Find some cheap digs – Nice
Nice isn’t short of luxurious lodgings with prices to match, but more affordable options abound, too. Try the Villa Saint Exupery to see how far hostels have evolved. A two-minute walk from the beach, its dorms and private rooms are painted in chic, breezy tones – plus there’s a sauna, gym and beers for less than £2 a bottle. The Nice Garden Hotel has double rooms from £100 a night in the chic Carré d’Or neighbourhood, and comes with a walled garden perfect for a leisurely morning café au lait.
Picnic in style – Nice
The immaculate lawns of the La Promenade du Paillon make a chic picnic location if you want to save money on dining out. Stock up on produce beforehand at the Cours Saleya morning flower and food market (daily, except Mondays), where you’ll find an array of locally sourced foods competing for attention against the colourful bouquets. For an authentic local tipple to accompany your spread, head to Les Grandes Caves Caprioglio on Rue de la Préfecture, where you can fill your own bottle with any of the hundreds of casks of wine – a litre costs around €2.
Save on cocktails – Nice
Swerve the eye-watering cost of cocktails in the beachfront bars, by heading to the old town and to Les Distilleries Idéales. This locals’ hole-in-the-wall favourite has a happy hour from 6pm to 8pm, potent martinis and a balcony perfect for nocturnal people-watching.
Find rustic plates – Monaco
The world’s second-smallest country (just 22 minutes away from Nice by train), Monaco manages to pack an eye-boggling amount of opulence into its two square kilometres. The casinos and yacht club bars at sea level are every bit as prohibitive as you’d expect, but to take the public elevator up the rough-hewn cliff face to Monaco-Ville is to be transported into a medieval village of narrow cobbled lanes, bijou chapels and humble trattorias such as Saint-Nicolas Restaurant , where heaving plates of penne primavera and tagliatelle au saumon frais cost around €13.
Sample classic Côte d’Azur fare – Cannes
Long after the farrago of the May film festival, the electric fizz of flashbulbs and glitter lingers in the sultry summer air of Cannes. There are myriad ways to spend a king’s ransom in this town, but you don’t need access to Johnny Depp’s bank account to enjoy a day trip from Nice, just 25 minutes away by train. Sauntering round the sleek curve of the Boulevard de La Croisette is a must-do, but for a taste of more authentic local life the Marché Forville (open every morning until 1pm except Mondays) excels. Try a socca: made from chickpea flour and tasting a bit like a savoury pancake, this is a classic piece of Côte d’Azur culinary heritage.
Epic views, without the price tag – Cannes
After lunch, there’s a simple way to get sweeping views of the city. Head to the ruins of the medieval castle that’s now the Musée de la Castre, full of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern antiquities. Entry is just €6, and the rooftop panoramic views are breathtaking.
Arty day trip – Antibes
Monet, Renoir and Picasso all decamped to this dashing Riviera charmer. These days, the medieval fortress that pokes out into the cerulean Med, with the snow-flecked peaks of the Alps in the distance, is a canvas enjoyed by the affluent rather than the artistic set. For a free, and less crowded day trip experience, explore the Sentier du Littoral, a coastal walkway that runs between Villa Eilenroc and Plage de la Garoupe. The route takes around 90 minutes and there’s plenty of beach bars at the end in which to cool off with a glass of chilled vino.