Looking for a French Seaside Town that Is Not St. Tropez?
Summer is just around the corner, which means planning a vacation should be at the top of everyone’s to do list. France is consistently the top place to visit—it boasts over 80 million tourists annually, according to French government statistics and the summer is no exception.
The South of France has been a hotspot for decades, with locals and foreigners descending upon this small town in droves. Almost 100,000 people head to St. Tropez in the summer—a day! And while of course there is an undeniable allure there, why not choose one of the many other wonderful seaside destinations in France?
Here are 5 places with recommendations on where to stay and where to eat:
Antibes, a coastal town nestled between St. Tropez and Nice on the crystalline Côte d’Azur, is filled with beaches, a large marina, and an old town dating back to the 5th century BC. At the southern tip of Antibes is a Côte d’Azur landmark: Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc.
Surrounded by secluded gardens, the 19th-century whitewashed building sits palm-tree lined. With country cottage-style decor, the Hôtel du Cap is the epitome of French Riviera glamour, drawing travelers who desire stunning sea views, world-class food and amenities. The restaurant serves locally sourced fresh seafood and the hotel’s Sisley spa has a sauna and gym.
Outside, there are five tennis courts and a sea-facing swimming pool. In the summer, temperatures hover in the low 80s, making the resort the ultimate place for water sports and lying in the sun. Hôtel du Cap is only 9 miles from Nice Cote D’Azur Airport. Rooms start at $600 per night.
If you feel the need to venture off Eden Roc’s grounds, head to Cap Riviera for an unmistakably French meal. The set-priced menu includes a starter, main and dessert ($43). Get the lobster salad, roast duckling breast, and chocolate profiteroles. The brasserie faces the water, so you’ll have quite the view with your meal.
Cap Ferret is a headland that separates the Atlantic Ocean from Arcachon Bay in the southwestern part of France. The area is known for it’s gigantic sand dunes, beaches, laid back attitude, and fresh oysters.
La Co(o)rniche, a hotel from the famous Philippe Starck, is next to Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe. Inside, the rooms are breathtaking: wooden panels separate floor-to-ceiling windows with vistas of the Atlantic’s glistening waters. This upscale hotel, with contemporary cabin-style rooms, is a summertime magnet for visitors who want relaxation.
A salon provides massages and facials, while the on-site restaurant with a panoramic terrace serves seafood sourced from the surrounding Aquitaine region. The weather is balmy and beautiful in the summer, and guests can bike on one of the nearby trails or take a coastal walk. La Coorniche is 39 miles from Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. Rooms start at $430 per night.
For a change of scenery, Chai Bertrand is a cozy seafood restaurant, across the bay via ferry or a private boat transfer from La Coorniche. This seaside eatery offers unparalleled views of the coastline; diners can watch boats and order up delicious local fish delicacies—the oysters are some of the most famous in the world.
With its strawberry-colored facade and conical turrets, Hôtel du Palais is instantly recognizable from the Atlantic shoreline, encircled by lavishly landscaped gardens. Built in the 1950s for Eugénie de Montijo, a glamorous empress, the upscale spa hotel is an iconic structure in Biarritz, a chic seaside town in southwestern France.
Temperatures here reach the mid-80s in the summer, luring vacationers who enjoy fancy first-class amenities and seafront splendor. Popular activities include surfing and touring grand 17th-century châteaux. Hôtel du Palais’s two restaurants are located in stately banquet rooms, decorated with 19th-century art and chandeliers. There is also an on-site spa and pool. Rooms here are contemporary with modern décor, and start at $350 per night. The hotel is only 3 miles from Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne Airport.
Don’t miss La Beach House d’Anglet, a cafe known for the best seafood on the Bay of Biscay, in Anglet, only two miles from Biarritz. La Beach House d’Anglet serves Basque Country dishes with local ingredients. Get the grilled squid with ginger salad and the Tahitian red tuna.
Spanning two buildings and facing the Atlantic Ocean, Castel Clara Thalasso & Spa is a postcard-perfect refuge for anyone wanting to explore Northern France. Located on the shoreline of Belle Île, an island off the coast of Brittany, Castel Clara features spacious suites with sea views, cozy alcoves and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The decor is light and bright with pastel blues and teals to match the hues of the ocean, which is just footsteps away from the 63-room property. A spa provides naturopathy, yoga and facial treatments, while the hotel’s restaurant blends local produce with panoramic vistas.
Despite being surrounded by the Atlantic, Mediterranean flora grows on Belle Île and temperatures are warmer than on continental Brittany. Castel Clara is 54 miles from Lann Bihoue Airport. Rooms start at $100.
For a typical French snack, head to Bangor, a small French commune only 8 miles from Castel Clara. Here you’ll find Creperie Chez Renée, well known for their homemade crepes. In the summer, diners can sit outside on the restaurant’s terrace and soak up the Brittany sunshine; average temperatures in July float in the low 60s, much cooler than further south. There’s an assortment of crepe fillings to choose from, like chocolate, strawberry, or cream.
The Mediterranean island of Corsica, southeast of Nice, might be relatively unknown to Americans, but it’s been popular with the French for ages. Calvi, located on the northwestern part of the island, stands tall above the Mediterranean Sea below its ancient walls—Christopher Columbus is rumored to have been born here.
Now known for it’s beaches, pine forests, and mountain landscape (something for everyone!), Calvi is a popular destination in the summer due to its warm climate. Stay at Hotel La Villa Calvi, a coastal resort with minimalist decor and sumptuous surroundings.
La Table by La Villa, the hotel’s one-star Michelin restaurant, provides a breathtaking view of the island’s red-roofed buildings and lush rolling hills. There is also an on-site spa, perfect for guests after a day of walking around Calvi’s ancient citadel. Rooms start at $210. To get to here, fly into the nearby Sainte-Catherine Airport or take a ferry from Nice.
When visiting Corsica, it’s recommended to rent a car, in order to explore the island. Le Matahari, located in Lumio—just a short drive from Calvi—looks more like a luxurious seaside, beach villa than a seafood restaurant. But step inside to find all the hallmarks of a traditional French brasserie.
Tables also sit directly on the beach, so you can dine with your toes in the sand. With views overlooking Calvi Bay, loved-up couples travel here at dusk to watch the sun slowly set on the horizon in the summer months. Menu options include a three-course set featuring soup, salad and seafood options ($46).
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