A French Riviera yacht charter is not complete without a visit to one of the flowery hill villages of Provence, and Valbonne is a very lovely example within easy reach of the Mediterranean coast.
There’s an enchanting appeal to Valbonne that sits perfectly between ‘medieval charm’ and ‘Riviera chic’. Located in the rolling hills behind Antibes, Valbonne is a desperately pretty 16th century town of cobbled streets and fashionable boutiques, sun-drenched squares and ancient abbeys. What makes Valbonne so special is that it has the feel of a living, breathing Provencal village rather than a tourist attraction, with its village squares dotted with shady plane trees and boules players, and its bustling pavement cafes full of locals enjoying the good life under the Mediterranean sun.
It is hard to overestimate the effect the heartbreaking landscapes and light of the French Riviera had on some of the world’s great artists. Monet and Matisse, Picasso, Signac and Chagall are just a few who fell under the spell of the French Riviera, enchanted by that mythic, ethereal light falling across the Cote d’Azur’s pastel facades, dusky-blue Alps and sparkling seas.
Many of these great artists came and stayed, finding a new vigour in their painting and spending much of their lives here creating Mediterranean-inspired masterpieces in the fabled southern light.
A luxury yacht charter in the south of france is the ultimate way to visit the artistic highlights of the Riviera, following the lives and works of the masters along a memory-trail of rose’ and Gauloises smoke, scandalous love affairs and tragic suicides. On your yacht charter you can go ashore to visit the fabulous museums and former homes of these artists, dine in fine restaurants hung with their paintings, and admire the very same views that inspired their masterworks. Follow the path of the masters from the dreamy coves of Cap d’Antibes to the flowery hill village of St Paul de Vence and along the coast to the pastel beauty of Saint Tropez.
The French Riviera is one of Europe’s best destinations for cultural heritage, art and design with several world-class museums and historic sites with beautiful collections. From museums filled with artistic curiosities to important exhibits of maritime heritage, enjoy our definitive guide to ten of the best French Riviera museums.
Located between Monaco and Menton, east of Nice you’ll find the commune of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, an idyllic area of the French Riviera that is not as esteemed as the popular yacht charter destinations of Cannes or Saint Tropez, but with all the appealing elements that are unmistakably Côte d’Azur.
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin has a photogenically Mediterranean setting with a medieval Château dominating the village before the landscape drops down to the sea. There are three distinct parts that make up the commune – the town with coastal resort, Cap Martin and the medieval village.
Saint Tropez, originally a sleepy fishing village catapulted into the realm of the international jetset from the 1950’s and has remained the essential summertime playground for the famous and wealthy, where superyachts and sophistication bring savoir faire to the shores of the Mediterranean.
A must-visit stop for yacht charters on the glittering Côte d’Azur, the town has an unrivalled energy during busy months and a genteel charm of true Provençal ambience in the off-season.
Immerse yourself in our ‘Luxury Guide to Yacht Charter in St Tropez’ with practical advice on top places to dine, where to find the best shopping and useful tips about how to book a French Riviera luxury yacht charter.
Queen Victoria adored it; Winston Churchill painted its landscapes, and Robert Louis Stevenson and Katherine Mansfield came here to convalesce among the sunny lemon groves. Sean Connery filmed scenes of ‘Never Say Never’ in the old town, Jean Cocteau painted his famous frescoes of love here, and English nobles planted exotic gardens around Italianate villas shaded by palm trees. So enchanting is Menton that Eve is said to have planted the first lemon here, and the town, nestled on that last steep stretch of coastline before France gives way to Italy, is widely referred to as ‘The Pearl of France’.
So why is it then, that glorious Menton—set against a mighty backdrop of mountains, its cluster of pastel painted buildings and bell towers perched above the deep blue sea—is often left off the French Riviera yacht charter itinerary altogether? How can this be? For those looking for a place that brings the medieval and the gilded ages together with a gentle, well-preserved charm, Menton is paradise found.
The French Riviera isn’t well-known for its islands, yet just a stone’s throw from the glitz and glamour of Cannes and Saint Tropez lie tranquil archipelagos of exceptional Mediterranean beauty, where you can stroll through pine forests and rolling vineyards, explore ancient forts and monasteries, and sunbathe on soft-sand beaches in clear turquoise coves.
