A weekend in the French Riviera: A 3 day trip to Nice- Monaco-Cannes on a budget.
We had three days to visit three of the top spots on the French Riviera namely,Nice-Monaco-Cannes. Our time and money were limited, but that didn’t stop us from making the most of this unique travel opportunity. Despite the limitations, we turned our disadvantages into an amazing experience.
Linking to Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox
A quick guide about the trip (Nice-Monaco-Cannes):
Although Monaco, is a different country , euro is still the official currency since 2002.
We traveled mostly by bus or train between our destinations. The French rail system brought us to all three destinations for only about €2-4 for each leg of the trip. Buses are also available between Nice -Monaco and from Nice to Cannes.
Our “home base” was Nice for this excursion, as both of the other destinations were easily accessible for day trips. Our primary mode of transportation within each locale was walking, but Nice, Monaco, and Cannes each have public transportation options.
In Nice and Monaco, visitors should be on the lookout for the classic regional street food Socca, which is like a thin chickpea pancake. In Cannes, the culinary options are nearly endless, but those looking for classic French pastries will be particularly delighted by savory and sweet macarons, as well as regional honey and other local artisan delights. And, of course, cheap baguettes are available everywhere in the market.
The best way to go around Nice is by walking. We suggest booking a hotel that’s central so that the main attractions are just a few steps a way. Nice isn’t quite expensive as many expected. Check out the best hotels in Nice in Booking.com.
Day One: Nice
The Cote D’Azur is the backdrop for some of the most beautiful cities in France. Nice is located on the southeast corner of the country and offers not only an abundance of world-class white sand beaches but also good food, tasty wines, and rich culture as well. Nice is known for its unique dishes such as Salad Niçoise – a classic salad base with eggs, anchovies, tuna, and olives – and Socca, which is a popular street food made of chickpeas.
We traveled to Nice around March of 2017. That was a smart choice because it was an off-peak season and we were able to enjoy the city with fewer crowds. After we arrived at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, we Googled our way to our hotel. We rode the 99 bus from the airport and for about 6 euros each we got to the Central train station, Gare de Nice- Ville (Central train station) in about 25-30 minutes. A 5-10-minute walk brought us to our hotel and we began exploring Nice right away.
Close to our hotel was Avenue Jean Médecin, a street full of all types of boutiques, like Zara, Bershka, H&M, Mango, and others. After walking about 10 minutes towards our first stop – the old town – we came upon a gelato shop and stopped for a taste.
Started the day right with coffee and gelato?!
After the mouthwatering gelato, we made our way to the old town and started exploring. First, we visited the CATHÉDRALE SAINTE-RÉPARATE.
Inside the CATHÉDRALE SAINTE-RÉPARATE
The cathedral was built in the 17th century and is the largest sanctuary in Old Nice. It was declared a national monument in 1906 .Thus, has grown with the population of the city from a small chapel to the beautiful cathedral that now stands. The church is constructed in the Baroque style and was rebuilt on the model of Santa Susanna in Rome .
We left the Old Town after exploring its narrow alleys and stunning architecture. As we headed out of the Old Town, we saw a huge gate surrounded by cars. We didn’t know what this place was, but we figured that anything that elaborate and apparently popular had to be worth checking out, so we headed for the gate. It turned out, we were at Castle Hill (Colline du Château) where our adventurous spirit was rewarded with the most spectacular view of the Riviera we had ever seen. The view didn’t stop there, either. Once we made it to the other side of Castle Hill, we were surprised to find an uninterrupted view of the port.
Trying to find our way our around town . . .
The port leading us towards the Castle Hill (Colline du Château)
On the way to the top of the hill, you can find Nice’s very own artificial waterfall.
Castle Hill (Colline du Château)
There are two ways to get to the hill. It’s either you climb lots of stairs or take the lift.
The view of the port from the hill.
Another quick walk brought us from Castle Hill to the Promenade des Anglais. The Promenade is one of the most famous destinations in Nice. It is an approximately 7 km long pedestrian walkway built in the early 1800’s by English workers who came to Nice to avoid the harsh northern winters. There is a cycling and skating path and you can rent bikes or even Segway scooters for your visit.
We stayed on the Promenade until it was time for us to view our first Nice sunset. Although we had great weather to start our trip, it was a little bit chilly at about 12-15 degrees Celsius. Be sure to bring a light jacket so you can enjoy the scenery without getting too cold!
