Much of Europe has been gripped by a heatwave these last couple of weeks, with temperatures breaking all records. The Côte d’Azur has seen the mercury rise to 38-40°c with relentlessly warm nights offering little relief. Air-conditioning is not the norm in local houses, offices nor even hotels, so what can you do to keep cool? I asked some local blogging friends for ideas of cool ways to beat the heat on the Côte d’Azur.
Doesn’t the photo above look wonderfully refreshing? Read on for more ways to keep cool on the Côte d’Azur.
Helen from French Riviera Family Activities suggests: Escape the Heat and Head for the Hills:
“When I’ve had enough of the oppressive heat on the coast my favourite thing to do is take the family for a hike around Lac d’Allos in the Mercantour national park.
Due to its altitude at over 2,000 m you are sure to find fresher air and cooler temperatures than at sea-level.
To access the lake you will need to leave the car at the parking area (GPS coordinates: 44.246066, 6.698124) about 15-20 minutes drive from Allos centre. There is an €8 charge to park for the day and try and get there early as it gets very busy later in the day.
The signs are easy to follow and the shortest route from the parking to the lakeside is 40-45 minutes and once there you can find a quiet spot to relax and have a picnic or grab a drink and lunch on the terrace of the refuge. You could also then take a leisurely stroll around the lake (approx. 1h) or for the adventurous there are plenty of trails heading up higher into the mountains (be sure to bring a map!)
Whichever route you take, soak up the beautiful surroundings and be sure to keep your eyes open for marmottes (groundhogs), chamois, and bouqetins (ibex).”
Photo above and in middle of Pin provided by Helen, check out more adventurous family activities on French Riviera Family Activities
Canyoning Thrills and Chills:
If you’re an adrenaline junkie then the proximity of the Alps to the Côte d’Azur means there’s scope for canyoning and rafting in the mountain rivers. If you’re not sure what canyoning entails, here’s the definition: “The sport of jumping into a fast-flowing mountain stream and allowing oneself to be carried downstream at high speed”. It’s pretty crazy, but will definitely keep you cool as the water is between 13-15°c. (You are provided with a wetsuit!)
Popular spots for canyoning include the Loup gorge (company based between Le Bar sur Loup and La Colle sur Loup) where my son has been several times (photo above) and Maglia canyon (company based in Breil sur Roya). Click on the highlighted links for further information.
Beat the Heat, Explore an Underground Cave:
The underground caves near the lovely village of St Cézaire are a constant temperature all year round and at 15°c are a refreshing place to spend a couple of hours. You have to take a guided tour but even if one is not available in your language the caves are worth visiting as really they’re pretty self-explanatory – and cool!
The tour isn’t long and is perfectly suitable for kids though it isn’t accessible for pushchairs/wheelchairs as it involves steep steps. The price ranges from 6.50€ – 9€ (free for under 6). Open every day of the week during the summer. Full information on the Grotte de St Cézaire website.
Escape the Heat, Escape the Room:
Escape the heat for an hour of airconditioned mental challenge! An Escape Game is a fun activity where the aim is to literally escape from a room! Working as a team using clues to solve puzzles, problem-solving, logic and initiative are all put to the test. You are locked in a room with a group (between 2-6, ideally 4 or 5) of friends/family and have to find your way out within an hour, but don’t worry, if you are claustrophobic you aren’t actually locked in, you’re free to leave at any point.
There are many different themes for the rooms in this area including CIA (me and my family pictured above), Sherlock Holmes, Cold War Bunker, Egyptian Relics, Mental Asylum, Bank Robbery and more. You’ll find them in every sizable town in the area.
The games suit from about 13/14 up but younger children are welcome in family groups. They just might not find it as fun. Prices are usually around 20-25€ per person depending on the number in the group.
When booking check whether French is required as there are some places where there’s no need to speak/read French, the written clues are in English too, and others where it’s necessary. Click through to the rooms I have escaped from and can highly recommend: Planet Experiences Antibes and Lock Out Antibes.
