Chic Le Touquet Paris-Plage on the north French Coast
The star of the Opal Coast, that stretch of the north France coastline between Calais and the mouth of the River Somme, Le-Touquet (officially called Le Touquet Paris-Plage), is chic and smart.
This top French seaside resort has sweeping beaches as well as delightful forests of pines that conceal three good golf courses (two of 18 holes and one of 9 holes), and the smart, distinctly British Le Manoir Hotel which offers good packages.
Le Touquet is particularly popular with the Brits who share a long history with the town. Noel Coward popped over for the odd weekend, and the Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson holidayed here along with their friends. There are smart hotels in town, good restaurants and plenty of activities from sailing to horseback riding, from golf to kite surfing.
Don’t miss: Walking or cycling through the forests that surround the town.
Le Touquet Tourist Office
Le Palais de l’Europe
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 21 06 72 00
Le Touquet Website
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Smart Deauville in Normandy
Deauville vies with Le Touquet as the top seaside resort in this part of France. The proximity to the British has always shaped the north coast resorts - and Deauville is no exception. When you combine the history and influence of the British with the Parisians who made both Le Touquet and Deauville their weekend favourites, you get smart and sophisticated resorts.
Deauville is a pretty town, built mainly in the 1920s with a genteel old-fashioned feel and delightful Normandy architecture. There’s plenty going on, winter and summer: horse racing, polo at the oldest club in France, sailing, swimming and shrimping, classical music concerts and photographic exhibitions. And of course, the now famous Deauville American Film Festival that takes place every year at the beginning of September.
Don’t miss: The festivalsand events which take place throughout the year, from horse racing in both summer and winter.
Deauville Tourist Office
112 rue Victor Hugo
Tel.: 00 33 (0)21 14 40 00
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Check out the Best Beaches in Normandy
Charming Dinard in north Brittany
Dinard sits on the banks of the river Rance, just across from the medieval walled city of Saint-Malo in northern Brittany. It's a smart seaside resort where lofty Victorian villas stand out above the sea.
The town is pretty with gently sloping hillsides and three beaches that have both shallow waters for families to splash around in and fine white sand to lie on, criss-crossed with blue-and-white striped beach tents. Children are well looked after here with various activities on offer and sailors of all levels are spoilt for choice. Just before you get to the beach, you meet Alfred Hitchcock, or rather a statue of the famous film director; a reminder of the town’s festival of English-language films, held each year in October.
Don’t miss: Walking the coastal footpaths that give wonderful views over the Rance estuary and the sea.
Dinard Tourist Office
2 Boulevard Féart
Tel.: 00 33 821 23 55 00
Visit nearby Mont St Michel
Check out the Best Beaches in Brittany
Cap Ferret in Gironde on the Atlantic Coast
Cap Ferret is one of the less well-known seaside resorts along the Atlantic coast. It's on the fabulous Côte d’Argent, the longest and sandiest stretch of coastline in Europe that runs from the mouth of the Gironde at Royan below La Rochelle right down to fashionable Biarritz. Little Cap Ferret stands at the western edge of the Bay d’Arcachon, known for its oysters.
The resort became famous when Jean Cocteau started to take his holidays there in the 1920s and later wrote about in Letters from Piquey in 1923. "We row, we nap, we roll in the sand, we stroll around naked, in a landscape like Texas."
Today Cap Ferret is low key with just a few charming hotels and restaurants and an away-from-it-all feeling. It's great for couples and also for families with good cycle paths as well as beach activities like the ever popular pastime of shrimping.
Don’t miss: The Dune du Pyla. The largest dune in Europe, 12 kms (8 miles) south of Arcachon where the adventurous can launch themselves down the steep slopes into the sea.
Cap Ferret Tourist Office
1 ave du Géneral de Gaulle
Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 56 03 94 49
Cap Ferret Website
More about the Region
Grand Biarritz on the Atlantic coast
Grand Biarritz is one of France’s most famous seaside resorts and up to the 1950s was the playground of the rich, the aristocratic, royalty and stars. Created by Napoleon III in the mid 19th century, the glitterati came to gamble at the Casino, to eat in the many restaurants and to see and be seen in the iconic hotels that graced the town. The rise of the Cote d’Azur put paid to Biarritz’s reputation until the 1990s and the arrival of international surfers and families. Today Biarritz is once again smart and fun. There’s something for everybody with water sports, golf courses and good shopping thrown into the mix.
Biarritz is large, and has some good museums, including one of Europe’s great aquarium collections at the Musée de la Mer.
Don’t miss: Surfing the Atlantic waves. If you’re a beginner there are plenty of good schools to teach you the art.
Biarritz Tourist Office
Tel.: 00 33 5 59 22 37 10
Saint-Jean-de-Luz on the Atlantic coast
The most attractive resort on this part of the Atlantic coast of France, Saint-Jean-de-Luz was originally a fishing port that came into its own as a French seaside resort in the 1840s. It’s the most Basque of the towns just north of the Spanish border with a history tied up with Spain – this was where Louis XIV married the Infanta Maria Theresa in 1660.
