The gardens and parks of the Côte d’Azur may not be as well known as the beaches and iconic cities of this famous part of France but they are plentiful, varied and beautiful, and certainly worth visiting.
The Côte d’Azur has been attracting visitors since the 1860s, and it was during this time that explorers were bringing back exotic plants they had collected abroad. Wealthy aristocrats and industry barons were building sumptuous villas with elaborate gardens. Tourism was booming and the tourists needed attractions to visit, things to do. Interest in flora and the preservation of nature was increasing. So the creation of gardens and parks flourished.
Thanks to the ideal Mediterranean climate, gardens created at this time allowed rare species from all over the world to acclimatise and spread. Ornamental and spectacular gardens with luxuriant plants were created across the Côte d’Azur which have endured until today.
Whether they are living witnesses of a rich past or imagined by contemporary creators, the gardens and parks of the Côte d’Azur offer magnificent perspectives and unique corners of paradise to be explored throughout the year.
Remarkable Gardens of France
In 2004 the label “Jardin Remarquable” was created to celebrate and document the extraordinary gardens of France. A remarkable garden is one that meets the established criteria; integration in the site, an interesting blend of vegetation, quality of the location, engaging use of plants, and, where applicable, provides historical interest.
Any garden, whether public or private can be classified. The label engages the owner to ensure regular maintenance, be open to the public for at least 40 days of the year for 6 hours a day and to participate in at least one national event such as Rendez-vous au jardins or Journées européens du patrimoine.
The Côte d’Azur and its back country have 14 of these enchanting classified, remarkable gardens, many of which are listed below.
Let’s take a look at some of the gardens and parks of the Côte d’Azur
Jardin Botanique Val Rahmeh Menton – Val Rahmeh Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Garden of Val Rahmeh is an extension of the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Owing to its unique geographical location in a sheltered part of Menton with about 316 days of sunshine a year, the collection of plants includes many subtropical and tropical species.
The vegetation is incredibly lush and colourful, spread out over numerous terraces leading down to a beautiful pond with giant water lilies and lotus flowers.
This classified “remarkable garden” is organised into climactic zones with plants from humid tropical regions, dry tropical regions, Australia, and the Mediterranean. The plants which are too numerous to list include medicinal plants, toxic plants, fruit trees (papayas, avocados, guavas and more), aromatics, spices and ornamental plants.
The garden plays an important scientific role and one of its missions is to ensure the conservation of endangered, rare or even extinct species in their natural environments.
This is one of the most delightful of the gardens and parks of the Côte d’Azur. It has an intoxicating charm. Even the Italian-Provençal villa which houses the ticket office and a small gift shop is picturesque and utterly charming.
Opening Times: November to March: 9.30 am to 5 pm, April to October: 9.30 am to 6 pm. Closed every Tuesday, 1 May and 25 December
Price: Full rate: 7€, Concession: 5€ (EU 3-25 years old), Under 3 free, various group and tour rates
Address: Ave Saint-Jacques, 06500 Menton
Website: Val Rahmeh Gardens
Jardin Exotique d’Eze – Eze Exotic Gardens
This extraordinary exotic garden (classified as “remarkable”) is located on a steep hillside of the perched medieval village of Eze. From its height at just over 400 meters, it offers breathtaking panoramic views plunging dramatically down to the shining azure sea, over Cap Ferrat and all along the coast from Italy to St Tropez.
Owing to its dry, warm and sunny orientation the plants are comprised mainly of impressive cacti and succulents from the Mediterranean region, Africa and the Americas.
Of all the gardens and parks of the Côte d’Azur, these ones are as much about the stupendous views and places to relax as the plants. Dotted here and there you’ll find elegant sculptures of Earth Goddesses by Jean-Philippe Richard and stylish benches to recline on. For a full write-up of the exotic gardens and plenty more photos click here.
Opening Times: November to March: 9 am to 4.30 pm, April to June & October: from 9 am to 6.30 pm, July to September: from 9 am to 7.30 pm
Price: April to October 7€, November to March 5€, Students 3.5€, Under 12 free
Address: Rue du Château, 06360 Eze
Website: Jardin Exotique d’Eze
Parc Phoenix Nice – Phoenix Park
Image credit from Wikimedia Commons
Phoenix Park consists of 7 hectares of exotic gardens with 2500 plant species in 20 different themed sections and a pyramid-shaped glass house, one of the biggest in Europe. It is part of the “remarkable gardens” network and is conveniently located on the western edge of Nice opposite the airport.
The glass house, known as the “green diamond” has 6 different climatic zones offering the visitor a colourful, steamy, tropical experience. If you’re lucky you might come across an iguana wandering freely.
