Take a road trip from Nice to discover a wealth of different landscapes and sites of interest. See other seaside resorts and medieval hilltop villages, chic artsy towns and even the Italian Riviera. The Cote d’Azur region is ripe for discovery and rich with varied spots to explore.

    'Nice the Beautiful', as its affectionate moniker goes, is probably the most well-known city in the south of France. However, it's far from alone on this stunning stretch of shoreline, with both natural attractions and other delightful cities within short drives. It's not just the shore, either – the mix of natural and manmade charm continues inland.

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    Antibes

    One of Cote d’Azur’s most beautiful seaside cities

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    Antibes is an old port town with centuries of history and lots of local culture to discover. You can enjoy beautiful historical monuments, lively summer music festivals, as well as a diverse selection of museums detailing the Greek and Roman origins of the city.

    The Antibes area has an impressive coastline with almost 50 beaches as well as the ancient Port Vauban harbour. Once serving as a stopover to the Holy Lands, this is now one of the largest pleasure craft ports in Europe, with moorings for more than 2,000 vessels. The archaeology museum is a great way to discover more about the local seafaring history. The Picasso Museum, dedicated to one of the city's most famous residents, has an extensive collection of works by the Spanish master.

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    Cannes

    Visit one of the beach-side stars of the Cote d’Azur

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    Cannes is an ancient city with origins over 2,000 years old, and lots to offer visitors. This city is known the world over for its film festival, famous oceanside promenades, and the numerous luxury hotels that dot the coastline.

    Le Suquet, as the old town is called, is a pleasant area to explore. Originally inhabited by fishermen and now crowded with tiny restaurants and trinket shops, it captures the energy of the city. You’ll have trouble missing the Promenade de la Croisette – the impressive beachfront avenue that's lined with palm trees, bars and cafés, and hotels. It seems to connect everything in Cannes.

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    Èze

    Enjoy the unique vista from a famous fortified village

    Èze is a chic and charming hamlet with a gorgeous sea-view vista and a romantic atmosphere that brings loving couples from near and far. One of the most beautiful and well-known medieval fortified villages on the French Riviera, Èze’s selection of luxury inns and fine-dining restaurants is renowned throughout France.

    Take a stroll through the local botanical garden, which has an extraordinary view of the Mediterranean as well as an impressive collection of exotic plants – especially cactuses. The main street is chock-a-block of cute little boutiques selling touristy trinkets as well as artisanal jewellery, clothing and bottles of the local tipple, mandarinette – a delicious liqueur made from clementines.

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    Grasse

    The French capital of perfume

    Just north of Cannes, Grasse has been a world leader in perfume production since the 17th century, and the home of many major French fragrance manufacturers. The town, which has a crumbling grace, with narrow medieval streets and imposing timeworn mansions, is well worth a visit.

    Check out the international museum of perfume and learn the history of perfume throughout the millennia. Definitely visit one of the major producers, too, though only 3 give public tours. The Fragonard factory is the best known. The Place aux Aires is a charming square in the heart of the old town, and great for an alfresco lunch before visiting nearby Grasse Cathedral. The 12th century Roman Catholic church, one of the town’s original buildings, has 3 paintings by the Flemish master Rubens.

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    Monaco

    The billionaire’s playground with fantastic dining and nightlife

    Monaco is famous for being one of the tiniest yet richest nations on earth. This ritzy principality is known for its casino, luxury hotels and gastronomic restaurants, as well as hosting some of the most prestigious sporting events in the world, such as the Grand Prix de Monaco and the Tour de France.

    Start your visit to Monaco at The Rock, the principality’s oldest inhabited neighbourhood, and see the changing of the guard at the royal palace. Then make your way to Hercule Harbour, an ancient port that holds some of the most expensive superyachts in the world. Even though Monaco may be home to immense riches, the public can still enjoy the excellent public beach, Le Larvotto, with its turquoise waters and pleasant promenade.

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    Peillon

    Pristine hilltop villages above the Cote d’Azur

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    Settled in 1150, Peillon is one of the Cote d’Azur’s most beautiful and best-preserved hilltop villages. Great for a road trip from Nice, the tiny pedestrian-only enclave has extraordinary views and a pedestrian-friendly policy to limit visitors. It's intended to ensure that this tranquil spot remains tranquil.

    The tall stone houses of the village seem to be carved out of the mountain, and the narrow streets and weathered doorways transport you back to the Middle Ages. Be sure to check out one of the original buildings here – the Chapelle des Pénintents blancs. The 15th-century church has magnificent period paintings of the Passion of the Christ.

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    Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

    One of the pearls of the Mediterranean

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    Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is as famous for its billionaire palaces and luxury hotels as for its natural beauty. It was formerly part of the Kingdom of Sardinia and a base for Saracen pirates but is now one the wealthiest communities in the world.

    Explore one of a handful of walking trails around the island before stopping for a rest at the pleasurecraft harbour. It's dotted with tiny chic seafood terraces, which are great for a chilled glass of Provincial rosé in the sun. To get a true taste of the local opulence, visit the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a former private residence with museum-quality furnishing and 9 extraordinary gardens.

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    Saint Paul de Vence

    A beautiful hilltop village, long loved by legendary artists

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    A former military stronghold, Saint Paul de Vence has since become a pilgrimage site for the arts. Generations of painters, writers and their wealthy patrons have flocked here for the mountaintop vista and sleepy yet chic village vibe.

    Start at the Tour de la Mairie dungeon, the first structure built here in the 1100s, then take a stroll along Saint Paul’s ramparts for gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside and sea. For culture enthusiasts, the Fondation Maeght is one of the most important private collections of contemporary art in France, and the legendary Colombe d’Or hotel is a great place for a swanky lunch or a luxurious night’s stay.

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    9

    San Remo

    A charming Italian seaside city, just a stone’s throw from France

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    A sun-drenched destination since Roman times, San Remo is one of the most popular vacation spots on the Italian Riviera. Known as the “City of Flowers”, the town is home to the Mercato dei Fiori, Italy’s most important professional flower market, and is replete with elegant gardens and parks.

    Explore La Pigna, the medieval old town with its twisty-turny streets and the crumbling charm of its Piazza dei Dolori square. Elegant former mansions such as the Villa Ormond and the Villa Nobel, where the creator of the Nobel Prize retired. They're well worth visiting to experience their timeworn architectural glory.

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    Saint-Tropez

    Chill in style in the Riviera’s most glamorous village

    Saint Tropez is synonymous with glamour and is well known as one of the chicest places to stay in the south of France. It draws local and international celebrities to its low-key ambiance and vibrant nightlife. Featured in a number of famous French films, it’s considered one of the most iconic spots on the Riviera.

    Follow in the footsteps of Brigitte Bardot and explore the many excellent public and private beaches, of which the Plage de Pampelonne is the best known. The harbour, full of colourful boats, is also the starting point for local sailing regattas and is full of classy cafés and restaurants.

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    Adrian Moore | Contributing Writer

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