Discover the French Riviera in Winter

Think French Riviera, but be original. Get away from the intensive summer tourist traffic, and keep the exceptional luminosity and mild climate for yourself: come in winter!

french riviera winter

The winter season in the French Riviera

Discover the magic of the French Riviera in winter.

You’re never bored, in winter, on the French Riviera! Let’s take a few examples. The illuminations and fairy-tale windows of Saint-Tropez are famous, and honour Provençal traditions during the whole month of December, with as a bonus an ice rink, carriage rides, and gourmet chalets.

It is when the summer tourists are gone that the islands of the French Riviera reveal all their splendours: leave for Porquerolles, Port-Cros, Saint-Marguerite, Bendor, Les Embiez or Saint-Honorat! Porquerolles, its beautiful beaches and hiking trails, or Port-Cros, are so much better enjoyed in the low season.

In Saint-Honorat, you will see the monastery and its vineyards. Perhaps, on the island of Sainte-Marguerite, off the coast of Cannes, you will come across the ghost of the iron mask, which was imprisoned there for eleven years. The landscape is especially superb with a multitude of sea birds: grebes, gulls, great egrets and grey herons. In Bendor, 150 metres off the coast of Bandol, you will be amazed by the colourful houses and a whole population of pink marble statues, brought by Paul Ricard from the 1950s onwards.

The oceanographic institute wanted by the master of pastis is located on the island of Embiez, in a former Napoleonic fort. And that’s not all…

 

Rent a villa on the French Riviera to relax and enjoy a superb climate.

The exceptional climate of the French Riviera ensures a pleasant and relaxing stay all year round. But the best idea is to come in winter.

By choosing Nice and its surroundings, to enjoy your winter holidays, you are sure to spend unforgettable moments in a particularly mild climate. Do you feel like cracking up and renting a villa in Nice? Go to the John Taylor © website.

 

The museums of the French Riviera, or how never to get bored

Climate is not everything. You still have to find something to do and make good memories. For that, the French Riviera is there for you. Start by seeing the museums, which promise visits that are not only pleasant, but varied and of a very good standard.

 

The Matisse Museum of the city of Nice, located at 64, Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, offers a superb collection of the eponymous artist, as well as many other important American and European artists. The Marc Chagall National Museum, avenue Docteur Ménard in Nice, has the particularity of offering a creative tour and fun activities accessible to children from the age of 5. Conference visits are also planned for adults.

 

Little secret between friends: the museum’s refreshment bar, with its little ones in case of fast food, set in a Mediterranean garden rich in olive trees, cypresses and other pines, is simply divine. In the pretty town of Biot, also famous for its local glassworks, you will visit the Fernand Léger National Museum, located on the Chemin du Val de Pôme. It presents a masterful collection of the works of the painter (1881-1955), from his first paintings to his monumental decorative sculptures.

 

To discover another kind of modern painting, under the Nice sun, don’t miss the Musée d’Art Naïf Anatole Jakovsky, in the Château Sainte Hélène (accessible by tram on line 2: stop Fabron). The Nice region is also rich in the Picasso Museum of Antibes, which overlooks the sea.

 

As for the Palais Lascaris in Nice, its origins date back to 1648. Decorated with gildings, paintings and period furniture, it is home to one of the most important collections of ancient musical instruments in Europe. Located 15 rue Droite in Nice, it is accessible by tramway, line 1 stop Cathedral Old Town or Garibaldi, or line 2 stop Garibaldi Le Château.

 

For a plunge into the beauty of the underwater world, the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, located on Avenue Saint Martin, is well worth a visit. Its thousands of aquatic guests, spread over 90 pools, are a real delight for the eyes. They also learn about and protect the oceans. In addition, a new area of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco presents, on 550 m2, the odyssey of the underwater turtles: fascinating.

 

Hiking in the French Riviera, walks in an exceptional landscape

The French Riviera is particularly rich in possibilities for walks and open-air visits. You don’t have to go far to find yourself in the middle of nature. The Honoré d’Estienne d’Orves Departmental Natural Park is located in the very heart of Nice. It stretches to the top of the Corniche de Magnan and overlooks the Baie des Anges.

 

The Jardin des Arènes de Cimiez overlooks the hill of the same name, and also offers beautiful walks in the shade of century-old olive trees. On the heights of Nice, in the heart of vegetation made up of umbrella pines and Aleppo pines, carob and wild olive trees, orchids and irises, take the footpaths leading to Mont Boron and the Fort du Mont Alban, at an altitude of 223 metres. Once at the top, you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the Baie des Anges.

Then, walk along the trails of the Esterel Natural Park. Very popular with hikers, it is distinguished by its red rocks of volcanic origin. On 959 hectares, between Mandelieu-La-Napoule and Théoule-sur-Mer, you will find lavender from the Maures, the immortal of the sands, and sometimes some rare orchids.

 

Many sea birds can be seen here, such as terns and gulls. Between the groves of yellow broom you may find the last species of wild land turtle existing in France, the Hermann’s turtle. You can walk to the Mont Saint Martin, or to the Rocher des Monges, or climb to the summit of the Petites et Grosses Grues. You can also go and see the ancient volcano of Maure Vieille.

 

Nearby, in Théoule-sur-mer, the Pointe de l’Aiguille Natural Park unrolls its red rocks which plunge into the sea. Its paths allow you to walk along the cliffs, in a superb landscape. From the Belvedere, you will have a view over the entire Gulf of La Napoule.

The Parc de la Valmasque, a large forest park of 428 hectares, is situated between Valbonne and Mougins, and offers many exciting courses. It is rich in numerous discovery trails, a magnificent forest of pines and oaks, a pond adorned with water lilies, and even tracks equipped for bicycles and mountain bikes.