Stepping ashore on the Cannes or Hyeres islands, you cannot help but feel like you’ve travelled back to a simpler time when Provence was still a sleepy place inhabited by monks and fishermen, ruled by the rhythms of sunny days and the summertime buzz of cicadas. No cars are allowed on the islands and there are few inhabitants, so if you’ve ever wondered what the Cote d’Azur was like before the grand hotels and apartment blocks sprung up along the coast, you simply must visit the enchanting islands of the French Riviera.
Sunshine, superyachts, and Saint Tropez: can there be a more wonderful combination? But for many, the dream of a Saint Tropez yacht charter hovers just out of reach. Until now.
We know that not everyone has the time or funds for a leisurely week-long superyacht charter along the French Riviera. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the best bit of all: a weekend superyacht charter in Saint Tropez. In Saint Tropez, you have a magical stretch of the Riviera which combines all that’s special about the Cote d’Azur: a rolling Mediterranean landscape, soft white sand beaches, picturesque Provencal villages, glamorous boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants, hedonistic nightclubs — and a whole lot of celebrity sparkle.
So if you want to experience the best of the French Riviera by yacht, but only have a weekend to do it in, then a Saint Tropez weekend yacht charter is your dream solution.
The Italian Riviera, the coastal strip of north-western Italy that greets yachts when they cruise east of the French border is a region of contrasts and a classic introduction to Italy.
The Ligurian coastline is roughly divided into two distinct stretches either side of the main city Genoa – Riviera di Ponente and Riviera di Levante – and here you’ll find a region bursting with chic coastal resorts, pastel-coloured fishing villages, chestnut and olive groves weaving up to mountain towns, little coves with pine trees clinging to cliffs and beaches accessible only by yacht.
Geographically located between Nice and Monaco, Cap Ferrat is dotted with splendid villas hidden behind stately gates and sub-tropical gardens; a haven in the past and today to the world’s rich and famous including singers, actors, politicians and royalty such as Somerset Maugham, King Léopold II of Belgium, American film director Otto Preminger, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Cocteau, David Niven and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
All holidaymakers know that other than beautiful surroundings, luxurious accommodation and the much-deserved opportunity to relax, no holiday would be complete without good food. Luckily the South of France has the culinary prowess to make fine dining a certainty on your Mediterranean escape. Naturally, French Riviera Helicopter Transfer and gourmet cuisine go together like champagne and caviar. That’s why so many restaurants have exclusive helicopter landing spots, which allow for quick and luxurious transfers directly to their grounds. We spoke to the leading helicopter transfer company on the French Riviera, Heli Securite, who have recommended the following five restaurants with landing spots for direct landing.
Tahiti Beach is one of the best-located restaurants in Saint-Tropez and perfectly represents the joie de vivre for which the seaside town is universally famous. Fortunately, the food is wonderful, the atmosphere is relaxed and the friendly staff make you feel at home. Tahiti’s food is consistently good and served by the sea with the selection of freshly caught fish and tasty pizza straight from the oven being highlights. In fact, it’s difficult to know what you’ll enjoy more: the delicious food or spectacular sea views.
Chez Bruno, Lorgues
Famed for its truffles, the one-Michelin-star Chez Bruno serves more of this exquisite delicacy than any other restaurant in the world. Bruno has been running this iconic restaurant set in the pretty Provençal town of Lorgues for many years and it’s a truly local family business, which has started to expand internationally.
The outdoor setting of idyllic gardens and a terrace is lovely in the summer and during winter a roaring fire gives the cosy interior a magical feel. This really is truffle heaven, and Bruno’s signature dish, a potato and truffle combination, has people returning for more. Most of the produce is found within two hours of the restaurant, so diners are guaranteed the finest quality.
La Bouitte, Saint Martin de Belleville
La Bouitte is a charming hotel located at the foot of the Saint-Marcel ski slopes in Saint–Martin de Belleville. However, it’s the hotel’s restaurant that really draws the crowds. René and Maxime Meilleur are a father and son team whose impeccable cuisine has been granted three Michelin stars and classified among the ‘great gables of the world’ since 2012. The restaurant is set in an authentic mountain chalet with a cosy yet chic decor befitting an establishment that prides itself on creating cuisine that respects the quality of local products and the art of cooking. The outside terrace nestled amongst the trees is perfect for apres ski drinks or a pre-flight lunch, since the helipad is located 50 metres away.
