10 Best Art Destinations of the Côte d'Azur


The French Riviera is legendary for inspiring some of the world's most famous writers and painters. Scott Fitzgerald said it was a "playground" with a "fairy blue" sea, and its allure has become mythical. From my first trip to Europe as a young backpacker, I have vibrant, vivid memories of staying in a Nice hostel housed in a mansion Napoleon gifted to his mistress, walking along the pebble-stoned shore and stopping to rest and sun bathe a while (wrapping my Let's Go Europe in a shirt as a pillow), and the sublime joy of visiting MAMAC, Nice's contemporary and modern art museum, specially for the gloriously grand Alexander Calder mobile sculpture outside the entrance. I still remember exhibits I lingered upon that bright, fairy blue day. The entire Côte d'Azur is bursting with artistic discoveries and magical destinations along the coast and nearby mountaintop villages to capture your imagination too.

Excerpt below from Atout France article by Pascale Filliâtre published on March 25, 2019 can be found HERE.

Picasso, Bonnard, Matisse, Chagall or Renoir… So many artists that the Côte d'Azur has inspired. All have succumbed to the beauty of its landscapes, the mildness of its climate and the light bathing its coasts and its hinterland, its seaside resorts and its perched villages. No wonder then that the Côte d'Azur is home to so many places and museums inviting to encounter with works where art always touches the blue of the sky and the Mediterranean.

In Saint-Paul de Vence, the Maeght Foundation

Modern and contemporary art could not find a more beautiful setting than this architectural ensemble imagined by Josef Lluis Sert on the heights of the Côte d'Azur for Aimé and Marguerite Maeght and their friends Giacometti, Miro, Calder or Chagall... A garden of sculptures, an agora, a labyrinth, mosaics and a fountain, exhibition rooms opening onto patios and terraces... and the song of the cicadas. Here, time stands still. Maeght Foundation (External link)

In Porquerolles, the Carmignac Foundation

An experience: this is what a visit to the Carmignac Foundation looks like, hidden in the basement of a Provençal farmhouse on the island of Porquerolles. You must first take the boat, then cross undergrowth, fields of vines and olive groves before discovering - barefoot! - the very unusual collection of Edouard Carmignac where Botticelli and Andy Warhol rub shoulders. Two sculpture gardens, including a glass labyrinth, complete the inimitable picture. Carmignac Foundation (External link)

In Nice, the Mamac

We come here for the interesting collection of modern and contemporary art but also the large terraces with views, like belvederes over the city. On one of them, meet Yves Klein and his wall of fire. On the forecourt, the monumental sculptures of Alexandre Calder and Niki de Saint-Phalle impose the pause. MAMAC (External link)

In Vallauris, the National Picasso Museum

Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Vallauris, Cannes, Mougins... Picasso loved the Côte d'Azur and stayed there for nearly 30 years, leaving many traces there. Thus, within the walls of the castle of Vallauris (which also houses the Ceramics Museum), the Pablo Picasso Museum occupies with the two grandiose frescoes, "War and Peace" and "The Four Parts of the World", the exceptional space of the Romanesque chapel. A sacred and universal anchor for the last great political work of the artist. Picasso Vallauris National Museum (External link)

In Cannet, the Bonnard Museum

It is in Le Cannet, very close to Cannes, in a Belle Époque villa reminiscent of the one where Pierre Bonnard settled in the 1920s with his wife and muse, that the first museum in the world entirely dedicated to the work of the great painter was opened in 2011. The paintings on display tell of the fascination that the landscapes and the beautiful light of the Côte d'Azur exerted on his inspiration for a long time. Bonnard Museum (External link)

In Nice, the Marc Chagall National Museum

More than 800 paintings, gouaches, drawings, washes and pastels... The permanent collection of the Marc Chagall National Museum in Nice is the largest public collection of works by the artist in the world. On more than 900 m², the immersion is total with a crush on the auditorium, famous for its three large stained glass windows evoking the Creation of the World. Marc Chagall National Museum (External link)

In Biot, the Fernand Léger National Museum

A large Mediterranean garden, monumental mosaics in colored glass paste on the facades... The Fernand Léger National Museum, at the foot of the village of Biot, multiplies the interior and exterior points of view on the work of the painter, figure of the modern art in the 20th century. More than 450 works, covering the period 1905 to 1955, are exhibited there. Unique in the world! Fernand Léger National Museum (External link)

In Roquebrune-Cap Martin, Villa Eileen Gray

Imagine a cape jutting out over the Mediterranean, a picturesque overhanging village and dream villas scattered between scrubland and pine forests with breathtaking views of the Big Blue... The Côte d'Azur in all its splendor is embodied in Roquebrune- Cape Martin. We will come there, among other things, to visit Le Corbusier's Cabanon or the very designer villa E1027 by Eileen Gray, an icon of modern architecture built in 1927 and so avant-garde! Eileen Gray's villa E1027 (External link)

In Vence, the Chapel of the Rosary by Matisse

Matisse and the Côte d'Azur, it's a long love story! The painter left his mark in many places. On the heights of Nice, in the museum dedicated to him, but also and above all in Vence where his Chapelle du Rosaire, a masterpiece of sacred art, and the Villa Le rêve where he lived, the encounter with the artist and his universe is abundant. To extend, life-size, during a walk in the beautiful wooded park of the Villa. The view of the hills overlooking Vence is exceptional. Matisse's Chapel of the Rosary (External link)

In Cagnes-sur-Mer, the Renoir Museum

Pierre-Auguste Renoir spent the last years of his life at the Domaine des Collettes, surrounded by centuries-old olive trees. Transformed into a museum, the house, whose windows open onto a superb panorama as far as Cap d'Antibes, offers moving testimony to the familiar and creative universe of the master of the Impressionists. Renoir Museum (External link)

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