The sexy scenes of the Côte d’Azur—outsize yachts; star-studded film festivals; private beach clubs—belie the Riviera’s rich cultural heritage. Start your trip with an arts-centric introduction in St. Paul-de-Vence, in the hills above Nice, where the Fondation Maeght includes works by Braque, Matisse, Miró, and others who painted here in the 20th century. The 25-room La Colombe d’Or was a postwar playground for these legendary visitors, many of whom (Calder; Chagall) left works behind. Nearby, chef Christophe Dufau’s Les Bacchanales has become a bellwether in the farm-to-table trend, serving a market menu that changes weekly (freshly caught John Dory; veal from Corsica). Between Nice and Monaco is Èze, a medieval clifftop village dominated by two rival hotels: the manicured, multi-terraced Château de la Chèvre d’Or and the smaller but no less stunning Château Eza, both of which overlook the Mediterranean. Even by the sea, you can escape the onslaught of glamour: only locals know about the Sentier du Littoral, a 1.2-mile pathway connecting Monte Carlo to the Cap d’Ail. But it won’t be obscure for long, thanks to A’Trego, an haute take on a fishing hut designed by Philippe Starck, opening along the Sentier this summer: the three-level space will include a classic restaurant, a terrace for cocktails, and a members-only bar.
Côte d’Azur Affordable Tip: The perfumer Fragonard, one of the oldest independent family-run fragrance firms in France, has a boutique and factory in Èze Village—stop in for a well-priced souvenir (handmade soaps and tableware). Tours of the facilities—where you’ll learn how perfumes and cosmetics are produced—are free. 7 Ave. du Jardin Exotique; 33-4/93-41-05-05.
Côte d’Azur Family Tip: The newly refurbished Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is also one of the world’s oldest scientific aquariums; it’s home to 6,000 species of fish as well as historic items (among them whale skeletons) collected by Prince Albert I more than a century ago. Ave. St.-Martin; 37-7/93-15-36-00.