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4 Best Villages on the Cote d'Azur

Ahh the Côte d’Azur…. (or the ‘French Riviera’ as it is popularly known in the English-speaking world). The jewel of not only France, but of Europe. Once the reserve of aristocrats and Hollywood movie stars, and now one of the most popular tourist destinations on Earth. The volume and variety of sights and sounds within a relatively small space never ceases to amaze. Here are 4 stunning villages that you must visit when you're next here...

It is something of a mystery that Valbonne seldom features in printed or online tourist guides for the region. This is a gorgeous little village that is ideal for a day visit. It is rather unique compared to other medieval Provençal villages in that it strictly adheres to a precise grid layout. A stroll along the beautifully maintained streets is a real delight, allowing for that clichéd yet worthwhile touristic experience of ‘going back in time’. A visit to the Abbey Church (just south of the old village) and the ancient Church of Valbonne is worthwhile. In terms of cuisine, Café Latin (again, just outside the old village, to the west) is perfect for a quick lunch, while L’Auberge Provençale in the centre is the place to go for a romantic evening meal (fresh, local and oh so delicious!)

Another inland must-visit, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a perched medieval village that has attracted and inspired artists through the centuries. Narrow, cobbled streets and charming cafés make for a typical – and delightful – Provençal experience. Just a simple stroll around the village reveals the most stunning scenery of the surrounding countryside. There is much more, however, that makes this place special. Indeed, the village is a paradise for art-lovers. The Fondation Maegt museum boasts the best 20th century works from artists inspired by the village: Chagall, Braque and Miró to name a few. Also, dining at La Colombe, a stylish auberge loved by Picasso and Mattise, is an experience not to be missed when here. Elsewhere, the Folon Chapel and the 14th century village church are historically significant buildings worth checking out. This is a great option for a day out!

Nestled between two very famous neighbours, Nice and Monaco, it is quite remarkable that Villefranche-sur-Mer has retained the charm one would expect of a little village where people still know each other by their first name. Colourful buildings and stunning sea views make for a picturesque setting to stroll along the fishing port. Also, the village comes to life in the day with an array of cafés and restaurants. What better way to get away from the razzmatazz of the neighbouring cities?

Not far from Villefranche, you will find one of the pearls of the French Riviera. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is famed above all for its beaches: Cros dei Pin and Paloma are particular favourites (be sure to secure a spot near the bar!). At Paloma, you can take a beach break to walk the cliff edge to scout out villa mansions and enjoy superb views. Such views can also be enjoyed from Chevre d'Or, a Michelin-starred restaurant. Most famously, though, this wonderful peninsula is home to one of the region's most beautiful palaces, the Ephrussi de Rothschild.