Cote d'Azur hidden gems (French Riviera Off the Beaten Path)

Wanting to get away from the crowds? This list will take you through Cote d'Azur hidden gems (French Riviera off the beaten path lo...

Wanting to get away from the crowds? This list will take you through Cote d'Azur hidden gems (French Riviera off the beaten path locations), so you can enjoy a relaxing day at the beach without the mass of tourists, go snorkelling or diving, hike for spectacular viewpoints, go on a hunt for lavender fields, visit small villages and more.

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On my last blog post I mentioned the top places to visit in Cote d'Azur, but as usual, I love to promote the hidden gems of each place, so here is a list of less explored sites in the French Riviera.
If you are reading this blog post then probably you already know what the French Riviera has to offer, but on this list you will discover that Cote d'Azur is more than just beautiful beaches and glamour.
This is a stunning part of the world, so I hope you have fun!

1) Villefranche-sur-Mer
2) Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
3) Beaulieu-sur-Mer
4) Cap d'Ail
5) La Turbie
6) Port Grimaud and Grimaud
7) Grasse and Gordes
8) Tourrettes-Sur-Loup and Gourdon
9) St. Paul de Vence
10) Sainte-Agnès
11) Lérins islands
12) Verdon Gorge
13) Ile de Porquerolles

Villefranche-sur-Mer France
View towards the coast of Villefranche-sur-Mer
Even though I decided to include Villefranche-sur-Mer in my French Riviera off the beaten path list, this small town has been gaining popularity among visitors in the past few years.
It's a beautiful colourful town by the coast, so if you like pretty locations, this one will not disappoint you. Even though the views from the top road are certainly the best, you will also enjoy a stroll along the coast, overlooking the colourful houses.
Villefranche-sur-Mer also offers beaches with much better conditions than the ones in Nice: no pebbles, less crowded and less dangerous (there isn't a big dip like the one in Nice's beach).

Where to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer:
Hôtel La Fiancée du Pirate or Hotel Provencal for a lower price. Budget travellers should consider staying in Nice instead.

paloma beach saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Paloma Beach at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Not far from Villefrance-sur-Mer you can find Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, another beach paradise. Through the whole time we had in Nice, we spent our beach time in one of these two towns as they offer so much better conditions! I personally prefer the beach in Cap Ferrat as it has better views than the one in Villafrance, and I also found them less crowded: you can relax at the Paloma Beach (near the bus stop, and so, definitely more crowded) or at the Passable Beach (way more relaxing, and less crowded, with a beautiful background).
If you've got a bit of time, make sure you also visit the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, specially if you enjoy visiting beautiful gardens and impressive Villas.

Where to stay in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat:
Good choice of luxury hotels such as Royal Riviera and Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, Boutique Hotel & Spa la Villa Cap Ferrat for a more affordable stay or Hotel La Frégate for the lowest price. Budget travellers should consider staying in Nice instead.

Plage des Fourmis
Plage des Fourmis and Baie des Fourmis in Beaulieu-sur-Mer
Close to both of the locations mentioned above (Villefranche-sur-Mer and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat), Beaulieu is a very small village that you probably didn't even know it exists in the French Riviera. It is a great hidden gem, often overlooked, that offers beautiful views to the hills, a small harbour, plenty of local shops (selling souvenirs, clothing and local products for a much smaller price) and a great escape from the crowds and tourists as you enjoy a good afternoon by the beautiful coast.
If you're in the French Riviera for sunbathing, this small village will not disappoint you: you can stay at the popular Plage des Fourmis (located in the Baie des Fourmis) and the less crowded Plage de la Petite Afrique, with stunning views to the fantastic hills.
If you visit Beaulieu-sur-Mer, you might want to consider visiting the Greek Villa Kerylos. This building can be seen as you walk along the coast due to its location by the edge of the Bay, and it's popular for it's great interiors.
If you are in Villefranche-sur-Mer or Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, you can easily walk to Beaulieu-sur-Mer.