Enjoying the view at the Promenade
The Promenade is home to restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine. Possibly because of the time of year, we would have been able to sit right down at any of the many restaurants. You can see photos below of the delicious steak dinner we chose. Along with the cuisines, prices varied as well from about 12 to 20 euros per dish. Drinks, as always, will add to the cost of dinner, but if you are on a tight budget you can always get tap water at no cost.
Our day in Nice was purely breathtaking. However, I can truly say that traveling to Monaco was the highlight of our trip.
There are several options for traveling from Nice to Monaco. A bus is probably the cheapest for just €1 and the French Rail System train is only €2-4. Taxis are available but will be much more expensive. Within Monaco, the CAM (Monaco bus company) can take you to all of the museums, the casino, and all of the other tourist destinations.
Just arrived Monaco. . .
Monaco is a sovereign city-state that is the second-smallest country in the world at less than one square mile, behind the Vatican. The country is divided into four regions. One of which is fabulous Monte Carlo, the playground of the rich and famous. It is estimated that approximately 30% of the country’s approximately 30,645 citizens are millionaires and those millionaires are well protected by reportedly the highest policeman-to-citizen ratio of any country, as well as security cameras throughout its small borders.
The plethora of yachts at the iconic Monaco Harbour.
We arrived in Monte Carlo and went straight to the Monte Carlo Casino. This is famous for a featured locale in the James Bond movies Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye. Guests, 18 and older can enter for €10 and the game rooms are open year-round.However, don’t expect to see any Monaco citizens there. We didn’t visit the casino area but we were able to study the architectural masterpiece of the building. In addition, there were also plenty of non-gambling attractions, like Salon Europe, Salle Renaissance, and Salle des Amériques. If you are ever lucky enough to visit, remember that proper attire is required. Shorts and sandals are not permitted.
Inside this famous casino:
On the “red carpet” inside Monte Carlo Casino . . .
We were getting tired from walking around Monte Carlo, in that case, we decided to take the bus. For only 1 euro we rode from the train station to the old town section of Monaco, known as The Rocher or Monaco Ville. The name “Rocher” literally means “the Rock”. Since the rocky promontory on which this area sits is overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is the only area in Monaco that has not been developed and still boasts structures that have survived since the middle ages.
In Monaco Ville, we found a kebab restaurant that serves pizzas as well. We spent around 15 to 20 euros for our meal, including drinks.
Rich in history and beauty, one of the highlights of the old town district is the view of the prince’s palace – Palais Princier – where you can watch the changing of the guard every morning just before noon. Other noteworthy attractions in this area of Monaco include the St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum.
The other side of the Palais Princier boasts its own sweeping view of the rest of Monaco.
Day 3: Cannes
For about 7 Euros, we took a 45-minute ride on the French rail system from Nice to Cannes for day 3 of our adventure. We walked around for most of our sightseeing, even though Cannes does have a bus system, taxis, bicycles, mopeds, and even a small toy-like train for touring!
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
Our first stop in Cannes was, of course, the Promenade de la Croisette. This area is known for the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. A convention center where the famous Cannes Film Festival is held. Many luxurious shops, restaurants, and hotels line the road.This includes also the elegant Carlton Cannes, the Majestic, the JW Marriott Cannes, and the Martinez. The main thoroughfare through the convention center neighborhood runs right along the Cannes coastline, making it not only popular yet picturesque as well.
The Boulevard in Cannes
If you’re looking for a classic French shopping destination, the Rue Meynadier is a must-see. This pedestrian venue is lined with 18th Century houses that now hold small shops, cafés, and restaurants. We were lucky enough to find a small Chinese restaurant. As a result, it satisfied a craving I had been having. There are all kinds of options for dining. This includes grocery stores, quintessential French wine, cheese shops, and even street food, vendors. Classic French foods are showcased here, including pastries at Multari, and most noteworthy sweet and savory macarons by Jean Luc Pele. The Provence area is also known for local honey of many varieties as well as ratatouille and Menton lemons.
Sadly, our quick visit to Cannes was the final part of our express vacation. After our day here, we returned to Nice and flew back home. It was sad that we had to leave so soon. However, we did what we would have thought was impossible. We turned a mini-break into a memorable adventure.
Best Places To Visit in Santorini For The First-timers
The iconic blue roofs of Santorini and the spectacular caldera is always a part of everyone’s bucket list. If you fancy a trip to the island of Santorini, here are the best places to visit in Santorini.
