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With so many allures, it’s easy to say “oui” to the French Riviera.

Stretching from about Toulon to Menton and the Italian border (as well as encompassing the separate Principality of Monaco), the French Riviera features more than 65 miles of varied coastline--including about 25 miles of sandy or pebbly beaches.

The region is made up of bustling big cities, tiny fishing towns, and many charming inland villages where centuries-old ways of life are still followed by friendly French locals happy to share their heritage.

Nice and Cannes

Of course, the cities of Nice and Cannes remain popular destinations for good reason. These two cosmopolitan cities feature many attributes and activities, as well as providing perfect bases for exploring the rest of the region.

With a population of about 350,000, Nice is the area’s largest city and is known as the capital of the Riviera. That means lots of shopping, museums, markets, and--of course--great food.

The downtown area features a wide array of varied accommodations options, along with lots of restaurants offering freshly-caught seafood, excellent Provencal-style cooking, and more. The colorful Cours Saleya market is not to be missed!

Cannes lies to the east of Nice and is known for more than just the famed Cannes Film Festival (the city actually hosts many art-oriented festivals throughout the year). Highlights here can include: grand old hotels overlooking the Mediterranean and La Croisette, the Riviera’s most prominent promenade; beaches with their own waterfront bars and restaurants; the Cannes castle overlooking the yacht-filled harbor and old port; shopping along Rue Meynadier and Rue d’Antibes; the Marche Forville flower market; and, again, some of that tasty southern French food (especially at restaurants along Rue du Suquet).

Smaller Towns

Elsewhere along the coastline, smaller towns like ancient Antibes (including the Musee Picasso), upscale Saint-Tropez (famed for its sandy beaches), Villafranche-sur-Mer (a classic French Riviera fishing village), Menton (known for the Musee Jean Cocteau), and many others beckon. There are also several “perched villages” dotting the coastline and offering incredible views, with Eze (including its cathedral) and Sainte-Agnes (the highest coastal perched village in Europe) among the most popular for exploration.

Inland, towns like Grasse and Mougins are well worth an excursion. Grasse is well-known as the “capital of perfume” (making for great tours and shopping), while Mougins features the popular restaurant, cooking school, and store of Roger Verges.

Though not technically part of the French Riviera, Monaco and Monte Carlo make for an interesting daytrip from anywhere along the coast.

Casino and Shopping

Tourists won’t want to miss the changing at the guard at the Palais du Prince de Monaco (every morning at 11:55 a.m.), Musee des Souvenirs Napoleoniens (lots of Napolean’s personal effects), the world renowned Musee Oceanographique aquarium, lots of upscale shopping, and--of course--Monte Carlo’s ornate casino.

It’s also quite easy to head further afield to the north and into Provence proper. Many French Riviera veterans head to this famous French region for a meal, winery visits (don’t forget a designated driver), or a daytrip that includes several towns. Visitors can’t go wrong with any Provencal town or village (especially at a little local restaurant serving regional delicacies and wine).

Back down on the coast, the Mediterranean beckons. It’s so easy to say “oui” to the sea--and the French Riviera.