The allure of the Côte d'Azur is strong. Millions of people from the UK alone flock there each year, drawn by the legends of glitz and glamour which have floated back on the sea breeze over the years.
The most iconic imagery may come from the 1960s and 1970s but it has lost none of its appeal today, and is still the top choice of many luxury travellers.
Whether you go there for the first time or the hundredth, you will discover an eclectic region of beach clubs and secluded walks, high-end dining and low-cost locally caught seafood, pristine beaches and rolling hills.
The Cote d’Azur has something for everyone, and these are the best hotels to stay at while you visit.
Le Negresco, Nice
Le Negresco has been a landmark in Nice for over 100 years.
Many famous names have used it as their Riviera base over the years, and the sparkling white walls and bright roof tiles are visible from across the city.
Inside it is a blend of the contemporary and classic, with the wood-panelled bar contrasting beautifully with the crisp modernity of restaurant La Rotonde.
The location is perfect for beach walks, luxury shopping and exploring the Old Town and Port areas; unwinding after all that exertion takes place on sun loungers in the private beach club just across the street.
Anantara Plaza, Nice
The building housing the Anantara Plaza has actually been there longer than Le Negresco, but the hotel now inside it is brand new and improved.
The most striking feature is the astonishing panorama of the Baie des Anges from the rooftop bar and Restaurant, SEEN by Olivier, but the modernity of the rooms and opulent spa ensure that what’s under the roof is impressive as well.
The hotel is located beside the Jardin Albert 1er, equally walkable to the luxury boutiques of the Massena area and the winding alleyways of the Old Town.
This stunning restoration of one of the most recognisable buildings in the city centre is a perfect example of the constant evolution of the French Riviera.
Hotel Byblos, Saint Tropez
Few icons of the Riviera’s ‘Golden Age’ are as beloved as Saint-Tropez’s Hotel Byblos.
It was built to woo Brigitte Bardot (unsuccessfully, mind, but we can look past that), it was the venue for Mick Jagger’s wedding and the nightclub attached, Les Caves du Roy, has had just about every famous actor you can think of take a table for the night.
Far from resting on its laurels, the hotel is always updating – a beach club just 15 minutes’ drive away (the limo will take you, naturally) allows guests to enjoy the hotel’s gastronomy with secluded sea views; the spa area, in partnership with Sisley, has been renovated to accommodate holistic wellness treatments involving yoga and guided meditation.
Classic pampering is of course readily available, but the family who own Hotel Byblos want their guests to leave having had a long-term rejuvenation of their entire body and mind, not just something skin-deep.
Hotel Lou Pinet, Saint-Tropez
Relatively small, at only 34 rooms, and featuring a steak-led restaurant, Hotel Lou Pinet has chosen to walk its own path through the Riviera.
The décor is an updated version of classic 60 Tropezian chic – the rooms have keys, not keycards – and having fewer means each one has more than your usual amount of space.
Outdoor lounging areas come as standard, and if that’s not enough there’s plenty of space by the central pool.
This is a tranquil little oasis in a bustling port resort, and staying here will allow you to experience the best of the town of Saint-Tropez before retreating to your own little corner of solitude to recover.
Villa Marie, Saint-Tropez
The hills above Saint-Tropez are covered in pine trees, and it is hidden amongst those trees you will discover Villa Marie Saint-Tropez.
Slightly removed from the town itself – about three kilometres away – this is a property more suited to day-time reclining than late-night partying, but your reward for forgoing the town on your doorstep is the sweeping vistas from the restaurant’s summer terrace each evening.
Rooms are cosy and chic, the spa can offer your treatments in a jasmine and pine grove, naturally scented instead of just with oils, and the pool area boasts more of those views down the hill to the sea.
Les Roches Rouges, Saint-Raphaël
The cape at Saint-Raphaël is not as well-known as other spots along this famous coast, but just as beautiful.
Les Roche Rouges was built there in the 1950s, and still wears the styling of the era, but beneath the surface is contemporary, youthful service that will make you feel right at home.
Flagship gastronomic restaurant Récif holds a Michelin star, while more relaxed dining can be found on the terrace at La Plage.
Wherever you choose to park yourself on this property will have glorious access to the sea, thanks to the location at the tip of Cap Dramont, and the scent of the pine and lavender from the garden will soothe you as you watch the waves break gently on those burnt red rocks of the Cap Dramont.
Hôtel Martinez, Cannes
Anyone who has visited Cannes will have noticed the sign atop the Hotel Martinez as they strolled along the Croisette.
This is probably the most famous hotel in the city, and nods to the legendary film festival which has provided so many of its notable patrons can be found all through the building.