Where to stay in Beaulieu-sur-Mer:
La Réserve de Beaulieu or Hotel Carlton for a more affordable stay. Budget travellers should consider staying in Nice instead.

Cap d'Ail port
Cap d'Ail port
Cap d'Ail is located between Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Monaco, and it has been a choice of residence for some celebrities over the years, and certainly a beautiful hidden gem in the French Riviera. This place has a beautiful port right by the border with Monaco, stunning beaches and a coastal path that connects them. While Mala Plage is the most beautiful and popular beach, Plage Marquet is the best beach for families.

Where to stay in Cap d'Ail:
Le Quai Des Princes and Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte De Monaco for a luxurious experience. Budget travellers should consider staying in Nice or Menton instead.

Tete de Chien viewpoint
Top view towards Monaco from Tête de Chien, La Turbie
I still can't believe many people do not include La Turbie in their trip to the French Riviera, specially if you're planning on visiting Monaco (which by the way, you really should!). La Turbie is a small town, popular for it's gigantic Trophee d'Auguste (35m high), narrow picturesque cobbled streets and the Tête de Chien viewpoint, from where you have breathtaking views to Monaco and other towns on the Mediterranean coast.
This is a site not to miss if you are on a hunt for the best views!

Where to stay in La Turbie:
Options are limited in La Turbie. Choose to stay at Hôtel Napoléon or at a Cosy Studio with garden. For more options, consider staying in Menton instead.

Port Grimaud
Water canals in Port Grimaud. Image by Ben Lescure from Pixabay, edited with my presets
Are we back to Italy? Port Grimaud is a colourful village right next to Saint-Tropez, that can be associated to Venice for obvious reasons. This is a perfect place for a relaxing afternoon or even a whole day, while you enjoy a walk along the canals, go on a boat tour, shop local clothing at small boutiques and visit the medieval village of Grimaud and it's castle.

Where to stay in Port Grimaud and Grimaud:
Options are quite limited in Port Grimaud, while in Grimaud you will find much better options.
Port Grimaud: Hotel BW Signature Collection Le Suffren or Mobil Homes Vacances.
For more options, consider staying in Saint-Tropez instead.

Senanque Abbey
Senanque Abbey lavander fields in Gordes
Grasse is a town on a hill, not too far from Cannes, and it's mostly famous for it's perfume production and lavender fields. From Grasse, you can drive along the lavender fields to a very popular site in Gordes (2-3h drive): Senanque Abbey, a scenic monastery on a lavender field. If you decide to visit this site, make sure to read all of the information on their website since there are rules to visiting and a fee to be paid.
Not far from Grasse (only half an hour drive), you can visit the perfect hidden gem of Gorges du Loup, a great spot for nature lovers.

Where to stay in Grasse and Gordes:
While places to stay in Grasse don't vary massively in terms of price (around £100), the prices in Gordes flactuate quite a lot from place to place and are considerably more expensive then Grasse, specially because there are plenty of luxurious hotels in the area.
Grasse: Moulin Sainte Anne - B&B and Gîtes and Aec Village Vacances - Les Cèdres
Gordes: Hotels such as Airelles, La Bastide de Gordes or Hotel Les Bories & Spa and plenty of villas/bed and breakfast such as Au Ralenti du Lierre or Le Clos de Gordes.
For budget travellers, I would recommend staying hosted elsewhere.

Tourrettes-Sur-Loup street
Narrow cobbled streets of Tourrettes-Sur-Loup. Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash, edited with my presets
These two villages are next to each other, and not far from Grasse. If you love to explore quiet villages and great viewpoints, than these two will be a great addition to your trip. Due to the fact that they stand quite high on a hill, great views are guaranteed.