Les Gorges de Pennafort, Callas
Les Gorges de Pennafort is one of Provence’s unmissable highlights set in a beautiful setting close to the Cote d’Azur. Chef Philippe Sa Silva and his wife took over management of the restaurant twenty years ago and haven’t looked back, even receiving a Michelin star in that time. His innovative use of regional produce combined with a contemporary twist, such as foie gras and Parmesan ravioli, have won the loyalty of international customers. Chef Da Silva’s flavoursome menu also extends to an impressive cocktail list, including their unique speciality: champagne with grapefruit cream. The sensationally sublime cuisine can be enjoyed in the elegant and light-infused dining room or outside on the terrace under a bioclimatic pergola, which adapts to the weather conditions.
La Bastide de Moustiers, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
La Bastide de Moustiers’s restaurant serves provençale cuisine in a wonderfully rural country setting. The lovely country house is an upscale inn owned by Alain Ducasse, a noted chef famous for his three Michelin star restaurant in London’s Dorchester hotel among others. Nestled in the Provence village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the restaurant sits amid ancient olive trees and vibrant lavender bushes. The menu changes daily in accordance with the products available in the hotel’s vegetable garden and is served under a shaded terrace. Chilled pea and fava bean bouillon, steak, chimney baked lamb, and a cocotte of spring vegetables are all mouth-watering favourites prepared with care and attention.
Spring, or printemps, is an ideal time of the year to visit the French Riviera where people are feeling invigorated with the start of longer days after daylight savings moved the clocks forward the last Sunday in March.
Yachts are preparing ahead for the busy Mediterranean season, with many crossing back from the Caribbean, and the last remnants of winter in the south are slowly fading with dusk.
Spring on the French Riviera
The French Riviera had origins as a winter resort, where convalescing patients would stay for the health benefits of the mild climate, and aristocrats would visit to forget the grey skies of the northern winter. Almost one hundred years ago, luxury yachts were not common place here with the preferred transport being trains especially the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM) expresses.
The PLM launched their first-class-only service to the French Riviera in 1922 and Le Train Bleu opened up the region and brought with it distinguished passengers over the years including Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Somerset Maugham.
The attractions of good weather and sunny skies flipped the coin for the French Riviera as hotels began to extend their season to cater for wealthy visitors – Gerald and Sara Murphy convinced the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc to stay open in summer, and Coco Chanel startled everyone with her suntan when she stepped ashore in Cannes in 1923 from Flying Cloud, the yacht belonging to Hugh Grosvenor, the Second Duke of Westminster.
Today, the French Riviera’s popularity continues – it’s a great destination to charter a luxury yacht year round and while summer is often handed the glory of ‘best time of the year to visit’, spring is just as ideal with less traffic than summer, luxury hotels having off-season specials, attractions reopening after Easter and clear, crisp days perfect for cruising the Mediterranean coast.
The French Riviera is a great destination for driving with over 300 sunshine days a year it’s no wonder one of the main highways feeding into south-eastern France, the A7 from Lyon to Marseille, is christened the ‘Autoroute du Soleil’.
Some of Bespoke Yacht Charter’s favourite self-drive road trips are located not far from the French Riviera’s ports and marinas meaning a spectacular journey on wheels is easy to combine with your Cote d’Azur yacht charter – imagine rambling into vineyards to buy wines direct from the producer, visiting perched villages for a leisurely Provençal lunch beside a heritage-listed fountain and traversing beautiful National Parks with wildflowers and wildlife.
The prestigious Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc on the Cap d’Antibes, between Cannes and Nice, is one of the finest 5-star hotels in France and epitomises the style and elegance of the French Riviera, featuring regularly on Tatler and Conde Nast Traveler lists as one of the best hotels in the world.
Part of the Oetker Collection of elite luxury hotels, it is set amidst 22 acres of gardens with palms, Aleppo pines, citrus, cypress and olive trees, wisteria, roses and magnolia. The hotel grounds embrace the coastline and offer marvellous views of the Mediterranean and the Íles de Lérins.
The hilltop village of Mougins was once more popular than Cannes and served as a Roman staging post for the Via Aurelia; evidence is recorded in old Roman tombstones displayed in the town’s Musée Municipal. Today, the Roman influence has slipped into the pages of history books but step inside the Porte Sarrazine – the last intact gateway in the medieval village fortifications – and you’ll discover a picturesque village that still retains lots of appeal.
