The legendary Côte d’Azur is now built up along most of its length but often the towns and villages are still beautiful and there are still pockets of nature to be found.
Most overseas visitors will arrive at Nice Airport, though some come by train from the West or North, or across the border from Italy. It can also be done as part of a road trip though the roads are quite busy and parking not so easy in the towns.
Arriving at the airport there are buses outside both Terminals which take you into town for a reasonable price. Tickets are bought inside the office by the bus stands. The bus takes you along the coast and soon you are travelling along the side of the esplanade with the sea shining blue to your right. Depending on how much luggage you have and where you are staying, you can hop off the bus and walk along the sea front into the center of town.
You will pass beaches where you can pay for a chair and using umbrella with waiter service, or you can stop on one of the free beaches which is bring your own. The paid beaches are interspersed with the free beaches so there will be both close to where you come down to the sea.
Hotels in Nice are to all budgets but even in high season you can get a good room close to the center for 80 euros a night.
The city is the fifth largest in France but the central area is still very beautiful with large open spaces next to parks with fountains for the kids to play in, the old town to explore, and hills overlooking the bay which you walk up to and chill in the parks at the top.
The French will walk the Promenade des Anglais between beach visits and in the evenings go back into the town for their evening meals. Food has an Italian twist as it is so close to the border and the pizza and pasta here is excellent.
The market is open most days, some of the time for fresh fruit and sometimes for bric-a-brack where you can pick up curios.
Nice makes a good base to explore the other towns of the Côte d’Azur, though you may decide you want to stay in some of these for a few nights. You can easily reach Cannes, Frejus, St Raphael, Antibes and Juan-les-Pins by train from Nice. Nice train station is set back from the beach, about a 15 walk down the Avenue Jean Médecin.
From Cannes you can go out to the beautiful Iles de Lerins by boat where you can get a feel for how the coast would have been before it got so built up. The islands are protected and have great views across the bay to Cannes and the mountains to the west. There is a bird sanctuary on the Ile St Marguerite, and you can spend a happy few hours walking the paths of the islands through the woods and along the shoreline.
Frejus and St Raphael are relatively cheap options to stay at and might suit slightly older visitors and families. The beaches are good and you can take boat trips along the coast and across to St Tropez if you don’t fancy the queues going there by road. From St Raphael you can walk the coastal path or Sentier du Littoral towards Nice for a good long walk getting a train back from the tiny station of Agay. Take water and check the train times as not all trains stop at Agay.
Antibes and Juan-les-Pins are close together and can be visited at the same time. Antibes has a pretty old town and market, Juan-les-Pins a number of beaches – these get less crowded as you go to the west away from the town center.
To the east from Nice you can visit Monaco and go across into the Italian Riviera with some pretty towns before you get to Genoa. Close by Nice to the east there is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat where there is a good walk around the promontory and the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer which has the Fort du Mont Alban overlooking it on Mount Boron which you can walk to in a hour or so from Nice.