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France’s Riviera Glows in Autumn

The idyllic blending of mountains, cliffs, sea, and sky has been the primary draw of the French Riviera throughout the ages. Its French name, Cote d’Azur or Azure Coast, epitomizes this beauty. But if you’ve ever visited the French Riviera in summer, you may have asked yourself if you’d ever return. It can feel as if all 55 million of France’s residents are vacationing here. However, the commotion of summer gives way to a golden tranquillity in September and October. Avoid the crowds and come experience the Cote d’Azur when the weather and sea remain warm, prices drop to within reason, and you’re free to stay where your heart takes you. In two years of fall travels to the Cote d’Azur my wife and I have fallen in love with this haven, and have a special place in our hearts for the towns and villages highlighted below.

Favorite Places to Stay

Beaulieu sur Mer

The name says it all -- "Beautiful Place on the Sea." This small town sits on the bay formed by Cap Ferat, surrounded by steep mountains rising to the Maritime Alpes. The location is ideal since it is only minutes by train or car to Nice and Monaco. Beaulieu has the ambiance of the Riviera as it existed before the explosion of the 1960s. A number of palm-fringed estates ring the coast, including those owned by British film star, David Niven, and Gustave Eiffel, constructor of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Beaulieu’s small harbor is an ideal size for walking and photographing. Not far from the harbor, the public beach is quiet and sheltered, with its own small bay.

The town’s quaint shops line the two main streets and the open air market sells local produce each morning until noon. Beaulieu has five restaurants and cafes, each with a unique ambiance. You can’t help but relax, feel a part of France, and enjoy the quiet Riviera of your dreams. Don’t miss the one hour round trip walk along Promenade Maurice-Rouvier that follows the shore from Beaulieu to the port of St.-Jean-Cap-Ferat. The path runs between the Mediterranean and fine white villas and gardens, providing views back to Beaulieu and the surrounding mountains.


Frejus provides unexpected character, history, and quaintness, all within 5 minutes by car or bus from the spacious beaches of St. Raphael and Frejus-Plage. Stay in the heart of old-town Frejus and you’ll feel as if you’re in a medieval stone village in the heart of Provence. Frejus is relatively undiscovered as a vacation destination. Originally founded by Julius Ceasar in 49 BC as Forum Julii, it grew to 40,000 people with a large connected port. Today’s visitors can still view the ancient Roman aqueduct, ampitheater, town gates, port beacon, and arena.

Old town Frejus has an array of cobbled streets, alleys, and squares which beckon for exploration. The many shops and restaurants have some of the best prices that we have experienced in France. We stay in a weekly rented apartment over the main town square, near the 10th-century Frejus Cathedral. Twice weekly market days on the square are not be missed, offering everything from flowers, scarves, and knickknacks to fish, vegetables, fruits, and cheeses.

Rent bicycles in nearby St. Raphael and pedal for miles east or west along the coastline to find the beach of your desires. Many of the beaches rent windsurfers or water-cycles, while St. Raphael harbor also provides boat rentals and power boat parasailing.

Favorite Places to Visit


This medieval hill town sits 1,300 feet above the Meditteranean, providing some of the Cote d’Azur’s most breathtaking views. Enter through a fortified 14th-century gate, climb the rock steps and narrow pedestrian streets past old homes to the top of the village with its tropical garden, filled with cactus, flowers, and the best views.

Monaco and Monte Carlo

The small prinicipality of Monaco includes Monte Carlo, famed for its casino. Park near Monte Carlo, walk down to the port, then walk up maintained trails to old town Monaco and the fortress palace where Prince Ranier resides. Wander the old town streets and return to Monte Carlo to catch a dinner show and try your hand at the gaming tables. All of this will run you a few dollars, but dressing up and bumping elbows with the high-rollers is something you’ll never forget.


The allure of Nice is that it’s old and real, not fashioned just for tourists. From Place and Espace Massena in the center of old Nice, you can walk to the famous beach with its Promenade des Anglais. The long pebbled beach provides views to the hillside Castle fortress with Greek and Roman origins. Retrace your steps past Place Massena into old own Nice streets lined with flower and fish markets and the updated pedestrain zone filled with shops.


Antibes is genuinely quaint and exotic. Situated on a peninsula, its little harbor is jammed with both luxurious yachts and small fishing boats. The cobbled alleyways climb up and down the moderately hilly terrain. All streets lead to the main market square, filled with artisans and busy cafes well into the evening. The Musee Grimaldi houses an excellent Picasso collection on the site where Picasso stayed and worked.

Autumn is Best

The French Riviera’s beauty, variety, history, and ambiance are unrivaled worldwide. In the warm and quiet months of September and October you’ll be able to experience its wonders and relax as if this wonderful haven has been waiting just for you!

Click here to plan your own trip to France's Riviera region.

Les Furnanz

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