot, you never know). But anyways, it’s a wonderful place worth visiting. And when you’re already going to Nice, even if it’s just a few days, try to visit the towns nearby as they all are unique and not similar to one another. Discovering French Riviera in 3 days is also perfectly possible, so if you don’t have many vacation days, you can try to see French Riviera in 3 days just like we did.

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2 Comments

Lia @ Practical Wanderlust 27th November 2016 at 1:45 am

I’m looking forward to your post about the car rental with Avis! We’re renting a car in Nice to do a similar road trip in January! This post was super helpful 🙂

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Liza 27th November 2016 at 7:11 pm

Thanks a lot for your comment 🙂 I’ll try to finished the post about our car crash and experience with Avis asap 🙂

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