The Best Restaurants on the French Riviera
Offering everything from pastries and sandwiches to pasta, seafood, and Michelin-starred restaurants, Côte d’Azur dining goes far beyond French food—many boast sunny terraces, breathtaking views, and celebrity clientele.
Boulevard James Wyllie, 06600 Antibes, France
Slip a generous serving of salade niçoise (tuna, olives, chopped onion, and hard-boiled egg) into a country roll with a drizzle of peppery olive oil, et voilà, you have a pan bagnat, the ubiquitous sandwich native to the region. Pan bagnat translates to “wet bread,” a less-than-appetizing name for a creation that people will wait in long lines to devour. One of the best versions is sold at a simple kiosk on the famous sandy Plage de Salis in Antibes. The sandwiches are so good here, they would tempt a swimsuit model on a strict diet to leave the Hôtel du Cap Eden Rock for a bite.
13 Rue Bavastro, 06000 Nice, France
A Niçoise institution for nearly 100 years, Chez Pipo specializes in socca, a chickpea-flour flatbread that comes out of the restaurant’s wood-fired ovens looking like a giant pizza. Their motto, “Aqui si mangia la socca,” says it all—socca is the only dish they serve, alongside a selection of Provençale spreads like tapenades made with anchovies, artichokes, olives, or sun-dried tomatoes. Seating is on a large terrace during summer months or in a wood-trimmed dining room for shade or winter dining. The line outside can get long, but because of the simple menu and well-trained staff, the service moves quickly.
Plage de Bouillabaisse, 83990 Saint-Tropez, France
Just steps from the sea, on the pine-shaded terrace of the Cheval Blanc St. Tropez (formerly La Résidence de la Pinède hotel), the Vague d’Or celebrates the riches of the sea. Chef Arnaud Dockele’s passion for the region is evident in each bite—and Michelin inspectors have given three stars to the kitchen to reward his creativity in dishes like spider crab in a citrus bath; a verbena-infused bouillon; and abalone served with locally grown onions. Pastry chef Guillaume Godin picks his inspirations from nearby orchards with desserts based on apricots and almonds and local lemons that make the perfect end to a meal under the stars.
4 Rue Raoul Bosio
When he was training in Michelin-starred restaurants, chef Dominique Le Stanc dreamed of opening a small place where the art of cooking was more important than efficiently running a restaurant. La Merenda is that place—no phone, no credit cards, the only business being the food. The chef’s skills shine with dishes like fried zucchini blossoms, a zingy pistou-laden pasta, and, for dessert, melty sautéed figs. Guests, many of whom are locals, are seated elbow to elbow in the tiny dining room with a clear view of the gifted chef at work in the open kitchen.
Port de Plaisance, 06310 Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France
The owners would like to believe the restaurant is fully booked every summer because of the market-fresh menu updated daily on the chalkboard. And the food is quite good, and often includes at least one dish laced with white summer truffles. But the truth is that the crowds also flock to this legendary address in the hopes of spotting celebrity diners like neighbors Tina Turner, Bono, and Sir Elton John. With a ‘70s kitsch decor, the outdoor terrace looks over the port of Beaulieu sur Mer and its field of moored white yachts, the polished chrome glinting in the sunlight.
10 Boulevard Maréchal Juin
Niçois chef Nicolas Rondelli has earned a Michelin star for this fine-dining restaurant by the sea. Reigning over a private beach with a view of the Lérins Islands in the distance, the kitchen honors the riches of waters below by serving line-caught fish from local fishermen, whose names occasionally appear on the menu. It’s not all fish—meat eaters will find entrées of pigeon, lamb, and beef. All vegetables are sourced from small local farms. Sailcloth canopies protect diners from the sun at lunch, and in the evening the stars twinkle above.
Av. Princesse Grace, 06190 Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Surrounded by nature, La Vigie has water on one side and a small pine forest on the other. Perhaps all this exposure to nature inspired Chef Paolo Sari to create his organic menu of pastas and seafood cooked in a regional Italian style, the first organic restaurant to earn a Michelin star. Since this is practically (but not technically) Monaco, there is caviar on the menu, but the overall ambience is casual-chic, not glamorous. In addition to reservations, sunglasses and hats are necessary to combat the intense light playing off the waves.
48 Boulevard d'Aguillon, 06600 Antibes, France
Bouillabaisse, the famous Provençal stew, was originally devised by fishermen to use the fish they couldn’t sell. A savory saffron-laden broth is served in a tureen, with a platter of whole cooked fish on the side, as well as mini toasts and a mayonnaise-based rouille sauce. La Gravette has been serving its version of the dish on a generous terrace facing the port of Antibes for 50 years. The family-run restaurant also serves a lighter fish soup, as well as spicy calamari on rice, all best followed by an afternoon in the sun.
