18 Best beach towns and coastal cities in France

Get to know the most famous beach towns and coastal cities in France, from the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean sea along the French Riviera.
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From the warm sea breeze along the Mediterranean to the gentle waves of the Atlantic ocean, France has some of the most beautiful beach towns and coastal cities in the world. For those who love sand, sun, and surf, these delightful town resorts by the water are an ideal place to spend a holiday.

Offering plenty of beaches, a diverse cuisine, and plenty of history, France’s coastline is quite a delight. So let’s have a look at the most charming beach cities and seaside towns in France, shall we? Allons-y!

☞ READ MORE: French travel phrases you need for a trip to France

1. Saint-Tropez

If you are looking for a luxurious beach holiday in France that will help you relax and enjoy life, glizy Saint Tropez is the place to be.

Dior in Saint Tropez

As one of the most famous coastal towns in the world, it and has been the playground of the rich and famous for decades, with a rich history of film stars, actors and celebrities, so keep your eyes peeled.

Now, I’m suggesting it on this list but the real glamor of Saint-Tropez is the nightlife and the people you meet. It is a party town, and just walking through its streets on a simple day trip, may not help you get to know this luxury enclave, compared to staying at least 1-2 nights.

But if you are short on time and are looking to see what it is like, you can take a tour to Saint Tropez from Nice and read more about visiting St. Tropez here.

2. Étretat

The beach town of Étretat in Normandy is one of those places that is very famous in France, but quite unknown to foreigners and tourists.

Etretat in Normandy

A small town on the north coast of France, the area is known for the striking rock formations known as falaises in French, that carved out of its white cliffs.

Étretat also has beautiful beaches and a long boardwalk all along its coast line. In summer or winter, this coastal town attracts tons of visitors.

With award-winning gardens, beautiful seashore, and a charming old town, there is plenty to see and do in Étretat. You can read more about visiting Etretat here, and find out about tour options from Paris.

3. Deauville

Since the mid 19th century, Deauville has been regarded as one of the most prestigious seaside towns in all of France. Along with its twin city, Trouville-sur-mer which shares the same long beach coastline, Deauville is the place to be for bourgeois Parisians.

Deauville boardwalk

As the closest seaside resort to Paris, the town on the Côte Fleurie has long been home to French high society’s homes by the seaside, often referred to as the “Parisian riviera”.

In the early 20th century, the Barrière Hotel Group built two 5-star hotels along with one of the largest casinos in Europe, putting the town of Deauville firmly on the map with the European jet set. You can read more about visiting Deauville here.

4. Biarritz

The beach town of Biarritz is famous for its high waves, making it a favorite for windsailing and surfing. It is located in French Basque country, on the Atlantic coast in south-western France.

This stunning seaside town was once part of Eleanor of Aquitaine‘s Duchy. But it was another queen who really made her mark on the city. Biarritz became a luxury seaside destination for the wealthy when the Hôtel du Palais was built in 1855 for the Empress Eugénie, the wife of Emperor Napoleon III.

With its beachfront casinos, wonderful local dishes, and surfing culture, this is a beachfront city that definitely attracts the crowds.

5. Cassis

The small enclave of Cassis is a stunning seaside town in Provence. This is a town full of beautiful pastel architecture with houses perched on hills, vibrant flowers, and gorgeous beaches.

It is also right next to a series of hillside cliffs known as the Calanques and the city of Marseille. If you intend to visit the Calanques, there are boats leaving from Cassis that will take you to explore this protected natural wonder.

cassis

This part of the French Riviera is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, with is sunshine filled days and gorgeous beaches.

With its glistening waters, beautiful coast, and the attractive towns that line it, it’s easy to see why Cassis is so popular. You can read more about visiting Cassis here.

6. Sanary-sur-Mer

Located around 37 miles (60 km) away from Marseille, the beach town of Sanary-sur-mer is located on the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera), and has become one of the most visited cities in the area.

It is famous for its daily markets which were voted the most beautiful markets in France in 2018 by TF1, a major national French television station.

