With the Cannes Film Festival about to start and the summer just around the corner, we explore one of Europe’s most desired destinations, the French Riviera.
Writers, artists and socialites have long been drawn to the French Riviera, bewitched by its light, beauty and taste for good living. From the Roaring Twenties, the coast became a place where aristocracy and social climbers converged with some of the greatest creative minds of the past 100 years. No more was this true than in the early 20th century when Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway (to name a few) met and stayed on the Cote d’Azur. Some of the greats met to share ideas, stories, and party late into the night at the many avant-garde hotspots along the coast.
It’s also a place that fed their genius too – with Picasso notably creating some of his best pottery works at Vallauris along the coast. Luckily for 21st travellers, many of the great properties of the era (many of which were frequented by these elites) are still operating today, standing as bastions of the incredible late 19th-century and early 20th-century architecture along the coastline. Here are some of the highlights and best spots to stay while travelling along France’s most popular shore.
Hôtel Belles Rives, Juan-Les-Pins
Leading the way for luxury-meets-literary history is the Hôtel Belles Rives. Situated in Juan-Les-Pins (the well-heeled district located west of Antibes), the hotel is the former residence of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and also the location where he penned his famous novel “Tender is the Night”. Step back in time to the world of the fabulous 1920s, taking in the original interior design elements and curated artwork in the hotel’s lobby.
A must-visit while staying at the property is the Michelin-starred restaurant, La Passagère, led by Aurélien Véquaud, serving up delightful French Mediterranean cuisine. In the evening, take in the recently renovated Bar Fitzgerald, which reopened in April 2023, with a live pianist playing music each evening and a menu curated by Véquaud. The hotel is also home to a fabulous waterfront beach club and exquisite spa to allow you to fully relax and soak in the atmosphere of the relaxed Mediterranean surroundings.
Hôtel Martinez, Cannes
First opening in 1929, the Hôtel Martinez is situated amongst the luxury boutiques of Cannes’ popular Promenade de la Croisette and offers cascading views of the city’s waterfront. During the annual Cannes Film Festival which takes place this month, it’s a popular spot for film stars and red-carpet guests to stay due to its grandeur, elegance and central location.
It is also one of the larger luxury properties along the French Riviera, home to more than 400 rooms and around 100 bespoke suites. The hotel’s two Michelin star La Palme d’Or restaurant (named after the most prestigious prize at the Cannes Film Festival) serves up delectable French Mediterranean fusion food.
Hôtel de Paris, Monte-Carlo
Unquestionably one of the most beautiful and historic properties along the Cote d’Azur, the Hôtel de Paris, Monte-Carlo is located in Monaco’s famous Casino Square. The hotel is a food lover’s dream, being home to four leading restaurants in the city, including the three Michelin star Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse and the one Michelin star. The latter is perched at the top of the hotel and offers some of the best views of Monaco’s famous harbour and the palaces of the Grimaldi royal family on the facing hilltop.
Built in 1864, the architecture and interiors pay homage to classic design from the era, while remaining competitive in terms of amenities and service, due to several inspired renovations over the years. The hotel is also one of the best places in the city to people-watch and be seen in Monaco, with both royals and celebrities regularly staying at this inspired property.
Hôtel Juana, Juan-Les-Pins
Over the years, a slew of famous names have stayed at this delightful 1930s Art Deco property. Some of the impressive people on the original guest list of the hotel include Winston Churchill, Wallis Simpson, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Known as a shining star of the Jazz Age, the hotel still draws well-known celebrities and musicians during the annual Antibes Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival, which takes place over the summer months.
The property also comes with idyllic Mediterranean Sea views, as well as of the Lérins Islands and the Massif de l’Esterel mountain range. When staying at the hotel take the time to enjoy a leisurely meal at the property’s new restaurant concept, PASEO. The menu is inspired by the flavours of Provence and also has local touches with the interiors throughout. South of France natives Arnaud Larguier and Samantha Messens designed the restaurant, taking inspiration from La Pinède, a pine grove at the heart of Juan-les-Pins.
The Maybourne Riviera, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
One of the newer properties on the list, the Maybourne Riviera, is situated on the site of the former Vista Palace, which saw guests including Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier flock to its impressive location. Nestled on the cliffs the property offers panoramic breathtaking views of Italy, Monaco, and the French coastline far below. The property is a striking celebration of Modernist architecture and interior design (as well as being a popular party spot for the nearby Monégasque looking to escape the city).
The property is also a celebration of both local and international art, with more than 1,000 works across the hotel. Delve into a world of gastronomic delights at one of the hotel’s many impressive restaurants, including Michelin-starred dining at Ceto, a seafood restaurant which champions sustainability or take a plunge in the hotel’s impressive infinity pool.