An attractive town that name drops Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Deneuve and Picasso as past residents, Mougins is pleasantly Provençal with streets that curl around in a spiral layout showcasing cosy art galleries, street sculptures, restored houses carpeted in jasmine and enough renowned restaurants to pack a gastronomic punch for diners that come from near and far.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, located 15 minutes’ drive inland from the coast, was once a refuge from Saracen raiders and even today, the well-preserved town ramparts built by François I in the 16th century give a nice medieval ambience and offer lovely views to the sea and across a landscape of olive and cypress trees and red-roofed villas.
The surrounding countryside and Mediterranean climate allowed the village to flourish thanks to orange trees, olives, vines and figs and now tourism brings throngs of visitors to this picturesque hillside town. In spite of the high season crowds, it is one of the most famous – yet loveliest – village perché in the French Riviera region.
The French Riviera is home to some of the most magnificent real estate in the world. Combining cutting edge design with traditional Provençal charm, spectacular settings and unbelievable views, many of these properties are available to rent by the week. As a land base, these rentals offer the perfect complement to a Mediterranean Yacht Charter, enabling you to combine seafaring adventure with land-based luxury.
With such an incredible selection of villas to choose from, it’s tough to name our favourites. We’ve narrowed down a selection of the finest, basing our decision on those villas that replicate the luxuriousness of superyachts.
Here are our five favourite villa rentals on the French Riviera:
Best for Waterfront:
It’s easy to fall in love with Villa Amourai, located in the prestigious ‘Les Parcs de Saint Tropez’ private domain. This waterfront villa has unobstructed views of the Mediterranean, which are best enjoyed from the heated swimming pool or master bedroom, and allows direct access to the beach. The property has five bedrooms, including one boasting a glass ceiling under the swimming pool, a fitness room and helipad.
This ultra modern villa is furnished to the highest of standards and makes for a secluded and spacious getaway, accommodating 10 people in five en-suite bedrooms. Special features include a roof garden, swimming pool and pool house, and a private chef.
Best for Corporate:
Located in the heart of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, within easy reach of Monaco, Nice and Cannes, Domaine Mareeba offers an exclusive setting for corporate retreats. The domain has the capacity to accommodate up to 24 guests in three recently constructed luxury villas. This contemporary estate is light and spacious, offering a swimming pool, immaculate gardens and private access to the harbour. It is a complete package for professional escapes.
Best for St Tropez:
Villa Tennessee is an idyllic retreat, offering a unique insight into real St Tropez living, situated within a very short driving distance of the town’s main square, Place des Lices. A modern villa, this charming rental offers landscaped gardens, plenty of outside entertaining areas, a swimming pool and seven luxurious bedrooms. What’s more, you’ll only be a stone’s throw away from the glamorous nightlife, for which this pretty settlement is world-famous.
Best for Family:
La Bergerie in Tourettes is a property that will appeal to all members of the family. The 1.4 hectare estate is set within the renowned Terre Blanches golf resort, a mere 25 minutes from the famous Croisette in Cannes.
The property boasts a cinema room, summer kitchen, swimming pool and boules court. With a live-in chef and hostess included in the rental rates, and a capacity to sleep 12 guests, it’s safe to say that all the family will enjoy a holiday at this exclusive retreat!
Monaco, the second smallest independent state in the world after the Vatican, has a big reputation as a place of Chanel and champagne, palaces and Grimaldi Princes and superyachts alongside supercars.
But underneath the veneer of sophistication, lie the secrets of what makes Monaco so appealing – the charming narrow alleyways in Monaco-Ville, quiet spaces in public gardens with sub-tropical flowers, award winning cosmopolitan restaurants and sea views Jacques Cousteau would rave about.
Beaulieu-sur-Mer is situated between Nice and Monaco, a seaside resort that is blessed with a picturesque setting and history books that are dotted with tales of royalty, movie stars and politicians visiting to enjoy the mild climate.
It is here that you will find Villa Kérylos, one of the French Riviera’s cultural gems that was previously managed by Culturespaces but from January 2016 is now under the management umbrella of the CMN (Centre des Monuments Nationaux). The villa was historically listed in 1966 and becomes the 99th national monument in France to be overseen by the CMN.
Visit Monaco (Monaco Tourist Office) have launched some fantastic new virtual tours of the Principality:
Areas of Monaco covered include:
The Oceanographic Museum
The Exotic Garden
The Japanese Gardens
Port de Fontvieille
These virtual tours are a great way for those that have never been to Monaco before to discover the Principality, and for those familiar with Monaco to revisit some of their favourite places from a unique perspective!