A trip to French Riviera (Côte d’Azur) was on our bucket list ever since we made a 24-hour long stopover in Nice on our way to New York a couple of years ago. We immediately fell in love with the local vibe and wanted to return to do something active and explore more. Cycling from Nice to Monaco seemed like a perfect challenge for that.

So, one Wednesday afternoon in early April we packed our mountain bikes, hopped in a car in Munich and with an overnight stop in Milan were enjoying the Mediterranean sun by midday the next day.

Cycling from Nice to Monaco

We planned to spend 3 days in French Riviera, which should give us a solid weather window to make the trip.

The day we arrived was warm, but rainy and the forecast suggested that the best weather will be on Saturday. So, we spent the first two days driving around and exploring what French Riviera has to offer – Nice, Cannes, Antibes and everything in between.

Oh, and ‘stocking’ up on croissants, crêpes and eclairs.

Morning in Villeneuve-Loubet Plage
The weather on Saturday morning was perfect. But as we were eating breakfast the wind brought some clouds.

Back home when I planned the cycling route it was hard to do the research due to little info available. On top of that, after placing markers on the map Google warned me ‘Sorry, your current route is outside of our coverage for biking’. Not good. That made me wonder whether we’ll be allowed on our bikes in Monaco in the first place.

I was also concerned whether routes I chose are bike-friendly. One thing we noticed as we drove the other day was that there are quite a few tunnels. And, typically, cyclists are not allowed there.

We decided to ditch the planning and just go where our eyes would take us. To keep the sea on our right and ‘follow the signs’.

Cycling from Nice to Monaco route
This is the route we took to cycle from Nice to Monaco. Obviously, our main priority was to stay as close to the sea as possible.

In the end everything went really well. Our DIY route totaled to just over 30 kilometers with around 300 meters of vertical ascent (one way). Hilly, for sure, but very beautiful.

And that was just our route. We quickly noticed how silly we were before coming here. Cycling is crazy popular in the French Riviera – it was spring and it already seemed there are more cyclists than dogs on the streets. Can’t imagine what it’s like in summer.

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The starting point – Villeneuve-Loubet Plage

Our purpose for the trip to the French Riviera was cycling from Nice to Monaco. But we actually started a bit earlier than Nice to take the most of it.

We stayed in a small hotel in the village called Villeneuve-Loubet Plage – halfway to Antibes. Even though this extended the trip by additional 10 kilometers, we not only saved on accommodation, but also enjoyed riding on the nearly empty promenade.

Most people know the Promenade des Anglais that runs along the entire coast of Nice. However, it’s very touristic and generally crowded. The road we took to get to Nice took us on a gorgeous Promenade de l’Hippodrome which seemed twice as wide and with just the third of people.

Needless to say, we were very happy about it.

The promenade itself was just around 5km and very flat. Soon after starting we were already approaching the Nice airport and the city itself.

Nice

As we entered the city we got a totally different vibe. As expected, the Promenade des Anglais was full of people – locals taking a walk, runners, occasional bike commuters and, of course, tourists.

cycling on the Promenade des Anglais
Kristine enjoying the start of our cycling trip.

Even though we were cycling for less than an hour, we decided to stop for a coffee. We’re in France, after all.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that crowded (it was around 9AM), but we still took a place at the edge of the cafe – to stay close to our bikes and monitor them. Even though we had secure locks, you never know – Nice is very known for petty crime and theft.

In fact, we saw two different people circling around, approaching our bikes, exploring whether and how they are secured. Or maybe we were just too cautious.

There are quite a few routes for cycling from Nice to Monaco, for sure. In our journey we agreed not to plan much, stick to the road that is close to the sea and approach it one village at a time. So, next on our agenda was Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Getting there was tricky. There was one route that went along the coast, but we were not sure about whether it would go through the tunnel and force us to return. So we decided to take make a detour – climb the Mont Boron (mountain on the Eastern side of Nice) and go down from there. Kristine was not too happy about that idea.

Villefranche-sur-Mer

From the top of the mountain it was quite a steep descent down to the sea level down through the narrow streets of Villefranche-sur-Mer. The whole detour, climbing and descending took a while (and required some energy), so we stopped for a short break in a very picturesque spot.