Top 17 Places to go in Santorini
Kamari Black Beach
Kamari is a fabulous beach resort located in the southeast of the Greece island of Santorini. This beach offers rich, dark blue waters of the Aegean sea, beautiful black sand, and sits under the stark, rocky formation, Mesa Vouno, that separates Perissa from Kamari. It’s 10km southeast of the capital, Fira which is surrounded by magnificent cliffs and beautiful whitewashed buildings. The resort offers many activities including various water sports, and for your provide umbrellas, sunbeds, and a stone promenade that stretches along the beach and crosses the crescent-shaped bay. As traffic is cut off during the summer months, stroll along the promenade and take in the lovely houses that line the village with their incredible views of the sea.
While visiting Kamari, enjoy their many modern amenities including hotels, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, and bars.
Perissa beach in Santorini is separated from Kamari by Mesa Vouno and also offers clear blue waters and black sandy beaches. Without a doubt, Mesa Vouno is the leading attraction for most visitors as well as locals. This stunning rock formation is an incredible sight that will take your breath away, especially during the night hours when it literally shines!
This sea coastal village offers accommodations that will fit everyone’s budget, excellent restaurants, taverns, cafes, and bars. There is a small pathway that will guide you across the mountain and bring you to the ruins of Ancient Thera. You can walk across the mountain from Perissa to Thera or enjoy a fun donkey ride to get there. Join in on a volleyball match or other water activities. There’s something for everyone! Perissa has many modern conveniences while still retaining a welcoming traditional atmosphere.
Red Beach Santorini
Red Beach is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and famous beaches on the entire island of Santorini. It is located in the village of Alcontiri and easily accessed by a downhill path or you can get on a boat. Its sand is uniquely red, making it a huge attraction for people who have never been there before. As you work your way down to the beach, enjoy the views of the different colors of the cliffs.
This resort offers sunbeds and umbrellas for your convenience. It’s highly recommended that you sign up for snorkeling to view incredible underwater rocks.
This is a must visit spot when visiting the island of Santorini. Akrotiri was an ancient settlement that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption around 1627 BC. There have been some archaeologists who believe this was the site that inspired Plato’s story of Atlantis. Excavations have been going on since 1967 which have uncovered many ancient items and pottery. If you want a really unique visit, this is the place to be. Akrotiri is surrounded by a protective structure with wooden walkways that will let you pass through the ancient city. You can look inside three-story buildings that seem preserved in time. See roads, pottery, and even drainage systems. Guided tours for this site are available for €10 per person.
Church of the Holy Cross In Perissa
Located in the central square of Perissa, the church is one of the largest churches on the island. It was originally built between 1835 to 1842 but was damaged by an earthquake in 1956. The reconstruction showed the foundations of 2 basilicas where the original church sat. The Church of Holy Cross is best known for its huge bell tower, blue dome, and overall enormous size. Visit on September 14th and celebrate their yearly panigiri or traditional festival that celebrates their local saint.
The Lighthouse in Santorini:
While visiting Akrotiri you should stop by their rather famous lighthouse that is situated on the far southwest part of the island and only 18km from Santorini’s capital. It is believed to be one of the most beautiful lighthouses around. It is actually quite majestic with its whitewashed walls, standing on the edge of a high cliff above the Aegean Sea.
This is one of the first lighthouses in Greece and was built by a French company in 1892. The operation was halted during World War II but then started up again in 1945 by the Greek Navy. Originally powered by petrol fuel, in 1998 it became automatic. The tower that is above the lighthouse keeper’s house is 10 meters high and emits a brilliant white light.
The surroundings of the lighthouse are tranquil and very peaceful. The locals consider this spot the very best during sunsets as the sun splashes over the entire structure in its glorious rays. It is highly recommended that you visit the lighthouse at this time of day, you will be dazzled! Although you may not enter the building, sit on the stone wall or find a nice rock by the sea. It is easily accessible by road from the village of Akrotiri and is a very magical sight to behold!
Skaros Rock Of Santorini
This rocky formation juts out of the pristine Aegean Sea and originally was home to a magnificent castle. This castle was used by a Christian group until the early 1800s but was sadly destroyed during an earthquake and all that’s left are the ruins. History has it that this castle, for 600 years, was never conquered. If you want to take in some truly breathtaking views, there is a really good pathway that runs from Agios Georgios Church and connects Skaros to Imerovigli Village. Up until the 18th-century, Skaros was the capital of Santorini but was replaced by Fira due to its location and accessibility to the Aegean Sea.
Skaros is a wonderful place to visit due to its wonderful charm, surrounding natural beauty, and of course the sea! Its beautiful surroundings and breathtaking landscape have made this a very popular spot for one and all. You will have plenty of restaurants, bars, and hotels to choose from while you enjoy your stay in this wonderful place.
