Panoramic hikes of the French Riviera
When planning to visit this part of the world, most of the travel guides will focus on museums, sightseeing places and what to see over a week-end. What it is hard to find and time-spending is to search for uncommon places out of the beaten tracks where locals normally go to find some peace and quiet.
Here is my personal selection of the most and less known coastal paths of this spectacular Mediterranean region which reveals little corners of paradise just a stone away from bustling cities. These trails are all easy and feasible by families looking for picnic spots or for hikers, like myself, looking for a sporty promenade offering gorgeous landscapes and views over the sea.
The following coastal paths are easily reachable by public transports too so no need to hire a car if you are travelling alone and on a budget in this expensive region!
Cap d’Ail Coastal Path
If you are looking for an easy walk along the sea, this 5 km long walk will be perfect to swim along the little coves along the trail or to snorkel in the turquoise waters of the wild Mala beach. The trails alternates views over grand villas once occupied by artists and celebrities such as W. Churchill, Greta Garbo etc surrounded by local succulent plants and flowers and rocky peninsulas.
This coastal path links the Mala beach to the Cap Rognoso where an open air little restaurant is installed for refreshments and quick meals facing a park area where children can play. Continue walking up to Cap d’Ail to reach Monaco. The Mala beach is equipped with a private high end beach an it is possible to hire kayaks or simply relax on this pebble beach looking at the surrounding impressive cliffs.
Here is the Randoxygène map of the walk:
Where to start: it is possible to begin either at the Marquet beach
at the border with Monaco, or from the Cap d’Ail train station where you need
to follow the “Sentier du Littoral” directions leading you through a
tunnel down to the sea. You will see a little cove with transparent waters near
the “La Pinède” restaurant: turn right to reach the Mala beach after
numerous stairs (bear in mind that the path is dangerous where the sea is very
wavy and it can be closed) or turn right towards the diving club to head towards
How to get here: from Nice take the train and stop at Cap d’ Ail train station (25 minutes); from Monaco it take 3 minutes by train. There is also bus 100 Nice-Monaco which runs every hour from the harbour of Nice and a single ticket costs only 1,50€, but the journey is much longer and less comfortable.
Where to eat: according to your budget, you can either have a sea view lunch in the airy and sophisticated “La Pinède” restaurant renowned for its fresh fish specialties and lovely panoramic views over the sea or simply have a picnic at the Mala beach, on the benches along the path or in the Sacha Guitry Park near the train station surrounded by local vegetation and
overlooking the sea.
Another exclusive perfect trail to admire the beauty of nature but also luxury villas in the “Baie des Milliardaires“, the Bay of the BIllionaires, ” is the Cap d’Antibes footpath starting at the beautiful Plage de la Garoupe. This 5 km trails is another ideal easy option for those who are looking for secluded coves and rocky paths where silence is only broken by seagulls.
The path features many stairs and a wild secluded beach at the end of the trail, the Eden Rock beach near the homonym 5* Eden Rock Hotel dominating the peninsula, surrounded by luxuriant vegetation and a huge park.
Here is the Randoxygène map of the walk:
Where to start: The walks starts at the Plage de la Garoupe famous for its sandy seabed and transparent waters. If you come by car leave it at the homonym parking.
How to get there: You can come by car or you can take a train from Nice, for example, which takes 20 minutes and then take bus number 2 at the Antibes train station stopping near the Plage de la Garoupe.
Where to eat: you can eat a lovely meal at the “le Rocher” restaurant on the beach, or you can picnic along the cap d’ Antibes footpath near one of the coves or at the Eden Rock beach towards the end of the path.
St. Jean Cap Ferrat
Surrounded by a high-end residential areas, gorgeous beaches and a luxuriant vegetation, the peninsula of St. Jean Cap Ferrat is located between the village of Villefranche sur Mer and the town of Beaulieu sur Mer. Perfectly connected by railways and public transports, this area kept a feeling of a natural reserve and a paradise for divers and snorkelers looking for local fish species.
The Tour of Cap Ferrat takes 2 hours for completing and it is one of my favourite trails in the world for the beauty of the landscape, the secluded rocky coves on the trail and the outstanding views over the huge lighthouse and Villefranche sur Mer.
