Clients looking to buy real estate in the South of France sometimes ask what exactly is the Côte d’Azur. The Côte d’Azur, generally referred to as the French Riviera in English, owes its name to a French writer, Stéphen Liégeard, who in the late 1800’s wrote a book about the area. Being a native of Dijon in the department of the Côte d’Or, he merely changed gold into the Mediterranean blue to give “Côte d’Azur” as the title for his book. The name Riviera appeared firstly as Italian Riviera which covers the coast from just across the border after Menton, to La Spezia. The English used to winter on the French side of the same coast and liking the Italian term, started referring to the French Riviera, though at that stage the term covered the coast from Monaco to Menton.
While today everyone agrees that the French Riviera / Côte d’Azur is the Mediterranean coastline of southeastern France starting at the Italian border, the western boundary is disputed. For some the French Riviera ends at the border between the Alpes Maritimes and the Var departments, near Théoule sur Mer. For others it extends into the Var as far as St Tropez (probably the most accepted limit), Hyères or even further west.
Nice is the largest city on the French Riviera and the fifth largest in France with a population of just under 350,000. While Nice is very well known as a tourist destination, with such emblematic features as the Promenade des Anglais, the Negresco hotel, Cours Saleya with its flower market and the quartier of old Nice, there is also a vibrant commercial activity of which the port of Nice is only one aspect. However, every effort is made to ensure Nice remains a very attractive city, be you, resident or tourist.
Nice-Côte d’Azur airport, which is conveniently placed beside the A8 autoroute, at the western entrance to Nice, is the third airport in France in terms of number of passengers, behind the two Paris airports. There is a strong presence of the low cost airlines (mainly Easyjet) and this has been a major factor in increasing the number of tourists to the area as well as people looking to buy French property in Nice, either as holiday, or indeed main homes. Coast and Country have sold real estate to businessmen who commute to their work in other European countries for the week and return to the Côte d’Azur for the weekends, thanks to the cheapness of airline tickets if bought well in advance.
Other well known destinations on the French Riviera to the east of Nice include the coastal resorts of Menton with its Fête du Citron (lemon festival), Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and its wonderful villas on the presqu’île
including the “Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild”, a Belle Epoque spleandour which can be visited, and Villefranche-sur-Mer with its port set in a wonderful bay. Recently at Villefranche the “Villa Leopolda”, a sumptuous seafront estate was bought by Mikhaïl Prokhorov, a Russian oligarch, for 370 million euros but at the last minute he pulled out of the sale and lost his ten percent deposit – could this happen anywhere else than on the Côte d’Azur?
To the west of Nice you have Juan les Pins and its mythical jazz festival and Antibes with its fort designed by Vauban, its charming old town with winding streets and the Cap d’Antibes with huge properties, such as Château de la Cröe, often owned by well known multi-millionaires.
Cannes needs know introduction being world renowned due to its film festival and galaxy of associated stars and tourists. But aside from this glitzy aspect how many people know that Cannes is host to Alcatel Alenia Space which, having built misiles in the past, now builds satelites. Behind Cannes and Antibes you also have the Sophia Antipolis high-tec parc. Further west other coastal towns of note include Mandelieu-La Napoule which has a chateau built by an eccentric American, and Théoule sur Mer with its four charming marinas, of which Port de La Rague is the biggest.
After Théoule you enter the department of the Var and the mythique Golf de St Tropez. Here you have the attractive beach town of Ste Maxime, the harbours of Port Grimaud, Port Cogolin and Les Marines de Cogolin, and of course St Tropez which still manages to retain some of the atmosphere of a small fishing village it had in the 1950’s prior to the arrival of Brigitte Bardot and other stars.
The image of the French Riviera is often one of ostentatious wealth, demonstrated for some in the statistics relating to yachts with 50% of the world’s super-yacht fleet visiting the Riviera ports in any one year. However just a little way in land you find a very different atmosphere and you understand why villages such as Mougins, perched on its hilltop just behind Cannes, have attracted numerous painters who have found inspiration in the calm and beauty of the area. Other artistic activities can be seen in the perfumeries of Grasse, the glass blowers of Biot, and the potteries in Vallauris. Slightly further inland there are still villages hardly touched by tourism, where life seems to have little changed over the years, and even in the busiest summer period the calm reigns. All this is part of the richness of the French Riviera, a truly extraordinary area and magical place to purchase your dream real estate South of France.
See Coast and Country