A weekend jaunt to the French Riviera: Antibes

September

The sparkling blue waters of the Côte d'Azur, ice cold rosé delivered to your lounge chair, one of the best Picasso museums, and Bouillabaisse

Duration: Weekend

In need of sun and eager to cling to the last weeks of summer, I booked an impromptu weekend in Antibes in September and it was absolutely perfect. I’d been to Nice before, but Antibes, just a few miles west, is calmer, quieter, more charming, more chic, and more deserving of a weekend away. I’d read about the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc for years with it’s infamous diving board into the sea where everyone from George Clooney to Leonardo DiCaprio stays during the Cannes film festival. What I wasn’t expecting, is that Antibes is also low key; the glamour and charm isn’t flashy (à la St Tropez), and you can live like Brigitte Bardot on a modest budget. (At least that’s true in September). My Airbnb for example, was spacious, had a terrace with a glimpse of the sea, and cost ~80€/night including taxes and fees. If you’re looking for more than a suntan, the old town of Antibes, with it’s lively food market, incredible Picasso museum, and alleyways covered in bougainvillea is as charming as they come.

  • Sight Seeing 70% 70%
  • Food 90% 90%
  • Ease of Transportation 60% 60%
  • Activities 70% 70%

Yes, it sometimes feels as though there’s a Picasso museum in every town and city in Europe but don’t miss this one. The incredible seaside setting with views of the water, the collection of bright painted pottery (which I haven’t seen in other Picasso museums), and the anecdotes about the prolific period Picasso spent living here (complete with photos of him wearing striped shirts, and painting his heart out) make this a worthy visit. Go in the late afternoon or first thing in the morning so you spend the prime sun hours at the beach.

Choose a beach, and don’t move – there’s no reason to spend money on a pricey hotel when you’ll end up having to pay for beach chairs anyway, so stay in a cheap airbnb and get your 4 star treatment by paying for a lounge chair with rosé delivery chairside. (Lounge chairs are typically €15 for the day.)

I thought about exploring the far reaches and coves of the Cap, and with more time I will next time I visit. (I’m curious about Plage de la Garoupe a bit further out on the Cap). But for a quick weekend, I wanted maximum sun and rosé relaxation time, with minimal time spent finding it. I went for the shortest walk to an enclave of beach chairs right in front of my Airbnb here. The chair pricing is tiered, I paid a little less to be on the beach side the first day, and went all out for the chair on the deck closer to the sea the second day. I ate a big breakfast near the market in Antibes old town (fresh fruit, croissant, yogurt, and café crème), and then packed fresh market fruit and a bottle of water for the beach because meals at the beach cafes can be expensive and hit and miss on quality. I ordered a bottle of Provençale rosé (cheaper than water in some parts of the South of France – though this was not one of those spots…) and it arrived in a clear plastic tote bag encased in ice. I spent the rest of the day lounging, sipping, asking for ‘un peu plus de glaçe s’il vous plait’ and swimming in the sea. It was so delightful, that I repeated the exact same thing Sunday before catching my late flight back to London. Two full beach days, rosé, sun, and swimming in the sea, plus divine croissants and fresh bouillabaise. A perfect quick and relaxing weekend getaway.

Best Food & Drink

I woke up early to maximise my sun exposure, and spent the morning walking around old town Antibes, picking up provisions at the market (always a scene to watch the locals who are so discerning about their produce), and sitting down to an indulgent breakfast. I spent the majority of the day at the beach (10am-6pm or so), skipping a midday meal before showering and heading out to stroll around the town and find a place to eat dinner. For lazy sunworshippers, it’s a perfect day.

1. Le Goût Thé – indulgent breakfast platters that include croissants, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and a cappucino. This café is conveniently located just next to the market so you can fuel up for a day of lounging, and buy your snack provisions all in one place. I sat at an outdoor table and enjoyed the morning people watching.

2. Bistro le Don Juan – I had dinner sitting outside here and the food was lovely. I would only sit outside as the inside didn’t hold particular charm. It’s on a busy little corner alleyway with people watching galore. Street performers, tourists, elegant elderly local couples, everyone strolls by here.

3. Aubergine– I had a final meal here before running (literally) to catch the bus to Nice airport. Don’t be put off by the interior (I would call the color scheme very ‘Miami’…) the food is authentic, served and cooked by a husband and wife duo. The loud decor belies the sophisticated presentation of the food. The prices are very fair (particularly for authentic bouillabaisse), and they have a nice wine list. I came at an off hour but worth reserving if you’re looking for a prime dinner seating. 

4. Boulangerie De L’Ilette– One of the best things about any town in France, is that you can literally follow the trail of people carrying their baguettes and find yourself at a perfect little boulangerie with locals placing their daily order. Which is exactly what I did to find this boulangerie that was packed with locals picking up their baguettes and fougasse inside (sidenote: you MUST get fougasse when in the south of France!), or sitting down to cappucinos outside. You pay a bit more for the same pastries when you sit as opposed to taking it to go, but I sat for a croissant, fresh juice, and my cappuccino before spending the day at the beach. This isn’t the most charming location, but it is full of locals, and a good option as it’s beach adjacent, particularly if you don’t want to go into the center of the old town before heading out to the Cap or beaches.

Still want to try: 

1. Chez Lulu– This popped up on a few lists as one of the better restaurants in town. 

2. Restaurant de Bacon – This ironically titled restaurant came up again and again as THE place for bouillabaisse if you’re planning to splash out. At 125€ per person, with a requirement of 2 people, it was a bit rich for my blood, but it might be fun to try sometime for the right occasion.

3. Hotel Belles Rives / Fitzgerald Bar– I had every intention of coming here for a drink to soak in the atmosphere of Fitzgerald’s ghost in Juan les Pins, where he famously wrote Tender is the Night (my favorite of his books after the Great Gatsby – original, I know). With long days in the sun, and steady rosé consumption, I was spent and early to bed, so a visit here remains unfinished business. Read this old New York Times article for more on Fitzgerald in Antibes.

4. Le Comptoir de la Tourraque– This looks like the kind of charming, local, and reasonably priced restaurant I tend to stick to. I hope to get here next time.

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