The trails is not ideal for strollers due to the many stairs and narrow footpaths. There are fountains with drinkable waters at the beginning of the trail. Stop at the coves on the west side of the peninsula to find turquoise waters to bathe in. You can also extend this 6 km trail adding one more hour walk doing the tour of the St. Hospice peninsula and chapel covered by maritime pines and ending up at the pebbly Paloma beach.
Here is the Randoxygène map:
Where to start: from Nice take the train and stop in Beaulieu sur Mer, reach the Plage des Fourmies and follow the seaside promenade Maurice Rouvier where directions will point you towards the coastal path. You will then reach St. Jean’s village and harbour. From here keep on walking until you reach the Plage des Fosses. Here you will have a gorgeous view over the crystal waters of this beach and you can find a fountain providing drinkable water. Go to the left to start the St. Hospice coastal path (45 minutes) or head right towards the Avenue Claude Vignon, then turn left taking the Chemin de la Carrière to start the Tour du Cap Ferrat following the directions.
How to get there: from Nice, take bus 15 from the “Promenade des Arts” to reach in 30 minutes the harbour of St. Jean. You can also take the train from Nice-Ville and stop at Beaulieu sur Mer (15 minutes)
What to eat: the path is a great area to eat a picnic watching the sea and the panorama; alternatively you can stop at the Seaside Cafe: a little restaurant cooking simple meals or pizzas offering good value for money lunch menus on the sea-view terrace for around 16€ per person (pretty economic considering the glitzy location and average prices).
Cap de Nice towards Villefranche sur Mer
Living in Nice, this my absolutely favourite hike since in two hours it allows to move from the busy and noisy Nice the little traditional fishing village of Villefranche sur Mer, a quiet colourful village with an Italianate architecture, narrow alleys, little seafood restaurants and a gorgeous golden bay dotted with boats.
Villefranche sur Mer is a popular cruise stop in the Mediterranean since it has many cultural and historical highlights such as the Rue Obscure, a XIV th century dark alley where people used to hide during pirates’ attacks, the medieval citadel where free entry art museums, an open air theatre and lovely sea-view gardens make of this place the perfect place to take beautiful pictures, relax and hold an event.
Here is the map of the path found on a local magazine:
Where to start: go to the end of Bd. Frack Pilatte, go past “La Réserve” beach up to the Coco Beach. You will find a wooden panel indicating the beginning of the coastal path and stairs going downstairs. You can also start the path the other way around from Villefranche sur Mer (two stops by train from Nice-Ville), starting the path at the end of the Darse little harbour.
How to get there: from Nice, take the bus 38 and stop at “La Réserve”. From Villefranche sur Mer, take the train (two stops only from Nice-Ville) and stop at Villefranche sur Mer.
Where to eat: ideally you can bring your own picnic and eat on the trail where various rocky benches and coves offer a lovely scenery for your lunch or you can reach Villefranche sur Mer and eat local specialties at the restaurant “La Grignotière” , a typical little restaurant situated along the main street called “Rue du Poilu“.
Cap Martin – Promenade le Corbusier
Another famous easy hike on the coast is the one starting from the Roquebrune Cap Martin train station and ending in Carnoles, following the ancient smugglers paths. Today this path is a balcony on the sea which allows the walkers to spot some Belle Epoque villas, such as the one of the famous Irish artist Eileen Gray and spectacular views of Monaco skyscrapers and the Italian coast.
Along this 4,5 km path, you will find the “Cabane du Corbusier”, “the smuggler’s hut”, a little wooden modern cabin built for holidays by the architect Charles Jeanneret, alias “Le Corbusier” who used to spend most of his time to find inspiration in nature.
The area is rich in exotic plants imported during 19th century to embellish the grand mansions and gardens such as Villa Cyrnos, once occupied by Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III.
The trails has various stairs so it may not be suitable for strollers.
Find below the Randoxygène map:
Where to start: you can either start the path from the beach of Carnoles or the train station of Roquebrune Cap Martin.
How to get there: from Nice, take the train at and toward Ventimiglia, stopping at Roquebrune Cap Martin (35 minutes by train)
Where to eat: the best to enjoy the views without breaking the bank is to have a picnic on the trail. Otherwise you can have lunch at Le Cabanon on the Plage du Buse, a boho chic restaurant with gorgeous views over the blue waters preparing Italian inspired dishes. Don’t expect economic prices or abundant portions though.
