© Isabelle Fabre

The 10 essential guided tours on the Côte d'Azur

The term “Côte d’Azur” was invented in 1887 by Stephen Liégeard, a lawyer and politician, in a work he devoted to the holidays he had taken between Hyères and the Gulf of Genoa. Tourism is a major activity in this area, between the east of the Var department and the Maritime Alps. In addition, to afford you a profitable stay in the south, the Guides de France have selected ten essential guided tours to better discover “The Côte d’Azur”, from west to east: Hyères, Saint Tropez, Fréjus, Cannes, Mandelieu, Antibes, Cagnes sur Mer, Nice, Monaco, and Menton.

HYÈRES LES PALMIERS

Hyères is one of the oldest inhabited sites on the Côte d’Azur. The Greeks established themselves here in the 5th century BCE. Hyères was known as “Olbia”: the ancient ruins can be visited at the archaeological site of the same name. The town then grew in the Middle Ages, thanks to agriculture and cottage industry: the Templers, amongst others, occupied the town centre, which is the historic centre of today. Then, in the 19th century, under the influence of Alphonse Denis, its mayor under the July Monarchy, Hyères underwent a metamorphosis: it became a holiday destination for many wealthy families, whose visits multiplied when the PLM (Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean) railway arrived in the Var in 1859.

To find out more about the urban history of Hyères les Palmiers, book a tour with the Guides de France.

SAINT-TROPEZ

Before becoming an essential summer meeting place for showbiz celebrities and the Jet Set, Saint Tropez was a fishing port, the origins of which date back to the 1st century CE. The town’s name comes from Tropez de Pise, a local government officer during the Roman administration, who refused to abandon Christianity and was executed by Emperor Nero. The body of the deceased was thrown into the sea and, according to legend, retrieved by Var fishermen in the place where the town of Saint Tropez now stands. Tropez de Pise is feted every 17 May. Then, in the Middle Ages, the town grew around fishing and agriculture, before being invaded, at the end of the 19th century, by artists.

You can book a tour with the Guides de France to discover all the details about Saint Tropez, from its origins to date.

Book your tour of Saint Tropez with the Guides de France

FRÉJUS

Fréjus is a town that, like Arles and Nîmes, has preserved the remains of its Roman origins with an amphitheatre and an aqueduct., among other points of interest. In the beginning, Fréjus was a colony founded by Julius Caeser under the name Forum Julii: it was a port town flooded with war veterans and traders. In the Middle Ages, it was a major religious centre in the south of France, with a diocese founded by Leonitus, one of the very first clerics. The ancient cathedral of Saint Léonce [St. Leonitus] also boasts a magnificent early Christian baptistery that can be visited, preferably on market days.

To discover Fréjus through the ages, from its origins to the recent era, the Guides de France recommend you call on a specialist guide from the Ministry of Culture.

Book your tour of Fréjus with the Guides de France

Listen again to the Guides de France on Fréjus, on France Bleu Azur

CANNES

Before being one of the world capitals for cinematographic events, with the Film Festival, Cannes was a town marked by fishing and cottage industry, the origins of which date back to the 2nd century BCE. The original site, up high, was located on the Le Suquet hill that overlooks the Bay of Cannes: it was inhabited by Celtic populations. Furthermore, Cannes is derived from “Canoa”, which meant “ heights” in the Barbarian language. In the 5th century, the town became a major religious centre in the south of France, when Honorat d’Arles founded the Lérins Abbey on the island that today bears his name. The Lérins islands are a major point of interest in the town, with the abbey and St Marguerite Fort, built in the time of Louis XIII and completed under Vauban.

Set off in the footsteps of the great history of Cannes with the Guides de France. In addition to La Croisette and the Film Festival, they will have you discover amazing locations during one of their guided tours!

Book your tour of Cannes with the Guides de France

Listen again to the Guides de France on Cannes, on France Bleu Azur

MANDELIEU LA NAPOULE

Mandelieu has been an inhabited site since the 1st century BCE, in the areas that are now the aerodrome and the sportsgrounds. Agriculture developed in the Middle Ages on the fertile slopes of San Peyre hill. The Villeneuve family built a chapel dedicated to Saint Pierre [St Peter], which gave its name to the Mandelieu hill, and a château that is still standing today, the renovation of which was carried out by a rich American couple, the Clews, in the 20th century. At the end of the 19th century, tourism developed in Mandelieu la Napoule and saw the famous travellers Guy de Maupassant and Oscar Wilde lay down their hats in the town.

