Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

A Taste of Southern France: 3-Day French Riviera Itinerary


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Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

A Taste of Southern France: 3-Day French Riviera Itinerary


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With glittering gems galore along the Côte d’Azur, it can be challenging to come up with a French Riviera itinerary that encompasses all of the best activities, let alone in a 3-day timeframe.

Fortunately, you don’t have to concern yourself with this because I’ve done all of the grunt work for you. So instead of scrambling and stressing, you can spend more time sunbathing and sightseeing! After all, isn’t that what the Mediterranean is all about?

Now, you may be wondering if a 3-day French Riviera itinerary will be enough time to do the Côte d’Azur justice. 

While I’d love to say that you can squeeze everything this region has to offer into an extended weekend’s worth of time, it’s frankly unrealistic.

Instead, I’m honing in on a few select towns so that you can give each one the attention it deserves while enjoying this incredible region at a relaxed pace.

Besides, wouldn’t it be great to have an excuse to come back for more? I certainly think so!

In the meantime, let’s uncover some of the most precious crown jewels of Southern France in this detailed 3-day French Riviera itinerary.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read the full disclosure here.

In a rush? Pin this post for later!

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Detailed 3-Day French Riviera Itinerary

How to Get Around the French Riviera

Before we dive into this French Riviera itinerary, let’s cover some basic logistics of getting around the area.

If you’re planning to spend three days in the French Riviera, I recommend traveling by train. Fortunately, the French Riviera has a wonderful – and super affordable – network of trains within their railroad system. These trains operate under SNCF, the national rail company.

Plus, the majority of towns along the French Riviera have SNCF stations that sell tickets to the surrounding towns, making it super easy to hop on and off as needed.

In addition to being affordable, the train rides are also incredibly scenic, giving visitors a tantalizing taste of what they can expect as they whiz past the cerulean blue waters and impressive mountains.

That said, if you ultimately decide to spend a week or more in the French Riviera, I’d suggest renting a car so that you can travel on more of your own schedule.

However, I don’t think a car will be necessary for a shorter trip like this. Instead, traveling by train is arguably the better option as it’s budget-friendly, convenient, and enjoyable.

In addition, train travel will also eliminate the hassle of having to find parking, which can often be limited in the smaller towns.

When to Visit the French Riviera

Ideally, the shoulder season (May – June and September – October) is the best time to visit the French Riviera.

During this time, you can enjoy comfortable temperatures while avoiding the peak of tourist season and its accompanying crowds. The summer (and August in particular) is typically the busiest time, so if crowds aren’t your thing, I’d steer clear.

That all said, the Riviera is most certainly beautiful year-round, so this is by no means a hard and fast rule and more of a recommendation.

Day 1: Nice

Brief Overview of Nice

As the capital – and the largest city – of the French Riviera, Nice is unsurprisingly one of the most popular vacation destinations along the Côte d’Azur.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

In fact, this city is one of the main railway hubs in Southern France, making it easy to travel into and out of.

Nicknamed “Nice la Belle” (which translates to “Nice the Beautiful” in English), this year-round-sunshine destination is beloved for its plentiful beaches, famous promenade, and numerous resort hotels.

While Nice is admittedly touristy, it earned that status for good reason and has quite a lot to offer.

How to Get to Nice

Nice is conveniently located  just 15 minutes from l’Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur (Nice Airport), which is the largest of the three airports along the French Riviera.

The convenient and close proximity to the airport makes Nice a cinch to travel to, whether you’re arriving by train, car, or bus.

You can read more about getting to and from the Nice Airport here.

Where to Stay

As this French Riviera itinerary is centered around a 3-day timeframe, it’s best to choose one city as your home base for the duration of your stay. This will save you the stress of having to rush around unnecessarily and pack/unpack multiple times.

That said, since Nice is close to the airport and has a much broader range of accommodations than many of the other towns, I recommend basing yourself here.

