Things to Do in French Riviera - page 3
Known by locals as the Gateway to Verdon Gorge, Castellane is home to four mountain passes and a popular that make it the ideal destination for hikers and wanderers looking to explore scenic trails and take in picturesque views.
The steep trek to Chapelle Notre Dame du Roc, which rises more than 900 meters above the Verdon, is one of Castellane’s most popular stops and one of the area’s most incredible overlooks. White water rafting on the roaring Verdon River tends to attract the more adventurous set and lovers of old-world architecture find the historic churches and ornate municipal buildings well worth the stop.
Château Saint-Martin & Spa, a former 12th-century Knights Templar fortress on the French Riviera, is now a prestigious five-star guest property. This historic building sits amid acres of natural beauty and affords its guests some spectacular views across the Côte d’Azur.
The château itself blends perfectly with its environment, with red and green vines clinging to the walls for most of the year. The building was restored by the contemporary architect, Luc Svetchine, and decorated by the property’s owner, Maja Oetker. Aubusson and Gobelins tapestries, 18th century pendulums, plus Persian and Turkish carpets combine to make the château a fascinating place to simply wander around.
Château St. Martin offers some dramatic and varied views from all angles and the grounds’ perfectly-maintained gardens provide a sense of peace and tranquillity. With 46 classically designed rooms, incredible views, and a distinctly sophisticated and refined atmosphere, Château Saint-Martin is one of those truly unique places to spend the night.
Those looking for an outdoor experience on the Cote d'Azur will find what they're looking for in the Massif des Maures. This mountain range sits back from the coast and runs from east of Toulon to west of Cannes; the peninsula on which St-Tropez lies, roughly halfway between, is also a part of the Massif. Even casual hikers find its forests, vineyards, and rolling plains yielding wild orchids and strawberries a welcome change from the sometimes frenetic energy of the Riviera in high season.
The Massif des Maures roughly translates to “the Moorish Mountains,” and its highest point (2,559 feet; 780 meters) is called Le Signal de la Sauvette. While its steep contours and isolated pockets leave much of the mountain range pristine, the villages of La Garde Freinet and Collobrieres can show visitors what life is like here. They're known mostly for their cork tree harvests and a wide variety of food made from local chestnuts; autumn sees several festivals in the area celebrating these longtime traditions.
Opio, just a half-hour's drive inland from Cannes, puts visitors in the middle of the many things to see and do in the Alpes-Maritimes department. From world-class golfing to a Club Med, Grasse perfume makers and of course the Cote d'Azur, there is something for everyone. And as usual when it comes to this region, there is plenty of history as well.
Traces of the Iron Age and the Roman era have been found in Opio; in addition, there are records of Opio being a part of Antibes and Grasse through the French Revolution. The only thing to see in the village, the 12th-century St-Trophisme Church, is an indication of its vast history. Yes, the village really is that small – just a few houses, really! But the larger surrounding area is where all the fun is.
While in the area, visitors particularly enjoy the many olive oil mills. There are tours, tastings, and of course shops with many olive oil products for sale. Outdoor activities are also popular, with hiking and horseback riding in the nearby countryside.
The Chapelle Bellini was well-known painter Emmanuel Bellini's studio, and houses an exhibition of some of his works. Built in the late 19th century by Comte Vitali, the chapel was part of the Villa Fiorentina and was once home to the Princess of Serbia. A Cannes native, Bellini later purchased the chapel and converted it in to his studio.
In Italian Baroque style, the chapel features a clock tower, an exterior embellished with "gingerbread" and statues, Comte Vitali’s coat of arms, and an inside gallery with a restored wooden staircase. It is a real artistic and architectural delight.
Cap Taillat (also known as Cap Cartaya) is a promontory into the Mediterranean Sea located right at the doorstep of Saint-Tropez. Although difficult to reach (it is only accessible on foot after a short coastal trek), Cap Taillat is one of the most beautiful sights in the area, with wild and unspoiled beaches as well as preserved flora. The many viewing points offer splendid and unobstructed panoramas of the turquoise sea and the dramatic coastline, punctuated by creeks and endemic palm trees. It is a popular summer attraction for visitors from all over France.
Designed by Gustave Eiffel of the Parisian tower fame together with Charles Garnier, the architect of Monte Carlo Casino, Côte d'Azur Observatory (Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur) opened in 1878 and is still a working astronomy laboratory. Resembling a Greek temple, fronted with Ionic columns but topped by a 92-ton dome covering what was once the largest telescope in the world, the observatory is built on a floating platform that originally allowed the telescope to be easily maneuvered into position; nowadays it is moved by hydraulics. It is regarded as one of the planet’s leading observatories, pioneering research into astrophysics and geosciences.
Sitting on the hill of Mont Gros behind Nice in a typically Provençal landscapes scattered with olive trees, a visit to the observatory offers unparalleled views over the glamorous Côte d’Azur and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. It is open for two-hour guided visits only and English-language tours have to be arranged in advance. Occasionally stargazing sessions are held at night.
The National Sport Museum (Musée National du Sport) was first opened in 1922 by the Minister of War, who at the time was also responsible for sports. The museum fell into disuse in the 1940s, but was reestablished in 1963 by the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports. The museum’s location changed a few times before finally being established in the Grand Stadium in Nice on June 27, 2014.
The museum covers sports from the 16th century all the way to today, and its collection contains more than 100,000 items, including sports equipment, paintings, sculptures, posters, drawings, philately, advertisements, books and magazines. There is also a collection dedicated to the history of the modern Olympics, from its beginnings in 1896 to the present.
The most impressively preserved of Provence’s Cistercian abbeys, the Abbey of Thoronet was built between 1160 and 1230. Renowned for its sparse yet precise architecture and remarkable acoustics and now protected as a National Monument, the abbey offers fascinating insight into life under the Cistercian order of Saint Bernard.
Go on a subterranean adventure at the Baume Obscure Cave (Grotte de Baume Obscure), part of a vast limestone ridge that runs along the French Riviera. See the cave’s many striking rock formations and experience the Souterroscope, a sound-and-light installation along its walkways.
More Things to Do in French Riviera
Connected to a picturesque fishing village on France’s Mediterranean coast just west of Cap Ferrat, Villefranche cruise port—officially named Port de la Santé—serves as a gateway to the French Riviera. With its quaint harbor, pastel-painted buildings, and sloping streets, the medieval village of Villefranche-sur-Mer is a charming place to spend the day. The port also makes a strategic starting point for trips to glamorous Cote d’Azur resort towns, including Nice, Cannes, and Monaco, as well as the enchanting villages of Provence.
Nice’s enchanting old port is a lovely place to wander and find the perfect little restaurant for an authentic meal with a romantic view of the Mediterranean Sea. Soak up the atmosphere of the yacht-filled port, then stroll over to the hilly green park, Colline du Château, or the adjacent Quartier Segurane, known for its antique shops and flea market.
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