Sun-Kissed Rail Journeys Along the French Riviera

With 300 days of sun, breath-taking coastal landscapes and a constantly vibrant cultural scene, it’s no wonder that the Cote d’Azur is so popular. But navigating its traffic jams, scarce parking spaces and expensive toll roads can be frustrating.

Thankfully, public transportation is plentiful, eliminating the need for driving in most cities and towns. Here’s how to make the most of it.

From Paris

A trip to the South of France starts with a visit to cosmopolitan Paris. Here you can stroll along the Seine River, see iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum and eat French cuisine in cozy cafes. There are 3 flights that depart Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) for Nice Cote d’Azur Airport (NCE) daily and most fly direct so you can save time at the airport and avoid changes along the way.

Once you’ve arrived at Nice-Cote d’Azur Airport you can take a taxi or bus to the center of the city. If you have a French Riviera Pass, a ticket valid for your entire stay, you can use the public transport network in Nice and its surrounding towns for free. Buses and trams connect the central city of Nice with Canne, Antibes and Cannes and you can also use the service to travel further afield to Marseille, Cassis or Saint-Tropez.

There is a wide range of things to do in the Cote d’Azur year round, from enjoying fine dining in Michelin-starred restaurants to soaking up the sun on the sandy beaches. It’s also a great destination for water sports with crashing waves and gusty Atlantic winds perfect for surfers, groms and novices alike. On land, visitors can explore charming hilltop villages, ramble along scenic trails and sample local wines in wineries.

Whether you’re looking for a luxury resort or a budget hotel, the Cote d’Azur has it all. The stylish city of Nice boasts elegant casinos and hotels lining the Promenade des Anglais, a stunning beachfront promenade that looks out over the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. You can take guided tours to learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage, enjoy a day out in Monaco or visit the art-filled town of St Paul-de-Vence where Picasso and his contemporaries left their mark.

The backcountry is awash in charming villages that offer a carefree lifestyle and an escape from the buzz of the cities. You can spend time in Aix-en-Provence, a vibrant university town with a bustling market and artisan shops. Or discover the charm of Provence in the hilltop village of Vaison-la-Romaine where you’ll find ancient castles and vineyard-clad hills.

From Marseille

When your Cote d’Azur vacation begins at Marseille Saint-Charles, you can take a high-speed train straight to Nice Ville. The journey is about 4 hours long and stops in cities along the way, including Aix-en-Provence and Toulon. You’ll arrive at the beachside city of Nice, which is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The train station is located in the heart of the old town, making it easy to explore the city after your arrival. In addition to the trains, you can also access the city on bus lines and trams, with tickets available for as little as 1.50 euro. The Ticket Azur is an especially useful option, as it lets you switch between buses and other public transport networks for a very low price.

While the climate on the Riviera is best from July to August, you can still enjoy plenty of sun and sand in other months. The temperatures are typically milder, and you’ll find fewer crowds than in the peak summer season. Visiting outside of the high season will also save you money on accommodation and meals, while you can still get plenty of sunshine.

If you’re arriving from Paris, it’s an easy ride to the French Riviera on a high-speed TGV service. There are a few different options to choose from, depending on your budget and how much time you want to spend on the Riviera. For the cheapest fares, look for deals during January and February.

In the rest of the year, you’ll find higher fares and less availability for accommodations. If you’re planning to visit the Riviera in summer, book your flights well ahead of time.

Buses and trains snake throughout the Cote d’Azur, connecting coastal towns to perched medieval villages. A Ticket Azur (available for just 1.50 euros) will let you hop on buses that link to destinations in and around Nice, such as Grasse, Saint-Paul de Vence, Eze Village, and Monaco.

If you plan to spend more than a few days on the Riviera, consider buying a French Riviera Pass for access to unlimited visits and activities over a certain period of time. There are three different passes to choose from, all offering different value for money: 24h at 26EUR, 48h at 38EUR, and 72h at 56EUR.

From Ventimiglia

The Cote d’Azur stretches along the south eastern fringe of France. Its towns and villages cling to the rocky coastline, and their names (Nice, St Tropez, Saint Maxime, Cannes) trip off the tongue with an air of exclusivity and more than a hint of conspicuous wealth.

Renting a car is an easy and convenient way to explore the area, although the roads can be very busy during peak months. It is recommended to avoid traveling by car during these times and, if necessary, book your rental early on in the day or in the evening. Car rental companies like Europcar, Hertz and Avis have offices at the main airports on the French Riviera as well as in town centers including Nice, Cannes and Marseille.

Local TER ( Trains Express Régionaux >>) trains connect the major towns and cities on the Cote d’Azur between Cannes and Ventimiglia (Italy). To help you plan your trip, you can check out their website for schedules and ticket prices. Local buses called Lignes d’Azur serve the region, and you can buy tickets at a machine beside each bus stop or in a Lignes dAzur office in the town where you are boarding.

If you’re looking for a relaxing trip to the French Riviera, you can stay at one of the many resort hotels in the region. For example, if you’re staying in Nice, some of the top-rated hotels include JW Marriott and Le Grand Hotel Cannes Croisette. In the heart of the city, you can also find boutique hotels such as 3.14 CANNES and Hôtel Claris.

Aside from staying at a resort, you can also explore the area by foot. Most of the major towns and cities on the Cote are pedestrian-friendly, so you can just wander around to discover their hidden gems. Some of the top things to do in Nice include strolling the Promenade des Anglais, taking in an event at Velodrome Stadium and visiting the Old Port.

From Menton

Taking a train is one of the best ways to get around Menton. With the Nice-Breil-Tende TER trains, a ticket to Menton can cost as little as PS8 when bought in advance (although tickets are generally more expensive on the day). The train ride takes just over an hour and provides the perfect way to explore the Provence coastline along the French Riviera. The trains run regularly throughout the day and are a great way to travel with your family as the cars can accommodate up to seven people comfortably.

From the train station you can head to the seaside and take in the fresh air at the Jardins Bioves and the beautiful promenade or simply relax at the local cafés or restaurants. Menton has won several prizes for its carefully maintained parks and gardens, so it’s no wonder that it was crowned a 4* Ville Fleurie in 2013.

There are plenty of attractions to discover inland from Menton as well, with medieval villages like Eze, Gorbio, and Roquebrune a short drive away or the Roya valley towards Tende. If you’re planning on a full exploration of the region then we highly recommend purchasing a Sud Azur Explore Pass which will save you money and time when using public transport in the area. This pass includes a range of different regional transportation networks including Envibus, Communauté de la Riviera Francaise, Sillages, Bus Varmer, and the Zest network.

The airport at Nice-Cote d’Azur is very easy to reach by bus, tram, or taxi. Taxis are a bit on the pricey side but are worth the splurge for small groups, families, or when traveling at odd hours. Welcome gives online quotations for private transfers without first requiring personal details or flight numbers.

Alternatively, catch the local bus line 98 from the airport to the city center or Nice Gare SNCF train station. Tram 2 offers the cheapest public transportation option from the airport to the city center and Promenade des Anglais. You can also buy a single ticket from the automated machines beside each tram stop (only coins and credit cards accepted) or from the Lignes d’Azur offices (Jean Jaures – 4 Bd. Jean Jaures, 06300 Nice; Thiers – 17 Av. Thiers, 06000 Nice; and Notre-Dame – 1 Rue d’Italie).

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