The French Riviera, AKA Cote d’Azur, has been the summer playground of choice for the rich and famous for over a century now. It has the best climate in France and some of the most stunning coastal scenery. So, it’s not suprise that this area has attracted artists and writers such as F Scott Fitzgerald and Picasso as well as celebrities like Bridget Bardot who brought glamour to the fishing village of St. Tropez.
Today Cannes is famous for its film festival. Nice is the Riviera’s buzzy metropolis. And, the Caps of Antibes and Ferrat offer many of the most expensive seaside homes in France. Easy access to the Italian Riviera at its eastern end. The beautiful hinterland of Provence and the foothills of the Alps are other plus points. But, there are also superb international schools serving a very large cosmopolitan expat community. Not to mention golf courses, fantastic restaurants and vibrant village markets.
The legacy of its long history as a holiday destination is a slew of beautiful Belle-Epoque mansions and trophy homes. Of course many are at eye-watering prices, but the good news is that if you head back from the coast a little, it’s surprisingly affordable. You can get properties within little more than an hour from the coast from €100,000.
The key is to head up into the hills above the seaside resorts behind the traffic-clogged coastal strip for peace and authentic charm.
Head for the hills
The Arrière-Pays, the stylish hill-top towns of Vence, St-Paul-de-Vence and Grasse, the perfume capital of France have long attracted international buyers. They’re drawn to the Provençal style villas, rustic mas or pretty sky-blue shuttered village houses. However, in Vence, about an hour from the sea, it’s possible to buy a three-bedroom character house in the centre of town for less than €250,000. And, in recent years the hilltop town of Mougins, just 15 minutes from Cannes, has become popular. With high-class restaurants and its renowned international school it’s got plenty to please. And you can find great property at a reasonable price.
Villages with charm
Lorgues is a beautiful historic town famed for its market and worth a look. Even in this fashionable area you can get a two-bedroom apartment in an 18th century building right in the heart of the lovely old town at a good price.
Or how about Tourtour? A charming village in the Var, which true to its name, has ancient towers dating back to the 11th century. There is a pretty central square, welcoming cafés, restaurants and shops. Its no surprise it is classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. For €245,000 you can get a three-bedroom villa in a private wooded estate with pool and tennis courts.
Sun and ski?
Head back behind Aix-en-Provence towards the Luberon in the heart of Provence. For greater value, look east past the Verdon area into the Alpes-Maritime national park. “For just over €100,000 you can get a small one-bedroom home that is close to ski resorts, and just over an hour from the coast,” says Sascha Jenner, local estate agent based in the popular hub of Saint-Vallierde-Thiey. For €250,000 it’s easy to find a three-bedroom house with a garden.
The ski resort of Greolières-les-Neiges is also worth a look. You’ll find timber chalets, many come with pool and stunning views in the mountains of the French Riviera. The properties are less pricey and yet, it’s only 48km to the sandy beaches of Cannes.
Off the beaten track
Last but no means least, the lovely picturesque ancient village of Cipières is also worth a look. Perched on a rocky ridge high above the Loup river valley, with views north and east across to the Montagne du Cheiron. Here you may find village properties for under €250,000.
See: www.frenchestateagents.com for expert advice and to browse a huge range of properties for sale in the Cote d’Azur and all over France.