Spread the love

Planning a French Riviera Road Trip itinerary from Barcelona? – Here’s my recent 7-day itinerary with some of the best spots along Spain’s Costa Brava and the South of France.

  • This post contains affiliate links from which I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you). For more info, please read my disclosure. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Visiting The French Riviera

Why to visit Cote D´Azur

The French Riviera (also called Cote D’Azur) often appears on the list of the most romantic travel destinations worldwide for a reason. The South of France globally ranks for its beautiful Mediterranean coastline with azure-blue waters, charming Provence lifestyle, cute villages with cobblestone streets, and delicious French cuisine.

No wonder, I was dreaming about this French Riviera Road Trip for quite some time. Although I should admit that I was mostly looking forward to visiting cute coastal villages. However, you can´t plan any itinerary in South France and miss out on the famous spots, like Cannes or Monaco along the way.

How to get to French Riviera

The Aeroport Nice Cote d’Azur is France’s second busiest airport after Paris, so it is a popular place to start any French Riviera Road Trip.

Nevertheless, I have actually enjoyed driving from Barcelona and exploring the Mediterranean cost of both Spain and France in one single trip.

For a longer itinerary, you can combine this French Riviera Road Trip with my 5-day Costa Brava Road Trip, 7 days in the Pyrenees from Barcelona, and a weekend in Andorra.

rench riviera road trip landscapes
Driving through South France

Where to Stay in the French Riviera

For this French Riviera Road Trip, I was specifically looking for a budget-friendly hotel with a charming Provence appeal: we ended up booking La Bastide de Valbonne.

Nevertheless, on the map below, you can find something for every taste.

French Riviera Road Trip from Barcelona

Doing this French Riviera Road Trip from Barcelona is a great chance to spend at least one day in the most popular Spanish city.

While personally, I prefer Madrid to Barcelona, the charm of the Catalan capital is still quite undeniable. So, even though I have visited Barcelona on multiple occasions, I still enjoy planning occasional family weekends in the Gaudi capital.

Driving through Southern France

If it´s your first time driving through the South of France, you might find handy this Tripiamo Guide for Driving in France.

Except for the moment we entered Marseille (when the traffic felt chaotic), driving through the French Riviera was a nice experience. Although there were constant tolls on the road (I do not recall experiencing anything similar in other European countries).

Villefranche-sur-Mer – one of the most charming villages of the French Riviera
French Riviera Road Trip Cote D Azur
Villefranche-sur-Mer – one of the most charming villages of the French Riviera

Inspiring books & movies about French Riviera

Do not miss these books to keep your wanderlust fueling before this French Riviera Road Trip:

From the movies set on the French Riviera, I enjoyed A Good Year (2006), To Catch a Thief (1955), God Created a Woman (1956), and Magic in the Moonlight (2014).

Unique Experiences not to miss at the French Riviera

rench riviera road trip from barcelona
Saint-Tropez – a must stop on any French Riviera Road Trip

Our 7-day French Riviera Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 Barcelona – Girona – Carcassone

On the first day of this French Riviera Road Trip, we drove from Barcelona (Spain) to Carcassone (France) with a stop in Girona.

Girona

Girona is a must-see on any Costa Brava road trip and a popular Game of Thrones Filming Location in Spain. This town is full of traces of different civilizations and cultures (especially, the Romans, the Moors, and the Jews). The iconic Cathedral of Girona has elements of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architectural styles.

Girona´s most popular area is its Old Town, especially Rambla de la Libertad – a pedestrian street full of shops and cafes.

A great way to make the most of your stop in Girona is to book one of the tours with a local guide to show you around:

Girona Catalonia Costa Brava Road Trip
Visiting Girona on the way to the South of France

Carcassonne

The most unique landmark in the French town of Carcassonne is its medieval Old Town. I recommend you check out the official website for current events (your travel dates might overlap with a temporary exposition or a local farmers market).

