The Corniche French Riviera Road Trip – Côte d’Azur
If you love scenic road trips and discovering places off the beaten tourist track, taking a road trip around Les Corniches on the French Riviera will be the perfect adventure for your next vacation in the South of France.
The Côte d’Azur, also known as the French Riviera, is home to golden beaches, turquoise waters, and enough towns and cities to keep you busy for weeks.
In the three Corniches, you will find picturesque places, dream beaches, and great cities to fully enjoy your visit and drive through the south of France.
What are the “Corniches” on the French Riviera?
Corniche means cornice or cliff road. And although there are other similar roads in France, the corniche name is only used at 3 that go from Nice to Menton.
The Corniches are three scenic routes that run along the Côte d’Azur. You have:
- The Lower Corniche (Basse Corniche),
- The Middle Corniche (Moyenne Corniche)
- The Upper or Grand Corniche (Grande Corniche)
The most popular are the Basse Corniche and the Grande Corniche, the first follows the coast for 30 kilometers between Nice and Menton, and the second goes through the mountains, joining the same points.
The 3 Corniches stop at many unspoiled beaches, hilltop towns, and luxurious seaside resorts with spectacular French and Italian coastline views.
From the medieval buildings of Nice to the modern casinos of Monte Carlo, take a road trip with our guide to the must-see places of Les Corniches.
Where do the 3 Corniches Begin and End?
The 3 routes start in Nice and go in parallel at different heights to Monaco and Monte Carlo. Then the three roads merge into one until Menton.
Essential Stops on the Basse Corniche
The Basse Corniche or Lower Corniche is the closest road to the sea and also the most urbanized. You will practically not stop seeing cities and towns from one end to the other.
This route allows you to visit excellent and elegant (and costly) spas.
It starts at the port of Nice and reaches Menton, located before Italy. Finally, this tour of the Basse Corniche will take you to Cap d’Ail, the last city in the French metropolitan territory.
Start your route in Nice along the Basse Corniche and visit the following places:
- Beaulieu sur Mer
- Cap d’Ail
- Monte Carlo
- Roquebrune Cap Martin
Must-Visit Places on the Moyenne Corniche
This is the route to follow if you want to enjoy panoramic views and a road that winds between cliffs and vegetation.
It is also the old National 7. This was the “holiday route” that linked Paris and Lyon with the Mediterranean and ended at the Menton border before creating motorways. It is now the D6007 road.
The path joins the Basse Corniche in the east of Monaco, a little before Cap Martin.
Bella Vista Avenue, as its name suggests, you have to go through it to admire the view! In addition, you have a mandatory stop a little further on in the town of Eze.
Perched on a rocky peak, this medieval town is a must-see on the Côte d’Azur.
The best place to admire the view? It is at the height of the Exotic Garden of Eze, which is reached after strolling through the town’s alleys.
You will find magnificent panoramic views of Nice, Cap Ferrat, and Monaco, with car parks to stop by car in various places.
The Moyenne Corniche is also the route to reach the natural sites surrounding it, such as the Mont Boron forest park or the Vinaigrier park (in Nice), which are authentic green lungs in this urban environment.
It is also the starting point for numerous hiking trails.
- Bella Vista Avenue
- Eze’s Exotic Garden
- All the viewpoints you find on the road 😉
- Forest Park Mont Boron
- Vinaigrier Park
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Do not forget to buy travel insurance when you plan your trips. Hopefully, you don’t need to use it, but it is better to be prepared for any eventuality or emergency.
In my case, I use Mondo Insurance, with worldwide medical assistance and coverage of $ 10,000,000. Also, you have 5% OFF using this link on Hey Mondo Insurance.
Must-Visit Places on the Grande Corniche
The Grande Corniche is the oldest route of the three. Napoleon ordered it to be built. And it starts on boulevard Bischoffsheim, in the Riquier neighborhood of Nice.
It is the best-known route, the most mythical, the wildest, and probably the most spectacular of the 3 corniches.
You will enjoy excellent panoramic views of Nice, Cap Ferrat, and Cap Martin.
It provides access to the Nice Observatory, the old town of Roquebrune, its medieval castle, and La Turbie with its Roman Trophy dedicated to Emperor Augustus.
