Read our guide on Must-do activities on the French Riviera!
Welcome to our must-do activities list on the French Riviera!
Our little corner of the world is famed for many things, including glamorous superyachts, champagne-sipping soirées & high-end shopping. All of those have a certain price tag attached!
But the long stretches of sandy beaches and year-round blue skies? They are free!
Whether you’re here for a proper holiday or just a short visit, there’s so much to do!
Where should you visit first?
It would be impossible to do justice to all of the villages in the vicinity of Mougins in one trip. If you need to choose just one, I strongly recommend you to spend some time in Antibes.
Antibes is a seaside port town known for its Roman history. It has a reputation as the go-to resort town for Europeans in the 20th Century, and the home of artist Pablo Picasso for several years. The town is so rich with history, art, and architecture that it would be quite impossible to discover all of its secrets in one day on your own. It is also home to one of the biggest and deepest harbours in the world. Perfect for the biggest superyachts of the rich & famous!
So how can you get the most of your visit to this iconic French Riviera town without breaking the bank?
I’m sure that by now you may have realized we’re building up to something…Antibes Free Walking Tours!
Antibes Free Walking Tours, led by the charming Cédric, is part of a worldwide phenomenon of knowledgeable and impassioned tour guides. They offer free walking tours of thousands of destinations in order to share their passion for travel. Suitable for both tourists and locals alike, allowing them to meet like-minded travellers.
We discovered Antibes Free Walking Tours last weekend. Mark, Tina & Maisie joined a Saturday morning tour. Having lived in neighbouring Mougins for over 17 years, you’d have thought the tour would have been a tad overkill for us but we were completely blown away! Cédric showed us a whole new side to Antibes. He took us on a delightful walk winding through the city’s gorgeous alleys, seafront paths and markets. We even had a taste of Absinthe in a local bar. More on that below!
Who is it for?
We wholeheartedly recommend this tour to anyone passing through the region. It lasts 2½ hours. You need to be able to stroll around for a couple of hours. Good for children and anyone who can walk. There are some stairs.
Below, we will go through what you can expect from the tour and give some detail (we won’t give it all away, don’t worry) from our experience.
Tell us more!
We met Cédric at an easy-to-find location in the centre of Antibes. He stands out in a red Walking Tours T-shirt so there’s no chance of getting lost!
Our group was made up of around 15 people with a good mix between single travellers, families.
The tours are in English (though Cédric is fluent in French and originally from the region).
Tours last approximately 2.5 hours.
Private tours can be arranged for groups, though these have a fixed price. If you are staying at Le Mas Candille, just speak to our Reception team, They will help you decide which tour is best for you.
The tours are free and Cédric works on tips: if you enjoyed the tour, you’re free to tip him as much as you’d like, but it’s not mandatory.
Cédric himself is a very fun and friendly guy to be around. He tailored the tour to the group’s preferences as we made our way through the town. He made everybody very comfortable and happy to be on the tour.
Don’t worry: there weren’t any icebreakers! You can find out more about Cédric and his inspiration to lead the tours on his website below.
Give us the details!
So, what’s the tour like?
Cédric splits the tour into the three general sections: the Old Town, the port, and the art tour.
We started in a small marketplace and Cédric talked about Antibes’ rich history and founding. He pointed out interesting details of buildings as we passed by them, as we walked towards the Old Town.
Cédric knows a lot about the town and isn’t just regurgitating Wikipedia facts. He’s genuinely passionate about his job and was brought our attention to details we would never have noticed if it weren’t for him.
The most notable of these near-missed details were the hidden sculptures of Ho Lui, an Antibes-based sculptor.
As the story goes, his tiny studio grew too small for his pieces, leading him to expand his work onto the walls of Antibes’ winding alleys. His inspiration is the human body, and there are thousands of his sculptures hidden in the walls all over the city.
After walking through the old city, we wandered along the old walls by the sea. We admired the views of the Alps rising over the Mediterranean and towns in the distance.
Did you mention Absinthe?
