The most beautiful driving routes on the French Riviera

driving route french riviera

The landscape of the Côte d’Azur has provided the backdrop for many a Hollywood movie driving scene. Experience its beauty for yourself with these five stunning routes. 

The geographical richness of the French Riviera, from the scintillating shores of the Mediterranean to the high peaks of the Alps and all the rolling hills between, has long made the region a favourite amongst drivers looking for a few blissful hours behind the wheel.  

The Grande, Moyenne and Basse Corniches between Nice and Monaco are well-known for their views, but if you venture just slightly further into the French Riviera, there are plenty more adventures to be had.  

The Corniche d’Or that clings to the edges of the iconic red rock of the Estérel, from Saint Raphaël to Theoule sur Mer, is celebrating its 120th anniversary this month. The combination of the rhyolite rock, the blue of the sea below and the green of the native shrubs that have colonised the range is simply spectacular. You’ll be hard pressed to resist stopping the car to check out the area on foot; 32,000 hectares of pristine nature await explorers on the many hiking and bikes trails that lead off the main road.  

driving route french riviera
A bird’s eye view of the Corniche d’Or. Photo: Estérel Côte d’Azur

Another favoured coastal drive is the Route des Crêtes between La Ciotat and Cassis. The road rises and falls on both sides of the Cap Canaille, and although it is a relatively short drive of about 15 kilometres, it is certainly worthy of a visit. To the east is Bandol and to the west are the Calanques de Cassis. On clear days, the islands off Marseille can also be spotted.  

While you’re in the realm of Provence, an excursion to the Chartreuse de la Verne in Collobrières is highly recommended. This Carthusian monastery is equidistant from the towns of Le Lavandou, Cavalaire sur Mer and Saint Tropez, so if you’re holidaying on the coast, make sure to add this destination to your list of possible day trips.

driving route french riviera
The hilltop gem of Chartreuse de La Verne. Photo: Xavier Larreur / Facebook

 Heading back towards Monaco, the Route de Napoleon technically begins in Golfe Juan, between Cannes and Antibes, but you won’t fully appreciate its beauty and scale until you reach Grasse and the hinterland behind the perfume capital. It marks the route that Napoleon took after leaving his exile in Elba in 1815, and twists through the mountainous backcountry of southern France, all the way to Grenoble. The stretch between Grasse and Castellane makes for the perfect family drive, and can easily be done in a morning if you allow for coffee and croissant stops in the little villages along the way.  

Our final favourite drive is a variation of the roads up to the Col de Turini. Beloved by cyclists for its intensity and reward, the pinnacle is the high mountain pass at over 1,500 metres above sea level. It’s a mainstay on the schedule of the Rallye de Monte-Carlo too. It can be approached from La Bollène Vesubie, Sospel or Lucéram, giving you plenty of options for a round route.  


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Main photo source: Estérel Côte d’Azur