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Exploring the Côte d’Azur by train

View of Nice Port, small colourful boats tied up to the quai

As a glamorous destination with sun galore, tons of delicacies and lots of history, the Côte d’Azur, located in the South-eastern part of France, is a much sought after destination for international visitors. With an abundance of small towns to wander around, beautiful beaches to sunbathe and cities like Nice to shop, dine and sightsee, it is the perfect destination to unwind, explore and indulge.

With train tracks along the coast, offering you a view of the sparkling azure blue water that gives the region its name, the Côte d’Azur is perfect to discover by train. From Nice it’s only a short ride to Cannes to the South and the Principality of Monaco to the North, with both rides offering you spectacular views along the way. With excellent train connections and train stations that are close to each city centre, train travel is a comfortable and easy way to explore the region.

Nice

Promenade des Anglais

View of Nice beach, rows of blue and white sun umbrellas

Located at the heart of the Côte d’Azur and within close proximity to Cannes, St. Tropez and Monaco, Nice is the perfect city to start your French Riviera adventure. It’s home to one of France’s most famous streets: the seven kilometre long Promenade des Anglais, in English ‘Walkway of the English’. The name refers to the English Aristocrats who holidayed here in the 18th century. In 1820 Reverend Lewis Way organised and paid for the building of the Promenade. Nowadays it’s a famous place for visitors to take a stroll along the oceanfront or to go for a swim.

Vieux Nice

Not too far away is Nice’s old city centre, Vieux Nice. This famous area is colourful, lively and highly charismatic. As Nice was once part of Italy, it breaths a mixture of both French and Italian influences. Right at the centre at the Cours Saleya is a daily market full of fragrant flowers and local delicacies. There is an antiques market each Monday. For lunch try the local specialty, a refreshing salad niçoise. Afterwards explore the cosy streets along the square.

Notre-Dame

With its two towers and rose window, Nice’s Notre-Dame de l’Assomption has some similarities to the Parisian Notre-Dame. The impressive building is located in one of the city’s main streets: the Avenue de Jean-Médecin, named after a former mayor of Nice. The building of the church started in 1864, over five centuries after its namesake in Paris. As Nice was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia until 1860, and as Gothic style was considered to be typically French at the time, the church was given a Neo-gothic style by architect Lenormand. He was also in charge of the building of the Monégasque Cathedral. Worth a visit during the day as well as at night time when it is beautifully lit.

Cannes

Boats bobbing off the coast of Cannes

Cannes, ‘The pearl of the riviera’, and its film festival are often referred to together. Celebrities from all over the world come to visit the world famous Festival de Cannes. Its influence can be seen when strolling along the promenade, with expensive hotels and yachts, film monuments and a walk of fame that are characteristic to the city. When arriving at Cannes train station simply cross the street to enter the city centre. The perfect area for some boutique shopping before heading off to the beach.

Walk of Fame

It’s not just Hollywood that has a Walk of Fame, so does Cannes. The Star Studded Floor is to be found in a park along the Boulevard de la Croisette. With handprints from Tim Burton, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and many others, it’s right at the entrance of the Palais des Festivals de Cannes, the location where the film festival is held annually.

Le Suquet

Step away from the glamour and explore the heart of Cannes in the old town of Le Suquet, on top of the hill where Cannes was founded in the early 11th century. This charming and picturesque area has kept its original charm. The steep way to the top leads to a maze of Medieval streets and colourful houses. Guaranteed you’ll fall in love with this charming area! Don’t miss the clock tower and admire the magnificent harbour and ocean views. When it’s time for dinner, follow the scent of the many restaurants in Le Suquet’s narrow streets and enjoy a traditional French meal.

Route Napoleon

Located close to the harbour, you can find the Notre Dame de Bon Voyage. A gothic style church with a monument commemorating Napoleon’s return from the Island of Elba. It was here where Napoleon camped on the night of March 2nd 1815 before he rushed off to Paris. The path which he took later became known as the Route Napoleon.

Monaco

View of narrow street in old town Monaco, lined with cafes and shops

A less than 30-minute train ride takes you from Nice to the Principality of Monaco.  The ride offers terrific views of the French Riviera, with places like Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Cap d’Ail en route. Take the harbour exit at Monaco’s train station, where you’ll find wow factor on a walkway amidst the cliffs, leading you to Monaco’s harbour.

Monte Carlo

With super-deluxe yachts, expensive cars, the Grand Prix Formula 1 and a world famous casino, Monte Carlo is a district of wealth and luxury. The Casino de Monte-Carlo generates enough income to alleviate a levy on personal income tax for Monaco’s residents. To protect its residents, a law prohibits them from physical gambling in the casino. Exceptions are made for foreign nationals (which make up a large part of the population) and to allow people to work at the casino.

Palais and old town

On top of the city’s rock is Monaco’s old town with the Palais Princier. The palace, home to the Grimaldi family since 1297, has been their only residential palace and houses over seven centuries of Monégasque and family history. After watching the Changing of the Guards at 11.55 am, the benches overlooking the harbour are your go-to place for a picnic lunch. Afterwards the cosy winding streets are perfect for some afternoon shopping.

Having worked oversees as a tour guide, Natascha Gordeau has a huge passion for travel, photography and story-telling. Now being back home in the Netherlands she never misses an opportunity to travel to France, the place where her ancestors are from. Find her on Twitter at Tashtravelpics

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