Additionally, the city’s centralized location makes it the perfect jumping off point for traveling to neighboring Riviera towns.

Alternatively, if you’re spending a week or more along the French Riviera, it may be more suitable to book two or three hotels in your desired locations and plan your activities accordingly.

Nice Itinerary

Explore Viuex Nice

Once you’ve arrived in Nice and had a chance to settle in a bit, head out to Viuex Nice. This southern section is the city’s Old Town and one of the most special areas to visit.

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Here, you can wander the colorful maze of streets and uncover some of the capital’s most beloved landmarks, including the Cathedral of Saint Reparata, Lacaris Palace (a modern-day museum), and Cours Saleya, a lively street where Nice’s market is held.

Be sure to stop by Place Masséna as well, the largest (and liveliest) city square that bridges the old and new sections of Nice.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

In addition, don’t miss the chance to stroll the beautiful Promenade des Anglais, which runs for seven kilometers along the Mediterranean.

Hike Up to Castle Hill Park for Incredible Views

Once you’ve had your fill of strolling at sea level, it’s time to literally take things to new heights with a hike up to Castle Hill, or Colline du Château, as it’s known in French.

The hike is definitely one of the most special things to do in Nice, as you’ll gain an entirely new perspective of the city from up here.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

(Don’t worry, there’s also a free elevator up to Castle Hill Park if you’d prefer.)

In addition to offering ridiculously amazing views, Castle Hill Park is also home to Cascade Dijon (a manmade waterfall) as well as a cemetery separated into three sections for Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish citizens.

Stop for Lunch & Visit Nice’s Old Port

When your energy starts to dip, it’s time to stop for lunch at one of Nice’s many wonderful eateries. Budget-conscious travelers will love the selection of reasonably-priced eateries throughout the city.

While your stomach is settling, I recommend taking an easy stroll over to the Old Port. The dock is the perfect spot to sit and relax while watching the colorful array of boats bobbing in the harbor.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

In addition, if you’re lucky, you may even catch an artist or two capturing the romantic scene on canvas!

Relax on One of Nice’s Public Beaches

Once you’ve had your fill of boat-watching, I recommend checking out one of the city’s public beaches.

Although Nice’s private beaches are definitely more upscale in terms of amenities like loungers and umbrellas, I frankly don’t think they’re worth the steep price tag for a brief visit.

Instead, La Reserve is a great public beach option located within close walking distance of Nice’s Old Port.

Just keep in mind that tops are optional here and many local beachgoers prefer sunbathing and swimming without them!

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Experience Local Culture on a Guided Tour

Beyond the beach scene, if you’re looking to learn more about the local culture and history of Nice, consider a guided experience.

You can read about all of the city offerings from food tours to perfume-making classes in my guide to the best things to do in Nice.

In addition, you may wish to check out one of the Nice’s many museums, provided you have room in your schedule.

Enjoy a Memorable Dinner

When it comes time for dinner, I highly recommend treating yourself to an unforgettable dining experience atop the crystal-blue sea at Le Plongeoir.

This restaurant serves up modern Mediterranean cuisine and unbelievable ocean views!

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Alternatively, if you’d prefer a more down-to-earth venue, I can personally vouch for Di Yar, which serves fresh and tasty Lebanese food.

For additional options, check out these other restaurant favorites in Nice.

Day 2: Villefranche-sur-Mer & Èze

Brief Overview of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villefranche-sur-Mer is Nice’s quieter and more relaxed (but equally colorful) cousin.

This sleepy harbor town is the counterpoint to Nice’s stimulating city environment. Ideal for the slow traveler, Villefranche is the perfect place to soak in the beauty of the Mediterranean away from the crowds.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

How to Get to Villefranche-sur-Mer from Nice

Villefrance-sur-Mer is actually one of the best day trip options from Nice, as it’s approximately 11 minutes away by train!

