The French Riviera from Promenade des Anglais
The wonderful hilltop towns of fragrant Provence combine with chic resorts and the glamorous principality of Monaco on this exciting rail tour of Nice and the Côte d'Azur. Join us as we discover the French Riviera, which has long been a favoured destination of the rich and famous.
We meet at our dedicated Departure Office in St Pancras this morning, then take the Eurostar to Lille, enjoying the light meal included for Standard Premier Class passengers. In Lille we board the TGV service to Nice for six nights at the Hotel Westminster, enjoying dinner together at the hotel this evening. Located close to Monaco and the Italian border on the beautiful Côte d'Azur, Nice is the fifth largest city in France and is believed to be one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. Over the years, Nice has changed hands many times, thanks largely to its importance as a maritime stronghold. It only became part of France in 1860, having previously been an Italian dominion.
Today we enjoy a comprehensive introduction to Nice. Our guided tour of the city, by coach and on foot, begins from outside the hotel. We drive up to Mont Boron, which offers terrific views of the city and the Bay of Angels, with its pebbled beaches and azure water - from which the Côte d'Azur takes its name. Our tour continues to the hill-top quarter of Cimiez, former home of the artist Matisse. The Roman remains at Cimiez offer an insight into the history of the city and the region. After a visit to the bustling Place de l'Opéra and the narrow streets of the old town, we conclude our tour at market in Cours Saleya, just in time for lunch.
The market is just a short walk from the hotel, and from lunchtime you are free to explore the sights, sounds and flavours of Nice at your own pace. Perhaps you'd like to see the stunning Promenade des Anglais, arguably one of the most famous promenades in the world. This superb seaside promenade separates the glamorous shops and hotels from the beach and owes its name to the earliest visitors to the resort as it began to be regarded as a tourist destination.
Looking out towards the sparkling Mediterranean it's a popular spot to take a stroll, gazing out at the sea and the stretch of white sand which follows it around the bay. As popular with the locals as it is with travellers and often used as a meeting point, the promenade has become a picture-postcard scene that showcases the best of the French Riviera in one vista and has become known as a palm-tree-lined, Mediterranean version of the Champs-Élysées.
Alternatively, you could visit the Musée Matisse, a museum devoted solely to the paintings of Henri Matisse, the museum was opened in 1963 and showcases the painter's early works to his more contemporary pieces. The museum's collection is built up of art donated by the painter, who lived in Nice from 1917 to 1954. It houses hundreds of drawings, prints, paintings and sculptures by the famous artist. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
Our day begins with a coach journey along the Lower Corniche Road, enjoying the spectacular views over the glittering Mediterranean. On arrival in Monaco, we make our way to the 13th century Palais du Prince, home of Monaco's ruling family for over 700 years. Just before midday we see the enchanting 'Changing of the Guard' ceremony. We also visit the famous Casino Square in Monte-Carlo. Following our tour, you have some free time to explore Monaco at leisure. You could have a flutter in the casino, or enjoy a drink in the Café de Paris which is Monte Carlo's prime people-watching spot.
On our way back to Nice we stop at Eze, a medieval village set on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The views that you can experience from the top of this remarkable village are awe inspiring. The quaint village itself is a joy to discover, narrow cobbled streets wend and wind their way up and down passing a collection of boutiques and quaint cafés. Atop the village sits Eze's ruined castle and peculiar cactus gardens, the gardens are the best place to catch the worldclass views over the Côte d'Azur.
Today you are free to explore the French Riviera, with its glamorous resorts and pretty villages, at your own pace. You may choose to simply relax on the beach, enjoying the atmosphere of the Mediterranean.
Otherwise, you could perhaps take the train along the coast to Cannes. Browse the stylish boutiques in town, or take a ferry to the Iles de Lérins, two islands in the bay which offer a monastery and two castles. Also nearby is Antibes, home to a fascinating Old Town, covered market and several olive tree-lined parks. Antibes was home to Pablo Picasso for six months and during his time here he created many ceramics, drawings, lithographs, paintings and sculptures. These can now be seen in Château Grimaldi, the first museum dedicated to Picasso.