163 Boulevard René Cassin, 06200 Nice, France
One of the best dining deals on the rather posh, relatively expensive Riviera can be found in a school that prepares future chefs, servers, and sommeliers who will eventually work at the pricey coastal restaurants. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the school operates three restaurants, one with a 10-euro menu, the second with a 15-euro menu, and the chicest with a three-course lunch at 20 to 25 euros. All three offer panoramic views of the city, and delicious food prepared and served by students who are carefully overseen by strict-looking professors. The afternoon may become a cultural exchange as servers practice their English with guests. Reservations are required.
30 Avenue Aristide Briand, 06500 Menton, France
Perched like an eagle’s nest in the lower Alps, just steps from Italy, this 1930s landmark restaurant faces a stunning rainbow of blues in the expansive view of ocean and sky just beyond its vertiginous glass walls. Taking inspiration from his own heritage and his international kitchen staff, Italo-Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco is making a name for himself for colorful cuisine that plays with contrasts of flavor and texture. Dishes often include an uncommon ingredient—the chamomile broth, for instance, or a combination of oysters, pears, and caviar; the bread served with a poem. The food is both pretty on the plate and a pleasure for the palate.
If you’re headed for fun and sun on the delicious stretch of beaches along the coast at Ramatuelle, Club 55 is the place to go for the ultimate jet-set lunch alongside vacationing international stars. Caviar and excessively expensive champagne is available upon request, bien sûr. Mere mortals may prefer the more affordable scene at neighboring Moorea Beach, where guests can get their hair or nails done at the on-site salon as they wait, and can retire to the legendary Claudy’s Bar after dinner.
29 Quai Jean Jaurès, 83990 Saint-Tropez, France
Originally a sweet shop, Sénéquier first gained fame in the 1800s for its soft nougat. Then its candied fruits became the rage. The St. Tropez shop has since turned into a chic café by a Parisian restaurateur and now attracts yacht owners and affluent locals who come down to the waterfront from the hills above town, all of them happy to pay a pretty price for a king crab salad or the perfect sole meunière. More modest locals know the place as a good spot for a cool rosé on a hot afternoon as they watch the world go by.
06140 Tourrettes-sur-Loup, France
Before moving to Paris to train in prestigious restaurant kitchens, Chef Julien Bousseau grew up on a farm, so he brings an understanding of the value of fresh produce to his cuisine. Now living in the charming alpine village of Tourettes sur Loup, the chef’s quaint little restaurant, with stone walls and wooden beams, offers a surprisingly affordable Michelin-starred meal. He sources vegetables from local kitchen gardens in dishes like veal roasted with celery and coffee, smoked mackerel with dried fennel, or a risotto made with cèpe mushrooms harvested in the forest nearby. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the pistachio financier cookie with orange cream and quince sorbet dessert.
102 Boulevard Sadi Carnot, 06110 Le Cannet, France
One of the best bakeries on the Côte d’Azur, Boulangerie Jean-Luc Pelé is the perfect place to pick up a picnic for the beach. The savory selection, including gourmet salads, sandwiches, wraps, and even a house-made bagel, can please just about any appetite. And there is no lack of temptations for dessert: A glass case holds macarons, cakes, fruit tarts, and items that look almost (but not quite) too pretty to eat. The shop’s chocolates make good souvenirs to bring home—if they don’t get devoured along the way.
16 Rue du Saint-Esprit, 06600 Antibes, France
Down a cobblestone street and through a stone arch, a narrow terrace and lovely fig tree mark the entrance to Le Figuier de Saint-Esprit. Famous both for his magnificent mustache and exceptional cooking, chef Christian Morisset guides your appetite on a culinary adventure with creative dishes that zing, like a salty-sweet sautéed foie gras with figs or teppanyaki branzino. The chef’s sweets do not disappoint, either, particularly the wild strawberry parfait and the molten chocolate cake decorated with a white chocolate jasmine tea heart.
Place du Général de Gaulle, 06570 Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
The Riviera was a refuge for many artists during the war, and when the owners of La Colombe d’Or in St-Paul-de-Vence exchanged meals for works of art, they eventually found themselves with a world-class collection. Today, pieces by Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró adorn the cozy dining room where guests savor regional specialties.
4 Avenue du Général de Gaulle, 06320 La Turbie, France
A favorite of Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, the Café de la Fontaine is the little brother of Michelin-starred l’Hostellerie Jérôme. The rustic bistro is the perfect place for a light lunch or afternoon drinks while watching the world go by from the center of La Turbie.
Rue du Barri, 06360 Èze, France
A breathtaking view of dramatic cliffs diving into the sparkling azure seas sets the scene for a spectacular two-Michelin-star meal of seasonal specialties by chef Arnaud Faye that may be perfectly paired with any one of 15,000 bottles of wine at La Chèvre d’Or in medieval Èze.