The best beaches in the French Riviera are not only some of the best beaches in France but the world. The hundred-mile stretch of the Cote d’Azur offers a seemingly endless succession of silky sands, lapping azure seas, and quintessentially French glamor. It’s little wonder that the quiet coves and dramatic bays of the south of France retain such a perpetual allure for celebrities and the yachting crowd.
Start planning your next Mediterranean getaway with this list of the best beaches in the French Riviera.
Plages du Prado, Marseilles
Marseilles’ urban beaches are an integral part of the city’s rich social and cultural make-up. The Plages du Prado, 20 minutes by bus from the central Vieux Port, is the largest. The name encompasses a series of sandy stretches created in the late ’70s, recycling rubble from the construction of the city metro, to help the overheated Marseillaise make their way into the refreshing Mediterranean depths.
To the north, you’ll find the “David Beach”, so-called for the giant version of Michaelangelo’s sculpture that presides over a nearby roundabout, while at the south end is the Vieille Chapelle, a popular fishing spot. Come in the high season, and you’ll find this coastal stretch of the city is one of Marseilles’ liveliest party spots, the normal summer beach goings-on enlivened further with concerts. However, turn up in September, when the weather can still reach 72°F, and you’ll often find you have the beach all to yourself.
Plage du Midi, Cannes
While this crescent of white sand is one of the most popular beaches in Cannes, thanks to its size it’s surprisingly easy to stake out your own niche amid the palms, playgrounds, and poseurs.
West of Cannes’ Vieux Port, Plage du Midi offers plenty of space if you’re in a large group, as well as umbrella and lounger rentals. The rocks edging the beach—and the breakwater—supply enough flat spaces for a seafront picnic. Best of all, the view of the sunset over the ruddy Corniche de L’Esterel bluff is to die for.
Plage des Marinières, Nice
Set in the sweeping natural elegance of Villefranche-sur-Mer’s deepwater harbor, Plage des Marinières is the main sandy beach of this village-cum-suburb of Nice. Over a half-mile long, the beach is easily reached by train—the track runs right behind it—and amenities are plentiful. So are families, so head to the eastern end if you’re in search of a more tranquil scene.
After you’ve sunned and dipped in one of the best beach destinations in Europe, the old town over the road is well worth exploring. As you get higher up the winding stone streets, the views of the bay, enclosed by Cap Ferrat and the cape of Nice in a leafy embrace, become ever more handsome.
Plage des Catalans, Marseilles
Marseille’s most central beach is a true extension of the city. Just around the corner from the Vieux Port, Plage des Catalans is the busiest stretch of sand in France’s second city. You’ll find all demographics of this thriving port-city represented here, whether it’s newlyweds being snapped on the water’s edge, teens playing volleyball, or elderly citizens in swimming caps idling in the shallows.
A visit to Plage des Catalans is a distillation of what a vacation in Marseilles is all about: people watching, joining the throng, and feeling welcomed into the rhythms of the city.
Anjuna Beach, Èze-sur-Mer
A golden scratch of sand located beneath the stunning medieval village of Èze-sur-Mer, Anjuna Beach has become something of a celebrity haunt. Its namesake restaurant & bar is a regular after-party location for the F1 crowd following the annual Monaco Grand Prix.
When it isn’t packed with the jet-set, the beachside venue offers a tasty seafood brunch, often with a side of live music. But don’t feel intimidated by the superyachts gleaming just offshore—beyond the restaurant’s turquoise umbrellas, the lapping waves are unmoved by how many millions you have in your bank account.
Plage de la Mala, Cap-d’Ail
Approaching Plage de la Mala by the coastal path is an unforgettable experience. Through the smell of pine and sea salt, the path curves inland, and below you appears a shining ribbon of sand hemming a bay of brilliant blues. Close up, it’s just as special: the limestone cliffs shining to the west, the sheer water hissing through the smooth pebbles, the verdant woodland all around.
As one of the best beaches in the French Riviera, it’s immensely popular, especially as all three of Cap d’Ail’s beaches, located between Nice and Monaco, have blue flag status for their clean seawater. Two superb restaurants are on hand if you’re traveling light.
Larvotto Beach, Monaco
The principality’s only public beach, Larvotto Beach is a swathe of carefully engineered coastal bliss. Comprising two palm-fringed coves, Larvotto is the epicenter of Monaco’s beach scene come summer. The shallow water is calm and clear, the volleyball languid and entertaining, the cocktails being served in the private section brightly alluring.
The majority of the beach is public, although in the high season—unless you’re paying—you’ll need to arrive early to secure some space. There are rental facilities for all manner of water sports on the beach as well as a good selection of restaurants and bars. If you feel like stretching your legs, the road that runs along the top of the beach is Avenue Princess Grace, previously the world’s most expensive street to live on.
Read: Things to Do in Monaco
Plage de la Bocca, Cannes
A slip of beach, sandy with the occasional ruggedly handsome boulder, Plage de la Bocca in Cannes offers a mellow alternative to the glam and glitz (and crowds) of the more central Croisette beaches. The naturally occurring groynes seem to point the way to the superb snorkeling just offshore, and the food cabins and showers ensure you can wash off and fuel up before heading off onto your next adventure.
Plage D’Argent, Porquerolles
Midway between St. Tropez and Marseilles is the Île de Porquerolles, a peaceful island community that lays claim to zero traffic and one of the French Riviera’s best beaches. Plage D’Argent is a crescent of sugary sand reached via a sandy track that slips past vineyards and pine woodland.