Iguanas aren’t the only creatures you can see here as the park also has a small zoo with 2000 animals dotted about in various enclosures.
There are several excellent outdoor play areas for children, wide open lawns and a bamboo grove. It is also the location of the Asian Arts Museum (Musée des arts Asiastiques) (which I’ve written about fully here.)
The whole place is beautifully landscaped and designed for a fun and fascinating day out. Picnics are allowed and there is a small café too.
Opening Times: October to March: 9.30 am to 6 pm, April to September: 9.30 am to 7.30 pm (Ticket office closes 1 hour before park closure). Closed 1 January and 25 December
Price: Full rate: 5.20€, 12-18, Students, Nice Museum Pass Holders 3€, Under 12 free
Address: 405 Promenade des Anglais, 06200 Nice (entry on Arénas side not Tram)
Website: Parc Phoenix
Jardins du Musée Internationale de la Parfumerie Mouans-Sartoux – MIP Gardens
2.5 hectares of open fields make up the site of the gardens of the International Museum of Perfume, located in the plain below the delightful city of Grasse, historically the world centre of perfume making.
Crops of species grown traditionally for perfume lie alongside landscaped areas comprised of various collections of fragrant or aromatic plants. These include rose centifolia, jasmine, tuberose, lavender, iris, geranium, juniper, orange blossom, violet and mimosa.
The gardens, which are classified as remarkable (with the label “jardin remarquable”), invite the visitor to explore the fragrances and olfactory notes used in perfumery. You are encouraged to touch the flowers and sniff the fragrant foliage along an olfactory trail organised into perfume zones: floral, woody, musky, spicy, fruity, culinary and herbaceous notes.
Visiting in May when the May rose is blooming, especially at the end of the afternoon the perfume in the air is heavenly. There are several themed pergolas in which you can sit and contemplate the tranquil surroundings or bring a picnic and enjoy it under ancient cypress trees.
The gardens hold many events including perfume workshops and art exhibitions, details of which can be found on their website.
Opening Times: 25 March to 11 November: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm. Closed 1 May, 12 November to end of March
Price: Full rate: 4€, Students 2€, Under 18 free, On presentation of the regular price ticket of one of the sites MIP or MIP Gardens: half price on the second ticket (validity 7 days)
Address: 979 Chemin des Gourettes, 06370 Mouans-Sartoux
Website: MIP Gardens
Arboretum du Roure Marcel Kroënlein – Roure Arboretum
High in the mountains (1200-1700 m alt) 90 minutes from Nice is the magnificent Arboretum Marcel Kroënlein, classified as a “jardin remarquable”. It is the most remote of the gardens and parks of the Côte d’Azur.
Since its creation in 1988 more than 400 trees have been planted on this forested hillside. Dotted among the trees are works of art, as much part of the arboretum as the trees themselves.
Many well-known artists have donated pieces over the years and since 2003 a collective of artists under the patronage of Prince Albert of Monaco known as “No-Made” exhibit annually.
The arboretum has 4 missions which include raising awareness of the preservation of the environment and the protection of the alpine heritage of the Alpes-Maritimes, training gardeners, teaching art and solidarity with people with social difficulties through training.
Opening Times: Every day: 10.00 am to 6.00 pm
Price: Full rate: 5€, children free
Address: 1295, Route Raymond Durbec, 06420 Roure
Website: Roure Arboretum
Jardin Botanique de la Villa Thuret Antibes – Thuret Botanical Gardens
Image credit from Wikimedia Commons
Villa Thuret is an important botanical research site managed by the French National Agronomic Research Institute. What makes this park unusual is that plants are allowed to grow freely and acclimatise to their environment. Wild grasses together with leaf and bark litter are left in place to protect the soil from erosion. Watering is restricted.
The botanic garden of Villa Thuret is classified as a “jardin remarquable” and in 1868 George Sand described it as “the most beautiful garden” she had ever seen. Covering 3.5 hectares the collections comprise 2500 trees and bushes many of which are classified as “remarkable”. The visitor can follow a marked trail to discover these exceptional trees.
Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm in winter and from 8 am to 6 pm in summer
Price: Free for individuals, 2€ for guided tour
Address: 90 Chemin Raymond, 06160 Cap d’Antibes
Website: Villa Thuret Gardens
Gardens and Parks on the Côte d’Azur in Stately Homes
Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild – Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens
These remarkable gardens (part of the official network) are the gardens that surround the magnificent Belle-Epoque Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the exclusive peninsula of Cap Ferrat. In fact, there are a total of 8 beautiful gardens here, of varying styles including classical French, Spanish (photo above), Florentine, Japanese, Exotic (cacti), Provencal, roses and most unusually a stone garden.