Today we travel by coach to Grasse, a medieval village renowned as the perfume capital of the world. We enjoy a tour of the Fragonard Parfumerie, home to a dazzling array of perfumes, soaps and all manner of delightful scents. We continue into the hills of Provence and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch we visit St Paul de Vence, the medieval 'perched' village which occupies a delightful and picturesque location among the Provençal hills, approximately 12 miles inland from the waters of the Côte d'Azur. Known as the 'Jewel of Provence', this charming walled village has been the retreat of choice among artists for centuries. Hidden behind the ancient wall is a picture-postcard collection of narrow lanes, steep staircase passageways and shaded squares.
Here you have time to wander through the maze of cobbled streets and discover its beautiful gardens. You can step out onto the walls and gaze across the expanding horizon that covers a verdant landscape with rocky hills and then the sea in the distance. Because of its fantastic location St Paul was originally built as a strategic defensive position and as a frontier post.
The town was fortified to reconnoitre the Duchy of Savoy in a time much more turbulent than the current serenity of the landscape betrays. Perhaps you'd like to visit La Colombe d'Or hotel, legend has it that Picasso and Chagall paid for their lodgings with paintings inspired by their time here.
Alternatively you could see world-famous Fondation Maeght, an independently run art gallery that showcases some important works of modern art, including a collection of Chagall's pieces. St Paul is also close to the famous Le Petit Vigneau offering a delicious selection of locally grown wines.
We enjoy a Standard Class journey on the fantastic Train des Merveilles today, travelling from Nice. We relax on board, admiring the ever-changing scenery of the Roya Valley on our way to Tende.
Starting at sea level in Nice, the train gradually climbs over 1000 meters as it runs over the beautiful and hilly region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. We pass through the picturesque village Breil-sur-Roya and the breathtaking and rugged Valley of Marvels, famous for its Bronze Age carvings, in the Mercantour National Park. The mountainous valley is characterised by sweeping verdant landscapes punctuated by rocky outcrops and medieval villages. On arrival we have free time to explore this perched, Alpine town before we return to Nice for a delicious farewell dinner.
We depart Nice and travel on the high speed service to Lille. We then connect with the direct Eurostar service homeward to London, enjoying another light meal aboard and arriving in the evening.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 11 verified reviews
Well organised and despite the French rail strike we arrived on time with a replacement coach for the last leg,
We had an excellent holiday despite the rail problems due to strike action.The alternative travel options worked well and revised trip to Tende was excellent even though we went by coach rather than train.
Over all the holiday was OK. However, due to the French rail strikes alterations to the itinerary were inevitable.
Trip was what we expected. Interesting visits.
Excellent location, hotel, tours - and a superb Tour Manager
Great Tour Manager, lovely hotel, well planned tours.
Always good to travel with GRJ. Good organisation, comfortable journey and excellent tour manager. She really made the tour a pleasant experience. The destination was lovely and we really enjoyed Nice.The only slight drawback was the wait at Marseille on the way out making it a very long day.
The hotel bed and breakfast was excellent and the tour guide first class. Because of the extra days travelling from the North, which were added on to the holiday, we felt that the tour would have been better with extra days in Nice and possibly more free time.
An excellent experience spoiled only by the poor food and bathroom experiences at the Westminster Hotel. We overcame the former by eating out.
This is the third time that we have been on this GRJ holiday always staying at the much improved Hotel Westminster although we would suggest eating elsewhere as the two evening meals provided for GRJ guests were ghastly! After the early start and lengthy Eurostar journey, the two hour wait at Marseille for the connection to Nice was a bit of an imposition. We preferred the previous arrangements by train directly to Nice.
The French Riviera from Promenade des Anglais