Best beaches in the French Riviera
If you want to lounge out like the rich and famous, there are few better places to do so than at beautiful Paloma in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The turquoise waters here, situated among thick greenery and the stunning cliffs of Eze and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, have attracted a wide range of celebrities, including Henri Matisse, Elton John, Winston Churchill and Tom Cruise. A lovely walk out along Pointe de Saint-Hospice, with its famous abbey, reveals even more beautiful views.
Despite the exclusive feel of this area, it's easy for anybody to get here as the nearest station to Paloma at Beaulieu-sur-Mer is only 15 minutes by train from Nice.
Combining authentic old town charm with one of the best beaches in France, it's hard to think of a more quintessential French Riviera destination than Villefranche-sur-Mer. Historical houses seem to cling to the cliffsides overlooking a long sandy beach, while fishing boats bob in the water and locals enjoy long lunches on restaurant terraces. It's easy to see why a number of artists, including Picasso, chose this stretch of the Cote d'Azur to take up residence.
Wondering how to get there? Trains from Nice to Villefranche take less than 10 minutes.
Larvotto, in Monaco, is one of the best beaches for sampling the jet-setter lifestyle. Billionaires fly in from around the world to jet-ski in this little haven, situated just a few hundred feet below Monaco's charming Old Town and the glitzy Monte Carlo Casino. If you want to feel like James Bond for a day, we think this is the place to come! Better yet, skip navigating the crowded, curvy roads to get there, as travelling by train to Monaco is about the most scenic and stress-free way to get there.
Best beaches in Occitanie
If wild, deserted coastlines are more your thing than crowded beaches, this is the place for you. Accessible via a few back roads from Le Grau du Roi, the closest train station to the beach is Perpignan. This long, dune-lined shore is void of much activity save for an old lighthouse and the occasional beachgoer. This 6-mile long stretch of sand, lagoons and wetlands offer endless walking trails and a wild, beautiful beach experience that's rare to come by in one of France's most touristed regions.
St-Cyprien's magnificent white-sand beach, safe for swimming, backs up against a row of romantic restaurants and shops. Nearby, a bustling marina and port ensures a steady stream of fresh seafood and postcard-worthy photo opportunities. It's hard to understand exactly why such a beautiful beach remains uncrowded even in the summer, but it does. Just like Espiguette, the closest station to St-Cyprien is also Perpignan, less than 90 minutes from Montpellier by train along a stunning stretch of coastline, which provides even more staggering photo ops along the way.
Valras has everything you could ask for from an idyllic French beach destination – sun, sand, colourful houses, authentic restaurants, and a beachside area suited for romantic sunset walks. But throw in a bustling local market stacked with fresh Mediterranean produce, world-class leisure activities, and an acclaimed cultural festival, and you start to think that maybe Valras is getting greedy with its charms! Still, that doesn't stop us from absolutely loving this little gem on the Mediterranean coast, with the nearest station to Valras just a short hop away in Beziers.
Best beaches in Normandy
Surrounded by history's highs and lows, Ravenoville's peaceful beauty has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. The last 2,000 years have brought events such as Viking invasions, the Hundred Years' War, and the D-Day landings to Ravenoville's front door. You wouldn't know it today, looking at the rows of calm, colourful changing sheds and the gentle waves lapping the beach. There are plenty of interesting historical sites to see around Ravenoville and the beach offers opportunities for respite and contemplation away from the crowds. It's all less than an hour from the historical city of Bayeux.
If a seaside version of an 'apres-ski' atmosphere exists, then Cabourg has it in oodles. The beach is gorgeous, with all the summer activities you could hope for – windsurfing, kayaking, volleyball, and even golf and go-karts. What really makes Cabourg one of the best beaches in France is its authentic Belle Epoque architecture and rich cultural history, epitomised in the Grand Hotel where Marcel Proust stayed each summer for seven years. What better place to tackle this great French writer's work than on the beautiful beach that inspired him?
Cabourg is just 30 minutes by bus from Deauville, which you can reach by train from Paris in just two hours.
Speaking of Deauville, we couldn't bear to exclude this glitzy little gem off any list of the top beaches in France. Sitting across the mouth of the Seine from Le Havre, Deauville is a chic beach town that seems to have as many ornate 19th-century mansions and high-end fashion stores as it does grains of golden sand. It's certainly a place where you can feel like you're living the high life, especially during late summer when Deauville hosts movie stars from all over the world for its acclaimed film festival.