Last Updated on 22/05/2022 by Alfred
Visiting the Alpes-Maritimes: what are the best things to do and see during a stay on the Côte d’Azur? Follow the guide!
An alliance of incredible landscapes, mythical seaside towns, and an exceptional climate, the Alpes-Maritimes department concentrates on the best of the French Riviera.
You can enjoy picturesque beaches and coves, an intense blue Mediterranean, and artistic cities along the coast. A visit to the Alpes-Maritimes means discovering the hinterland with its perched villages and the vast natural spaces of the Southern Alps.
The diversity of things to do is such that there is always something to discover, even after many stays.
Also, to help you build your program, we have selected 18 places not to be missed!
The 18 Unique Things To Do in The Alpes-Maritimes
Visiting the Alpes-Maritimes requires spending at least half a day in Old Nice. Located in the lower part of Nice, on the edge of the Promenade des Anglais, the old town has kept its Italian charm, with its ochre and red buildings, shutters, churches, and sunny squares.
Start by strolling through the Cours Saleya market before sitting on the terrace to enjoy the atmosphere, then stroll through the narrow streets, searching for small fountains and hidden squares.
Along the way, stop to taste socca, a Nice specialty made from chickpea flour. Then head towards the seaside and the pebble beach before climbing the steps to the Castle. From up there, the view of the Baie des Anges is breathtaking.
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The Croisette, the Cannes Film Festival, the Red Carpet… Visiting the Alpes-Maritimes also means diving into the mythical places of the French Riviera, luxury cars, jet-set, and cinema.
Walk the Croisette, raise your head to admire the facades of hotel palaces, walk the famous steps and bet your money at the Casino… Here you are transported to the Cannes of rhinestones and sequins!
But, if the city has linked its name to the seventh art since 1946, its more traditional aspects should not be neglected.
In the Suquet district, along the quays of the Old Port of Cannes, or at the Forville market, you can experience a Provencal and singing city far from the paparazzi.
3. The Lérins Islands
In front of the bay of Cannes, a few minutes by boat, the Lérins Islands consist of two jewels mixing natural beauty and historical heritage.
The larger of the two islands, Sainte-Marguerite, owes its name to honor’s sister, the hermit who founded the abbey on the neighboring island. We walk through a state forest of pines and eucalyptus.
A royal fort houses the Museum of the Sea, which can be visited. The island of Saint-Honorat belongs to the monks of the Abbey of Lérins.
Less wild than its neighbor, it has historical monuments: the tower-monastery, two chapels dating from 1886, and two Napoleonic ball ovens from 1908.
The curiosity of the island, eight hectares of vineyards are cultivated by the twenty monks living at the Abbey of Lérins. Every first Friday of the month, a guided tour of the vineyards is organized.
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A few kilometers from the sea, this hilltop village is one of the must-sees to visit in the Alpes-Maritimes.
The charm of Saint-Paul-de-Vence is not only its exceptional location between sea and mountains but also its cultural and artistic richness.
Medieval remains rub shoulders with art galleries. As one strolls along the ramparts, the square tower of the Esperon, or the keep of the Castle, one quickly reaches the Maeght Foundation.
A mecca of artistic life, this cultural center is home to works by internationally renowned artists, such as Chagall, Giacometti, Kandinsky, and Miró.
A tip: come on Wednesday to enjoy the local products of the farmers’ market located on the Place du jeu de boules. An authentic Provencal atmosphere awaits you!
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Among the typical villages to see when you come to visit the Alpes-Maritimes, Gourdon is a must. This eagle’s nest is leaning against the end of a rocky outcrop, which shelters many treasures.
The road to get there is itself worth a visit. Indeed, the Gorges du Loup you must pass are dominated by cliffs 700 meters high. Vertiginous!
Gourdon consists of a small maze of alleys to admire well-preserved old houses. The visit continues with the Castle and its gardens designed by Le Nôtre before a tour of the craft shops and a small drink on the terrace to admire the splendid panorama.
Cap Ferrat’s unique treasure on the French Riviera is Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. This sumptuous Italian Renaissance palace was built between 1905 and 1912.
