South of France holidays have always had a glamorous reputation. Anyone who’s anyone has been seduced by its sun-drenched shores, from the British aristocracy to famous writers, including F Scott Fitzgerald, and a continuous parade of well-heeled Hollywood A-listers. But you don’t need the deep pockets of the mega-yacht-owning elite to enjoy its lures. We have plenty of cheap holidays in the South of France to satisfy your exquisite wanderlust.
Things to do
The region, often referred to as the French Riviera or Côte d'Azur, covers 400km of dreamy coastline, from Marseille to the French-Italian border. But the enduring love affair with holidays to the South of France has as much to do with the cultural ambience as its glittering waterfront. There are so many things to see and do in this classic seaside destination.
Art and history
Discover medieval villages, roman ruins, 17th-century palaces, and an art scene that rivals Paris. The region’s diverse history has left behind many beautiful buildings and monuments, from the world’s largest gothic palace Palais des Papes, to the tallest and best-preserved aqueduct bridge, Pont du Gard. While its panoramic landscapes and sunlit days have been a source of inspiration for grand painters from Monet to Matisse. Today the French Riviera is home to some of the most iconic collections in the world.
There is plenty to do with the kids on a Côte d'Azur holiday, from blissful beach days to exploring historic fortresses. You could even make your own amateur film together in the Ephemeral Museum of Cinema in Cannes. Planning a getaway to Nice? The Promenade du Paillon is a must-visit. Little ones will delight in running through the fountains and scrambling over wooden sea creatures. And if you book a trip to Marseille, you’ve got to ride the petit train to Notre Dam to see the toy boats and planes hanging from the grand ceilings.
While most beaches in the South of France aren’t sandy, the iconic pebbled coastline is well worth the hype. Ruhl Plage in Nice is an excellent choice for families, with a wooden platform, on-duty lifeguard, lounge area, and saltwater pool for little ones. For something more intimate, stroll to the tiny La Réserve east of Nice town. If you’re staying in Cannes, Plage du Midi is all white sand and ice cream parlours, situated close to the beautiful old quarter, Le Suquet.
Places to stay
Wherever you choose to stay on your holiday to the South of France, you’ll be blessed with a wealth of museums, art galleries, Michelin star eateries, and pristine beaches. You could book a city break to Nice and walk the iconic Promenade des Anglais, indulge in a taste of the high life in star-studded Cannes, or try the famous Bouillabaisse in multicultural Marseille.
And South of France breaks needn’t be limited to the coast. Quaint towns like Aix-en-Provence offer a slice of the Provençal, with flower markets and sophisticated coffee spots galore. From here, you could even take a day trip to the fragrant lavender fields, vineyards, and hiking routes. Holidays to the South of France can be anything you want them to be.
A UNESCO World Heritage site decorated with Belle Époque architecture, glistening beaches, and world-class foodie hotspots, the city of Nice epitomises holidays to the South of France. Wander along the terracotta tenements in Vieux Nice (Old Town), stop for a crêpe at the pavement cafes, and browse over 90 ice cream flavours at Fenocchio (with everything from praline to cactus). And when your feet get weary, unwind under the iconic blue and white striped parasols on the Promenade des Anglais.
With its feisty cosmopolitan energy, trendy pop-up eateries, and vibrant multicultural heritage, you won’t want to overlook Marseille on your hunt for Cote d'Azur holidays. Dubbed France’s ‘cool’ city, it’s famous for its foodie mecca on Boulevard Chave, edgy street art along Cours Julien, and summer parties at La Friche. And despite its gritty modernity and hip attitude, Marseille is the oldest metropolis in France. It’s graced with ancient sights, including Château d’If, Fort Saint-Jean and Notre Dame de la Garde.
The Beverly Hills of France, complete with its own walk of fame, Cannes is the most glamorous destination of all French Riviera holidays. Along with its namesake film festival, the city is known for its exclusive beach clubs, couture shops, and super-sized yachts. And while you’ll find plenty of glitz and glamour, there is so much more to this coastal hotspot than poker chips and Moët. When you’re not celeb-spotting along the harbour, stop for traditional crêpes or croque monsieurs on the waterfront promenade, de la Croisette, poke your nose around the bric-a-brac on Forville Market, and get lost on the cobbled streets of Le Suquet.
Famed for its Art Deco mansions, upbeat nightlife, and legendary Jazz scene, Juan-Les-Pins embodies the Golden Age of holidays in the South of France. Over the years, this razzle-dazzle coastal resort has hosted international giants from Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington. When you’re not stretching out on its white sandy beaches, head to the old haunt of F Scott Fitzgerald, Belles Rives. The piano bar is the place to be for live Jazz over an afternoon drink. For more Provençal vibes, stroll along the coastal walk to Antibes. This cobble-stone medieval quarter is home to gourmet food spots, charming flower markets and towering chateaus.
Babbling fountains, leafy boulevards and polished cobblestone streets, Aix-en-Provence exudes a quintessential charm so unique to South of France holidays. Follow your nose around the fragrant stalls of Place Richelme, peruse the Pâtisseries along Cours Mirabeau and sip an espresso in one of the town squares. As the hometown of French painter Cézanne, the city is also a hub of art and culture. Head to his studio, Atelier de Cézanne, to learn about his life. Then grab some cheese and wine for a picnic in terre des peintres, and soak up the views that inspired his works.