This road was built by order of Napoleon. (The old Roman road between Cimiez and La Turbie ran over the other side of the hill, towards Laghet.)
The highest point is over 500m, just after the famous Col d’Eze. Not far from there (3036 Avenue des Diables Bleus), Pical, the place where Pope Pius VII came to crown Napoleon and stopped on his way to Notre Dame de Paris.
At the foot of the Boulevard de Bischoffsheim in Nice, a plaque commemorates the first climb in the world between Nice and La Turbie, organized on July 31, 1897, and which took the path you will climb.
It is from this place that the racing cars started.
A few meters further on, two plaques to the right of the road commemorate the two drivers who died in this first corner, Bauer and Zborowski, one in 1900 and the other in 1903, during later editions of the race. Bauer dies driving a Daimler.
The Austro-Hungarian consul, Emil Jellinek, attends the drama.
A major Daimler customer asks you to improve the safety of their cars by following the specifications you have set, mainly by lowering the vehicles’ center of gravity.
He agrees to finance the new car’s design if it bears his daughter’s first name. A few months later, all Daimler production took the name of this car, giving rise to a new brand. The daughter of Mr. Jellinek’s name was Mercedes.
At the Col d’Eze junction, you have a road on your right (coming from Nice) that joins the village of Eze at the Middle Corniche.
Directly opposite (therefore to the left), a small narrow road climbs again (take the right fork at the first fork to continue climbing) and joins the Fort de la Revère at 700m altitude, on top of the relief.
The 360° panorama is exceptional, with Nice, the sea to the south, the Italian coast, Corsica in good weather, and all the Maritime Alps to the north up to the peaks of Mercantour.
You just have to walk a bit to see the different viewpoints. So take the detour; it’s worth it.
The fort cannot be visited. However, on the way up, a few hundred meters before the fort, you will see on your left the Astrorama, an old annex to the fort converted for animations on astronomy.
The road is a dead-end for cars.
Beyond the fort, it descends in the form of a rough track that joins the Grande Corniche 1 km before La Turbie. Simply go back down the way you came up to return to the Grande Corniche. It will be easier.
At La Turbie, a road goes down to Monaco Monte-Carlo, the Grand Corniche continues towards the village of Roquebrune, and, to the left, a road goes towards Peille and allows you to reach the inland villages of Menton (Sainte Agnès).
Very scenic but very narrow.
The road joins the Basse Corniche shortly before Cap Martin.
Essentials of the Grande Corniche
- Col des Quatre Chemins
- Col d’Eze
- Views of Monaco from above
- Take a little detour and visit Sainte Agnes
- Ends in Roquebrune
I recommend taking the route from Nice to Menton via the Basse Corniche and returning to Nice via the Grande Corniche. In this way, you will see the same path with two totally different points of view.
Where To Stay on The Corniches
Depending on the time you will dedicate to this road trip through Les Corniches on the Côte d’Azur in France, you can choose to stay in different cities or towns.
I recommend that you spend at least one night in Nice, if you like it very much, spend a night in Monaco or continue on to Menton and spend a night there.
Hotel 66 Nice: an excellent hotel in the center of Nice, with very reasonable prices, free cancellation, and is highly rated by users.
If you are looking for something cheaper, you can stay at the Ibis chain. The one at the airport is the most affordable.
Hotels in Monte Carlo, Monaco
Monte Carlo isn’t one of my favorite places on the French Riviera, but many people love it. So here, I recommend a couple of excellent hotels that you can enjoy a lot.
As you can imagine, Monte Carlo is not cheap, and neither are its hotels.
Fairmont Monte Carlo is located in an unbeatable location, with fabulous sea views and a terrace overlooking the Monte Carlo Formula 1 circuit. It’s great for a getaway with your partner or to watch F1 from a vantage point.
Lodging in Menton
In Menton, I leave you with two great accommodation options. The first is a super well-located hotel, close to the beach and the city center. The other is a spa hotel for a relaxing getaway.
The best thing about Menton is that the prices here are much more affordable. Cheaper than Nice and Monaco.
Best Western Hotel Mediterranee Menton, in the center and near the beach.
Hôtel Riva Art & Spa for a relaxing getaway in the south of France.
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