Things to Do in French Riviera - page 3
While a stay at the Hotel Negresco might break most budgets, it's rightly a historic landmark and one of the most visited sites in the city. It also provides a unique look into the true Old Nice. With doormen in period-correct uniforms and its interior lovingly maintained or restored to its original grandeur, entering Hotel Negresco is like stepping back in time.
The Belle Époque style is simply breathtaking, even if to some modern standards it seems a bit gaudy. But the Negresco doesn't simply ride along on its historical bonafides; its two-star Michelin restaurant is the best in Nice, and the rooms are meticulously decorated to reflect the era while discreetly providing modern amenities. Visitors wanting a bit of a splurge can reserve a place for cocktail hour at the Relais Bar, with its polished woodwork and expertly made drinks. And la Rotonde Brasserie should be experienced at least once–not only for its over-the-top carousel-themed décor, but its spectacular sea views.
Insider tip: If you're staying at the Hotel Westminster just across the street on Promenade des Anglais, ask for an upper-floor room with a view of the Negresco's domed turret! Shutterbugs should get there at sunrise for the best shots of its exterior.
A picturesque medieval town with panoramic views, St. Paul de Vence is quintessential Provence and one of the most loved hilltop villages in the South of France. Visitors come from far and wide to stroll the winding streets, relax in the charming cafés, and soak up the bright sunshine.
Known by locals as the Gateway to Verdon Gorge, Castellane is home to four mountain passes and a popular that make it the ideal destination for hikers and wanderers looking to explore scenic trails and take in picturesque views.
The steep trek to Chapelle Notre Dame du Roc, which rises more than 900 meters above the Verdon, is one of Castellane’s most popular stops and one of the area’s most incredible overlooks. White water rafting on the roaring Verdon River tends to attract the more adventurous set and lovers of old-world architecture find the historic churches and ornate municipal buildings well worth the stop.
Château Saint-Martin & Spa, a former 12th-century Knights Templar fortress on the French Riviera, is now a prestigious five-star guest property. This historic building sits amid acres of natural beauty and affords its guests some spectacular views across the Côte d’Azur.
The château itself blends perfectly with its environment, with red and green vines clinging to the walls for most of the year. The building was restored by the contemporary architect, Luc Svetchine, and decorated by the property’s owner, Maja Oetker. Aubusson and Gobelins tapestries, 18th century pendulums, plus Persian and Turkish carpets combine to make the château a fascinating place to simply wander around.
Château St. Martin offers some dramatic and varied views from all angles and the grounds’ perfectly-maintained gardens provide a sense of peace and tranquillity. With 46 classically designed rooms, incredible views, and a distinctly sophisticated and refined atmosphere, Château Saint-Martin is one of those truly unique places to spend the night.
Those looking for an outdoor experience on the Cote d'Azur will find what they're looking for in the Massif des Maures. This mountain range sits back from the coast and runs from east of Toulon to west of Cannes; the peninsula on which St-Tropez lies, roughly halfway between, is also a part of the Massif. Even casual hikers find its forests, vineyards, and rolling plains yielding wild orchids and strawberries a welcome change from the sometimes frenetic energy of the Riviera in high season.
The Massif des Maures roughly translates to “the Moorish Mountains,” and its highest point (2,559 feet; 780 meters) is called Le Signal de la Sauvette. While its steep contours and isolated pockets leave much of the mountain range pristine, the villages of La Garde Freinet and Collobrieres can show visitors what life is like here. They're known mostly for their cork tree harvests and a wide variety of food made from local chestnuts; autumn sees several festivals in the area celebrating these longtime traditions.
The Chapelle Bellini was well-known painter Emmanuel Bellini's studio, and houses an exhibition of some of his works. Built in the late 19th century by Comte Vitali, the chapel was part of the Villa Fiorentina and was once home to the Princess of Serbia. A Cannes native, Bellini later purchased the chapel and converted it in to his studio.
In Italian Baroque style, the chapel features a clock tower, an exterior embellished with "gingerbread" and statues, Comte Vitali’s coat of arms, and an inside gallery with a restored wooden staircase. It is a real artistic and architectural delight.
Cap Taillat (also known as Cap Cartaya) is a promontory into the Mediterranean Sea located right at the doorstep of Saint-Tropez. Although difficult to reach (it is only accessible on foot after a short coastal trek), Cap Taillat is one of the most beautiful sights in the area, with wild and unspoiled beaches as well as preserved flora. The many viewing points offer splendid and unobstructed panoramas of the turquoise sea and the dramatic coastline, punctuated by creeks and endemic palm trees. It is a popular summer attraction for visitors from all over France.
The National Sport Museum (Musée National du Sport) was first opened in 1922 by the Minister of War, who at the time was also responsible for sports. The museum fell into disuse in the 1940s, but was reestablished in 1963 by the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports. The museum’s location changed a few times before finally being established in the Grand Stadium in Nice on June 27, 2014.
The museum covers sports from the 16th century all the way to today, and its collection contains more than 100,000 items, including sports equipment, paintings, sculptures, posters, drawings, philately, advertisements, books and magazines. There is also a collection dedicated to the history of the modern Olympics, from its beginnings in 1896 to the present.
The most impressively preserved of Provence’s Cistercian abbeys, the Abbey of Thoronet was built between 1160 and 1230. Renowned for its sparse yet precise architecture and remarkable acoustics and now protected as a National Monument, the abbey offers fascinating insight into life under the Cistercian order of Saint Bernard.
Go on a subterranean adventure at the Baume Obscure Cave (Grotte de Baume Obscure), part of a vast limestone ridge that runs along the French Riviera. See the cave’s many striking rock formations and experience the Souterroscope, a sound-and-light installation along its walkways.
More Things to Do in French Riviera
Villefranche Cruise Port (Port de la Santé) serves as a gateway to the French Riviera, including Villefranche-sur-Mer, a medieval village with pastel buildings and sloping streets. The port also makes a strategic jumping-off point for trips to glamorous Cote d’Azur resort towns, including Nice, Cannes, and Monaco, as well as the enchanting villages of Provence.
Nice’s enchanting old port is a lovely place to wander and find the perfect little restaurant for an authentic meal with a romantic view of the Mediterranean Sea. Soak up the atmosphere of the yacht-filled port, then stroll over to the hilly green park, Colline du Château, or the adjacent Quartier Segurane, known for its antique shops and flea market.
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- Things to do in Provence
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