The main garden (classical French) is designed to look like the bow of a ship with the sea visible on either side. There are whimsical musical fountains, waterfalls and ponds with a “Temple of Love” at the “bow”.
The rose garden at the far end of the property contains hundreds of species of fragrant roses best seen from the end of April to June when they are flowering. The Villa holds a festival to celebrate the rose every year at the end of April/early May: la Fête de la Rose et des Plantes is well worth visiting but does get very crowded.
Opening Times: February to October: 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, July-Aug to 7pm, November to January: weekdays 2 pm to 6 pm, weekend & school holidays 10 am to 6 pm
Price: Full rate: 16 €, Senior: 65+ 15 €, Students: 13 €, Youth: 7-25: 11 €, Family Pass: 45 € (2 adults & 2 children 7 – 25), Free : under 7
Address: 1 Av. Ephrussi de Rothschild, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Website: Villa Ephrussi Gardens
Jardins du Château de la Napoule – La Napoule Castle Gardens
The Napoule Château is an early 20th century renovation of a ruined medieval castle carried out by American husband and wife Henry and Marie Clews. Henry was a sculptor and Marie a landscape designer both passionate about art, history and architecture.
Marie created the gardens that surround the castle and while there are classical references such as a grand entrance à la française and a luxuriant wooded area in the English style, the general design is one of freedom and diversity, characteristic of the Clews’ style of art. All the plants are evergreen with few flowers all of which are white, creating a green and white tableau.
This little garden of 2 hectares (on the “jardin remarquable” list) actually contains four small gardens, including a secret garden and terraces overlooking the Bay of Cannes, dotted about with quirky original works of art.
Opening Times: 7 February to 7 November: 10 am to 6 pm, Guided tours: 11.30 am, 2.30 pm, 3.30 pm, 4.30 pm
From 8 November to 6 February Weekends & school holidays 10 am to 5 pm, Guided tours: 11.30 am, 2.30 pm, 4.30 pm. Weekdays out of school holidays: 2 to 5 pm, Guided tours 2.30 pm, 3.30 pm
The guided tours are for the castle. You are free to visit the gardens only without tours
Price: Gardens only: 3.50€, free under 7, Castle + gardens 6€, 7-17 & students 4€
Address: Avenue Henry Clews, 06210 Mandelieu-La Napoule
Website: Château de la Napoule
Villa Eilenroc – Gardens of Eilenroc Villa
11 hectares of land surround Villa Eilenroc, a stately neo-classical château located on the Bay of Billionaires, one of the prettiest coves on the Côte d’Azur. The entry ticket includes the gardens and villa.
Described by Maupassant as “a prodigious garden, thrown between two seas, where the most beautiful flowers in Europe grow,” the park is planted with native Mediterranean species including Aleppo pines, ficus, holm oaks, strawberry trees, eucalyptus and a 50 tree olive grove planted in the year 2000.
The star of the park, also open to the public, is a beautiful rose garden with around 2000 roses and other fragrant plants.
Visiting the Eilenroc gardens can easily be combined with one of the most lovely walks in the area as the property lies on the coastal path, on the tip of the Cap d’Antibes. For more information about the walk check here.
Opening Times: Wednesday & Saturday 10.00 – 17.00 (last entry 16.30) CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR RENOVATION. OPENING JUNE 2023
Address: 460 Av. Mrs Beaumont, 06160 Antibes
Website: Eilenroc Gardens
Free Gardens and Parks of the Côte d’Azur
Jardin Botanique de Nice – Nice Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Garden of Nice is relatively unknown and in my opinion rather underwhelming! Tucked away on the hillside overlooking the Var river, there are some lovely views from the park but the place itself seems to be suffering from a lack of maintenance. It’s all rather overgrown and unloved. Of all the gardens and parks of the Côte d’Azur, this one is the least impressive.
However, surprisingly, it is part of the remarkable gardens classification so perhaps it can look better than on the day I visited!
The garden is divided into 40 zones with more than 3000 species of plants covering 3.5 hectares. A meandering path takes you through the varying sections of naturally growing plants from 5 continents.
Opening Times: November to February: 8 am to 5 pm, March to September: 8 am to 7 pm, October 8 am to 6 pm. Opens at 9 am during school holidays, Wednesdays and weekends. Closed 25 December, 1 January, 1 May
Address: 78 Corniche Fleurie, 06200 Nice
Promenade du Paillon, Nice – Paillon Promenade
This urban park in the centre of Nice separates the old town from the new. It runs for 1.2 km offering 12 hectares of green space in the heart of the city.