Allison from Best of Nice Blog suggests: Have a Ball at the Mall:
“The heat of the day is the perfect time to take refuge in a little air-con, and the Nice Etoile Shopping Center, Galeries Lafayette, Zara, H&M, Sephora and FNAC all provide ample amusements in climatised comfort. July and August are when the massive France-wide summer sales happen, and Sundays are the best day to browse without the crowds.”
I would also add Cap 3000 Shopping Center, voted “Best shopping centre in the world” in 2022, in St Laurent du Var near Nice airport.
Photo provided by me of Cap 3000. Check out all you ever need to know about Nice on Best of Nice Blog
Wild Swim in Mountain Rivers:
The beauty of the Côte d’Azur for me is the diversity of its landscape. It’s where the Alps meet the sea which means there are plenty of fast-flowing mountain rivers cascading down from high altitudes. And this means there are countless places to jump into icy blue, crystal-clear water holes, places to go bouldering and stunning shady river walks. What better way to beat the heat!
Some of my favourite rivers for all of the above are the Cagnes near Vence (click here for a detailed description of one of our favourite walks with swim spot), the Loup behind Florian Confisserie in Pont du Loup and the Roya around Breil sur Roya (pictured above).
The Loup river is possibly one of the easiest to find. Park at the traditional sweet (candy) factory Confisserie Florian or nearby, then follow the path that leads off behind the car park. Keep walking up the river until you find a spot you like. On a hot day in summer it can get quite busy whereas the Riou and Roya are less well known. Don’t forget to take a pair of old trainers or river shoes!
Here’s a more detailed list of lovely rivers to swim in.
Fun on the Lake:
Lac Saint Cassien is a large man-made reservoir covering 3.7 square kilometres, surrounded by natural bush near Montauroux in the Var. The lake makes a great alternative to the beach on a hot summer’s day with its perfect-temperature fresh water (25-30°c in summer) and no salt or chlorine to contend with. We go to hire pedalos and SUPs and the kids love to play in the “Aqua Park” – an area of giant inflatables and trampolines on the water.
There are plenty of shady spots for picnics and several snack bars/restaurants around the lake.
With its southern tip close to the motorway, only 5 minutes’ drive from Sortie 39 (signed to Les Adrets, then follow Fayence after the toll), Lac Saint Cassien is easy to get to but remains peaceful and wild in a natural environment. Power boats and jet skis are not allowed adding to the tranquillity of the location.
Chrissie formerly of The Riviera Grapevine, now freelance, suggests: Splash in Fountains:
“The fountains of the Coulée Verte, (also known as the Promenade du Paillon) the ‘green corridor’ in the centre of Nice that extends from the beachfront to Place Garibaldi, are more than just a pretty water feature. In summer, this central spot is the perfect place to cool down after a busy day shopping or sightseeing.
It’s hard to miss the squeals of delight that ring out from all ages, although this splash area is particularly toddler-friendly and a great alternative to the beach, especially when you want a quick refresher for the kids without having to go bathing yourself. Venture further along the strip to find cool shade and a popular children’s playground.”
Photo provided by me. Check out Chrissie’s writing here
Beat the Heat, Sail the Seas:
No matter how hot it is, being on water is always refreshing and there are various options for boat trips in the region. The shortest trip is a quick ferry crossing to the Lérins Islands off Cannes (15 mins) or you can make a day of it venturing along the coast from Monaco as far as St Tropez.
There are whale watching tours and mini-cruises from Nice, Villefrance sur Mer and other towns. Alternatively if you can sail hire a catamaran from one of the many yacht clubs along the coast and if you can’t sail rent a motor boat from Antibes and other harbours.
Take Refuge in a Church:
Churches are always blissfully cool and offer respite from the heat of the day. If you don’t want to forego culture but want to stay cool then Nice has a good selection of different churches open to the public. Cathedrale Sainte Reparate, Eglise du Gesu and Chapelle de la Miséricord are close together in the Old Town while Notre Dame de Nice and the striking concrete Eglise de Sainte Jeanne d’Arc are only a short tram ride away.