Caldera is considered one of the natural wonders of the earth that were formed by a volcanic explosion over 3500 years ago which altered the entire landscape of the Mediterranean coast. Caldera is a basin that is 4-miles in diameter and many archaeologists and scientists have related it to the story of Atlantis. Its elevation ranges from 150 to 350 meters which are the distances from one end of the island to the other. At the northernmost section of the Caldera is the town of Oia which is a hugely popular tourist location. Oia is a very active, busy town with tons of restaurants, bars, and hotels that are perfectly located for panoramic views of the Caldera. Oia can be reached by a road that runs along the cliffs that are located to the east of Santorini. The faint of heart might not like this route as there are sections that are extremely narrow and there are no handrails! Fira is located at the eastern elevation of the caldera and is spread out over several cliffs with some that are 1,200 feet above sea level. Fira, like Oia, has many restaurants, hotels, and bars to choose from and have splendid views with panoramic vistas of the caldera.
Those who visit the Port of Fira can take a donkey ride that will bring them to a summit surrounded by breathtaking views that will last a lifetime!
From Oia, you can either walk and take in the most magnificent views or go by car. The only downside to walking is that your return trip will be very steep and should only be taken by those who are seasoned hikers. Amoudi Bay offers many excellent activities and many believe the best time to stop by is during the sunset which will be very memorable. This the best places in Santorini to that offer best seafood in town.
Sitting on top of Mesa Vouno, Thera is an archaeological site that has ruins from the Byzantine, Roman, and Hellenistic eras. As you walk around Ancient Thera, you will discover ancient religious sites, administrative buildings, a theater, and an ancient military training site. Many visitors have said it’s hard to concentrate on the ruins while you are surrounded by splendid views of the Aegean Sea! Those who have chosen to walk from Kamari have said this is the very best scenic walk. That said, you really should be in great shape to attempt this walk and start off really early in the morning as there is little to no shade. Many visitors have found that admissions to the ruins are a great deal less expensive than those at Ancient Akrotiri.
Admissions are 4 EU or $4.46 USD and hours of admission are between 8 am and 3 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. You can also get to the site by car if walking is not for you. If you are into ancient ruins, this is one of the best places in Santorini that you should visit.
This is a beautiful picturesque village that is located north of Santorini and only 2km from the capital of Fira. The village’s name comes from the word vigla which translates to “view spot”. The village offers an incredible view of the Caldera and in the past, this was the ideal location for those who wanted to see pirate ships coming to the island. In this day and age, when visiting Imerovigli, you will have choices of many hotels, houses, taverns, and cafes that all come with remarkable views of the Caldera. On top of an enormous rock called Scaros is a castle that was erected during the 13th-century and then abandoned in the early 1800s. Due to an earthquake, Scaros is now only a large hill and certainly not what it once was. The village has many chapels and churches that are built on the rocks that overlook the sea.
The Santorini Volcano
The island of Santorini is loaded with incredibly beautiful nature and amazing scenery that has been created by volcanic eruptions. This island is also known for two very small islands created by black lava. They are located in the center of the basin of Santorini and are the newest islets in the Eastern Mediterranean. In order to get here, you need to take a boat tour which is a must thing to do in Santorini.
Nea Kameni is a very popular spot for tourists because of its healing hot springs. The yellow water has a large amount of sulfur that is known for therapeutic results. There is a small cove called Agios Nikolaos that has been claimed as a true health contributor on Nea Kameni. The villages of Santorini are all located on huge cliffs with breathtaking views of the Caldera and the small islets that you will not find elsewhere.
These villages are the best places to visit on Santorini and should not be missed during the sunsets. As a tourist, you can visit the volcano by taking a day cruise. You can walk on the black lava that came from the volcano and explore incredible areas that are really amazing. A 20-minute walk on Nea Kameni will bring you to the volcano’s crater and other areas with sulfur. Palea Kameni is the oldest of the volcanoes and has its own hot springs.
Anyone who has visited this incredible village knows why it’s so well known. Cloaked in amazing sunsets and peaceful landscapes, it doesn’t get any better than this. Located on top of a massive cliff, you will have excellent views of Nea Kameni which is a small uninhabited island formed by volcano lava and ash in the Aegean Sea. The Island of Palea is also nearby but can only be reached by boat.
Take in the views of the island of Thirasia which is nearby Santorini and at one time was a part of Santorini. A volcanic eruption broke Santorini apart and this little island became its own entity. To date, this little island is naturally beautiful and undisturbed by people or modern culture.
