1. La Réserve

Taking the plunge at La Réserve / Image : Alamy

For an authentic Niçoise beach experience, stroll down from town to this lesser-known pebbly spot that was once famous for daredevil teenage divers – their former springboard is now, inexplicably, a plush restaurant. Despite its proximity to the port, the water is crystal clear – the only word of caution is that it is proper bijou, so don’t bring an army of friends, and do expect crowds. Still, it’s secluded, and there’s no better place to immerse yourself in the happy chatter and gossip of real locals taking the plunge together.

Boulevard Franck Pilatte, Mont Boron 

2. Villefranche-sur-Mer

The sandy strip at Villefranche-sur-Mer / Image : Getty Images

It’s deffo worth hopping on the 20-minute cheap-as-chips bus ride from Nice proper to plant your bare feet on one of the French Riviera’s very few sandy beaches. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a gorgeous little town, long beloved by the rich and famous – Elton John, no less, owns a gaff here – so if you get sick and tired of splashing about, topping up your tan and appraising the local talent, there’s posh nosh, high-end ice cream and plenty of aspirational places to shop. If the sun goes down on you, that is.

23 Prom. des Marinières, Villefrance-sur-Mer

Opéra Plage

Sunbathing time at Opéra Plage / Image : Alamy

The oldest and – certainly – grandest of Nice’s private beaches was once part of the opera house, and has been run by the Maiffret family since 1889. In that time, they’ve learned a thing or two about the business of showing people a good time. For instance, the multi-lingual attendants who buzz around your tasteful lounger and parasol are happy to furnish you with a new swimsuit on demand, the day’s papers, or a massage. There’s even a sommelier and a very fancy menu to peruse. A stony-cold classic.

30 Quai des Etats Unis, Old Nice

Blue beach

Blue waters at Blue Beach / Image : 123rf

Oftentimes referred to as ‘gastro plage’ for its knockout seafood restaurant, Blue Beach is private, but not in a snooty exclusive way. Right by the upscale hotels of the Promenade des Anglais, it attracts a refined crowd so the food is top-notch to match. Next door you’ll find a watersports centre, Glisse Evasion, where you can have a bash at parasailing, wakeboarding, kayaking or water skiing. There’s even a little pool for the kids to splash about in safely. Really nothing to feel blue about here.

32 Prom. des Anglais


Juan-les-Pins / Image : Getty Images

Worth a modest schlep out west, this Antibes hotspot is best known as the former residence of great American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. The place certainly isn’t afraid to play up to its Gatsby-esque, jazz-age vibe – expect to hear the strains of tinkling piano and walking basslines drifting from the five-star hotel bars and posh restaurants on the main drag. When you’re quite done sashaying around like a Belle Époque millionaire, there’s also a very active side to Juan-les-Pins, including plenty of watersports, sport.  

Boulevard du Littoral, Juan-les-Pins 

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