The French Mediterranean sea along the Provence and French Riviera coast

Toulon, a coast city in the South of France

With the 542-metre-high Mont Faron as a backdrop, Toulon (External link) is a city of contrasts. Its old picturesque town centre contains ancient fountains and a colourful daily market where you can experience the typical Provençal smells and sounds. Toulon’s large military port – the French Navy’s war port for the whole of the Mediterranean – is also a marina for private boats as well as the onward link to the islands of Corsica (External link) and Sardinia. Well-equipped beaches and a multitude of watersports are available at neighbouring Morillon – but there are also music festivals, a contemporary art museum and a naval museum, the Palais des Congrès and the Zenith concert hall seating 8,500.

Marseille, majestic at the at the Mediterranean Sea

As the 2013 European City of Culture, Marseille (External link) has revitalised its image in recent years and proudly taken its place as France’s second city. This sunny Provençal hotspot is linked with the Count of Monte Cristo, bouillabaisse, pétanque, Zinedine Zidane and the Olympique de Marseille football team… but tourists come principally to visit its new museums, stay in chic hotels and shop in luxury boutiques. It boasts France’s largest Mediterranean cruise port and is extremely easy to reach from the UK, now served by direct Eurostar from London as well as an international airport.

Marseille Copyright Atout France Robert Palomba

Hyères and the islands at the Mediterranean

Hyères (External link) is a unique hideaway if you’re looking to escape the crowds on the coast in Provence (External link) . Don’t miss the 4th-century Greek commercial outpost of Olbia; the ruins of the medieval castle dominating the colourful labyrinth of streets of the old town; the rich facades and gardens of the grand hotels that used to welcome kings, queens, artists and writers; and the Villa Noailles, which attracted the artistic avant-garde in the 20th century. Wander along the Giens peninsula and visit the salt marshes, now home to an ornithological reserve with over 260 bird species.

porquerolles ©Hyeres Tourisme
Porquerolles Copyright Hyeres Tourism

And what of the islands? Just opposite Hyères, Porquerolles (alongside its smaller sister isles, Port Cros and Levant) is a nugget of rocks and forest seemingly chipped from the mainland and hurled 20 minutes out to sea. The concentration of wild creeks, beaches, woodland and herbs here recalls the untouched French Riviera before the modern crowds arrived – it’s a dreamy escape where you can slow down and truly get away from it all. The ferry to Porquerolles leaves roughly every hour from Hyères, and many passengers take their bicycles for touring the island.

St-Tropez at the Mediterranean sea

The fishing village of Saint-Tropez (External link) in Var, 100km west of Nice, has an ultra-sexy and glamorous image thanks to its 1950s association with actress and model Brigitte Bardot (External link) . For the last half a century it’s remained a jet-set favourite, with rows of gleaming yachts moored in the harbour and a plethora of expensive boutiques. In high season you’ll jostle for space alongside up to 100,000 tourists per day, but for the rest of the year Saint-Tropez remains an oasis of peaceful, rustic French charm where you can wander cobbled lanes and watch games of pétanque in the shady main square (Place des Lices) while sipping a pastis. Don’t miss the Musée de l’Annonciade, the butterfly collection at the Maison des Papillons, the fine white sand of the Plage de Pampelonne in nearby Ramatuelle, and the views from the 17th-century citadel.

Cassis on the big blue coast

Cassis (External link) is a charming fishing port on Provence’s Bouches-du-Rhône coast, sheltering at the foot of a dramatic rocky outcrop (Cap Canaille) crowned by a 14th-century château, and protected by the white limestone Calanques. It attracts visitors in their droves to its Vieux Port with bustling restaurants, to the shingle beaches, and to row upon row of pristine vineyards which produce the famous eponymous wine. The Calanques (External link) are home to diverse flora and fauna, with 900 identified plant species and numerous reptiles, insects and birds – but many would say the magic really happens underwater, where astonishing marine life lives in the crystal clear waters and can be experienced from a boat, or on a dive along the Cassis underwater trail. Cassis has its fair share of culture to offer visitors too – don’t miss a visit to the municipal museum and the Four Banal, the 17th-century communal oven in the historic fishermen’s quarter.

Nice French Riviera

Experience the capital of the French Riviera (External link) , Nice’s outstanding light and mild, sunny climate contribute to its international reputation. Mediterranean Sea, city and mountains combine to offer visitors to Nice a range of activities within a single location that few cities in the world can match.