The Guides de France will tell you the secrets of Mandelieu La Napoule during a guided tour: follow them!

Book your tour of Mandelieu la Napoule with the Guides de France

Listen again to the Guides de France on Mandelieu la Napoule, on France Bleu Azur

ANTIBES

Antibes is a town with Greek origins: it was founded in the 6th century BCE under the name Antipolis. Around 150 BCE, the inhabitants, threatened by the Oxybii, called on the Romans. The latter then set up in the South of Gaul and founded the Roman province of Narbonnaise. The Romans then developed Antipolis: they occupied the areas today formed by Cours Masséna, the Picasso Museum and Rue de la République. In the Middle Ages, Antibes became the heart of a rich bishopric; it then continued to grow under the impetus of the Kings of France, from Henry II to Louis XIV, who fortified the site. With the arrival of the PLM railway in 1863, tourism became an essential activity in Antibes. The town boasts a whole range of interesting sites that the Guides de France will reveal to you during one of their many guided tours.

Book your tour of Antibes with the Guides de France

Listen again to the Guides de France on Antibes, on France Bleu Azur

CAGNES SUR MER

Cagnes sur Mer is a site that has been inhabited since ancient times, as proven by the many oil presses discovered where the current railway station stands, and the many ceramic ovens in the Saint Véran district. In 1309, Rainier Ier Grimaldi had a château built, which saw successive extensions until the French Revolution. The Grimaldi château is one of the town’s points of interest, with the Collettes estate, where the painter Renoir lived out his days and where there is a museum devoted to him. Seascape lovers will be pleased to discover the Cros de Cagnes, a charming fishing port founded in the 19th century and placed under the protection of St Peter, whose yellow chapel forms a magnificent picture postcard scene.

Book your tour of Cagnes sur Mer with the Guides de France

Listen again to the Guides de France on Cagnes-sur-Mer, on France Bleu Azur

Nice

In 2021, Nice was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town, the origins of which date back to the Greeks and Romans, boasts a variety of remarkable sites, from Cimiez to the Promenade des Anglais, from the Château Hill to Old Nice. It has a rich and varied museum offer: among these two major painters stand out, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, who both have establishments dedicated to them in the Cimiez district. Niçoise cuisine is also one of the town’s major points of interest, with its well-known specialities that the Guides de France will be delighted to have you discover during one of their guided tours: pissaladière, socca, and farcis.

Book your tour of Nice with the Guides de France

Listen again to the Guides de France on Nice, on France Bleu Azur

 

MONACO

The Principality of Monaco has one of the oldest dynasties in Europe at its head: the Grimaldi family. They established themselves on the Rock in the 13th century and have reigned without interruption ever since, over regions that have become smaller overall, with the devolution of Menton and Roquebrune Cap Martin to France in the 19th century. The Principality maintains very healthy relations with France: it was connected to the French railway at the end of the 19th century thanks to the PLM. Tourism has been a major activity since the 20th century, and the Principality has been able to fully capitalize on this, by becoming an essential location for events and culture on the Côte d’Azur: Formula 1 Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo Tennis Tournament, the oceanographic museum, opera, automobile museum and gardens.

To find out the secrets of the Principality of Monaco, book one of the Guides de France tours.

Book your tour of Monaco with the Guides de France

MENTON

Menton has been inhabited since the 10th century, but traces of human life have proved that its activity dates back to Roman times. During the reign of Emperor Augustus, Menton, which did not yet exist, was on the route of the Via Julia Augusta, which linked the south of Gaul, the towns of Fréjus, Antibes, Nice and La Turbie to Italy. In the Middle Ages, the town saw the Counts of Vintimille (932 to 1346) and the Grimaldi family of Monaco (1346-1848) as its successive rulers. Between 1848 and 1861, the town was placed under the authority of the King of Piedmont-Sardinia, before becoming French at the same time as the County of Nice. From this rich past, also tormented by the forced Italianization of the town by Mussolini during World War II, the town has preserved major points of interest, such as the Bastion, the Cocteau Museum and the basilica of Saint Michel [St Michael].

Set off to discover Menton by booking your guided tour with the Guides de France.

Book your tour of Menton with the Guides de France

Listen again to the Guides de France on Menton, on France Bleu Azur

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