A few great experiences you can book in Carcassonne in advance:

The top famous restaurants in Carcassonne are Restaurant Comte Roger, L’Escargot, and La Barbacane.

french riviera road trip barcelona Carcassonne
Carcassonne – the first stop of our French Riviera Road Trip

The Book Village of Montolieu

Back home, I read somewhere about the cute book village of Montolieu, located near Carcassonne. I would have never missed this place (if only I knew about it during this French Riviera Road Trip).

Day 2 Carcassone – Marseille – Valbonne

On the road from Carcassone to the French Riviera you can make stops at Abbaye de Fontfroide, Narbo Via Museum in Narbonne, and Jardin de Plantes or Planet Ocean in Montpellier.

Marseille

However, my original plan for the second of this French Riviera Road Trip was to make a lunch stop in Marseille (to try the famous local dish bouillabaisse at Chez Fonfon).

However, the city has left with mixed feelings…

Being the second largest capital in France, Marseille is known for its rich history and vibrant culture but also has higher crime rates than the rest of the country (together with Nice). That safety feeling apparently varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Many claim that the appeal of Marseille is similar to other European port cities, but I did not feel this way (especially since I have already visited most of the European ports via Mediterranean Cruises).

For some reason, Google made us enter the city through one of those lesser-picturesque neighborhoods. I can´t say I was unsafe at any point, but I felt a bit uncomfortable. Especially, with the cheerful comments from my husband like “If we park our car over here, we might end up exploring Cote d’Azur without windows or wheels…”.

Also, Marseille is, probably, the dirtiest city I have ever seen in France.

We spent a while driving around in search of parking near the restaurant, and finally decided not to leave our car on the street while heading straight to our hotel in Valbonne.

My mistake with Marseille was that I thought it would be a quick and easy stop on the go, which was definitely not true. Marseille is not worth visiting in a rush, and I wish I had booked any of the walking tours with local guides to show me around. Since my childhood, I have always wanted to visit Marseille to see the famous Chateau d´If (from the book The Count of Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas).

So, I plan to return to Marseille again (probably without a car).

Top Experiences in Marseille

Day 3 Cannes – Grasse

Cannes

The 3rd day of our French Riviera Road Trip started with coffee & croissants at the iconic waterfront promenade Boulevard de Croisette in Cannes. The first thing Cannes is known for internationally is, probably, the Film Festival. However, the city is full of glam all year round – with all the designer shops, yachts, and luxury hotels.

A popular stop along the promenade is Le Palais des Festivals et des Congres, where you can pose on the Red Carpet and explore the bronze handprints of French celebrities.

The most iconic hotels of Cannes that you can also spot along the way are Carlton, Hotel Martinez, and Barriere Le Majestic.

Since it was my first time visiting Cannes, we spent the whole morning window shopping and exploring the city. Nevertheless, next time, I would love to visit the nearest Lerins Islands.

Other popular things to do in Cannes:

france spain road trip Cote dazur
Carlton Hotel in Cannes
cote d azur road trip barcelona
Boulevard de Croisette in Cannes

Grasse

In the afternoon, we headed to Grasse – the perfume capital of France.

As any fan of French perfumes with history, I couldn’t this small town. Some of my favorite scents were created in FranceMaison Francis Kurkdjian Paris Baccarat Rouge 540, Helene by Rance 1795, and Pale Blue Eyes by Roos & Roos.

I also remember reading about Grasse in Parfume by Patrik Suskind. While the town itself did not impress me, visiting a French perfume factory was interesting and educative.

The most iconic perfume factories in Grasse are Fragonard, Galimard, and Molinard. Since Vanille Fruitee Eau de Parfum by Molinard is often on the summer list of my travel beauty essentials, and I have already seen Fragonard in Paris, we decided to visit Galimard for a tour and French new scents to bring home.

rench riviera road trip places to see Grasse
Grasse – the perfume capital of France

Day 4 St Paul de Vence – Eze

St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence was one of the French Riviera villages I was mostly looking forward to visiting.

