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The Cote d'Azur ('Coast of Azure'), often known as the French Riviera in English, is the Mediterranean coastline of France's southeast corner, including the sovereign state of Monaco. Cote d'Azur has no official boundary, but is usually considered to extend from the border of Italy (Italian Riviera) in the east to Hyeres, Toulon, Cassis or Saint-Tropez in the west.
The Cote d'Azur coastline was one of the first contemporary resort areas. It emerged as a winter health resort for Britain's upper class at the end of 18th century. In the mid-19th century, with the arrival of railway, it became the vacation spot of Russian, British, and other aristocrats, including King Edward VII (at the time he was Prince of Wales), and Queen Victoria. In the summer, Cote d'Azur also played home to members of Rothschild family. During the first half of 20th century, it was frequented by writers and artists, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Edith Wharton, Aldous Huxley, Somerset Maugham, and wealthy Europeans and Americans. After World War II, Cote d'Azur became a popular tourist destination. Many celebrities, like Brigitte Bardot and Elton John, have homes in the area. Officially, the Cote d'Azur is home to a total of 163 nationalities with 83,960 foreign residents, though estimates of the non-French nationals are often higher.
Its largest city in Cote d'Azur is Nice, which in 2006 had a population of 347,060. The city is the center of Nice-Côte d'Azur communauté urbaine, bringing together 24 communes and a population of over 500,000 and 933 080 in its urban area.
Nice is home to Nice Cote d'Azur Airport, the third-busiest airport in France after Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris-Orly. A 2nd airport at Mandelieu was once region's commercial airport, but is currently mainly used by business and private aircraft. Through the region runs A8 autoroute, as does the old main road known as Route nationale 7 (now D N7 in Var and D6007 in Alpes-Maritimes). The coastal region is served by trains, with TGV Sud Est service reaching the Nice-Ville station in 5h and 30 min from Paris.
The French Riviera features a population of more than 2 million. It is home to a high-tech park or technopole at Sophia-Antipolis located north of Antibes, as well as a research and technology center at University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. The Cote d'Azur region has 35,000 students, with 25% working toward a doctorate.
The Cote d'Azur is a major cruising area and has several marinas along its coast. Each year the French Riviera hosts 50% of the world's superyacht fleet, with 90% of all superyachts visiting region's coast at least once in a lifetime. As a tourist center, Cote d'Azur benefits from around 320 days of sunshine per year, as well as 115 km (71 miles) of coastline and beaches, 14 ski resorts, 18 golf courses, and 3,000 restaurants.
Cote d'Azur cruise terminal
The list of main French Riviera cruise ports includes Antibes, Bandol, Cannes, Cassis, Marseille, Sanary-sur-Mer, St Raphael, St Tropez, Toulon, Villefranche-sur-Mer (Nice) and Monte Carlo (Monaco). All these linked Mediterranean ports have itinerary schedules with arrival / departure dates and per person prices to compare.
Most France Riviera cruise tour deals are all-inclusive, often with included pre- or post-voyage luxury hotel packages.
The most spectacular part of French Riviera, and the most up market in terms of tourism, is East of Nice (from the Italian border to Nice). The mountains come almost down to the edge of water and old towns like Villefranche sur Mer or Menton are in between. The most famous of these is Monte Carlo.
- Monte Carlo is situated in the tiny Principality of Monaco - an independent state, surrounded by France on three sides, and by the Mediterranean on the fourth, ruled by Grimaldi family since the 13th century. Most famed for its casino, Monte-Carlo is a micro-state, with highest per-capita GDP in the world. It's also among the most densely populated states. Its residents don't pay any income tax, so it is a tax-haven. But not a tax-free country - VAT is the same as in France. However, Monaco offers fantastic shopping opportunities with its prestigious luxury shops, with the most famous brands in jewellery, designer clothing, and other luxury goods.
- Eze and St Jean Cap Ferrat - Eze is a little village overlooking Cap Ferrat. Clustered on the small peninsula St Jean Cap Ferrat are some of the most expensive homes in France. In the past, St Jean was home to princes, rich businessmen and actors from Switzerland and Paris. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, now open to public, is beauful vestige of bygone age. Nowadays St Jean is home to international jet set.
- Nice is France's 6th largest city and the biggest resort on French Riviera. The city offers historic quarters, long seafront, a beautiful flower market, famous sites and sights, including Chagall museum, Matisse museum, and the Russian Orthodox basilica. Nice is well endowed in hotels, and boasts five-star palaces like the Negresco, as well as backpacker hotels situated away from tourist quarters. Most of Nice beaches consist of stones, and taking a swim in the Mediterranean waters is popular among the visitors here. Because Nice is a major port in France, there is abundance of fresh seafood, great shopping, fine restaurants, as well as plenty of things to do.
- Cagnes sur Mer is famous wit hits historic old quarter and also for its racecourse for horse racing, and the Renoir museum. The old village of Saint Paul de Vence lies inland from Cagnes and is known as 'The artist's village', famous for the art galleries, the most important of which is the Fondation Maeght, with its remarkable collection of art and sculpture of 20th century.
- Antibes is located a few miles south of Cagnes, it is one of the classic French Riviera resorts, with old town, marina, 48 beaches and rocky headland. Antibes offers a number of museums, including Picasso museum, with the best collections of Picassos in France. Once the home and inspiration for Picasso, the town is now a favourite spot for vacationing French families. In the evenings, the old port outdoor restaurants are truly flooded. You can relax on the beach or shop in the covered market for meat, fish, cheese and fresh vegetables. West of Antibes lies Juan les Pins, very small but smart Mediterranean resort, popular for the film stars and actors who visit it.
- Cannes is to the west of Antibes, and is mostly famous for its Film Festival - the biggest annual event in the film world after the Hollywood Oscars ceremony. The city is also popular for trade fairs, including the Midem, music industry fair, taking place every January. During the events, Cannes attracts visitors who hope to get a glimpse of favourite film-stars and musicians. Anyone who thinks of visiting the city at the time of the festival should book accommodations months in advance. There are a few free attractions in Cannes - admiring the fancy yachts in harbor, checking out Palais des Festivales, strolling the winding streets of Old Town, or visiting the two islands in Cannes bay.
- St Tropez has become an international tourist Mecca since the days when Brigitte Bardot started enjoying its beaches. The port city has a lot to offer in terms of sites and activities. The city has great yacht (and people) watching. Sit at a sidewalk café in Old Port and watch as Parisian jet-setters, tourists, and international playboys pass by. Don't miss the huge yachts line up in port, where the famous and rich, dressed in their finest, dine on deck at night. However, the best time to visit the glitzy port town is in the off-months, when you can appreciate the nature of Saint-Tropez.
- Marseille is France's 3rd largest city. Once destination for immigrants from Spain and Italy, today the city is home to many people who come from Turkey and Northern Africa. Marseille offers a lot to visitors - from the unique markets and delicious seafood to the busy shopping districts and scenic calanques.
- Menton is close to the Italian border, and is as much Italian as French. It has its micro-climate, milder than the rest of French Riviera, perfect for the plants in the many famous gardens of the town. The resort is also pedestrian friendly, and it makes the city great for tourists who travel the Riviera. Every February Menton hosts "Lemon festival", interesting for the citrus-themed decorations and live music all over the city.
- Cassis is famous for the sheltered inlets and cliffs that drop into the sea. This charming town is less expensive and less crowded than Cannes and Saint-Tropez, however it's just as picturesque. Scenic cliffs, pastel colored buildings, charming beach and perfect local wines make the town a must-see on Côte d’Azur.