Experience the French Riviera by bike
Cycling is a religion for many in France and you’ll find serious cyclists pedaling away on steep, winding country roads and coastal areas throughout the Côte d’Azur region in southern France.
The country’s drivers are used to sharing the road with cyclists in this home of the famous Tour de France race, but for the more casual cyclist, it can be daunting.
Fortunately, there are now options for those looking for a more moderate Sunday bike ride on the French Riviera. A green wave is rolling into Nice where cars and buses are being cleared away for a new tramway and more bike lanes. It’s good news for visitors who prefer not to compete with cars when enjoying the sites “en vélo”.
Today there is even a bike lane from the Nice Côte d’Azur airport to the city, whizzing you along the Promenade des Anglais to the heart of Nice in about 15 minutes. There aren’t many cities in the world where anyone can pick up a bike at the airport and quickly reach the center on a bicycle path. All the more incentive to travel light!
For the city cyclist who prefers something tamer than cycling along a cliffhanger road, there’s a bike lane that begins on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais and extends all the way to Antibes – with only a few short stretches where you need to watch out for other vehicles. It’s about 23km from Nice to Antibes if you follow the sea route. And while the bike lane is flat for most of the route, an electric bike is a great option, especially if you veer off the path and head north for more adventure.
Here is what to see along the way:
Promenade des Anglais
There’s no better way to start your day than by riding along the Mediterranean Sea on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais (Bay of Angels)! Before leaving the city you’ll pass a symbol of the French Riviera – the belle-époque Le Negresco Hotelwith its pretty pink dome, at 37 Promenade des Anglais. It has hosted the international jet set for more than 100 years with a guest list that includes everyone from Picasso and Salvador Dali, to the Beatles and international royalty. Its flamboyant 95-year-old owner Jeanne Augier died in January this year, after running the hotel she inherited from her father for more than 60 years. So pop inside before it starts to change.
Le Negresco Hotel
Le Negresco Hotel
37 Prom. des Anglais, 06000 Nice, Frankrike
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The bike path continues past a number of beaches before hitting the airport. Naturally, the scenery is not quite as satisfying here. Press on and watch out for turning buses and trucks. It gets calmer once you hit the port of Saint-Laurent-du-Var, just after the airport.
The salty sea air and beach roll in like a warm welcome as the bike path rejoins the sea in Cros-de-Cagnes’s 3.5km of pebbled beach. Originally a fishing village, it’s a perfect spot for swimming, picnicking, eating, or just staring at the sea. You’ll know you’ve arrived in its center when you spot the yellow clock tower on the other side of the boardwalk. Pop into the colorful Art Beach café, buzzing Le Cigalonor one of the many other hangouts along this stretch of beach for refreshments or a genuine Nicoise salad. Or hold off for finer dining if you’re heading up the hill!
Art Beach café
55 Prom. de la Plage, 06800 Cagnes-sur-Mer,
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Now you have two options. You can stay on the bike path and continue along the seashore towards Antibes. The bicycle path from Cros-de-Cagnes stretches all the way to Antibes, but runs between the train tracks and a busy road for a portion of the way. Not the most pleasant, but you’ll be rewarded riding home on the seaside. Or you can go “off-piste” and veer north to the town of Cagnes-sur-Mer and the hilltop village of Hauts-de-Cagnes. You can also pop off before Antibes towards the village of Villeneuve-Loubet. Or do any of these on the way back to Nice.
Heading towards Antibes you’ll pass Villeneuve-Loubet’s Baie des Anges marinawith its colossal resort complex, which you may have spotted from the plane flying into Nice. Forge on and follow the bike path and signs to Antibes.
Before entering Antibes you’ll reach the Fort Carré (Square Fortress) from the 1500s. Park your bike and climb up to the top, 26m above the sea level, for a panoramic view over the coast. It was built during the reign of Henry II and later redeveloped. Napoleon was briefly imprisoned in the fort during the French Revolution.
The chic resort town of Antibes has just over 75,000 people, yet there is a very cosmopolitan feeling to it. That may have something to do with its numerous cultural attractions or its large port, which attracts boating enthusiasts from all over.
You’ll enter Antibes by passing the huge Port Vauban yacht harborwith a profusion of mega yachts. It claims to be Europe’s largest leisure marina. This is where sailing enthusiasts like to hang out and it’s a great place to stroll and check out nautical life on the Riviera.
Antibes Old Town
The old town is west of the harbor and there are more cafes and restaurants here, spilling out onto squares as soon as the sun starts to shine. Best to park your bike and wander the streets. There’s a covered market in the square on rue Aubernon where people tend to congregate.
The Picasso Museum is in an impressive castle, situated in Antibes’ old town. Pablo Picasso had a studio here in 1946, and left paintings and drawings to the city after his stay. Since then, the collection has grown and the castle officially became the Picasso Museum in 1966. Today, it also houses works by other artists.
Promenade Amiral de Grasse
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So, pedal away, but remember to stop too! There are so many interesting things to see and do along the way and the region’s 300 sunny days a year will make the cycling all the more pleasurable.
Published: April 23, 2019