Explore picturesque Old Nice (External link) and its surroundings. The famous Cours Saleya, the colourful markets, the baroque chapels and churches and the labyrinth of pedestrian streets will offer up some unusual discoveries and exciting tastes. Come and taste some culinary specialities such as Socca (chickpea pancake), Pissaladière (onion and anchovy tart) or Estocaficada (Nicoise fish soup). The regional specialties are best accompanied by AOP Bellet wines from the Nice hills vineyards: simply mouth-watering!
Nice Cote d' Azur

And February is Carnival month in Nice Cote d' Azur! Here’s lots of sun without the summer crowds making Nice in February the perfect time and place for an unforgettable visit! Discover one of the most beautiful carnivals in the world over three weeks of carnival parades, flower parades on the Promenade des Anglais, music, perfumes, culinary events and plenty of colour.

Antibes Juan les Pins, the musical and beautiful at the Mediterranean

Bright sky, azure sea, dazzling sunshine 300 days per year: this beach beauty is also the cultural heart of the Côte d’Azur.

Crowned by a citadel cutting an imposing figure against the backdrop of the French Alps, Antibes Juan-les-Pins boasts endless sandy beaches along one of France’s longest Mediterranean coastlines, spanning 25 km. The town flies the pavillon bleu flag signifying its high quality bathing sea water that tempts visitors with water sport activities (External link) such as water skiing, parasailing, diving, fishing, sailing or swimming. Escape the sun exploring the Cap d’Antibes beautiful pine forests, hidden woodland creeks and luxurious homes.

And in summer, enjoy the Jazz Festival, one of the famous ones in the World with a fantastic international artists line up!
Antibes port Vauban©J. Bayle OSCAR
Antibes Juan les Pins at the Mediterranean Sea French Riviera Copyright J._Bayle

The Principality of Monaco, elegance at the Riviera Cote d' Azur

It’s small yet perfectly formed. The Principality of Monaco at the Mediterranean has it all, from classical elegance to cutting-edge architecture and the hippest dining spots.

Long a magnet for princes, princesses and celluloid royalty of Grace Kelly pedigree, the Principality of Monaco is a unique and captivating country situated on France’s Mediterranean coast.
Despite being the second smallest country in the world, after Vatican City, Monaco is distinctly cosmopolitan thanks to its 119 nationalities and its prestigious hotels and restaurants in Monte-Carlo.

Monaco is renowned for its palatial five-star hotels, indisputably some of the finest in the world.
However, Monaco is going through something of a renaissance and has never been so attractive and exciting. No longer known only for its classical high price-tagged elegance, Monaco today is morphing into a hip and continually innovating principality.
Visit and discover signature architecture, the revamped waterfront at the Mediterranean and trendy restaurants like Nobu opening this year in the Fairmont Hotel.

Foremost amongst the buildings is the Yacht Club de Monaco completed in 2014, the symbolic entrepiece of Monaco’s remodelled harbourfront. The ambitious design by eminent British architect Lord Norman Foster celebrates the principality’s spectacular coastline and nautical heritage.

Monaco has always been a favourite of gourmands and lovers of fine food (External link) . Some of the world’s most talented and most famous chefs demonstrate their genius here and Monaco boasts no fewer than seven Michelin star-rated restaurants.

Besides the grand hotel restaurants, there is an abundance of international restaurants offering dishes inspired as much by Provence or the Nicois and Italian Rivieras as by more exotic horizons in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Cote d' Azur between Mountain and Sea in French Riviera

So often luminous and sun drenched, a blend of sparkling Mediterranean and spectacular mountains make the Côte D’Azur a real tonic for the soul.

The Cote d’Azur truly is a sensational playground for catching some sun rays, sailing, diving, golf, cycling, jet skiing, sea fishing, kayaking, or, in the winter months, skiing. It is also rich in cultural and natural sites and gastronomic pleasures, with no less than 3000 restaurants boasting 50 Michelin stars between them.
The Côte d'Azur boasts the largest number of museums in France after Paris. There are more than 100 to visit including Matisse, Renoir, Chagall and Picasso collections, plus 150 art galleries.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales — Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Have a chance to win 1 out of 25 double passes to visit the exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, click here!