Add a splendid sense of isolation (even with all the families playing at the water’s edge), a reliably excellent restaurant/cafe serving grilled fish and waterside aperitifs, and you’ll probably never want to leave. As boats are the only way to arrive, a small armada of yachts jostles for the ample mooring space during summer in France.
Plage de la Réserve, Nice
Something of a local’s escape, Plage de la Réserve is the wildest of three rocky beaches found along this stretch of the coastal path near Nice’s port area. Think like a shellfish and find yourself a cozy niche to lay your towel before launching into the cobalt waves. It’s a fine place to flee the summer crush and absorb some real Niçoise color, with teens plunging into the sea off of a slackline and couples sharing a pissaladière beneath the wheeling seabirds and the lap of the waves.
The people aren’t the only interest—there’re superb views over the Bay of Angels (it’s a top spot for sunsets), watching the Corsica ferry traffic dwindle and loom, as well as the stately mansions arrayed across Mount Boron. Hungry? Restaurant Coco Beach’s wood-paneled interior offers a nearby taste of authentic regional cuisine.
Plage du Prophète, Marseilles
Tucked beneath the Corniche Kennedy is the Plage du Prophète, one of the city’s oldest—and probably most loved—city beach. By day, this fan of sand shielded by a breakwater is a family affair.
However, as the sun sinks behind the silhouettes of the islands in the bay, it becomes one of the best beaches in the French Riviera for a party. Listen to the beat of the djembes from the ringside seat of the Corniche Kennedy or wander into the celebrations and seek out a pastis aperitif all your own.
Île Sainte-Marguerite, Cannes
A day trip favorite for locals, Île Sainte-Marguerite is the largest of the two main Lerins Islands that lie in the Bay of Cannes. Heavily forested, the island has a village but doesn’t allow cars. One of the best things to do in Cannes is to catch a ferry over with a baguette and some brie and wander through the island’s pine and eucalyptus forest until you find your own little cove to swim in.
Île Sainte-Marguerite’s only sandy beach lies beside the ferry jetty, but, while this is extremely tempting, the true Sainte-Marguerite experience is about uncovering something elemental—maybe a little bit pebbly—and entirely yours (and no sand means nothing to cloud the crystal clear waters). Besides the stunning scenery, the island is also known for the Fort Royal, now a museum but once a prison that held, most famously, the Man in the Iron Mask.
Plage d’Abel Baliff, Esterel Coast
The stretch of the Cote d’Azur called the Esterel Coast is known for its ruddy complexion and craggy good looks. Often overlooked by the yacht crowd hastening to the starry lights of Cannes and St. Tropez, this can be fortunate for the curious traveler willing to take a closer look at Cote d’Azur’s black sheep.
Along the waterline, the secluded beaches tucked away here are copper-colored, quiet, and unique. One of the most unsung of the French Riviera’s best beaches, Plage d’Abel Baliff is a pristine slip of pebbly shoreline surrounded by fragrant eucalyptus and the odd prickly pear. Water shoes are recommended for comfort, while the soft red stone makes spotting the tiny pale octopi in this area a cinch.
Solarium Beach, Monaco
Like giant concrete bleachers erected for the viewing of some outsized oceanic sport, Solarium Beach is not so much a beach as a place for strong swimmers to plunge off the sea wall. You’ll find this unique spot below the Fort Antoine Theatre, typically populated by Monagasques lunching on the tiers, tanning and, when the seas are high and swimming is forbidden, enjoying the gusts and the sea spray.
If you’re a fan of fancy boats, this gently descending wedge of tiered concrete is also excellently placed to observe the superyachts returning to their high-priced berths in Port Hercules.
Calanque d’En Vau, Marseilles
East of Marseilles, as you leave the city limits—and definitely one of the spots to visit on any tour of the south of France—is the Calanques National Park. A stretch of limestone coast characterized by stunning coves, these creeks (as calanques translates) are actually narrow fingers of azure water reaching in between high pale cliffs to finish at tiny peaceful beaches.
Boat is the only way to travel (literally in the case of the summer when hiking is restricted), and Calanque d’En Vau is the superlative expression of these special coves, with sheer cliffs on either side leading to a beautifully proportioned beach at the end.
If you find others have arrived before you, navigate your way to nearby Calanque du Sugiton, home to another of the best beaches in the French Riviera. Its shingle shore is smaller but more intimate and always offers a less-crowded mooring than the spectacular d’En Vau. Swimming in the glassy water here is a memory to cherish.
Grande Plage, Juan-les-Pins
Over-endowed with beachfront, the resort town of Juan-les-Pins also enjoys an abundance of private beach-restaurants that stake out their territory with clashing parasols. The Grande Plage, however, is the antidote—a long stretch of sandy beach with stellar views of the Lerins Islands and the Esterel mountains.
Easily one of the best beaches in the French Riviera for its vibe and views, Grande Plage isn’t the only claim to fame for Juan-les-Pins. Previously the residence of the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920s, the town is also host to Europe’s oldest jazz festival, Jazz a Juan. If you’re not there in July for the festival, wander over to the Fitzgerald Bar at the seafront Hotel Belles Rives where you can listen to tinkling piano and sip refreshing Gin Rickeys for your Jazz Age fix.
See the shimmering Cote d’Azur for yourself on a cruise to France and discover its secluded coves, bathwater-warm seas, and eucalyptus-scented woodland. Browse our cruise itineraries online and book a memorable vacation to a destination of effortless glamor.