From the sleepy seaside haven of Trouville-sur-Mer to the glitz and glamour of Saint Tropez, the French coastline is graced with a bounty of beautiful beach towns. While away afternoons strolling along the palm-lined promenade in Nice, catch some waves at the surf mecca that is Biarritz or sip on sweet wine with sea views in Cassis. Beach essentials at the ready? Read on to learn more about the best beach towns in France…
- A Taste For Trouville-sur-Mer
- The Glitz and Glamour of Saint Tropez
- Live the Life in Nice
- Catch a Break in Biarritz
- The Tranquil Beauty of Cassis
First up on our roundup of the best beach towns in France is the idyllic Trouville-sur-Mer, a seaside city on the coast of Normandy that first gained popularity in the late 18th century as a coastal escape for Parisian high society. Catch some rays at the Grande Plage de Trouville, the town’s splendid beach which is lined with lavish buildings and pretty beach huts, before strolling down the Promenade des Planches. This iconic wooden boardwalk is painted with colourful stripes and dotted with handprints of famous personalities, including Coco Chanel and Marguerite Duras. Over the years, this coastal gem has attracted a few famous artists, writers and intellectuals too: Gustave Flaubert, Alexandre Dumas and Claude Monet have all enjoyed beach breaks here.
Small in size but big on glamour, Saint Tropez needs no introduction. Located on the French Riviera, this chic coastal town gained global recognition in the 50s after Brigitte Bardot visited while filming the movie And God Created woman, which was set here. This exclusive destination boasts plenty of breathtaking beaches that attract locals, tourists and superstars alike. Head to Pampelonne Beach, Tahiti Beach or Plage des Graniers for an afternoon of sunshine, sea swims and (maybe) some celebrity snaps. As the day draws to a close, potter around the Vieux Port where you can indulge in authentic Mediterranean cuisine and cool cocktails. Nab a table outside for views of the shimmering harbour and watch as the rich and famous drift in on their luxurious yachts and expensive sailboats.
Next up on our selection of the best beach towns in France is Nice, a cosmopolitan hotspot on the southeastern coast of France. It serves as a gateway to the rest of the French Riviera, so it’s a convenient base for exploring other popular and nearby towns like Cannes, Monaco and Antibes. Most of the beaches in Nice are pebbly and are connected by the Promenade des Anglais, a four-mile-long waterfront promenade that stretches along the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) and is lined with towering palm trees, high-end hotels and bustling cafes. If you’ve got time to explore further afield, take a 15-minute bus ride to the resort town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, a firm favourite of Hollywood actor Julia Stiles who fell in love with this spot while filming Sky Atlantic's glitzy drama Riviera.
Lying on the Bay of Biscay, near the border with Spain, Biarritz offers a unique fusion of French and Basque styles and cultures. This beach town was the place to be in the mid-19th century when Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, discovered the town's healing seawater properties. The opulent buildings and grand villas you’ll see here were constructed during the Belle Époque era, creating an interesting architectural landscape that blends classic and Basque styles. Biarritz also gained worldwide recognition as one of Europe's premier surfing destinations and Grande Plage and Côte des Basques are known to boast the best surf conditions. Don’t leave before you’ve climbed to the top of the Phare de Biarritz (Biarritz Lighthouse); it’s the best place in town for panoramic views of the coast and the Pyrenees mountains.
Rounding up our selection of the very best beach towns in France is Cassis: another picturesque coastal town in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, situated between Marseille and Toulon. The town lends its name to the French wine, Cassis, a sweet and aromatic white wine, and Cassis liqueur, an aperitif favourite made from blackcurrants grown in the region. Sounds like a good excuse to enjoy a drink or two in the sun if you ask us. Cassis also has a long history as a traditional fishing village and the town's fishing port still retains its authentic charm, with colourful fishing boats lining the quayside and local fishermen bringing in their catches of the day. The most famous beach here is Plage de la Grande Mer, a popular spot that’s conveniently located near the town centre. A little further afield is Calanques National Park, a protected area featuring dramatic limestone cliffs, secret coves and pristine turquoise waters.
Header image © Alix Pardo