My obsession with the South of France began several years ago when I read Tender is the Night as a bleary-eyed college student, and it really picked up steam with Blake Lively’s iconic wardrobe at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 (who could forget that iconic dark red dress??).
The area has been on our to-do list for years. When we started planning our big trip with Charlotte this past fall, we both agreed that we needed to plan our itinerary around a long stay in the French Riviera.
The French Riviera features a vast collection of picture-perfect towns dotting the coast of the Mediterranean, so we were a little overwhelmed trying to decide how to spend our precious time. Should we stay in Nice? St. Tropez? Menton? All of the above??
We had to get our South of France travel itinerary right, not only to satisfy years of my putting the region on a pedestal, but to ensure we’d have a good experience on our first trip traveling with the baby (read more here).
I have a close friend with very similar travel taste as me, and she insisted we stay in Antibes.
The second we arrived, we knew she was right.
Famous for its charming old town, medieval fortress (Le Fort Carré) and 16th century ramparts, Antibes is much more quaint and down to earth than its glitzy counterparts. Antibes is rich in history, personable, and the perfect destination for us peasants who still want to experience quintessential French Riviera.
(Although don’t get me wrong–Antibes is home to the biggest yacht harbor in Europe (Port Vauban in Old Town) which is very fun to walk through if you like basking in the fumes of generational wealth).
We spent a lot of time making sure we got our Antibes travel itinerary in good shape for this trip, and we knew a key piece of this would be to spend several days at our first location. This would give all of us (Charlotte) time to get acclimated to the new environment and time zone without feeling rushed to conquer our to-do list.
We stayed in Antibes for five nights–the longest we’ve EVER stayed in one location together! And it was the best decision we could have made. Antibes was the perfect place to bring a baby. We spent the first two days leisurely exploring the town and then felt ready to explore the coast for a couple days.
Spending so much time in a town like Antibes was life-giving for us. We found all of our little “spots:” our favorite coffee shop, market, areas to walk through. It was just delightful.
In today’s blog post, I’ve rounded up our recommendations for Antibes, based on our five magical days there. Check our our Antibes travel itinerary below.
As I mentioned above, Antibes really is the ideal town to stay in if you’re looking for a central location to use as a base for exploring the Riviera.
Antibes is just a 20 minute drive from Nice. This means you can fly into the airport in Nice and be settling into your hotel or Airbnb within an hour. Can’t beat that convenience.
It’s much quieter than the bigger, busier cities in the area and just feels more down to earth. Antibes has a ridiculously charming Old Town, medieval history and architecture, flawless sandy beaches (for example, Plage de la Salis just south of old town), and ease of access to so many other fun areas on the Riviera.
One thing to note: we strategically chose to spend all of our nights in one town to avoid packing and unpacking and making Charlotte do multiple “travel days” during the trip.
However! If it was just us, I’d want to do more of a road trip style trip and stay in a few different towns for a few nights each– maybe two towns on the Riviera and two towns in the countryside of Provence (an area that we had to skip on this trip but is very high on our list for the future).
I already talked about this in my post about Lake Como, but we were SO happy with our choice to plan this trip during the last week of September. The busy season’s crowds had tapered off, but the weather was still absolutely gorgeous and we still had that classic “summer in the South of France” experience that I’d been dying to have for years.
This is important. The area is split into two main parts: Old Town and Juan-les-pins. Juan-les-pins is the more modern and “resorty” side and by far not as cute as the Old Town.
Our Airbnb in Old Town canceled on us right before the trip, so we ended up staying closer to the Juan-les-pins side. We were only a ten minute walk from Old Town, but the area was way less charming.
If you do decide to stay in Antibes, make sure to focus your lodging search on Old Town.
I am feeling warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about our morning routine in Antibes. We’d roll Charlotte down the street in her little travel stroller and make our way into Old Town to collect our morning coffee and croissant.