Slightly further away you’ll find the gorgeous Franciscan Church and Monastery in Cimiez, a suburb of Nice, founded in the 9th century by Benedictine monks (pictured above).
For something very different a visit to St Nicolas Russian Orthodox cathedral is well worth the effort, being the biggest Russian Orthodox church in Europe outside Russia. Remember to dress respectfully, you’ll need something to cover your shoulders in the Russian church and men in shorts aren’t allowed.
Of course all other towns on the Côte d’Azur have churches, even tiny hamlets in the countryside, so wherever you are you shouldn’t be far from a cooling chapel or two.
Becks from Access Riviera suggests: Shady River Walk:
“La Brague river walk can be accessed from Biot, Sophia Antipolis or Valbonne and is a great way to cool down on a hot day. Excellent location for dog walkers too! We often access the river walk from Pont de la Veirière at Sophia Antipolis.
For directions, there are 2 options: From the Fitlane in Sophia Antipolis follow Route des Crêtes passing Air France on the left until it joins Route des Macarons. Continue past the large fire station on the right-hand side until you reach a left bend in the road. There is a small carpark there ‘La Veirière’ and you can walk down to the river. Or, you can park here (see Google Map) and walk left along the river for 5-10 minutes.
There are plenty of shaded areas for a riverside picnic, and swimming holes. It’s great if you have toddlers because there are plenty of shallow areas for a splash and lots of wildlife to spot such as dragonflies and geckos!”
Photo above and on right side of Pin provided by Becks, check out more ideas for accessible family fun on the Riviera on Access Riviera
Visit a Museum:
The Côte d’Azur has a wealth of interesting museums covering all sorts of subjects from sports, to oceanography, via art, perfume and even shells. The heat of the day may be just the time to visit that one you’ve been meaning to go to….but do check first that it’s airconditioned as not all museums are!
A few that I recommend, that do have air-con are The National Sports Museum in the Allianz Stadium in Nice, MAMC – Mougins Museum of Classical Art in the beautiful perched village of Mougins and Le Musée International de la Parfumerie (International Perfume Museum) in the world perfume capital, Grasse. Check individual websites for opening hours.
Beat the Heat, Catch a Movie:
Cinemas are airconditioned, so if you’re really struggling in the heat take a break from sightseeing, culture, daily life and watch a movie. There are multiplexes with films in English in Nice, Cannes, Polygone Riviera (Cagnes sur Mer) and smaller cinemas in Roquefort les Pins, Valbonne and Mouans Sartoux.
Look for films in VOST (version originale sous-titrée) to ensure it won’t be dubbed or take the opportunity to watch a film in French. For more detail on how to find a movie in English click here and to see what’s on use the site Allociné
Lisa from Italian Kiwi suggests: Finish off the Day with a Cold Glass of Rosé:
“In the late afternoon during the Summer, when the heat is finally starting to dissipate a little, the enduring tradition of the apéro is enjoyed all over the South-East of France. Small bowls of cherry tomatoes, nuts, and tapenade are placed on outdoor tables, along with a condensation-covered bottle of chilled rosé wine. Often neighbours and friends call by to have a cold glass of rosé before heading home for dinner.
The grapes that make rosé are grown all over the area. The choice of rosé is enormous; ranging from cheap bottles, to ecologically-made wines, to expensive special-occasion varieties.
The heat-beating factor that they all have in common is that they should be drunk chilled, and preferably in the shade of a Plane tree, in a town square, or at a café on the beach. So, raise your glasses and say chin-chin (and don’t forget to look the person in the eye while toasting them)!”
Photo provided by Lisa, check out delicious recipes and off the beaten track travel on Italian Kiwi
What do you think of our ways to beat the heat on the Côte d’Azur? Do you have any other suggestions on ways to stay cool? Do share in the comments.
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