Alternatively, if you decide to travel by car, you can reach the village in about 20 minutes.

However, if you’re looking to savor a slower travel experience, I recommend doing the 90-minute hike from Nice.

While this will obviously require more effort, the beautiful coastal views along the way will surely make it worth it! 

Villefranche-sur-Mer Itinerary

Get Breakfast & Wander Along the Harbor

As the Villefranche vibe is considerably more laidback than that of Nice, I’d resist the urge to cram too many things into this portion of your French Riviera itinerary.

Instead, try to embrace the more relaxed pace of life.

Kick off the day with a light breakfast at one of the charming seaside eateries and then stroll along the harbor to catch a nice sea breeze.

In addition, there’s also Plage des Marinières, a laidback, fine-gravel beach, if you wish to go for a dip or simply soak up some sun.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Explore the Colorful Buildings of the Old Town

Once you’ve gotten a sufficient dose of “Vitamin Sea,” head up the steps behind the waterfront restaurants to explore the charming Old Town and its characteristic colorful buildings.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Additionally, if you’d prefer more physical activity after your Old Town exploration, I recommend taking the hike up to Citadelle Saint-Elme, the town’s historic military fortress.

I’d also suggest booking a bike or Segway tour if you’d like to cover more ground in less time.

After you’ve gotten a good overview of Villefranche-sur-Mer, it’s time to move on to our second and final spot for the day, Èze.

Brief Overview of Èze

The charming commune of Èze is perched atop a hill, offering splendid views of the Riviera. It runs along the coast from Cap Roux to the Cabuel Point.

Unfortunately, my biggest regret of our French Riviera trip was that my husband and I didn’t have quite enough time to visit.

Since we were collaborating with a property in Sanremo, we weren’t able to base ourselves directly in France and therefore couldn’t fit Èze into our French Riviera itinerary.

That said, I definitely have this charming place on my radar for a future visit and wanted to include it here as it’s at the top of my list!

How to Get to Èze from Villefranche-sur-Mer

Èze is conveniently located just under four miles from Villefranche-sur-Mer. For this reason, some people opt to walk between the towns. 

That said, the hike up to Èze is quite steep and much of the foot path is rugged, so you’ll probably want to hop on the train to save yourself some time and energy.

The train ride between the towns takes only about six minutes on average, with tickets as low as 2.62 EUR ($3 USD).

You can check out the timetable and book a train ticket in advance.

Èze Itinerary

I’ll be sure to update this section with more detail when I make it to this storybook town.

However, I can tell you that Èze is super tiny, so it should only really take about half an hour or so to see it all.

Here are some fun activities to enjoy in Èze:

  • Wander (and ogle) the cobblestone streets
  • Visit Église-Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption (Èze Church)
  • Stroll the Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden)
  • Shop for souvenirs at the charming boutiques
  • Hike Nietzsche Path
  • Swim at Èze Beach
  • Tour the Fragonard Parfumeur (Perfume Factory)

Day 3: Menton

Brief Overview of Menton

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Menton. In fact, it’s my favorite destination on this French Riviera itinerary, hands-down.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

With its close proximity to the Northern Italian border and the city of Sanremo, Menton has the most Mediterranean climate of all the French Riviera towns.

Plus, in addition to all of the dreamy Menton photo spots, the town has everything from beautiful beaches, to interesting museums, to gorgeous gardens.

Frankly, I definitely would’ve spent more than a day here if I had the time!

How to Get to Menton from Nice

Menton is located about 15 miles from Nice. It takes around 40 minutes to travel to Menton from Nice by train and a little over half an hour by car.

PRO TIP: If you’re traveling by train, the most cost-effective option is to purchase your tickets ahead of time. Tickets start at 5.25 EUR ($6.01 USD) and you can purchase them in advance here.

Menton Itinerary

Get Breakfast & Wander the Old Town

Start your day off right with a tasty meal at one of Menton’s best breakfast restaurants.