The markets sell everything from fresh seafood, to local specialties like lavender and olive oil, as well as other souvenirs that can easily survive in luggage to take back home.

Sanary sur mer

With a beautiful coastline and plenty of beaches in the area, it also has plenty of small boutiques, cafés and provençale dishes to enjoy.

Along with some of the most adorable little streets, it is famous for being the home of famed maritime explorer Jacques Cousteau. You can read more about visiting Sanary-sur-Mer here.

7. Nice

The quintessential beach city in France has to be the city of Nice on the French Riviera. With its famous Promenade des Anglais boardwalk and long expansive beaches this is a seaside town that both tourists and locals flock to.

Beach in Nice
Beach in Nice, just off of Promenade des Anglais

But there is more to Nice than just beaches and boardwalks. Dating back to antiquity, the city has always attracted an amalgam of visitors from across the Mediterranean sea.

With a niçois culture that is a mix of French, Savoyard and Italian, it is a city bustling with good food, restaurants, bars, shops and museums. Other towns nearby include Monaco and Cannes, which are just a short train ride away. You can read more about visiting Nice here.

8. Saint-Malo

The stunningly beautiful fortress city of Saint-Malo is located in Brittany, on the Atlantic coast of western France. This is a seaside town with expansively large beaches, but only when the tide goes out.

Beaches of Saint Malo at low tide with Fort National in the distance
Beaches of Saint Malo at low tide with Fort National in the distance

Saint-Malo has always been most famous for its ocean tides that go out for miles and miles during low tide, and then come right up to the city walls at high tide.

On April 20, 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier set sail from his hometown of Saint-Malo under a commission from King François I. It was the start of the French colonial expansion, and settlement of lands in the Americas.

Today, this beach town is famous for its delicious Breton specialties with a lively nightlife and bustling historic center. You can read more about visiting Saint-Malo here.

9. Sète

About 77 miles (125 km) away from Avignon is the small seaside town of Sète. Sète is often called La Venise languedocienne or the “Venice of Languedoc”, because of it has many smaller canals in the heart of the city, along with the Canal du Midi.

sete in the south of france

The town has a population of around 45,000 and is part of the Montpellier-Sète urban area. A large fishing town, it has a rich heritage of maritime history as well as gastronomy.

One of the first things you notice in Sète is its Royal Canal, the main artery of the city. With lovely pastel buildings lining the canal, dating from the 19th century, you will quickly fall in love with this part of the south of France.   You can read more about Sète here.

10. Honfleur

The seaside town of Honfleur is located on the Atlantic coast as well as the mouth of the Seine river. With its historic old port sending sailors across the ocean way for centuries, this historic city has now started attracting a different type of sea-lover: the beachgoer.

honfleur bassin

The historic old town of Honfleur is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its wonderful skyline and delicious Norman specialties. There are also several beaches nearby like the Plage du Butin and Saint-Laurent-sur-mer. You can read more about visiting Honfleur here.

11. Montpellier

Montpellier is about 60 miles (97km) away from Avignon and is a lively city with plenty of charm. In addition to being a bustlingly elegant city, beach lovers will want to take advantage of Montpellier’s proximity to the Mediterranean coast during the summer season.

Montpellier

Montpellier also has a vibrant restaurant scene, with a variety of shops and world-class museums, serving as a great base for visits to the nearby wine regions of the Languedoc and Roussillon.

In the last ten years, several chefs have left Paris to start their own restaurants in the area, so there are plenty of Occitanie specialties and fine dining options available in the area. You can read more about visiting Montpellier here.

12. Villefranche-sur-mer

Located on the outskirts of Nice about 5 miles away, Villefranche-sur-mer has a lovely beach, a harbor, and a maze of narrow winding alleys.

It is a favored beach escape for local residents, as well as being a village with a ton of charm. In all, an obligatory stop for tourists visiting the area.

Villefranche sur mer on the French Riviera

The waterfront promenade leads to the most popular beach in the area, known as Plage des Marinières.