Apartments of different inspirations, patios, rich living rooms decorated with unique masterpieces… Aesthetes and lovers of beautiful materials will be thrilled.
The collection includes Porcelaines by Meissein, tapestries of the eighteenth century, and paintings by Fragonard. Outside, the flowery walkways lead to nine beautiful gardens. We walk between waterfalls, pools, and romantic kiosks on seven hectares. The whole is ideally located by the sea.
Art lovers, are you wondering what to do in the Alpes-Maritimes? The department has attracted many renowned painters: Picasso, Léger, Chagall… and Matisse. The famous works with cut papers are an essential collection retracing his artistic career.
The Matisse Museum is located in the gardens of the hill of Cimiez in Nice. This is where Matisse spent the last years of his life.
His first painting, Still Life with Books (1890), and his previous compositions, such as Flowers and Fruits (1953), were displayed. There are also sculptures, drawings, and objects that belong to him.
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Located in height, the city known worldwide for its perfumes enjoys a magnificent view of the plain and the sea in the distance. Its fields of flowers once lined the surrounding hills.
Today, in museums and perfumeries, we find the whole tradition of famous perfumers. But this is not its only asset.
If you walk through the alleyways of this “City of Art and History,” you will see colorful and historic facades. A market is held three times a week (Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday) on the Place aux Aires and its arcades.
It is an excellent opportunity to enjoy the neighborhood’s atmosphere before continuing to the Fragonard brands – factory, perfumeries, and textile shops.
BIOT is a charming town with a historic core, rebuilt in the fifteenth century. Its vaults, fortified doors, engraved stones, and pebble mosaics bear witness to the rich past of the village once held by the Templars and then the Knights of Malta.
But Biot is, above all, a city of crafts, at the forefront of which is the master glassmakers. The specialty here is blown glass. Many workshops, galleries, and shops are open to the public.
Ceramists, ironworkers, jewelers, leatherworkers, and painters exhibit their creations. Undoubtedly, Biot did not steal its 1997 “City and crafts” label.
Many museums completed the visit, including the one dedicated to the artist Fernand Léger, the Ecomuseum of Glass, the International Glass Gallery, and the Bonsai Arboretum.
Want to visit the Alpes-Maritimes off the beaten track? So, skip the busiest beaches of Cannes or Juan-les-Pins and head for Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. By car or train, the journey to the seaside is already magical.
Arrived at the small station of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (where you can also park your vehicle), walk 200 meters towards the sea … Here you are at the beach of the Blue Gulf.
Unless you prefer the Buse, its neighbor, both are nestled in two small coves away from mass tourism. The Caribbean sea is turquoise. You can admire the hills that overlook this little paradise.
Also, an easy trail allows you to go around Cape Martin from the station. Amidst steep rocks, it runs along with hidden villas and provides beautiful views.
Do you like winter sports and wonder where to put on your skis? Less than 1 hour and 30 minutes from Nice, Auron station is a natural village resort.
Summer and winter, 1,600 meters above sea level and the entrance to the Mercantour National Park, you can enjoy the place.
Outdoor activities are indeed numerous in all seasons. No less than 46 slopes, including 10 black, 16 red, 17 blue, and 3 green, make up the ski resort.
In summer, it’s time for mountain biking, golf, hiking and horseback riding, climbing… Auron is an ideal place to breathe fresh air with the family in the Southern Alps. Ideal for visiting the Alpes-Maritimes!
Are you still looking for the most beautiful villages to visit in the Alpes-Maritimes? Èze must be included in your selection!
On the program: cobbled streets, old houses, gardens of cacti and colorful flowers, and above all, one of the most beautiful views of the Côte d’Azur!
The Mediterranean opens before you from the Exotic Garden on the medieval castle ruins; the sun makes its azure blue sparkle… Blue everywhere, the sparkle of the sun on the water… photo lovers and contemplatives will revel in the light on the horizon and the old stone at the end of the day.
Since its creation by the Greeks, the city of Antibes has known a rich history, which can be felt through the old walls and alleys of Old Antibes.