Cédric then led us to an absinthe bar, which was a very pleasant surprise for us! We were led inside for a private tasting and history of the drink.
To tell the truth, this was a complete revelation!
Not to spoil it all for you, but some of the interesting facts picked up were:
1). Absinthe got its bad reputation from the French government! It reportedly banned the drink and encouraged negative commentary about its “hallucinogenic effects” after pressure from the vineyard-owners! They were unhappy due to a drop in wine sales as more people turned to the so-called “green fairy.”
2). Apparently, the painter Van Gogh drank up to three litres of the stuff every day, without adding water and sugar…his pieces make a lot more sense now, don’t they?
Where to next?
After the absinthe bar (our favourite moment), Cédric guided us to the large food market in the centre of the old town. Unlike many tours, his was visitor-guided: he gave us time to explore the market on our own, though he did give us his recommendations of what to try: the socca, a classic Provencal snack. It was delicious!
Cédric led us next to the Pablo Picasso museum before bringing us to the end of the tour on the town ramparts, giving us an excellent parting view of the old fortress and the Mediterranean. We were also able to see the opulent superyachts berthed along Millionaires Quay.
Stand out points:
Our favourite parts and titbits of our tour:
- Did you know that the town’s name comes from its original name, “Antipolis”, meaning “facing town,” as it faces the sea?
- The Chapelle Saint Bernardin: beautiful but simple from the outside, and absolutely stunning from the inside. As Cédric said, the interior was completely unexpected! The ceilings are painted dark blue with large gold stars and the altar is a work of art. The Chapel was actually burned down two centuries ago and completely rebuilt.
- The “Gateway of France”, now an architects’ house, but formally the entrance point of France.
- The sculptures incorporated into the town’s walls: if you look closely, you’ll see a hand here, a snail there, and my favourite, an angel sculpted from the point of view of someone standing behind it. Now, that’s original.
- The absinthe bar: okay, this is biased, because absinthe is one of Maisie’s favourite alcoholic beverages (although she can’t say the two times she drank it in university were as sophisticated as the decades-old traditional absinthe-drinking methods we trialled during the tour).
Why should we include this tour on our “Must-do activities on the French Riviera” list?
What stood out most to us about the Walking Tour was the relaxed yet informative style of the tour guide.
Cédric wasn’t pointing things out and then dumping information on us. He was literally walking us through the town, whilst giving us the context we needed.
This helped us to really grasp the history and cultural significance of Antibes. It wasn’t so much structured as part 1, part 2, and part 3, but rather, as a progressive explanation of three key elements which make up Antibes, and which have made it up throughout its long history.
We really could not recommend this tour enough to those of you looking to discover the town!
As well as gaining some top tips of places to eat, drink, and shop, you learn so much about the region through your senses (yes, not just Maisie, but Mark and Tina too, are thinking about the socca and absinthe, but the point stands!).
Not to mention, you meet some great people along the way. We know we did!
A huge thanks to Cédric for the great Saturday morning tour. If you need help getting to and from Antibes, or you’d like an Antibes Free Walking Tours flyer, please do not hesitate to contact Le Mas Candille’s multilingual reception team.
If you head away from the sea, you’ll find yourself lost in the lavender fields and medieval villages of Provence.
Head along the coast, you’ll bump into Monte Carlo, Saint-Tropez, or the Italian coast.
Of course, this blog post won’t be able to get to all of the above, nor will it attempt to! If you’re interested in reading about any of the above and much, much more, check out the rest of Le Mas Candille’s website for our other blog posts on the riches of the region, such as Local’s guide to Nice
Looking for a beach day? Read this!
But as well as the beautiful sites of the region, you can also immerse yourself in art and history from a range of periods, as well as long-held cultural practices and traditions such as perfume-making and the orange festival.
Getting back to something I said above about medieval villages: the French Riviera is full of them and they’re each unique in their history and culture and definitely worth a visit. For more on a few special destinations not far from Mougins, read our brief French Riviera Travel Guide.