All eyes are on Cannes this week as the glitterati flock to the coastal city in the French Riviera to celebrate the annual film festival. Cannes, pronounced “ca-nay” by locals, along with Nice, Monaco and other charming French seaside towns are known as the playground for the rich and famous. You could easily spend tens of thousands on wining, dining and shopping there in just a matter of days. But even if your budget doesn’t allow for excessive luxury, you can still enjoy this magnificent region. I managed to do just that on my trip there at the end of last summer. Below are some tips for traveling the French Riviera without breaking the bank!
WHERE TO STAY
When it comes to accommodations, location, location, location is key. Believe it or not, it’s possible to snag a sundrenched flat with a seaside view in Nice for under $100 a night! There are numerous options available through Airbnb, my go-to resource for booking affordable accommodations abroad. Just note that many listings in the French Riviera require a 2-3 minimum night stay. There are also several reasonably priced boutique hotels that are centrally located, some even include breakfast.
France is known for its delicious wine, so it can be tempting to sample a new bottle with every meal. Most restaurants offer glasses starting at €5 and bottles for €25 and up, which is reasonable, but if you want a bit more bang for your buck, just stop by a local wine shop where you can find locally produced bottles for as low as €6. Grab a couple glasses and find a picturesque spot to sit along the shore and you have the makings of a romantic evening!
Formal sit down dinners are always a lovely option, but don’t feel like you have to drop €30 per person on every meal. Instead, visit a local market and pick up some fresh baguettes, a round of creamy brie, seasonal fruits and a bottle of wine and you have yourself a delicious spread. For a sweet treat, spend a few euros on a crepe or some colorful macaroons!
If you’re looking to snag some designer goods, there are plenty of options to choose from in the French Riviera. High-end stores are around every corner selling gorgeous bags, shoes, clothes, jewelry and more. It’s like Disneyworld for millionaires. But even if you’re not in the market for these big ticket items, you can still enjoy the shopping experience. Luckily there are more reasonably priced stores like Top Shop as well as local boutiques and vendors galore selling all types of souvenirs.
It’s not uncommon for the ultra-rich to travel the French Riviera by helicopter or yacht; or better yet by helicopter TO their yacht…no joke, I watched it happen! But luckily, there are many more economical ways to move about the south of France. Trains run almost hourly between all the popular destinations. For about €7 you can easily travel to a neighboring city in 45 minutes or less.
Another option is the city bus. Wealthier residents may turn their noses up at this, but you shouldn’t! For €1,50 you can take a scenic ride to a number of popular cities. I took two separate day trips to both Cannes and Monaco. It was quick, easy and I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. Renting a car is another option, but depending on the day and pickup location you could be looking at excessive fees.
The French Riviera has a reputation for being the land of luxury and decadence and with good reason. But it certainly has plenty to offer all those who wish to visit regardless of their budget!
What are your suggestions for traveling in expensive cities on a budget? Share your comments below!