Along the ramparts facing the Mediterranean, the Provencal market, the Port Vauban: this medieval village can be discovered on foot!
Each square in the old town deserves to break at a terrace before heading back to art museums and galleries.
A word of advice: take the time to discover the Commune libre du Safranier. Created in the heart of Old Antibes in 1966, its goal is to perpetuate the traditions of its inhabitants through festivals and local events.
More than anywhere else, the facades are colorful and flowery, and the squares are charming.
The Cians is a small alpine torrent that flows into the Var more than anywhere elseThe after having made an acrobatic course of 25 kilometers in the middle of the red schists of the Mercantour.
Erosion caused by the Cians has shaped a beautiful landscape of steep gorges, descending to 1,600 meters. You can discover these fantastic natural sculptures at different levels on foot, parking downstream of the tunnels.
How to visit the Alpes-Maritimes differently? Discovering its hinterland! In Mercantour Park, far from the tourist coast, hikers and lovers of the great outdoors will find a vast playground. The site offers great trails punctuated by perched villages.
You can admire endemic plant species and many animals in this vast protected area, such as chamois or marmots. Several outdoor activities are possible in the six valleys of the Mercantour: canyoning, rafting, climbing, hiking… It is ideal for getting away from the crowds on the beaches and finding tranquility in summer.
At 650 meters above sea level, not far from the Mercantour National Park, Coaraze is one of the most beautiful French villages.”
We enjoy its exceptional sunshine and pretty steep streets about thirty minutes from Nice.
The village is medieval, which explains its labyrinth of cobbled streets, vaulted passages, and stone houses. Artists have also left their marks, such as Jean Cocteau or Ponce de Léon, who signed the sundials of Coaraze.
From Church Square, the panorama of the mountains deserves a contemplative break. Several buildings also deserve your attention, such as the Blue Chapel, decorated with frescoes by Ponce de Léon, or the Saint-Sébastien chapel, located on the old mule track that once connected the village to Nice.
Back on the coastal façade, very close to the border with Italy. Menton, the city of sun and lemons, is an invitation to holidays. Its long promenade with terraces of cafes and restaurants facing the sea, its pebble beaches, its lemon festival, its Mediterranean gardens, its old center … Menton is the Italian Dolce Vita all year round!
Visiting the Alpes-Maritimes also means enjoying its coastline. Indeed, very nice excursions are to be done by boat. This can be the perfect opportunity to visit the must-see cities mentioned above, most located on the coast.
It would be a shame not to take advantage of it by renting a boat and thus miss the azure waters of the eponymous coast.
Each large accumulation of the department has a train station with connections to many cities in France. Thus, arriving by train in Nice, Cannes or Antibes is very easy.
Regional express trains (TER) then make it possible to reach the small cities of the coast and the interior, such as Grasse or Biot.
The railway line that overlooks the coast from Saint-Raphaël in the Var to Ventimiglia in Italy is magnificent. According to its many places of interest, it also allows you to visit the Alpes-Maritimes.
Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport is the third-largest in France regarding ridership, with more than 14 million passengers each year.
On the seaside, it is important to note that many companies serve the destination from France and internationally, including low-cost carriers.
If you are looking for the best price, do not hesitate to go to an online comparator such as Skyscanner. You will see different options depending on your dates of stay.
Several bus lines take you to major cities, such as Antibes or Cannes, from the airport.
To reach the city, you can opt for the tram that takes you to the center of Nice. In particular, it is possible to rent a car from the two arrival terminals.
The flagship department of the Côte d’Azur welcomes several million tourists every year. Its offer of accommodation is plethorical!
Dream palaces, furnished tourism, seaside hotels, family cottages, campsites, Airbnb… Regardless of the price, there is so much choice that you will inevitably find accommodation that suits your needs.
At certain times (Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix, Nice Carnival), you must book in advance and expect higher rates. A tip: online hotel comparators allow you to visualize the existing offer at a glance. Practice!
So, what are you waiting for to visit the Alpes-Maritimes?