Our favorite coffee shop, La Torref De Fersen, is tucked away in an impossibly adorable alley. We’d drink our cappuccinos from my favorite-ever blue espresso cups and plan out our day.
Then, we’d meander through the cobblestone streets over to Boulangerie Veziano bakery for what is truly the best croissant we have ever tried. This is also where Charlotte first tried a croissant, so of course I’ll be attached to it forever.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rick Steves’ guides are the BEST way to get an all-around orientation and historic overview of an area. This always helps us set up a framework and context of where we are exploring.
We followed Rick’s Old Town walk for Antibes the first day we were there so we could get our bearings and understand the cultural and historical significance of the town.
One of the main reasons we wanted to go to the South of France was to visit the local produce markets that I’ve seen on Pinterest so many times.
And while I often find myself disappointed when I build something up too much (re: The Cliffs of Moher incident of 2017), these markets were everything I’d hoped for.
The produce market in Marché Provençal is open every day and sells local produce and goods. We made dinner several nights at home in Antibes and loved visiting the market each morning to pick up ingredients and fruit for Charlotte.
There is also an incredible flea market right next to the product market, open on Saturdays only.
I think I’ve made my obsession with Antibes’ old town clear enough, but it’s for good reason. There were SO many shops and restaurants that we discovered and loved.
Browse the cute English bookstore called Antibes Books for a useful souvenir, take a shot of absinthe (in the traditional way, the owner will teach you!) at Absinthe bar, grab a scoop of gelato at Gelateria Del Porto, sit out on the patio with a glass of rosé at Les Filles du Micocoulier, and if you’re hungry, buy a couple of squares of pizza at pizza&co for a quick and inexpensive meal. We had dinner at Le Chaudron one night and it was amazing.
We also spent some time at the beach in Old Town, which is cradled by the medieval ramparts. There’s also a low-key cafe up on the observation deck above the beach where you can grab a snack or drink and enjoy the view of Antibes.
Also, be sure to check out the Musée Picasso, a spot that we knew Charlotte couldn’t handle but that we will for sure tackle next time we are there! The museum is housed in the former Château Grimaldi which was built in the 12th century and housed Monaco’s ruling family for centuries.
Set aside a day or two to explore Cap d’Antibes, the area just south of the town of Antibes that boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world. This is a must on any Antibes travel itinerary. This area is beautiful and home to some of the most lavish hotels we’ve ever seen. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the private villas, note that most of the properties are extremely private and are protected by tall, perimeter security walls!
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc: Tyler, if you’re reading this, please file this hotel under “20th anniversary ideas.” This hotel opened in 1887 and is pristine and luxurious. As we typically do, we ventured to the seaside bar and ordered rosé so we could pretend to be guests and enjoy the view. Charlotte played along perfectly.
Plage de la Garoupe: If you want to explore more of the cape, make your way down to Plage de la Garouple. This is a quieter alternative to the beach in Antibes, though the food will command a premium as a result.
Bay of Billionaires: We parked on the street and walked down to the beach at the Bay of Billionaires. Char napped on me the whole time during our walk and it was so peaceful. We had the beach entirely to ourselves, and then we walked up along the ridge for a stunning view of the bay. This would be a perfect place to bring some champagne, bread, and cheese for a picnic.
As I mentioned above, Antibes offers easy access to much of what the South of France has to offer: St-Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Èze, Monaco, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Menton, Villefranche-Sur-Mer, and Cap Ferrat. The options are endless, and each town is as beautiful as the last.
It took us months to narrow down where we wanted to go on our day trips exploring the area, but we ended up spending one day in the old town area of Nice and one day trekking through Villefranche-Sur-Mer and Cap Ferrat. Both were absolutely magical and I’ll share more in my next blog posts.
It’s a pre-weekend pick me up: just a little note with links to the latest blog posts, what I’m reading lately, and products I’m obsessed with. Think of it as a friend dropping off a surprise latte in the morning--you know?