After your palette is satisfied and your belly is full, it’s time to explore the beautiful offerings of this special town. 

First off, since Menton has so many incredible photo spots throughout its Old Town, I highly recommend wandering around here with your camera.

Trust me, you could easily spend an entire day photographing the winding streets and doing nothing else!

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

However, I’d prefer to give you the full lay of the land in this French Riviera itinerary.

Speaking of, you may want to join a guided walking tour while you’re here to learn more about the local history with some fun legends mixed in!

Admire the Basilica of Saint Michael Archangel

Next, it’s time to pay a visit to the iconic Basilica of Saint Michael Archangel.

If you’ve seen photos of Menton before, then I’m sure you’ll immediately recognize the characteristic yellow facade and impressive ramped staircase.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Relax at Plage des Sablettes

Once you head down the staircase, you’ll reach the waterfront where you’ll find Plage des Sablettes, one of the area’s favorite beaches.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Plus, the beach is free to access, so I’d suggest spending some time here to relax and enjoy. You can also rent a lounger and an umbrella if you plan to stay for a few hours.

Visit The Jean Cocteau Museum

When you’ve had enough fun in the sun, head down the waterfront to the Jean Cocteau Museum to see the work of one of France’s beloved celebrities.

Dedicated to French artist, writer, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, this eye-catching museum resembles a series of giant white funnels.

As compelling as it is functional, the stark and modern white design was an intentional choice to protect the interior by reflecting Menton’s harsh sunlight.

What to Know Before You Go:

The Jean Cocteau Museum is open every day from 10AM – 6PM except for Tuesdays, when it’s closed.

The museum is also closed on New Year’s Day and Christmas Day as well as on November 1 and May 1.

Tickets cost 8 EUR ($9.16 USD) and can be purchased at the door. Children under 18, job seekers, and those with disabilities can enter free of charge.

How to Get Here:

The Jean Cocteau Museum is located at Quai Napoléon III – Bastion du Vieux Port, 06500 in Menton.

Stroll Around Jardin Serre de la Madone

Jardin Serre de la Madone is a sanctuary for plant and nature lovers. 

Located in the Gorbio valley, this beautiful garden is home to exotic subtropical plants and dreamy reflecting pools. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon in peaceful reflection and take a stroll in the sunshine.

What to Know Before You Go:

Jardin Serre de la Madone is open daily from 10AM – 6PM except for Mondays, when it’s closed.

How to Get Here:

Jardin Serre de la Madone is located at 74 Route du Val de Gorbio, 06500 in Menton.

Watch the Sunset from Quai Impératrice Eugénie

Just before sunset, I recommend heading back to the heart of Menton. From here, head to Quai Impératrice Eugénie (by the beach) and venture out onto the breakwater.

The Menton skyline is truly stunning from this perspective and it’s all the more incredible as the sun goes down!

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Enjoy a Lemon-Inspired Dinner in Menton

After sunset, it’s time to sit down to a relaxing dinner.

Since Menton is known for its fragrant lemons, I highly recommend ordering a lemon-infused dish for dinner if you can find one.

My restaurant recommendation is La Rotonde Menton because they have a delicious Ravioli maison au Citron du Pays (homemade ravioli with local lemon). This dish was a first for me and it was absolutely divine.

I wish I had photographic evidence of it, but I devoured it way too quickly!

That brings us to the end of this detailed three-day French Riviera itinerary. I hope that you enjoyed a virtual taste of Southern France and that this guide has inspired you to plan a trip of your own.

The French Riviera was one of my favorite trips to date and I hope to return and explore some more of this  wonderful region.

Have you ever visited the Côte d’Azur? What would you add to this French Riviera itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!

Planning a visit to the French Riviera? Check out my other guides:

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Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel
Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel
Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

With glittering gems galore along the Côte d’Azur, it can be challenging to come up with a French Riviera itinerary that encompasses all of the best activities, let alone in a 3-day timeframe.

