Road-Trip Honeymoon: the French Riviera

The spectacular scenery and glamorous vibe found along the coast in the southeast corner of France has been drawing royalty, artists, writers, and movie stars to the area for hundreds of years. We think the best way to explore the French Riviera is from behind the wheel, without a deadline—this itinerary will take you through some of the most romantic spots along the Côte d'Azur

Updated 10/01/11

LatitudeStock/Flo Smith

Prices and other information in this story were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual designers and vendors.

01 of 07

LatitudeStock/Flo Smith

THE BASICS

Fly into the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, and rent a vehicle through Europcar, Hertz, or Avis. Rental cars in Europe are typically cheapest when booked by the week with unlimited mileage. A compact car with a collision damage waiver, insurance, and gas will probably run you about $400.

The information here outlines a basic itinerary, but for detailed directions, maps, and mileage calculations, visit viamichelin.com.

The weather in the French Riviera is mild and sunny year-round. December through February are the coldest months, with an average of 56 degrees during the day. May through August are the busiest months for tourists. To avoid peak hotel rates, don't visit in May, when the International Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix are usually held.

02 of 07

Courtesy of Palais de la Méditerranée

DAY 1: NICE

From the airport, follow the signs to Nice while taking in the the stunningly clear blue water and rocky cliffs. Check in to the Palais de la Méditerranée (low season from €160; high season from €605), a historic five-star property overlooking the sea that was completely renovated in 2004. Most of the 188 guest rooms feature balconies with views of the city or the sea, but the luxurious junior suites, with their expansive terraces overlooking the Mediterranean and sizeable living rooms, walk-in closets, and marble bathrooms, are worth every penny.

Begin your adventure by walking along the Promenade des Anglais to the Castle Hill, and make the short hike up to the Terrasse Frederic Nietzsche to take in the exceptional views. Back at street level, browse the markets and shops of the Old Town. Stop by the Cave Bianchi for a wine tasting, then visit one of the many small cafés to sample local dishes like socca, a savory pancake made from chickpea flour. Return to the hotel for a dip in the pool (pictured). For dinner, walk to La Petite Maison, where the excellent people-watching rivals the to-die-for menu of authentic Niçoise specialties (reservations are a must).

03 of 07

Courtesy of A'Trego

DAY 2: ÈZE AND MONACO

Rise early, and make the short drive up to the medieval clifftop village of Èze, where you'll find Galimard, one of the oldest luxury fragrance companies in France. You and your partner can create your own perfumes (€200 per person) under the guidance of a professional perfumer, or opt for a more budget-friendly souvenir by picking up some of the well-priced soaps.

Then head down toward Monaco, the second smallest country in the world (only Vatican City is smaller), stopping for lunch at A'Trego (pictured), designer Philippe Starck's eclectic, stylized version of a seafood shack. Once in Monaco, don't miss visiting the famous Monte-Carlo Casino, the Palais du Prince (the official residence of the royal family), and the Cathédrale de Monaco (the final resting place of Princess Grace), before heading back to Nice for the night.

04 of 07

Courtesy of the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc

DAY 3: ANTIBES

Head west along the coast to Cap d'Antibes, and pull up to the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc (low season from €370; high season from €570), a late-19th century mansion set amidst a sprawling park (pictured). The romantic retreat, where Liz Taylor and Richard Burton once honeymooned, recently underwent a multimillion dollar renovation. You'll feel like a modern-day Marie Antoinette as you enter your room—all 67 are tricked out with Louis XV and Louis XVI décor.

Spend the afternoon sipping cocktails by the dazzling infinity pool, carved into a cliff 13 feet above the sea. After returning to your suite to clean up, start your evening at the hotel's piano bar, La Rotonde, followed by dinner at the Restaurant Eden-Roc.

05 of 07

Courtesy of Hotel Martinez

DAY 4: CANNES

From Antibes, it's a twenty-minute drive to Cannes, a bustling resort town beloved by jetsetters and celebrities. The city's pristine, rocky beach is bordered by Le Croisette, a glitzy waterfront avenue lined with palm trees, cafés, and luxury boutiques. Make one of the Art Deco-inspired guest rooms at the storied Hotel Martinez (low season from €180; high season from €690) your home base. Go for maximum glamour by booking a recently renovated Prestige Vue Mer suite, where you can sip Champagne while gazing out over the Bay of Cannes from the room's plush living room area.

After settling in, head out to explore Le Suquet, the old quarter of Cannes. Browse the famous Forville market (open until 1 p.m.), then wander up the winding cobblestone road to the medieval hilltop castle, where you'll find the Musée de la Castre. There, climb the tower to take in the heart-stopping views of the Bay of Cannes. Have dinner at the Auberge Provençale, which claims to be the oldest restaurant in Cannes—expect traditional, rustic French fare in a cozy, candlelit atmosphere. Finish the night with a bubble bath in your suite's roomy marble bathtub.

06 of 07

Courtesy of Hotel Martinez

DAY 5: CANNES

Start your second day in Cannes with a massage at the Spa Martinez, then hop on a ferry to the Île Saint-Honorat. The tiny island, situated about a mile off shore, has been inhabited by Cistercian monks since around 410 A.D. Spend the afternoon exploring the ruins of the 11th century monastery and stop for lunch at La Tonnelle, a seaside restaurant that serves the wine produced by the monks on the island.

After returning to the mainland, settle into a lounge chair on the deck at the hotel's swanky private beach club, Zplage, for the rest of the day. Later, toast to your last night in Cannes at the famous La Palme d'Or restaurant (pictured). With two Michelin stars and enchanting views of the Mediterranean, dinner here is worth the once-in-a-lifetime splurge.

07 of 07

Courtesy of Villa Massalia

DAY 6: SAINT-TROPEZ AND MARSEILLE

Hit the road early, and be in Saint-Tropez in time for lunch. This former fishing village is now known for being an international party playground at night, but we suggest skipping the club scene (and the sky-high prices), and just stopping by for the afternoon. Have lunch at La Table du Marché, a comparatively affordable bistro serving dishes like risotto and salad niçoise.

Get back on the road and head to Marseilles, about an hour-and-a-half drive along the coast. Drop your bags at the Villa Massalia (from €162), situated on the edge of Borély Park, overlooking the Mediterranean (pictured). Spend the afternoon visiting the city's art galleries and historical sites, and end your journey by splurging on dinner at Le Petit Nice-Passedat, where you can enjoy fresh seafood on the picturesque terrace.

The next morning, take Road A8 for the two-hour drive back to Nice to catch your flight home.

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