Where to stay:
Gourdon doesn't offer many options, but Tourrettes-sur-Loup is a wonderful place to stay if you're on a budget, as you will get a better value than in Grasse. You can stay at Auberge De Tourrettes for a more sophisticated stay or Camping Les Rives du Loup if you're on a budget

St. Paul de Vence
View to the picturesque St. Paul de Vence from the main road.
St. Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera, and it sits beautifully on a hill. This small town is mostly popular for it's art museums and galleries, but it's also a great place to stroll along the small streets and shop some local goods.
If you've got time and you want to explore every corner of the French Riviera, than you might want to visit the less popular Vence.

Where to stay in St. Paul de Vence:
St. Paul de Vence has a great score on, and prices vary generally between £100-£200/night. Stay at Les Bastides Saint Paul for a better deal or pick one of many spacious hotels such as Villa St Maxime. Fancy a whole appartment for youself? No worries, Appartement St Paul 2 pers Piscine chauffée got you covered. Budget travellers are recommended to stay in Nice instead.

Sainte-Agnès by sunset
You probably never heard about this small village, and that is mostly because visitors tend to explore only the coast of French Riviera, and completely ignore the country side. Sainte-Agnès is the highest coastal village in Europe. Located in the mountains above Menton, it reminds me of the country side villages on the hill from the Italian Riviera (check them out on my Liguria off the beaten path blog post).
Sainte-Agnès offers beautiful views to the Mediterranean coast due to it's high location, but it is also a great place to explore: narrow cobbled streets, local shops as well as ruins of a fort and a castle.

Sainte-Agnès does not offer many accommodation options, so we strongly recommend staying based in Menton instead.

Saint Honorat
View towards Saint Honorat island. Photo by Ivan Ragozin on Unsplash, edited with my presets
Only 20min by boat from Cannes, you can get to the The Lérins islands (Sainte-Marguerite and Saint Honorat), popular for their quiet sand beaches and wildlife. Sainte-Marguerite, the largest island, contains the popular Fort Royal, a former prision (now a museum) where you can visit the cell of the mysterious "Man in the Iron Mask". If you love nature, then you might consider do some bird watching.
The smallest island, Saint Honorat, has a large community of monks, and you can visit the Lérins Abbey and Monastery.

Verdon Gorge
The wonderful turquoise waters of Verdon Gorge. Stunning image by Tom und Nicki Löschner from Pixabay edited with my presets
Verdon Gorge is a bit further away from the French Riviera coast, hence why being at the end of this list. That being said, hiking, going on a boat tour or kayaking in the scenic Verdon George, the deepest gorge in France, should definitely be on your bucket list.

The beauty of Porquerolles showed by dianepoujol from Pixabay edited with my presets
Porquerolles is the last location on this list, not because it is less important or less picturesque, but because it is quite far from all of the other hidden gems and even the most popular sites in the French Riviera (as mentioned on my blog post - Top popular places to visit in Liguria). This is an island can be reach by boat in 10min from the coast (Hyères), and it's a perfect escape for a beach day. It's blue turquoise waters are perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving, as well as sailing.
If you enjoy hiking, there will be plenty of opportunities to do it.

As usual, I filtered this list so you can get the best of the hidden gems in French Riviera. However, there are certainly other locations that you might want to look into if you want to fully explore this area of France, such as Gassin and Ramatuelle, two small villages on a hill close to Saint-Tropez, or even Mougins, another small village, close to Cannes.

Tips to use the map above
  • You will find different layers on this map, showing you all points of interest by categories. To see these, click on the tab icon (top left). All layers will be enabled by default. By clicking on the check marks, you can disable/hide a specific label to better understand the info you're looking for.
  • To view more detailed information on any point of interest, click on it's icon over the map.
  • You can save this by clicking on the star on the top of the map (right next to the title). This will be added to your Google Maps, and you will be able to access it from any device (Google Maps - Your Places - Maps)



I hope this list was helpful to you, and that you have an amazing time in this glamorous and beautiful part of France!

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