 

To the north and west of Sophia-Antipolis, take the paths of the 633-hectare La Brague Nature Park. As you follow the waters of La Brague, you are likely to see water hens, ducks and woodcocks, or even herons.

 

About 20 km from Nice, for hikers and mountain bikers alike, the ascent of Mont Macaron, at 806 metres, offers a great breath of fresh air. Near Châteauneuf-Villevieille, you will see the ruins of the old village, abandoned in the 17th century, and the castle on the heights.

 

Its ski resorts, for a convivial, warm, and sporty winter!

Only an hour’s drive from Nice, don’t miss the resort of La Colmiane, with 30 kilometres of good quality ski runs, served by 6 ski lifts including 1 chair lift. The largest zip line in France, with a total length of 2,663 metres, is at La Colmiane!

 

Another good idea, another possibility of discovery, the resort of Valberg is located at one hour 15 from Nice, in the heart of the Mercantour massif: it’s the next door! This winter sports resort includes the communes of Guillaumes, Péone and Beuil. You will enjoy its ski area with about 50 downhill ski slopes, the snow park, 3 cross-country ski runs, the covered and heated swimming pool, snowmobile circuits, and 4 snowshoe hiking trails.

 

Less than an hour and a half from Nice, you also have the resort of Auron, with its 46 downhill ski slopes, at an altitude of 1600 metres and at the gateway to the Mercantour National Park. These are three resorts that have been noticed among others…

We’re not going to lie to ourselves: after a good day of skiing in the open air, what a pleasure to savour a good fondue, a raclette, accompanied by mulled wine, or a chocolate with kirsch!

 

You should never sulk over your pleasure. But La Colmiane, Valberg and Auron were only three examples, among others…

 

Its mountains, magical and rich in preserved flora and fauna.

The Mercantour National Park extends over 28 municipalities…If you are lucky, you will be able to see ibexes, chamois and mouflons, as well as ermines and marmots, among others.

 

Christmas markets, the festive season and fairy tales

Would you like to enjoy illuminations, chocolates and mulled wine, waffles… a slide on the ice rink and a nice visit to the Santa Claus village? To enjoy all the joys of the end of the year, the French Riviera offers, in a particularly mild climate, many festivities and beautiful walks, with family or friends, in the Christmas markets.

 

It is traditionally the city of Cannes which opens the ball, from the end of November, but it is closely followed by the Christmas markets of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Monaco, Nice and Menton, from the beginning of December, then by that of Antibes, around December 15th, to makthe magic of Christmas reign until January.

 

This is the ideal opportunity to enjoy the spirit of Christmas from one end of the region to the other. However, it is undoubtedly the Christmas village of Nice which is the largest, with about sixty gourmet or craft chalets, a Ferris wheel, an open-air skating rink, a giant nativity scene with life-size automatons, musical entertainment, shows for all, or magic shows, free and outside, in the afternoons. There are even open-air cinema evenings. But that’s not all.

 

Its parties, full of flowers, high and colourful, and so joyful…

Among the events not to be missed, in winter, on the French Riviera, there is also the Nice Carnival, the Lemon Festival in Menton, and the Mimosa Festival in Mandelieu-La Napoule. This is the winning trio, to enjoy the local joie de vivre, and the flavours of the soil.

 

The famous Nice Carnival, a must!

Imagine: one of the three biggest carnivals in the world, hundreds of thousands of spectators, coming from all over the world, a thousand dancers and musicians in costumes, in a word, a winter fairy tale and breathtaking, during two weeks in February. You will be able to admire unforgettable giant parades on the waterfront.

 

About twenty flowered floats will throw thousands of flowers at you. Every year, its Carnival majesty takes possession of the keys of the city on the Masséna square, and announces the reign of the ephemeral, of festivity and joy, for 15 days of madness. Confetti, flowers and streamers burst forth from everywhere. At the end, the King’s chariot is burnt. The Nice carnival, you have to see it once in your life!

 

The lemon festival

menton lemon festival

The lemon festival in Menton is fabulous to see.

Imagine more than 200,000 visitors, who come every year to admire a particularly atypical carnival, a lemon-yellow carnival, full of vitamins and joie de vivre. For more than 15 days, day and night, in Menton it is a parade of floats decorated with lemons and oranges, which has its origins in the 1920s, when the town was Europe’s leading producer of lemons.

 

So, even today, taste with pleasure this lively, bright yellow carnival, with its superb parade of about twenty citrus-painted floats, its nocturnal and festive lighting, and its fireworks at nightfall. Between February and the beginning of March, there is an explosion of fruity fantasy throughout the city. Parades of sumptuous floats, musicians, dancers, everything is there, for the pleasure of the eyes. It’s pure joy: why deprive yourself of it?

 

Every year in February, the mimosa festival is held.

But you haven’t seen everything. Mandelieu-La Napoule is a pretty town situated on the seafront, south of Nice and not far from Cannes. It is there, on this sunny coast even in winter, that the stunning Mimosa Festival takes place every year.

 

The mimosa was introduced into the country in 1839, imported from Australia, at the time a British colony. The mimosa has made the region’s fortune. Even today, two million stems are still harvested every year. To honour this tree and its delicate flowers, since 1931 a sumptuous street party has been organised.

 

It is far from being a small, confidential festival: every year, local producers provide 12 tons of flowers, for the decoration of the floats and the flower battles… this gives an idea of the extraordinary atmosphere that makes the whole town vibrate for a fortnight.

 

Whether you go to the carnival or not, the surrounding hills will offer you a hundred or so fragrant escapades, between Bormes-les-Mimosas and Grasse, passing through Mandelieu. There is so much to do and see on the French Riviera in winter! You will come to enjoy it, and, for sure, you will come back!

Author: Amy Hall

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