The French Riviera has many places of great beauty just waiting to be discovered but there is a problem, especially if you visit in the summer months - the roads can be very busy and parking is often a major challenge.
Luckily there is an exceptionally convenient train service that operates along the coast which is cheap to use, has a regular service and stops at all of the most important towns and villages.
We use this train a great deal when visiting and highly recommend it. It is also very useful if you are staying in one of the resort towns and want to visit Monaco or Nice, or vice versa.
Nobody takes your ticket from you when you leave the train so you can buy a ticket from, say, Nice to Menton, and then get on and off the train at as many stops as you like using the same ticket and without any problems.
All the train stations have machines that sell the train tickets and are simple to use but not all have staff, so make sure you have a reasonable selection of coins with you.
Of course, your ticket might be checked on the train - remember that after you buy a ticket you have to get it stamped. Look for the machine marked 'composter' BEFORE you get on the train, there are none of these machines on the train itself and big fines for travelling with an unstamped ticket (and even bigger for travelling without a ticket at all).
Where to get on and off the train
Here we only mention our favourite destinations between Nice and the Italian border, although the train actually continues further in both directions. Heading from Nice towards Menton on the train we suggest you explore:
Perhaps the most interesting resort on the Riviera Nice has a great deal to explore and enjoy: walking along the Promenade des Anglais, a day on the beach, a substantial historical centre, numerous impressive buildings, one of the most colourful markets in France...
The principal train station is called Nice Ville, at the top of Rue Jean Medecin. See Nice for details
A very picturesque traditional fishing village with attractive pastel painted houses around the harbour, many of them restaurants. There is also a picturesque old town, a chapel decorated by Jean Cocteau and a beach.
See Villefranche-sur-Mer for details.
while we wouldn't perhaps visit for the resort itself, although it is pleasant and has two beaches, we suggest you get off the train here to walk a kilometre south to visit the Villa Ephrussi on Cap Ferrat. Villa Ephrussi is in a lovely location and surrounded by extensive gardens.
See Cap Ferrat for details
Monaco is well worth a visit, with its tiny territory completely filled with high rise buildings, a very lovely tropical garden, and some interesting historical buildings.
See Monaco for details.
the town of Menton is one of our favourites along the riviera and a visit is highly recommended. The town is sunny and lively, has numerous well maintained gardens, an impressive basilica and lovely views along the coast to Italy.
See Menton for details.
What will I miss?
By taking the train you will not be able to follow the corniche road that follows the coast between Nice and Menton, which offers exceptional views across both the coast and Monaco, as you drive along the road and from villages such as La Turbie.
The main corniche road can be a bit of a race track and stopping to appreciate the views is not always easy but we do recommend it anyway!
Of course, although the train is an ideal way to explore the coast here it does not visit the hill and mountain villages a little way inland. Note that although villages such as Roquebrune and Eze look very close to the coast and trainline on a map they actually involve quite long and steep walks to reach!