Villefranche’s Saint Elme Citadel is a fortification structure overlooking the Bay of Villefranche and is a more than just a pleasant area to stroll. Nowadays it houses the town hall.

There are also a few museums you can visit. However, it is the views from the Citadel that are truly spectacular. You can read more about visiting Villefranche-sur-mer here.

13. Bandol

A little further away than Cassis, you have the small town of Bandol which is about 35 miles (55 km) away from Marseille.

Overlooking the Mediterranean, you’ll find Bandol with its beautiful sandy beaches, and coastal hiking trails to make an excellent holiday destination. It captures all of the charm and culture of the quintessential south of France.

Beach in Bandol

The town plays host to some of the most stunning beaches in the area with plenty of entertainment nearby, including a casino. In addition, you could go hiking, swimming, or boating in the area, as the natural parks that surround Bandol are quite unspoilt.

There are also vineyards in the area, under the appellation Côtes de Provence. You can take a tour to Bandol from Marseille and read more about visiting Bandol here.

14. Martigues

The seaside town of Martigues is famous for its canals, earning the nickname “the Provençale Venice”.

It is the point of passage between the Mediterranean and the Etang de Berre, and is thus filled with small canals and bridges that have been much inspired by their more famous counterpart.

Martigues

With plenty of sights like the Miroir des Oiseaux and the Quartier de l’Île there is plenty to see and do in this former fishing village turned tourist town. You can read more about visiting Martigues here.

15. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

About 10 miles (16 km) from Nice near the Italian border, lies the leafy suburb of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. It is a tiny, Mediterranean peninsula nestled between Nice and Monaco that was once modest fishing village.

Today, however, it is better known as an enclave for billionaires and a lovely stop for tourists visiting the French Riviera.

View of the Cap Ferrat from Pointe Saint Hospice

There are two major trails that meander around the Peninsula. The longer at 6 km, is a cliff-top Tour du Cap path which hugs the coast, affording views all the way to Cannes on one side, and Italy on the other.

Then there’s the shorter, but no less beautiful, walk around the Pointe Saint-Hospice. Starting just a few steps away from the port and village, this 2 km trail winds around Saint-Jean’s other, smaller headland.

It is very easy to get to the town and its surrounding area, whether by car, taxi, or public transportation. You can read more about visiting Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat here.

16. La Ciotat

About 22 miles (35 km) away from Marseille is the seaside town of La Ciotat. The town has a rich sea-faring history dating back to antiquity and contains some stunning examples of 18th-century architecture.

Boats in La Ciotat

La Ciotat is known for its beautiful marina and its walks along the harbor. It is a town that doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it an ideal place to visit during summer vacations.

The town’s big claim to fame: the site of the world’s first cinema by the famous Frères Lumières. These days tourists flock to it for its outdoor markets and nearby beaches that among some of the best in the French Riviera.

You can take a tour to La Ciotat from Marseille and read more about visiting La Ciotat here.

17. Antibes

The vibrant seaside town of Antibes is about 17 miles (28 km) away from Nice and Cannes. With beautiful beaches, a Picasso museum, and several small festival events held around the year to attract visitors, Antibes is a lovely place to visit on a day trip from Nice.

Antibes

This is also where the super rich arrive to park their yachts in relative anonymity, compared to the fish bowls of Saint Tropez and Monaco.

Visit Port Vaughan, walk along the Sentier de Tirepoil and head to Cap d’Antibes for some of the most beautiful seaviews of French Riviera. You can read more about taking a tour from Nice to Antibes here.

18. Eze

The small town of Eze is about 7 miles (12 km) away from Nice. According to legend, this small provençale village received its name on behalf of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

There is an Egyptian cross in the local church that was said to initially be a temple. It was said to be erected in her honor by those who colonized these lands from across the Mediterranean.

Eze in Provence

Check out the views from the Jardin Exotique, and wander down its cobblestone streets.

There are plenty of small shops and restaurants in the small village and make your way to Château d’Èze. You can read more about taking a tour from Nice to Eze here.

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If you enjoyed this article, you may like to read about the top tourist attractions in France. A bientôt!

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