Fortunately, you don’t have to concern yourself with this because I’ve done all of the grunt work for you. So instead of scrambling and stressing, you can spend more time sunbathing and sightseeing! After all, isn’t that what the Mediterranean is all about?

Now, you may be wondering if a 3-day French Riviera itinerary will be enough time to do the Côte d’Azur justice. 

While I’d love to say that you can squeeze everything this region has to offer into an extended weekend’s worth of time, it’s frankly unrealistic.

Instead, I’m honing in on a few select towns so that you can give each one the attention it deserves while enjoying this incredible region at a relaxed pace.

Besides, wouldn’t it be great to have an excuse to come back for more? I certainly think so!

In the meantime, let’s uncover some of the most precious crown jewels of Southern France in this detailed 3-day French Riviera itinerary.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read the full disclosure here.

In a rush? Pin this post for later!

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

Detailed 3-Day French Riviera Itinerary

How to Get Around the French Riviera

Before we dive into this French Riviera itinerary, let’s cover some basic logistics of getting around the area.

If you’re planning to spend three days in the French Riviera, I recommend traveling by train. Fortunately, the French Riviera has a wonderful – and super affordable – network of trains within their railroad system. These trains operate under SNCF, the national rail company.

Plus, the majority of towns along the French Riviera have SNCF stations that sell tickets to the surrounding towns, making it super easy to hop on and off as needed.

In addition to being affordable, the train rides are also incredibly scenic, giving visitors a tantalizing taste of what they can expect as they whiz past the cerulean blue waters and impressive mountains.

That said, if you ultimately decide to spend a week or more in the French Riviera, I’d suggest renting a car so that you can travel on more of your own schedule.

However, I don’t think a car will be necessary for a shorter trip like this. Instead, traveling by train is arguably the better option as it’s budget-friendly, convenient, and enjoyable.

In addition, train travel will also eliminate the hassle of having to find parking, which can often be limited in the smaller towns.

When to Visit the French Riviera

Ideally, the shoulder season (May – June and September – October) is the best time to visit the French Riviera.

During this time, you can enjoy comfortable temperatures while avoiding the peak of tourist season and its accompanying crowds. The summer (and August in particular) is typically the busiest time, so if crowds aren’t your thing, I’d steer clear.

That all said, the Riviera is most certainly beautiful year-round, so this is by no means a hard and fast rule and more of a recommendation.

Day 1: Nice

Brief Overview of Nice

As the capital – and the largest city – of the French Riviera, Nice is unsurprisingly one of the most popular vacation destinations along the Côte d’Azur.

Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel

In fact, this city is one of the main railway hubs in Southern France, making it easy to travel into and out of.

Nicknamed “Nice la Belle” (which translates to “Nice the Beautiful” in English), this year-round-sunshine destination is beloved for its plentiful beaches, famous promenade, and numerous resort hotels.

While Nice is admittedly touristy, it earned that status for good reason and has quite a lot to offer.

How to Get to Nice

Nice is conveniently located  just 15 minutes from l’Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur (Nice Airport), which is the largest of the three airports along the French Riviera.

The convenient and close proximity to the airport makes Nice a cinch to travel to, whether you’re arriving by train, car, or bus.

You can read more about getting to and from the Nice Airport here.

Where to Stay

As this French Riviera itinerary is centered around a 3-day timeframe, it’s best to choose one city as your home base for the duration of your stay. This will save you the stress of having to rush around unnecessarily and pack/unpack multiple times.

That said, since Nice is close to the airport and has a much broader range of accommodations than many of the other towns, I recommend basing yourself here.

Additionally, the city’s centralized location makes it the perfect jumping off point for traveling to neighboring Riviera towns.

Alternatively, if you’re spending a week or more along the French Riviera, it may be more suitable to book two or three hotels in your desired locations and plan your activities accordingly.