Oia is located north on Santorini Island and is one of the most charming villages with beautiful churches, narrow streets lined with tourist shops, restaurants, cafes, and taverns. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Fira, Oia is quiet and peaceful with tourists walking along lovely paths that run from one end of the village to the other. At the entrance of the village, you can park your car and then enjoy this peaceful, relaxing environment.
When planning your stay in Oia, make sure you take in all their cultural spots such as the Maritime Museum which offers a small library along with many remains from a Venetian fortress and relics from their maritime history. This lovely village has attracted artists from far and wide who settled here because it was love at first sight! To reach the port of Ammoudi, travel down the 300 steps and take a boat to the island of Thirasia.
While in the village of Oia, it’s recommended you visit this castle, high on a cliff. Not much of a castle but more of a viewpoint in Santorini, is a must to drop by. The best area in Santorini to view the sunset. You can watch the sailboats pass by while taking in the most incredible sunset! Though it can be crowded at times but definitely worth the hassle if you want to witness the best angle of the sunset. Locals say that this is one of the best views in Santorini when viewing the Sunset.
Located 8km southeast of Fira, Pyrgos sits on the highest hilltop of Santorini offering the most incredible views of the entire island plus all of Oia. In 1995, the village was proclaimed a protected settlement. You can visit the ruins of Kasteli Castle which is one of five on the island, dating back to the 13th-century. Pyrgos is a small island with a population of only 500 and is a very popular destination for tourists.
Houses are located all around the castle while their small streets are designed to fit perfectly within the natural landscape. The village is known for its many churches including the Archangel Michael, Theotokaki, and the most famous church, the Monastery of Prophet Elias which sits on the highest apex of the mountain. It houses a small collection of remnants of the people and their culture.
The Capital Of Fira
Fira is located on the west side of the island and nearby the main port of Athinios. It is considered the most important village on Santorini with a population of 1,600 inhabitants. It sits on the edge of a 260 meters cliff with amazing views of the volcano. In the 1950s, the island experienced an earthquake that devastated a large portion of the island but many of the old 18th-century buildings survived. This Cycladic village is home to beautiful white houses with blue windows and doors and each house is separated by little-paved streets. Along with the houses and blue domed churches, that date back to the Venetian invasion, the village and verandas are sun-drenched in spectacular beauty.
The summer months are the height of tourism with many different shops, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, and bars. You will have a great choice of hotels that offer swimming pools and verandas with incredible views from the highest levels. Overall, Fira is a gorgeous town with its outstanding architecture. Although tourism creates a high level of activities, there are some areas that are very quiet and peaceful. You can find places to just kick back and relax while taking in exquisite views of the surrounding areas.
If you are looking for culture, visit the Archaeological Museum which is home to many wonderful items retrieved from excavations that take place in the settlement of Akrotiri which was a Minoan settlement. Visit Megaron Gyzi Museum displaying many photographs of Fira before as well as after the earthquake. Although at one time, Fira was the main port to the island, today, it is only used for cruise boats that take tourists on a tour of the volcanoes of Nea and Palea Kameni.
The Byzantine Castle Ruins In Oia
Visit the ruins of this 15th-century castle located between Oia and Ormos Ammoudia. Views from the Citadel will give you the most amazing views in all of Greece, so be sure and have your camera on hand! From whitewashed buildings, a fabulous windmill, and the spectacular blue Aegean Sea below the breathtaking cliffs, this is truly heaven!
In A Nutshell
When is the Best time to Visit Santorini?
The best time to Visit Santorini is when the weather is on point and not too crowded. The best month would be April when all of the establishments open and peak season is just starting. If booking a trip to Santorini in this month is not possible, try to go for early September to October.
When planning your next Greece vacation, you should consider the island of Santorini. There are so many incredible villages soaked in sunshine and sunsets that will take your breath away! Spend a day relaxing by the beauty of the Aegean Sea or enjoy the panoramic view from amazing cliffs that this land is famous for. Walk along the waterfront of Kamari Beach with its black sand, enjoy wonderful dishes at one of their superb restaurants, or plan an evening out at one of their nightclubs.
Take off to Perissa to discover Mesa Vouno, an enormous rock that rises from the sea and captivates one and all! During the night hours when it literally shines! Walk on foot or rent a donkey for a different experience. If you’ve never seen red sand, you should travel to Red Beach and then walk over to the ancient site of Akrotiri.
For the history buffs, visit the excavations that have been going on since the 1960s at Akrotiri. You will be delighted when viewing buildings as old as time while traveling through the excavation’s protected structures. A guided tour will be an experience you will never forget! No doubt Santorini has something for everyone.