Elegant, tree-lined boulevards. Chi-chi boutiques. Upscale restaurants filled with beautiful people. The French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur) has been an enduringly glamorous destination for the jet set for decades. Join us as we uncover seven reasons to visit the French Riviera – and what makes this corner of French coastline the most glamorous place on earth.
It was the epicentre of Hollywood’s Golden Age
Never has there been a place where royalty and Hollywood collide quite like the French Riviera. During cinema’s golden age in the 1950s, it was at the heart of the action. Actress Grace Kelly wed Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, wearing over 400 yards of silk, taffeta, lace and pearls. Liz Taylor holidayed in Cannes with all of her husbands. Greta Gabo and Frank Sinatra floated aboard Christina O, Aristotle Onassis’ luxurious yacht, while Rock Hudson stayed at the exclusive Hotel du Cap Eden Rock. Modern-day celebrities like Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé love to visit.
Its rather aristocratic history
Until the end of the 18th century, the French Riviera was a sleepy fishing region. Nowhere to be seen were the bobbing superyachts so omnipresent today. British aristocrats and royalty fell in love with the area and the coast quickly became their go-to health resort to escape miserable British winters. Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander II and Napoleon III were just a handful of its illustrious denizens. Development and tourism for the affluent subsequently boomed and today you’ll find chic hotels sitting shoulder to shoulder with ritzy restaurants.
Le Club 55 in St Tropez
Probably the world’s most iconic beach club, Club 55’s legacy was established as soon as it opened. Created to provide refreshments for the cast and crew of the Brigitte Bardot film, And God Created Woman, Club 55 blossomed from a bohemian, barefoot bar on Pamplona beach to the ultimate destination on the Côte d’Azur to see and be seen. If you visit today, expect to rub shoulders with the Cristal-sipping set, tycoons, oligarchs and models.
Monte Carlo Casino
Few casinos can claim such legendary status as the Monte Carlo Casino. The Belle Époque building is ridiculously opulent, with stained glass windows, sculptures, paintings and shimmering chandeliers. Straight out of a James Bond film (featured in three, no less), it’s been a playground for high-rollers since 1859.
Cannes Film Festival
The glittering highlight of Tinsel Town’s calendar, the annual Cannes Film Festival is a magnet for Hollywood’s A List as they flock to La Croisette to promote their movies and showcase their finest looks. First held in 1946, Cannes Film Festival is the most world’s most prestigious cinematic event, and hits the pretty resort town each May.
Across the French Riviera, palatial hotels and grand villas intermingle with 1930s modernist dwellings and colourful shuttered buildings along medieval streets. Don’t expect subtlety here, the region favours gorgeous Art Deco and Belle Époque buildings, along with statement constructions like the Monaco Cathedral and powder-pink Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
It inspired famous artists, writers and thinkers
The list of those who visited the French Riviera reads like a who’s who of 20th century high society and intelligentsia. Inspired by the clarity of light, vibrant colours and temperate climate, Pablo Picasso resided and painted in the seaside town of Antibes. Henri Matisse spent the last years of his life in Cimiez (in one of Queen Victoria’s former holiday homes). The literary set were fans, too. F Scott Fitzgerald lived in Antibes and Edith Wharton, just outside of Hyeres. In the 21st century, it’s still an A-list magnet with Bono and Elton John having homes there.
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Image credits: Main image © iStock/dmbaker. Antibes & Monte Carlo Harbour © iStock/RossHelen. Cannes © iStock/tostphoto. Monte Carlo Casino © iStock/alxpin. Vintage newspaper © Wikicommons.