The Promenade du Paillon (named after the Paillon river that runs underneath it) takes the visitor on a botanical journey across the world. Divided into sections, the park is planted with species from the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Australia, and the Americas promising flowers in every season.
But the most impressive part of this park is undoubtedly the “water mirror” and spray jets just off Place Massena. Children love playing in the spray so come prepared to get wet. It’s a fun way to cool down in the heat of summer. There’s also an excellent (but usually very crowded) playground with a nautical theme.
With plenty of grass and funky benches, and some interesting art (including a replica of Michelangelo’s David), this park is a wonderful place to spend time people-watching and relaxing while visiting Nice.
La Promenade is being extended to double its size, with the new section expected to be finished in 2025. To find out what I thought about the park when it first opened read my review here.
Opening Times: October to March: 7 am to 9 pm, April to September: 7 am to 11 pm
Address: central Nice extending from Place Massena north and south
Parc de la Colline du Château, Nice – Castle Hill Park
Probably the best thing about Castle Hill Park is the views from it. It is magnificently placed high above the port of Nice on one side and the Baie des Anges and old town on the other. The panoramic views extend over the whole of the city and as far as the pre-Alps, so make sure you take the time to look from every angle.
However, this park is not only about its views, it has history, a waterfall and a children’s play area too. But despite its name, don’t expect to find a castle! This was where Nice was founded, reflected in the Ancient Greek-style mosaics you’ll find on the paths, though all that remains of the castle these days are some ruins.
The park is accessible via a lift from the end of the Promenade des Anglais and the little tourist train also stops here on its circuit if you don’t want to climb up the many steps. Bring a picnic or grab a snack from the little café and enjoy some time out from the crowds.
Opening Times: October to March: 8.30 am to 6 pm, April to September 8.30 am to 8 pm
Address: Colline du Château de Nice, 06200 Nice
Natural Gardens and Parks of the Côte d’Azur
Parc Naturel Départemental de Vaugrenier Villeneuve-Loubet – Vaugrenier Park
This vast natural park, with prairies, forest, walking trails and a pond covers 100 hectares stretching from Villeneuve-Loubet to Antibes, along the seafront.
With observation lookouts around the pond and an excellent kids’ playground, it’s the perfect place for the whole family to explore nature, picnic and enjoy the great outdoors.
The Vaugrenier park is home to squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes, rabbits, frogs, ducks, herons and egrets among other species. Look out for helpful information signs highlighting the flora and fauna. There are plenty of lovely spots to picnic in; shady areas under ancient oaks, poplars, cork oaks and elms, and open grassy lawns.
The wide paths are suitable for bicycles, pushchairs and wheelchairs, making it accessible for all.
Address: 946 Av. de Vaugrenier, 06270 Villeneuve-Loubet
Parc Naturel Forestier de la Croix des Gardes, Cannes – Croix des Gardes Park
Only 1 km as the crow flies from the Croisette seafront of Cannes, this natural park acts as the lungs of the city. 80 hectares of forest extend across the hill overlooking the Bay of Cannes and the snowy Alps.
20 kms of walking paths crisscross the forest, with botanical paths and a 3 km fitness trail for all levels. You’ll also find donkeys and might even see mounted police on horseback patrolling the park.
The Croix des Gardes park is a precious nature reserve for Provençal flora and fauna, including a magnificent arboretum with 40 varieties of mimosa. A walk here in February and early March when the mimosa is blooming is enchanting. The delicate scent of the bright yellow orbs is a feast for your nostrils!
Address: 166 Bd Leader, 06400 Cannes
Festival of Gardens on the Côte d’Azur
Every other year (since 2017) the Alpes-Maritimes Department holds a garden festival roughly over the month of April. Around 30 gardens participate, creating pop-up gardens along a theme (“surprising perspectives” in 2023). Approximately half the gardens are in competition, with designers from around the world.
The idea of the Festival des Jardins is to showcase the magnificent local landscape and the know-how of professionals. It is also an opportunity to encourage awareness of environmentally friendly practices and develop eco-tourism.
Throughout the month-long festival there are events, conferences and games for children. All the gardens are open to the public for free.
For information on locations, dates, participants etc take a look at the Festival des Jardins website.
La Fête des Mai – May Festival in Nice
Wildlife Reserves, Animal Parks and Zoos on the Côte d’Azur
Rose Festival on the French Riviera – ExpoRose in Grasse
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Gardens are always on my itinerary when I visit a new area. The month long festival is a great idea … I wonder if Normandy would want to so something similar ….
Definitely an overlooked attraction of the area by the sounds of things. Such good value too!
There’s so much to do here that it can be overwhelming! These parks are definitely part of the list!
Lovely informative post thank uuuu