French Riviera has been favored by superyacht owners and guests for decades. As one of the most prestigious yachting destinations in the world, ports of call along the famous Côte d’Azur are destinations to see and be seen. From the Casino of Monte Carlo and luxury megayachts of Monaco, to the festivals and promenade of Cannes, to the Old Town and museums of Antibes, to the beaches and shops of St Tropez, the French Riviera is where the rich and famous come to play.
French Riviera stretches along the Mediterranean coast of the southeast corner of France, including the sovereign state of Monaco, from the Italian border in the east to Saint-Tropez and Hyères in the west. In the summer months, nearly every coastal harbor on the French Riviera is densely packed with elegant superyachts whose owners and guests represent international wealth, celebrity and privilege. An yachting itinerary can transport charter guests to each of these storied coastal towns for an unparalleled experience.
French Riviera Becomes All The Rage
While the history of this delightful coast is traceable to paleolithic times, it was during the
18th century that the region became exceedingly fashionable, especially as a winter vacation destination for the aristocracy of Britain. By the late 18th century, the mild, dry climate lured members of the British upper class to purchase second homes or enjoy extended stays at exclusive winter health resorts.
The arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century gave easy access to this international playground of royalty and aristocrats. In the first half of the 20th century, the Côte d’Azur became popular with artists and writers such as Picasso, Matisse, Maughm and Huxley, who appreciated the beautiful surroundings and, no doubt, the proximity to potential patrons. In the 1950s, villages and towns along the picturesque Mediterranean coast were dotted with the second estates of the foreign well-heeled.
Today, the region still encompasses some of the most world’s most expensive and desirable real estate. Foreigners with the economic means continue to purchase property and to be indelibly interwoven into the Riviera’s economy, social fabric and allure.
The Principality of Monaco is a sovereign city state bordered by France on three sides and by the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco boasts some of the world’s most expensive real estate at $56,300 per square meter and is home to the highest rate of millionaires and billionaires per capita.
The famous Monte Carlo Casino and gardens is an exquisite example the architecture of the Belle Èpoque. Even if you are not a gambler, the ornate beaux arts building by architect Charles Garnier, who also created the Paris Opera House, should not be missed.
Monaco is also famous for the Monte Carlo Rally, launched by Prince Albert I in 1911, and the Monaco Grand Prix, which dates from 1955. Both prestigious events, organized by the Automobile Club de Monaco, continue to attract thousands of spectators.
Favorite Spot: Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo
This sumptuous spa offers a wide range of high-tech treatments including a cryotherapy chamber, at 166 degrees below zero, said to cure jet lag in minutes.
Cap d’Ail is a short distance from Monaco and a popular seaside resort town with an upscale shopping district on the Basse Corniche and quiet, fashionable residential quarters nestled on the hillside. The Plage la Mala is rated as one of the best beaches on the Côte d’Azura, inaugurated in 1933 in memory of the dancer Mala Kchessinska. Legend has it she strolled along these sands arm in arm with her lover, Tzar Nicolas II, the last Russian Tzar. Mala is an enchanting place to anchor for a leisurely afternoon on the beach. The festive atmosphere in town after sundown beckons cocktails and celebration.
Legend has it that when Napoleon arrived here he heaved a delighted sigh and pronounced the town to be the beautiful-place-by-the-sea. Not long after, Beaulieu-sur-Mer became the favorite residence of European royalty and rich Americans. Isaac Singer, founder of the Singer sewing machine company, and eccentric James Gordon Bennett, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald, among many others, built fabulous estates, architectural masterpieces that can be seen today. A stroll around Beaulieu-sur-Mer is a thrill to enthusiasts of period residential architecture. The Port de Beaulieu is a favorite for luxury superyachts featuring a marina that provides general yachting services.
Cruising westward along the coast, Villefranche-sur-Mer adjoins the city of Nice to the east along Mont Boron, Mont Alban and Mont Vinaigrier, and lies about six miles south west of Monaco. The bay of Villefranche is one of the deepest natural harbors of any port in the Mediterranean Sea providing superb passage and anchorage for deep draft megayachts. The port was designed by architect Charles d’Anjou and is a captivating destination for an afternoon or overnight.
Villefranche became a popular retreat for writers including Katherine Mansfield and Aldous Huxley, who pioneered a trend that continues today. An international set of artists occupy quaint little houses along the narrow alleyways that climb the hillside. Two of the more recent celebrities who have bought villas in the area are Tina Turner and Bono, and local venues accrue an eclectic mix of interesting personalities. This picturesque medieval setting of red tile roofs and narrow cobblestone streets has also been the backdrop to many movies including; Captain Horatio Hornblower, Adventures of Captain Fabian, To Catch a Thief , The Count of Monte Cristo, An Affair to Remember, The Madwoman of Chaillot, Never Say Never Again, The Jewel of the Nile, The Bourne Identity, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and countless video clips and commercials.
Nice is the largest city on the Riviera and the second most popular tourist destination after Paris. Its strategic location and port gave the town great maritime strength throughout its history and and ever changing patterns of sovereignty have left a fascinating cultural legacy. Situated near Nice is one of the oldest human settlements in the world dating from the Lower Paleolithic period. Since the 2nd century AD, this storied city has attracted famous painters and sculptors including Chagall and Matisse, and inspired composers and intellectuals such as Berloz, Rossini and Nietzche. Cosmopolitan Nice has exquisite shops and restaurants, galleries and museums of all kinds, including an interesting Naval Museum.