Picnic in Villefranche-sur-Mer
You can’t ask for a better spot to take a break. Somehow the French know how to make even the smallest place feel nice.

We only packed smoothies, dried fruits, nuts and water with us, so we didn’t have much for a long picnic. After a quick break we carried on further to the next village.

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Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Soon after one coastal village with beach side restaurants came another. This side of French Riviera is quite hilly, so people build houses on the side of the mountain facing the sea. This creates several levels in every city and look very colorful and vibrant.

Cycling from Nice to Monaco Beaulieu-sur Mer view
Beaulieu-sur-Mer was a quiet village with some restaurants on one side of the coast and a beach on another.

The entry to the beach was restricted for cars (drivers had to pay to enter), but free for people. There were not many people there and we enjoyed the views of an almost empty beach (rare sight for the French Riviera) and towering mountains around.

At the other side of the beach the navigation showed that the road continues forward, but we struggled to find any path. After taking a more careful look the road turned out to be a narrow staircase that connected us to a normal road that other cyclists probably take while cycling from Nice to Monaco. Not a problem for us – we deliberately took a detour and really enjoyed the coastal vibe.

The ‘cliff road’

Beaulieu-sur-Mer seemed like the last truly coastal village on our way. At this point we made so many small stops that we decided to just ride and enjoy it. And we were on the right road for that purpose.

We called the next bit the ‘cliff road’, because we had a cliff on one side and the sea on the other. There were no bays anymore, so it was almost a 180-degree view of the sea, which was gorgeous. Finally, after all the detours we were enjoying what we had expected cycling from Nice to Monaco would feel like.

The road started flat and easy at the beginning, but towards the end started to climb. It was less intense than the Mont Boron we had to tackle an hour ago in Nice, but definitely enough to get the legs and lungs working.

Personally, I felt the average gradient was somewhere between 4% and 6%. Not too difficult, but definitely asking for some effort.

In all honesty, these climbs were followed by descents when you could freewheel, relax a bit, enjoy the sea air and appreciate the views.

And the views we passed were all worth it. There was one particular place where we had to take a narrow route to go around a longer tunnel where bikes were not allowed. The sun came out exactly at the right time to show us the ‘postcard’ view of the French Riviera.

As we continued along the ‘cliff road’ we passed through Saint Laurent, Les Pissarelles, Costa Plana, Barraïa and Saint-Antoine. To be honest, though, with all the beautiful views around I lost track of all these small towns. All I knew was that the road will eventually end in Monaco, so sooner or later we’ll get there.

Arriving in Monaco

One particularly long descent took us through a long tunnel and after exiting it we were suddenly surrounded by lots of cars. I was looking for a sign that would tell us we were in Monaco, but didn’t spot any. In fact, I expected we still had one large climb left before descending into Monaco.

Most probably, I miscalculated a bit and Kristine was really happy about this.

At the entrance to Monaco we got to a big roundabout supervised by police guards and I felt concerned whether they’ll stop us. But police couldn’t care less. So, all of my doubts before the trip about whether cycling from Nice to Monaco is possible were totally pointless.

We did a quick tour of Monaco on our bikes and felt happy we combined it with this mini cycling adventure (instead of taking the train to spend a full day here). Having just witnessed amazing scenery and experienced the thrill of cycling in the French Riviera we were not in the mood for much exploring.

In fact, the city was preparing for the Formula 1 Grand Prix next month. So, there was a lot of construction ongoing and many of the views were obstructed anyway.

We ended up grabbing a pizza before hopping on a train to Nice to short-cut our way back.

Overall, the trip was a smashing success. The dream fulfilled, one more country ticked, Google map myth busted and the weekend enjoyed.

It was definitely not a training session, but instead a trip for the soul. An opportunity to enjoy the views and the nature. Appreciate the possibility to be outside and witness it. And, of course, spend quality time in the best company. Having said that, I would definitely come back to stay longer and work on my climbing ability. Maybe while training for my next Ironman, who knows.