To Catch a Thief, the Cannes Film Festival, Impressionist painters, the jet set…there are few places more iconic or glamorous than France’s Côte d’Azur. It’s a place where you can practically smell the romance in the air, and one that has been attracting honeymooners for decades. From the well-worn spots to the lesser-known enclaves, there is so much to explore here, and so much to enjoy together as newlyweds.
All trips originate at Nice Côte d’Azur airport, and it’s up to you how far east or west along the coast you want to explore. All the best spots basically land you between Monaco to the east and Saint-Tropez to the west, with a few notable exceptions just a few miles inland. While there is a train connecting most of these towns, a car is still the best way to not only get around, but to really experience the dramatic ups and downs of the landscape here. Bopping around from town to town—one night here, two nights there—is one of the great joys of visiting this region.
Even if casino gambling and Formula One races aren’t your thing, it’s worth visiting Monaco for at least a night just to take in all the glitz and glamour of it all—fur coats, jewels, and cars that all cost more than your house. It’s fabulous. Try staying at the Monte Carlo Beach, a seaside respite away from all the hubbub of downtown. If you prefer to stay in the middle of the action, you can’t get much more central than the decadent Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. It’s hard to go wrong in Monaco. Just know that experiencing all this glamor has its cost, as nothing comes cheap on this part of the coast. After you leave, stop for a drink at one of the many beach clubs at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and take some time to walk around the winding streets, peeking over hedges at the old-money estates. If you can swing it, a night at the Grand Hôtel Du Cap-Ferrat, a Four Seasons Hotel, known for its extraordinary service and world-class wine collection, will be worth every penny.
Before driving into Nice, it’s worth stopping for a meal at one of the half-dozen or so harbor front restaurants in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a tiny village just over Mont Boron that is mainly a locals spot. Hiking Mont Boron is a nice, easy morning or afternoon hike, and offers splendid views of the ocean and surrounding towns.
Most people stop on the tiny peninsula of Antibes, but the secret here is to keep away from the tourist hordes and stay in the town of Juan-les-Pins. It’s there at the Hotel Belles Rives that F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed while writing Tender Is the Night, and every movie star doing the Cannes film festival stays at the nearby Grand Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc. Antibes is a major sailing hub, so there are all sorts of yacht excursions and day sails you can organize through the town’s tourism board’s website.
Keep driving south past Cannes (there aren’t many romantic places to stay, you’ll see; it’s very much a city on the water), and get ready for the epic scenery to begin. The drive along the coast to Fréjus is winding and steep, and a wrong turn could easily land your car in the Mediterranean. There are countless places to stop for some local cheese, an ice cream, or a glass of rosé. Take your time on this drive and soak in all the scenery, much of which looks like a Monet brought to life. Drive through Sainte-Maxime and you’ll find yourself on approach to Saint-Tropez, where there is no shortage of fabulous, luxurious, romantic places to stay. The Hôtel Sezz and Hôtel de Paris Saint-Tropez are classics (albeit pricey), and located in the heart of town, with easy access to countless restaurants, cafés, and shops. If you’re looking for more of a pastoral retreat vibe, consider one of the exceptional hotels located in the foothills above town, like the Hotel Muse. While many people come to the town of Saint-Tropez to see and be seen, one of the best things to do is grab some bikes, pack a picnic, and drive up and away from town into the hills. It’s easy to find a quiet spot in the woods, in a vineyard, or on a beach here, and you’ll be amply rewarded with some privacy in this exquisite setting. That said, whatever you do, don’t leave St-Tropez without visiting the quintessential beach clubs along Pampelonne Beach, like the iconic Club 55—the scene there is too good to pass up, as you never know whose yacht will anchor here to grab some rosé.
But it isn’t all about the coast here in the French Riviera, surprisingly, because going just five or so miles inland can yield great rewards. Consider Grasse, largely considered the perfume capital of Provence. You can do a factory tour of the legendary Fragonard perfume house, and stay at the rustic-chic Bastide Saint-Antoine, a Relais & Chateaux property with a critically acclaimed restaurant. Also worth seeing is the town of Vence (Louis Vuitton just staged their Resort 2019 show there), where you can stay at the Château Saint-Martin & Spa. This mountainside oasis is far from the traffic and stress of nearby Cannes, and has one of the best spas in the south of France.
It’s places like these, where you can sleep with the windows open and hear nothing but the wind, that will make your honeymoon truly memorable. Voilá!