Nice Itinerary

Explore Viuex Nice

Once you’ve arrived in Nice and had a chance to settle in a bit, head out to Viuex Nice. This southern section is the city’s Old Town and one of the most special areas to visit.

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Here, you can wander the colorful maze of streets and uncover some of the capital’s most beloved landmarks, including the Cathedral of Saint Reparata, Lacaris Palace (a modern-day museum), and Cours Saleya, a lively street where Nice’s market is held.

Be sure to stop by Place Masséna as well, the largest (and liveliest) city square that bridges the old and new sections of Nice.

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In addition, don’t miss the chance to stroll the beautiful Promenade des Anglais, which runs for seven kilometers along the Mediterranean.

Hike Up to Castle Hill Park for Incredible Views

Once you’ve had your fill of strolling at sea level, it’s time to literally take things to new heights with a hike up to Castle Hill, or Colline du Château, as it’s known in French.

The hike is definitely one of the most special things to do in Nice, as you’ll gain an entirely new perspective of the city from up here.

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(Don’t worry, there’s also a free elevator up to Castle Hill Park if you’d prefer.)

In addition to offering ridiculously amazing views, Castle Hill Park is also home to Cascade Dijon (a manmade waterfall) as well as a cemetery separated into three sections for Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish citizens.

Stop for Lunch & Visit Nice’s Old Port

When your energy starts to dip, it’s time to stop for lunch at one of Nice’s many wonderful eateries. Budget-conscious travelers will love the selection of reasonably-priced eateries throughout the city.

While your stomach is settling, I recommend taking an easy stroll over to the Old Port. The dock is the perfect spot to sit and relax while watching the colorful array of boats bobbing in the harbor.

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In addition, if you’re lucky, you may even catch an artist or two capturing the romantic scene on canvas!

Relax on One of Nice’s Public Beaches

Once you’ve had your fill of boat-watching, I recommend checking out one of the city’s public beaches.

Although Nice’s private beaches are definitely more upscale in terms of amenities like loungers and umbrellas, I frankly don’t think they’re worth the steep price tag for a brief visit.

Instead, La Reserve is a great public beach option located within close walking distance of Nice’s Old Port.

Just keep in mind that tops are optional here and many local beachgoers prefer sunbathing and swimming without them!

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Experience Local Culture on a Guided Tour

Beyond the beach scene, if you’re looking to learn more about the local culture and history of Nice, consider a guided experience.

You can read about all of the city offerings from food tours to perfume-making classes in my guide to the best things to do in Nice.

In addition, you may wish to check out one of the Nice’s many museums, provided you have room in your schedule.

Enjoy a Memorable Dinner

When it comes time for dinner, I highly recommend treating yourself to an unforgettable dining experience atop the crystal-blue sea at Le Plongeoir.

This restaurant serves up modern Mediterranean cuisine and unbelievable ocean views!

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Alternatively, if you’d prefer a more down-to-earth venue, I can personally vouch for Di Yar, which serves fresh and tasty Lebanese food.

For additional options, check out these other restaurant favorites in Nice.

Day 2: Villefranche-sur-Mer & Èze

Brief Overview of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villefranche-sur-Mer is Nice’s quieter and more relaxed (but equally colorful) cousin.

This sleepy harbor town is the counterpoint to Nice’s stimulating city environment. Ideal for the slow traveler, Villefranche is the perfect place to soak in the beauty of the Mediterranean away from the crowds.

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How to Get to Villefranche-sur-Mer from Nice

Villefrance-sur-Mer is actually one of the best day trip options from Nice, as it’s approximately 11 minutes away by train!

Alternatively, if you decide to travel by car, you can reach the village in about 20 minutes.

However, if you’re looking to savor a slower travel experience, I recommend doing the 90-minute hike from Nice.

While this will obviously require more effort, the beautiful coastal views along the way will surely make it worth it! 