Aside from the charming cobblestone streets and medieval architecture, St Paul de Vence has always been the ultimate artists’ hub of Cote d´Azur. This small town was once visited by Matisse, Picasso, Dufy, and Marc Chagall. Some of the creators used to pay their bills with paintings at Colombe d´Or restaurant (where we also went for lunch).

The village of St Paul de Vence ended up as one of the highlights of this French Riviera Road Trip.

france travel south St paul de vence
St Paul de Vence – one of my favorite stops on this French Riviera Road Trip
st paul de vence french riviera road trip
St Paul de Vence – one of my favorite stops on this French Riviera Road Trip

Eze

The small hilltop town of Eze is located between Nice and Monaco. The village is famous for its spectacular views and impressive medieval architecture.

Walking the narrow streets of Eze makes one time travel back to the Middle Ages. We really enjoyed the panoramic views at Jardin Exotique.

french riviera eze villages
 Jardin Exotique in Eze
french ricviera villages st paul de vence
St Paul de Vence

Day 5 Villefranche-sur-Mer – Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – Monaco

Villefranche-sur-Mer

We started the 5th day of this French Riviera Road Trip with a visit to the small village of Villefranche-sur-Mer. After wandering its Old town streets and colorful medieval houses, we had lunch at La Mere Germaine (known for great cuisine and seaside views).

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

After Villefranche-sur-Mer, we headed to the small peninsula of St Jean Cap Ferrat to visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

This beautiful property used to belong to Baroness Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild and was inspired by her numerous travels around the world. The villa is set in one of the most beautiful locations of Cote d’Azur and houses a unique collection of artworks & porcelain.

The 16-euro entrance included audioguide – it was such a pleasure to wander around the gorgeous interiors of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. Like St Paul de Vence, this property ended up as one of my favorite stops on this French Riviera Road Trip.

french riviera travel itinerary Villa
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – a must stop on any French Riviera Road Trip
rench riviera holidays Road trip
The views from Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
south france destinations
The Gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (designed to remind a cruise ship)
visit french riviera road trip from barcelona
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Monaco

After an afternoon visit to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, we decided to visit Monaco and the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo.

While Monaco is globally known for its glam, yachts, and luxury stores, I could not find anything special about this place. The parking near the Casino was full of luxury cars, but from the architectural point of view (or sightseeing), Monaco was not pretty at all.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience to visit Monaco once, but I would not return.

french riviera from barcelona south france monaco
Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco

Day 6 Corniche D´Or – Saint-Tropez – Figueres

Corniche D´Or

On the 6th day of this French Riviera Road Trip, we were heading back to Spain, with a stop in Saint-Tropez.

I felt so excited to drive along the famous Corniche d´Or (also called Corniche de l´Esterel), known as one of the most beautiful roads of the French Riviera (connecting Cannes with Frejus, near Saint-Tropez). This drive is popular for its spectacular reddish rocks and magnificent views of the Mediterranean coast.

french riviera road trip corniche dor road
Corniche D´Or

Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez is known as a glamorous stop for yachts along the French Riviera. But essentially, it is an old fisherman’s village full of luxury shops. In one of the local cafes, we got coffee with the popular local cake tarte tropezienne.

After Saint-Tropez, we drove all the way to Figueres – the famous home of the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

rench riviera road trip st tropes south france
St Tropez – a popular place on any French Riviera Road Trip
costa brava dali spain
Salvador Dali Theatre Museum in Figueres

Day 7 Figueres – Cadaques – Barcelona

On the last day of this French Riviera Road Trip, we visited Cadaques, often called one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.

We went early in the morning to avoid the crowds and parking problems (the parking of Cadaques often gets full during the summer peak season). Afterward, we headed to Figures to visit the famous Salvador Dali Theatre Museum, one of the most popular landmarks of Catalonia.

After Figueres, it was time to return to Barcelona, where we started this jam-packed road trip only a week ago. But since we had lived so many different experiences during these past 7 days – it actually felt like months…

Pin it:

french riviera road trip 7-day itinerary

For more Paris travel tips check my Pinterest board France Travel Stories & Tips.

at lifestyle crossroads travel blog resources