What to do on the French Riviera

beach resort french riviera

What to do, what to do.

Let’s say your friend calls you randomly one nasty freezing grey day in the Spring and says casually, ‘Hey so I’m headed to Cannes at the end of May, wanna come?’.  How would you react?

What to do in Antibes France

I was on my way to swim practice with the kids on my headset in the car, on a cold and rainy grey day in early April.  It had probably snowed 6 inches the day before.  I was in an endless cycle of work, swim practice, dinner, groceries, dishes, and laundry with a touch of regular migraines thrown in for spice.  What would you have said?

I’m pretty sure some profanity came out of my mouth, let’s get real here, and I sputtered something along the lines of, ‘DUDE.  Dude.  DUUUUUDE.  What the fuh?  For serious?  DUDE.’

My speech gets really articulate under duress, stop judging me.

what to do on the riviera

Initially I said no.  No, I’m sorry, I can’t leave for two weeks at the end of May right when the kids are finishing school for the year and doing all the end of school performances and plays and all the rest of the end-of-year-wrap-up-nonsense.  We don’t have piles of cash laying around, we’re in the middle of an enormous master bathroom remodel. Not to mention I’d miss my 15th wedding anniversary.  Nope, can’t do it.  Lovely thought, but no.

Once Viktor found out about it, it was game over.  ‘There are other anniversaries’, he said.  ‘There won’t be another opportunity to go to the Cannes Film Festival with one of your best friends.  You’re going, end of discussion.’

garden beach hotel antibes france

I tried to flim-flam over the cost of tickets, missing an important anniversary, the therapy my kids would need as a result of me missing their end-of-year assemblies and field days,  and did I mention tickets to France are pricey?

Viktor had none of it, coordinated directly with my friend, and bought a ticket without telling me which goes a long way in explaining why I’ve been with him for the last 17 years.  He’s a dream.

yachts on the french riviera

So, FRANCE.  It’s okay, I guess.  The French Riviera is meh, and I just couldn’t figure out WHAT TO DO with all that turquoise water and gently lapping waves and sunshine and croissants and FRENCH RIVIERA.


European beaches

It’s gorgeous, stunning, the place billionaires go to play on their kabillionty dollar (excuse me, Euro) yachts with swimming pools and butlers.  Monaco, 15 minutes away by train was the playground for rich and famous European royalty centuries before it became a celebrity hotspot and boating extravaganza for Beyonce and Jay-to-the-Z.  Monaco is home to the most millionaires and billionaires in the world, yo.  Eeez niiice.

Whatever, I’ve been to Reno.  I know how to party.

beach hotel on the French Riviera

Anyway.  Should you ever find yourself in the south of France, like you do, I’ve compiled a list of what to do on the French Riviera.  Be Prepared, it’s the Boy Scout motto.

what to do in Antibes

What To Do On The French Riviera:


1.  Get ripped off like a tourist in a foreign resort town

You will be charged and overcharged for everything.  Plan accordingly.  If you plan to go to the beach (that should be your only plan) pack a towel.  You aren’t allowed to take hotel towels to the beach and it’s 5 Euros to rent one.  Even if you’re a guest of a hotel on the beach, lounge chairs with a towel are 25 Euros a day.  I improvised and used my beach cover-up as a towel because I’m cheap at heart you guys.  Very cheap.

It’s cool, you’re an industrious sort of person, you’ll figure it out.

2.  Lie on the beach.  All day every day.

This is self-explanatory.

3.  Take a dip in the sea, it will completely sort you out

A direct quote from our (hotel room) next door neighbor, an honest-to-goodness (James-Bond-like) British aristocrat married to a Baroness.  It’s true though, with crazy jet lag a dip in the sea was just what I needed to get ‘sorted out’.  There aren’t any waves, just gently lapping pseudo-waves like a lazy lake in Montana, only with warm-ish seawater instead of glacier runoff.  The water is super shallow, and people were out swimming laps next to the yachts.

4.  Lie nude on the beach

If you’ve ever secretly wanted to lie on a nude beach, there is no better place than the French Riviera.  There are straight up nude beaches, but the regular beach is cool with whatever makes you happy.  Topless 90-year-old women?  Bring it.