Villefranche-sur-Mer Itinerary

Get Breakfast & Wander Along the Harbor

As the Villefranche vibe is considerably more laidback than that of Nice, I’d resist the urge to cram too many things into this portion of your French Riviera itinerary.

Instead, try to embrace the more relaxed pace of life.

Kick off the day with a light breakfast at one of the charming seaside eateries and then stroll along the harbor to catch a nice sea breeze.

In addition, there’s also Plage des Marinières, a laidback, fine-gravel beach, if you wish to go for a dip or simply soak up some sun.

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Explore the Colorful Buildings of the Old Town

Once you’ve gotten a sufficient dose of “Vitamin Sea,” head up the steps behind the waterfront restaurants to explore the charming Old Town and its characteristic colorful buildings.

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Additionally, if you’d prefer more physical activity after your Old Town exploration, I recommend taking the hike up to Citadelle Saint-Elme, the town’s historic military fortress.

I’d also suggest booking a bike or Segway tour if you’d like to cover more ground in less time.

After you’ve gotten a good overview of Villefranche-sur-Mer, it’s time to move on to our second and final spot for the day, Èze.

Brief Overview of Èze

The charming commune of Èze is perched atop a hill, offering splendid views of the Riviera. It runs along the coast from Cap Roux to the Cabuel Point.

Unfortunately, my biggest regret of our French Riviera trip was that my husband and I didn’t have quite enough time to visit.

Since we were collaborating with a property in Sanremo, we weren’t able to base ourselves directly in France and therefore couldn’t fit Èze into our French Riviera itinerary.

That said, I definitely have this charming place on my radar for a future visit and wanted to include it here as it’s at the top of my list!

How to Get to Èze from Villefranche-sur-Mer

Èze is conveniently located just under four miles from Villefranche-sur-Mer. For this reason, some people opt to walk between the towns. 

That said, the hike up to Èze is quite steep and much of the foot path is rugged, so you’ll probably want to hop on the train to save yourself some time and energy.

The train ride between the towns takes only about six minutes on average, with tickets as low as 2.62 EUR ($3 USD).

You can check out the timetable and book a train ticket in advance.

Èze Itinerary

I’ll be sure to update this section with more detail when I make it to this storybook town.

However, I can tell you that Èze is super tiny, so it should only really take about half an hour or so to see it all.

Here are some fun activities to enjoy in Èze:

  • Wander (and ogle) the cobblestone streets
  • Visit Église-Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption (Èze Church)
  • Stroll the Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden)
  • Shop for souvenirs at the charming boutiques
  • Hike Nietzsche Path
  • Swim at Èze Beach
  • Tour the Fragonard Parfumeur (Perfume Factory)

Day 3: Menton

Brief Overview of Menton

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Menton. In fact, it’s my favorite destination on this French Riviera itinerary, hands-down.

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With its close proximity to the Northern Italian border and the city of Sanremo, Menton has the most Mediterranean climate of all the French Riviera towns.

Plus, in addition to all of the dreamy Menton photo spots, the town has everything from beautiful beaches, to interesting museums, to gorgeous gardens.

Frankly, I definitely would’ve spent more than a day here if I had the time!

How to Get to Menton from Nice

Menton is located about 15 miles from Nice. It takes around 40 minutes to travel to Menton from Nice by train and a little over half an hour by car.

PRO TIP: If you’re traveling by train, the most cost-effective option is to purchase your tickets ahead of time. Tickets start at 5.25 EUR ($6.01 USD) and you can purchase them in advance here.

Menton Itinerary

Get Breakfast & Wander the Old Town

Start your day off right with a tasty meal at one of Menton’s best breakfast restaurants.

After your palette is satisfied and your belly is full, it’s time to explore the beautiful offerings of this special town. 

First off, since Menton has so many incredible photo spots throughout its Old Town, I highly recommend wandering around here with your camera.

Trust me, you could easily spend an entire day photographing the winding streets and doing nothing else!