Beachside restaurant La Plage is signed by Jean Imbert, the man behind the exemplary cuisine at Paris’ Plaza Athénée, French beauty giants Caritas have partnered with the hotel for a massive renovation of the wellness area and pool.
If you’re lucky enough to get a room during the festival, you may even bump elbows with Hollywood royalty while you eat or enjoy your massage.
Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc, Cap d’Antibes
Some of the most enduring images from the golden age of the Riviera are those taken by Slim Aarons at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.
The famous pool, dug into the rock just above the sea, still provides impeccable Instagram moments, but is far from all this magnificent property has to offer.
Four restaurants and an ice-cream parlour will keep you fed; five bars, scattered across the breadth of the hotel, will ensure the champagne and cocktails don’t run out.
Tennis courts and laps of that pool will help you burn off the calories the next morning.
The most recent addition to the property is the expansive Dior Spa Eden Roc, a new wellness experience from the renowned French luxury brand which offers treatments not only on-site, but in outdoor gazebos with the sounds and scents of the surrounding nature as your backdrop.
Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat
At the other end of the bay from Cap d’Antibes is Cap-Ferrat, and another iconic luxury Riviera property.
Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat is now a Four Seasons hotel, and comes with every luxurious touch you expect from the brand.
Choosing from the three dining options allows you to select a degree of formality: Le Cap for elegant gastronomy, La Véranda for a more relaxed-yet-elegant bistro feel, or the complete relaxation of poolside lunches at Club Dauphin.
The latter is a great place to wile away an entire day, offering some of the best sunbathing spots in the region as well as direct access to the coastal path that runs right along the shore.
There are lots of hidden areas in the gardens for romantic moments – a private meal can be arranged there if you wish – and even a part of the fitness centre is outdoor, allowing more active guests to work out while watching the sun set.
Terre Blanche, Provence
The best way to understand the scale of Terre Blanche is to compare it to a neighbour – the complex is bigger than Monaco.
Really getting to know it will require a decent length of stay as there is so much to explore.
Golf lovers have not one, but two European Tour courses to play on, as well as a state-of-the-art golf academy and driving range.
Coaches are available to help you use the latest technology to find the adjustments needed to your swing, or you can simply amuse yourself with a gentle round each morning.
If golf isn’t your thing then hiking, tennis, or swimming in the heated pool might keep you entertained, or why not grab a bike and cycle out to one of the medieval towns littering the surrounding hillsides?
Four restaurants offer a wide variety of cuisine and levels of formality – though all are family-friendly – with main restaurant Faventia holding one Michelin star. Rooms are laid out as small villas in a little village directly behind the main hotel building, and if you don’t feel like walking to dinner one evening either have it brought to your terrace or call for a golf buggy to whisk you up the hill.
This isn’t just a hotel, it’s your own Provençal estate.
Château Saint-Martin & Spa, Provence
The location of Château Saint-Martin & Spa is so desirable that it has been home to a country retreat for almost 900 years.
The original castle was built for Knights Templar celebrations in the 12th century – today the resort is a beacon of modernity and luxury.
The spa, by La Prairie, has been named the best in Europe; it has its own Michelin star restaurant as part of the 4-strong dining contingent.
Evenings can be spent strolling through olive groves and herb gardens, while days are for lounging by the pool with a cocktail. The mint in your julep will even be grown on site.
Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo, Monaco
It’s impossible to discuss the Riviera luxury without mentioning Monaco, and Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo has been on the scene since the first ball was spun in the casino.
Turning into the driveway is like entering a Renaissance palace, all columns and sculptures, and the spectacles do not end there.
The outdoor area of the bar, which has just been renovated to host Les Ambassadeurs by Christophe Cussac, overlooks the downhill section of the Grand Prix track – making it a hot ticket when the F1 circus sweeps into town – while suites have views directly onto the azure waters of the Med.
The hotel’s place in Monegasque history is not taken lightly – a deal has recently been struck to offer Metropole guests exclusive access to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, with exclusive guided tours and access to treasures not normally on show.
Hotel de Paris, Monaco
On the western side of Place du Casino, just facing the legendary Casino itself, is the Hotel de Paris, the iconic jewel in the crown of the state-owned Société des Bains de Mer estate.
This was the first property to open when Monaco’s transformation into a luxury playground began, and in 2019 the entire place was renovated to breathe fresh wind into the sails of the flagship.
A spectacular marble lobby awaits you just behind the period revolving doors, and leads on to a bar with casino views, the legendary 3 Michelin star Alain Ducasse restaurant Le Louis XV and through to the magnificent rooms and suites.
More Michelin star dining awaits on the roof – Le Grill has one, and the best sea views in the area – while an underground passageway (marble-clad, naturally) leads under the F1 track to the adjoining spa and gym facilities. SBM intend to set the standard for the nation with this hotel, and they’ve set it magnificently high.