The best thing about French beaches, and I imagine it’s the same on most European beaches (correct me if I’m wrong), is that no one cares what you look like naked.  NO ONE.  Not even the gaggles of girls on the beach, at least in any language I understand, even “mean girl” which is universal.  Everyone just lets it all hang out;  body image doesn’t seem to be as dysmorphic as it is in the United States.

massage on beach

5.  Get a naked massage in the sand

Do you see a naked theme here?

My first day on the beach, after I got all relaxed and found a place for my sparkling water to rest, I noticed something weird off to the side.

I didn’t understand what I was looking at, so instead of staring until I could figure it out I took an incognito picture to look at on my camera.

Dude, there was a lady getting a massage on the beach!  And what in the what, she was totally naked on the sand.

france nude beaches

I’m not much of a prude, but I felt very American all of a sudden.  I privately died inside for about 30 seconds before I was like, hold the phone, ‘I WANT A NAKED MASSAGE ON THE BEACH.’

beaches in antibes

So I totally got one, and it was the most glorious thing I’ve ever experienced.  30 minutes for 25 Euros, blissed out in the sun listening to French being spoken in the hazy distance, cold sparkling water at hand.  All of my favorite things together in one place, like the universe and all the stars aligned.

And then I was super bugged I’ve never been offered a naked massage in Huntington Beach, California.

What a rip off.

what to do on the french riviera

6.  Wander the town

We stayed in the teeny tiny town of Antibes, small just like Nice and Cannes which are basically cute little villages on the sea with all the charming overly expensive shops and adorable cafes you’d expect, perfect for wandering and exploring.

hotel savoy french riviera

7.  Spend time in a French grocery store

If you’re out of ideas of what to do on the French Riviera (you won’t be) spend some time wandering the aisles of a grocery store.  I love doing this when I travel internationally.  It says so much about each culture.  The tiny little grocery store I wandered had an entire aisle dedicated to beauty and skin products, but only one kind of deodorant.  One.  I’m totally devoting a whole post to it, but I got in a little bit of trouble for taking pictures of the produce.  Whoops.

beachside hotel french riviera

8. Sit and relax

The French are good at chilling out.  Take 2 or 3 hours to eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner.  No, really.  Enjoy your company, read a book, do nothing at all, but sit and enjoy every minute of whatever it is you’re doing.

Joie de vivre.

what to do in antibes france 9. Eat the local cuisine

I’m not a fan of seafood, or pâté of any kind but I ate both on the French Riviera.  I even took a handful of bites of foie gras mousse at the fanciest restaurant in Cannes.  It was my personal idea of hell, but figured it was probably the first and last time I’d ever be there, life is short, and why not?


Plus, there are a lot of crêpes, amazing cheeses and breads, and tasty drinks aplenty so it’s not like you’ll starve.

what to eat in France

10.  Gamble in Monaco

If you’re the gambling sort (I’m not) spend some time gambling in Monaco.  The main casino has been in use since the early 19th century, and the architecture is stunning.  It’s worth checking out, just because of awesome.  General awesome.

Now you have a comprehensive list, should you ever want to hang out in the south of France (and you should want to) of what to do on the French Riviera.

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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. Meg :

    For starters, you’re hilarious. I think this is my favorite post of yours.
    Second, naked massage on the beach? I never thought I’d say this, but I’m in.
    And “C,” I’m so happy that you went! I’ve always wanted to go to the French Riviera; looks like you did it right and enjoyed yourself. Love that. :)

    • Allison :

      Ha! Well, totally naked massages on the beach are far more glorious than they sound, and they sound pretty great.

      I’m so happy I went too, thank you!

  2. Denise C. :

    Sounds like a trip of a lifetime. One glaring question…was your butt nekkid massage on the beach sandy at all? You know how it feels when you put sunscreen on and bits of sand gets in it and it suddenly feels like serious exfoliation? I keep imagining it was like that.

    I shall raise a glass to your husband, my friend. He sounds like a good man.

    • Allison :

      It totally was a trip of a lifetime, I feel so lucky!

      My butt was a little nekkid but not all the way because I was next to a group of about 6 dudes. It wasn’t bad like you’d imagine with the sand, but all I had to do was take a dip in the sea to rinse!