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However, I’d prefer to give you the full lay of the land in this French Riviera itinerary.

Speaking of, you may want to join a guided walking tour while you’re here to learn more about the local history with some fun legends mixed in!

Admire the Basilica of Saint Michael Archangel

Next, it’s time to pay a visit to the iconic Basilica of Saint Michael Archangel.

If you’ve seen photos of Menton before, then I’m sure you’ll immediately recognize the characteristic yellow facade and impressive ramped staircase.

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Relax at Plage des Sablettes

Once you head down the staircase, you’ll reach the waterfront where you’ll find Plage des Sablettes, one of the area’s favorite beaches.

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Plus, the beach is free to access, so I’d suggest spending some time here to relax and enjoy. You can also rent a lounger and an umbrella if you plan to stay for a few hours.

Visit The Jean Cocteau Museum

When you’ve had enough fun in the sun, head down the waterfront to the Jean Cocteau Museum to see the work of one of France’s beloved celebrities.

Dedicated to French artist, writer, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, this eye-catching museum resembles a series of giant white funnels.

As compelling as it is functional, the stark and modern white design was an intentional choice to protect the interior by reflecting Menton’s harsh sunlight.

What to Know Before You Go:

The Jean Cocteau Museum is open every day from 10AM – 6PM except for Tuesdays, when it’s closed.

The museum is also closed on New Year’s Day and Christmas Day as well as on November 1 and May 1.

Tickets cost 8 EUR ($9.16 USD) and can be purchased at the door. Children under 18, job seekers, and those with disabilities can enter free of charge.

How to Get Here:

The Jean Cocteau Museum is located at Quai Napoléon III – Bastion du Vieux Port, 06500 in Menton.

Stroll Around Jardin Serre de la Madone

Jardin Serre de la Madone is a sanctuary for plant and nature lovers. 

Located in the Gorbio valley, this beautiful garden is home to exotic subtropical plants and dreamy reflecting pools. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon in peaceful reflection and take a stroll in the sunshine.

What to Know Before You Go:

Jardin Serre de la Madone is open daily from 10AM – 6PM except for Mondays, when it’s closed.

How to Get Here:

Jardin Serre de la Madone is located at 74 Route du Val de Gorbio, 06500 in Menton.

Watch the Sunset from Quai Impératrice Eugénie

Just before sunset, I recommend heading back to the heart of Menton. From here, head to Quai Impératrice Eugénie (by the beach) and venture out onto the breakwater.

The Menton skyline is truly stunning from this perspective and it’s all the more incredible as the sun goes down!

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Enjoy a Lemon-Inspired Dinner in Menton

After sunset, it’s time to sit down to a relaxing dinner.

Since Menton is known for its fragrant lemons, I highly recommend ordering a lemon-infused dish for dinner if you can find one.

My restaurant recommendation is La Rotonde Menton because they have a delicious Ravioli maison au Citron du Pays (homemade ravioli with local lemon). This dish was a first for me and it was absolutely divine.

I wish I had photographic evidence of it, but I devoured it way too quickly!

That brings us to the end of this detailed three-day French Riviera itinerary. I hope that you enjoyed a virtual taste of Southern France and that this guide has inspired you to plan a trip of your own.

The French Riviera was one of my favorite trips to date and I hope to return and explore some more of this  wonderful region.

Have you ever visited the Côte d’Azur? What would you add to this French Riviera itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!

Planning a visit to the French Riviera? Check out my other guides:

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Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel
Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel
Are you dreaming of traveling to Southern France? Then this 3-day French Riviera itinerary will help make that dream a reality. You’ll discover the best things to do and where to stay along the Côte d'Azur while visiting the area’s most beautiful cities and towns, including Nice, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Èze. Come discover some of the most popular attractions and best hidden gems along the picturesque French Riviera. #frenchrivieratravel #southernfrancetravel #francetravel