Nearly every cruise ship that does a Western Mediterranean sailing makes at least one port of call in the South of France. An organised tour is not really necessary if you wish to explore the area around the port. Tour excursions are best when wishing to visit outside the realm of the immediate port of call. Here are a few things to see and understand why over 20 cruise lines make a call at one of these ports.
The name Cannes immediately envisions the world famous film festival that is held annually in May. The Musee de la Castre museum is situated in the shell of a former medieval castle. It houses plenty of artefacts, including instruments and tapestries. Located in the historic centre, the Notre Dame de l’Esperance is designed in the Gothic style and was built somewhere between the 16th to 17th century.
15 minutes from Cannes, the small village of Mougins is packed with interest and was where Pablo Picasso once lived.
This village can be reached from Cannes by the local bus. The Mougins Museum of Classical Art contains a large and diverse collection of antiquities from the Roman, Greek and Egyptian dynasties. Other exhibits include artworks from greats such as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Cézanne, Rodin, Dali and Andy Warhol, amongst others.
The principality of Monaco is a gambler’s paradise where fortunes are won or lost. There’s more than just gambling to do in its capital Monte Carlo. The Palais Princier was built in 1191 and is the official living quarters of the head of state. Those looking for photo opportunities would do well to see the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée, which is the official cathedral of Monaco.
It has an enormous pipe organ and altar and it is built in the style of neo-Romanesque-Byzantine. Those who enjoy an under-the-sea educational experience should visit the Musée Océanographique de Monaco. The museum contains hundreds of interesting exhibits and was opened in 1906 by Prince Albert I.
Nice is a walking city full of opportunities for historical exploration as well as intriguing shops and beautiful landmarks. It is considered the unofficial ‘capital of the French Riviera’. A stroll through the narrow streets of the old town introduces the flavour of the region. One of the top attractions is the Promenade des Anglais.
Built in the 18th century, this promenade is located against the elegant seafront on the Mediterranean Sea. There are several museums of note including Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Under Place Garibaldi, in the heart of Nice, major archaeological excavations revealed a brilliant site retracing 700 years of history. The crypt is one example of the history and heritage behind ancient Nice.
Walk amongst the maze of pedestrian streets, markets, squares and fountains in the old town of Toulon. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds is 11th century Baroque cathedral and includes a striking bell tower that is 36 metres high. Boat tours are available from the harbour to view Toulon’s naval vessels up close. The Naval Museum features enormous models of ships built in the 18th century.
The Upper Town of Baron Haussmann is known as the ‘new’ town of Toulon and was built under the supervision of Louis Napoleon. Known for its stunning architecture, it is perfectly preserved to this day. Take a tour of the L’opéra de Toulon, which is not only the largest opera house in the city but is also the second largest in all of France. It was opened in 1862 and holds almost 2000 people.
Many people question as to why many ships make port of call here. It is all about being centrally located and its natural surrounding beauty. This quaint fishing town still remains a perfect postcard image of the French Rivera. A 16th-century Citadel now used as the Town Hall is situated right along its short coastline.
The Musee Volti and Gardens house the bronze work of local sculptor, Antoniucci Volti. Once a stroll along the coastal footpath is taken, the train station is conveniently located seconds away. Villefranche works a base to visit other areas north or south on the coast, including Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice and San Remo in Italy. The service is fast and frequent.
The main season for cruises to the South of France is normally from March through to October.
Written by our Veronica Shine