The picturesque old port and the town center with its lovely houses, bars and restaurants is delightful. For those after a seaside holiday there's a long sandy bay, protected from the Atlantic waves by huge sea walls, as well as beaches a little further away for those after rolling surf.
It was also an important staging post on the medieval pilgrim routes to Spain.
Don’t miss: The port area, still busy with fishermen unloading anchovy and tuna from their boats. Stroll around to get a look at the old houses around the port, particularly the Maison Louis XIV.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz Tourist Office
Place du Marechal Foch
Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 59 26 03 16
Glitzy, Glamorous St Tropez
You either love or hate the over-the-top seaside resort of Saint Tropez on the Cote d’Azur. Its glamorous reputation means it's overcrowded in the summer months despite the expense of staying, eating and drinking here but if glitz is what you like, this is the place to be.
Once a small fishing village, today it attracts visitors for its port, old quarter, winding streets, 16th-century citadelle, beaches and nightlife. The popularity of Saint Tropez began with the Impressionist painter Paul Signac who invited friends like the Fauviste Dufy, Pierre Bonnard and Matisse. Writers like Jean Cocteau, Colette and Anaïs Nin followed in the 1930s. When Anaïs Nin wrote of "girls riding bare-breasted in the back of open cars", it was clear that Saint Tropez had arrived. The filming of Brigitte Bardot by her then lover, Roger Vadim in 1956, set the seal on the resort which has never looked back.
Don’t miss: A walk along the headland past the cemetery (Roger Vadim is buried Here) and the villa of Brigitte Bardot.
Saint Tropez Tourist Office
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 94 97 45 21
Saint Tropez Website
Check out everything from the glorious beaches to great shopping in my Guide to Saint Tropez.
Cannes on the Cote d'Azur
Cannes is best known for its world famous annual Film Festival. Every May the stars descend on this premier French seaside resort on the glittering Mediterranean. But when the red carpet has been taken up, Cannes remains a glamorous and exciting place to visit at any time of the year.
The glorious seafront hotels, yachts and designer boutiques are a huge attraction. But there’s also a delightful old town, called Le Suquet after the hill where it stands looking over the sparkling Mediterranean. There’s a beach in the center, but it’s pretty well covered with sun beds which you must pay for, so go to the non-paying beaches to the west of Le Suquet.
Don’t miss: The ferry out to the Iles de Lérins, Ste-Marguerite and St-Honorat where you can get away from it all for the day.
Cannes Tourist Office
Palais des Festivals
1 bd de la Croisette
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 92 99 84 22
More about Cannes
Don't Miss: A wonderful day trip by boat out to the nearby Isles de Lérins, famous for the Man in the Iron Mask who was incarcerated on Sainte Marguerite. The islands are for wandering around, swimming off the rocky shoreline and relaxing.
Antibes on the Cote d'Azur
Less of a French seaside resort and more of a yachting marina and working town, Antibes is one of my favorite places on the French Riviera. It has a delightful old town with winding, cobbled streets and shaded places, a daily market, ramparts that protected the town from the sea, the Picasso museum in the chateau where the artist lived, good restaurants and bars, and a marina filled with the most expensive yachts in the world.
If you want a touch of St Tropez-style glitz, walk across the Cap d’Antibes with its fantastic villas to Antibes' neighbor, Juan-les-Pins. This is more of a resort and known for its great annual jazz festival in the summer.
Don’t miss: The reproductions of scenes painted by the Impressionists, placed just where the artist stood and showing the past version of what you are now looking at. In many cases, it has hardly changed at all.
Antibes Tourist Office
42, avenue Robert Soleau
Tel.: 33 (0)4 22 10 60 10
More about Antibes
Where to Stay
Juan-les-Pins and the surrounds were the place where American author F. Scott Fitzgerald came to play.
Nice, Queen of the Riviera
Nice is the undisputed Queen of the Riviera, the most important town on this glorious stretch of coastline. This lovely place has everything, from the Promenade des Anglais which runs along beside the Mediterranean to an old town of winding, narrow streets and cobbled squares. This is the place to shop, particularly in the Cours Saleya where its daily fruit, vegetable and flower market fills the space with glorious scents and sights.
There are good museums as well, from Matisse's house in the hills of Cimiez to the great new contemporary art museum in the centre of town.
There's always something happening in Nice, which has two of the greatest events in France: Nice Carnival in February/March and a superb Jazz Festival in July.
Don't miss: A trip up to Cimiez for its cool breezes and great museums. The Nice Carnival when the streets fill with massive flower-covered floats.
Nice Tourist Office
5 Promenade des Anglais
Tel.: 00 33(0)4 92 14 46 14
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