Ile St. Marguerite
This 7 km long island situated at 10 minute of ferry from the glitzy Cannes is a true oasis of peace and an idyllic place for walkers and snorkelers who will be delighted to find out colourful fishes and little coves immersed in the Mediterranean vegetation.
Multiples paths are available on this island. This is the most popular one: a flat easy walk passing beside the birdwatching reserve and the Fort Royal, which according to the legend hosted in 1680 the anonymous prisoner wearing an Iron Mask whose identity was never revealed. The prison and cell can be visited and the building is also home to an interesting Marine museum. The visit to the fort is worth for the beautiful views over Cannes and the nearby St. Honorat island inhabited by monks making wine.
Don’t miss the Eucalyptus forest in the middle of the island and make sure to bring plenty of water and sun cream during summer: the island is not inhabited no vehicles or bikes are authorised.
Here is the Randoxygène map:
Where to start: all hike start at the little harbour once you land on the island. This is one of the hikes available but you can also do the whole circular tour of this 7 km long island.
How to get there: from Nice, take the train to Cannes, head to the old harbour and buy the tickets in advance to avoid the queuing. The ferry ride will last only 10 minutes.
Where to eat: I usually picnic on this island and eat looking at the sea. The only restaurant is near the harbour and offers light menus and ice-creams. During summer this restaurants is very busy and service is very slow. If you want to enjoy more time exploring this gorgeous island, pack a picnic and eat on the trails surrounded by nature.
Nietzsche’s path to Eze village
This rocky path starting from the train station of Eze sur Mer is the hardest but also most scenic access to the medieval village of Eze built at 427 meters above the sea towering on the top of the hill. The panoramic sea views will boost your energy enough to reach the romantic cobbled streets of old village, elected one of the most beautiful hamlets of France.
The trail is around 4 km long and it used to be the favourite place for quiet reflection and inspiration of the German philosopher Nietzsche who used to come here on holiday and completed on of his major work “Zarathustra”.
Once at the top, don’t forget to pay a visit to the outstanding Exotic Gardens of Eze, famous for the far reaching views from Italy to the Cap d’Antibes and beyond and the exotic plants which found their ideal habitat at the top of this sunny hill.
Here is the Google’s map of the path:
Where to start: start at Eze sur Mer train station and follow the direction heading to the village entry.
How to get there: from Nice, take the train and stop at Eze sur Mer (15 minutes) then take the bus which will take you to Eze village.
Where to eat: If you are looking for a quick restaurant with panoramic view, the “Creperie Le Cactus” is what you are looking for: galettes (salty crêpes), crêpes, salads, burgers and ice-creams served on a lovely terrace within the medieval walls at the entry of the village.
Sentier du Mont Boron
If you are looking for a quiet break form the chaos of Nice without going far, the Mont Boron park is a natural reserve which separates Nice from the village of Villefranche sur Mer. This 4 km path between the green forests of the Mont Boron and the blue of the sea surrounding the Cap the Nice. The Alban fortress is not accessible but you can walk around it and admire the views either on the whole Bay of The Angels or the Cap Ferrat peninsula on the other side: a true memorable sight that you will hardly forget!
The park is made of different paths named after trees or flowers which either go back to the Cap the Nice or to Villefranche sur Mer. This park is great for running, walking or simply organise a picnic shaded by olive and carob trees, eucalyptus, maritime and Alep pines.
Here is the Randoxygène map:
Where to start: the coastal path starts just after la Réserve, before the Coco Beach.
How to get there: take the bus 38 from Promenade des Arts in Nice and stop at la Réserve, then follow the wooden directions pointing towards a stair: that’s the beginning of the coastal path right after the Coco beach. You can also take the tram and stop at Port Lympia, and walk there in 20 minutes.
Where to eat: the best thing to do is to prepare a picnic and eat it along the beautiful trail or in the Mont Moron natural reserve enjoying the stunning views. If you end you walk in the Nice Old Town, have a lovely buffet aperitivo at PaneOlio, an Italian family run restaurant making Italian specialties, pizza and cocktails such as Spritz, Godfather etc. The aperitivo costs only 6€ and it includes a drink and unlimited access to the buffet: you basically have a light dinner for a small price including a drink! The same family run Senso and they do the same concept for 10€ offering a wider choice of antipasti.