Antibes is an extraordinary gem, picturesque, stimulating and quintessentially French. There are 48 beaches along the 25 km of coastline that surround Antibes and Juan les Pins to explore. For knowledge seekers, there are five museums in Antibes. Pablo Picasso spent six months here visiting a friend in 1946 and donated several works to the municipality that are kept in the Picasso Museum located in the restored Chateau Grimaldi.
Connoisseurs of the outrageous will particularly appreciate the Absinthe Museum, which can be followed by a visit to the Absinthe Bar La Balade for the rare opportunity to sample the fabled green liqueur, the downfall of Van Gogh, reputed to cause insanity and largely illegal.
The old town of Antibes features fashionable boutiques and art galleries with paintings of local scenes. Gourmet restaurants feature traditional French cuisine with specials focusing on fresh seafood and produce from Provence. In April, the annual Antibes Yacht Show is dedicated to the brokerage and charter of larger yachts and in June, the Voiles d’Antibes is one of the world’s biggest gatherings of old teak and brass sailing vessels that converge on the port for one of the most dazzling regattas in the Mediterranean.
Cannes still preserves the grand villas of the nineteenth century, built for the fabulously rich, they range in style from medieval castles to Roman villas. In additional to palatial architecture, Cannes is famous for its luxury shops, restaurants and posh hotels. International events include the annual Cannes Film Festival, MIDEM, the foremost trade show for the music industry, MIPIM, the worlds largest property-related trade show, and MIPCOM and MIPTV, held in October and April respectively, the world’s most important trade markets for the television industry. Chartering a yacht to accommodate static and corporate charters during these events is a popular and prestigious business solution.
Just across the gulf from glittering Saint Tropez is the harbor of Sainte Maxime, a captivating city to explore. The old town is lined with shops, markets, restaurants, bars and cafés just opposite the harbor. The popular shoreline promenade passes manicured parks where locals compete at the popular French ball game of pétanque, interesting shops that include several marine shops and an upscale restaurant. There are white sand beaches to soak up the Mediterranean sun or try your luck at the beachfront casino. For lovers of nature, the Botanical Garden has walkways with plaques identifying regional plants and trees. Also, a bit of an excursion will lead you to the forested hills of the Maures mountain range with picturesque walking and hiking trails.
Saint-Tropez is the popular playground of famous celebrities, jetsetters, fashion models, and millionaires. Saint Tropez is considered a world capital of yachting, and during the summer season the harbor is crowded with bumper to bumper superyachts. This trendy town is more than glorious sandy beaches and magnificent yachts. Down historic cobbled streets, concealed by rows of cafes and gift shops, are the boutiques of some of the world’s greatest fashion designers. In the history of modern art, from the studios of Saint-Tropez emerged Pointillism and Fauvism movements. The picturesque city continues to inspire fine artists of today.
The Les Voiles de St. Tropez, a world-famous yacht regatta, is held at the end of every September. All types of sailing boats, from traditional to modern, compete with each other in this very popular, international event.
Hyères, the oldest resort town on the French Riviera, has been a destination of the British aristocracy since the mid 18th century, including stays by Queen Victoria. Hyères is truly a sparkling gem, with elegant villas, stunning gardens, sparkling beaches, intriguing historical sites, charming medieval alleyways and exquisite shops and restaurants.
The peaceful town draws crowds during the Hyères International Fashion and Photography Festival, a huge fashion and art photography event that has taken place annually at the end of April since 1985. The prestigious festival attracts cutting-edge artists worldwide and was among the first venues to recognize the talents of the Amsterdam-based fashion house Viktor & Rolf. The city also plays host to the annual MIDI French Riviera Festival in July, a music festival now into its sixth episode. Include Hyères on your yacht charter itinerary
and you will be enchanted by this extraordinary French town.
Toulon, because of its strategic location, has been a thriving port and important naval base for centuries and as such has a fascinating history and a culture of many influences. The old town of Toulon, the historic centre located between the port, the Boulevard de Strasbourg and the Cours Lafayette, is a pedestrian area with narrow streets, small squares and many fountains. Toulon Cathedral and the celebrated Provençal market for local products are located here.
The upper town was built in the mid 19th century under Louis Napoleon. The lavish neighborhood included the Toulon Opera, the place de la Liberté, the Grand Hôtel, the Gardens of Alexander I, the Chalucet Hospital, the palais de Justice, the train station, and the building now occupied by Galeries Lafayette, among others.
Toulon has numerous major museums, including the charming Hôtel des arts, which presents five exhibits a year of works by well-known contemporary artists. Featured artists have included Sean Scully, Jannis Kounellis, Claude Viallat, Per Kirkeby, and Vik Muniz.
For the many events held on the French Riviera, such as the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix, a luxury charter yacht is a sophisticated and prestigious way to combine business with pleasure. Select Yachts can arrange yachts for photo shoots, static charters, hospitality centers, corporate entertaining as well as private charters.