French Riviera Secrets

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How to travel to the French Riviera

How best to travel to Nice and to the French Riviera?
The French Riviera is very well connected to the rest of France, Europe and the world. You can get here by plane, train, boat or car. For each mode of transport I will give you some hints and tips to help you make the journey as easy as possible.


Air travel

Nice Airport, as seen just after take-off Nice Airport, as seen just after take-off

The main airport in the French Riviera is the Nice Côte d'Azur airport. Nice airport is very well served by all major European airports; a total of 57 airlines fly into and out of Nice.
Talking direct flights only, Nice is connected to 24 French cities, 64 European cities and 17 long distance destinations (including New York JFK airport, as well as a number of North African and Middle-Eastern destinations).

The number of flights to Nice ranges from several a week to several per day, depending on the city.
As for other cities, not served by direct flights, the major European hubs of Paris, London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt connect Nice to the rest of the world.
Nice Airport is France's second largest airport in terms of passenger numbers (around 10 million passengers pass through Nice Airport annually); it has however retained a certain regional atmosphere, which I find quite nice so to speak, as it helps to reduce the stress of travelling.
And then of course it is also always a pleasure to arrive from some cold northern airport, walk out of the airport building straight into the warm sunshine, with palm trees complementing the distinct sense of having arrived in a different world.

Take-off and landing at Nice airport nearly always provides for beautiful views on the sea, coast line and the nearby Alps.

Interesting factoid: the first flight Nice-Paris took place in 1945.

Full details and up-to-date travel information can be found on the Nice Airport web site.

The airport of Cannes-Mandelieu serves as a business airport for private jets, and is also used by small private aircraft.


Train

There are regular train services from major European cities to Nice. The trajectory Paris-Marseille is served by high speed trains (called "TGV" in France), and takes about 3 hours. Unfortunately Marseille-Nice takes just under another 3 hours...
It is always worth checking that there isn't some sort of strike or other industrial action going on, a very popular pastime in France that can seriously impact your train journey.
You can also have your car travel by train (called the "auto train"), this is a separate, overnight journey, allowing you to leave your car in say Paris, and pick up it up again Nice the next day.
Train tickets can be booked online on www.sncf.fr (in French).


Boat

Nice Harbour Nice Harbour

If you have a bit more time, you can consider travelling to and from Nice by boat. Absolutely beautiful, sailing through the clear waters of the Mediterranean, with dolphins and, if you're lucky, whales accompanying you on your journey.

Corsica Ferries sails to and from Corsica, Sardinia and Elba, from Nice and Toulon.
Tickets can be booked online on www.corsica-ferries.fr (in French), or here in English.

You can use the site of AFerry.co.uk to compare prices from the different ferry services and book ferries to Corsica: ferries to corsica, and to Sardinia: ferries to Sardinia.


Car

I have actually never travelled by car from my native Holland to the French Riviera, but a massive amount of people take their own car each year for a holiday on the Côte d'Azur, with or without a caravan in tow. Some typical routes taken are:


  • From the UK:
    • Take your car on the Eurostar train, and travel from London St. Pancras station to Paris Gare du Nord in about 3 and a half hours; depending on the time of day, and the time of year, you can drive to say Nice in about 9 hours (940 km, estimated toll cost of 74 €, petrol 99€).
    • Alternatively, you can travel by P&O Ferry from Dover to Calais, a journey taking about 1h30, and then drive in about 11 hours to Nice (1240 km, estimated toll 103 €, petrol 130€). 

  • From elsewhere in Europe, the main routes are:
    • Paris-Dijon-Lyon-Aix en Provence-Nice(950 km)
    • Frankfurt-Basel-Milan-Nice (1040 km)
    • Prague-Munich-Milan-Nice (1275 km)
    • Budapest-Maribor-Ljubljana-Trieste-Verona-Genova-Nice (1275 km)

The main arterial roads, especially south of Lyon, are very busy in July and August. As always, if you can avoid the peak periods, you'll have a much more pleasant and relaxed journey.

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