France is officially the number one tourist destination in the world, having hosted a record-setting 100 million tourists in 2023 alone.

While it’s true that a majority of tourists will be heading to Paris for the unbeatable Eiffel Tower views and Instagrammable boulangeries, the City of Lights is not, in fact, the country’s fastest-growing destination: the title goes instead to the summery French Riviera.

Straddling the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, the region has officially returned to its pre-2020 glory, with 11 million tourists registered last year.

As we roll into the warmer months, it looks set to surge in popularity further in 2024, and these are 6 reasons why:

It’s The Warmest Region In Europe’s Most Popular Country

View Of The Walled Port Town Of Antibes, Bounded By The Mediterranean Sea, Southern France, Southern Europe

France as a whole is not exactly known for its balmy climate, especially popular tourist hotspots like Paris, Lyon, or Strasbourg.

All three are hundreds of miles away from Southern Europe and only see a significant rise in temperatures on occasion during the summer period.

Mediterranean France, on the other hand, has a typical subtropical climate, with very mild winters and long, scalding-hot summers.

While Paris and other parts of Northern France will still be colder with higher precipitation until May at the earliest, flower gardens will be in full bloom, and seas will be warm enough for swimming in the South again.

It’s Dotted With Iconic Coastal Cities

View Of Saint-Tropez, A Lively Coastal Town On The Mediterranean Coast Of Southern France, Southern Europe

Southern France may not have the Eiffel Tower or a Mont Saint-Michel, but it is home to several more of France’s most iconic destinations, from the sprawling city of Nice, with its UNESCO-listed Vieux-Port to the celeb-frequented, lively Saint-Tropez, to the walled, ancient port of Antibes.

Other than hosting the yearly film festival, some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in Europe can be found in Cannes, and its hilltop fort offers a sweeping panorama of the Azure Coast; elsewhere in Menton, a colorful Old Town and the creamiest lemon sorbet you’ll ever try await you.

As for the hidden gems, our hearts have been stolen by Villefrance-sur-Mer, a more quaint town just west of the Franco-Italian border, and Grasse, the perfume capital of France, the birthplace of the world-renowned Fragonard, and famous for the pink umbrella-decorated streets.

It’s The Most Italian Part Of France

A Young Woman Wearing A Summery Dress As She Explores Menton, France, Mediterranean Coast

Based on the above descriptions and photos, you may be suspecting already Southern France exists in an entirely different microcosm than Paris’ Haussman-dominated, mostly-monochromatic cityscape. Well, you’re certainly not too far off in thinking Southern France could easily belong in Italy.

As it turns out, parts of the French Riviera belonged to Italy at one point, and not only do Italic dialects continue to be spoken in certain areas, but Italian culture is more prevalent, be it in the pasta-heavy cuisine, the human warmth, or the laundry hanging out to dry between houses.

Less wide, leafy boulevards lined by stately Belle Époque buildings, more narrow alleyways lined by rows of pastel-colored buildings; less of that indifferent, stuck-up, Parisian attitude, more hospitable locals; less of the all-action, museum-packed trips, more laid-back, slower-paced vacations.

You Can Visit At Least Three Countries In One Trip

Colorful Street In Nice, Cote DAzur, Southern France

No trip to Europe is complete without ticking off at least one additional country.

The continent is incredibly well-connected by cross-border rail, low-cost flights, and international bus routes, and if you’re keen on racking up countries, a trip to Southern France will increase your count by at least three.

Other than France, of course, French-speaking Monaco is a sovereign state and luxury yacht hub that counts as a separate country.

It is a short half-hour train ride from Nice, and tickets cost only $5, so it’s an easy day trip if you’re based in the Riviera capital.

The third country you could tick off the list is Italy: from the border-lining Menton, you can literally walk into the neighboring country or take a 15-minute train to Ventimiglia, an authentic medieval gem bounded by the Ligurian Sea, or the charming Art-Nouveau-filled San Remo, 50 minutes away.

It’s Easy To Get Around The French Riviera

Woman boarding a European sleeper train

The French Riviera is widely popular among tourists due to its well-connected towns, served by an extensive railway map, and most importantly, affordable train fares: unlike the competing Amalfi Coast or a Greek island, renting a car or booking private transfers is not at all necessary.

From Nice, there are $10 trains departing multiple times per hour to the beach in Cannes, $13 tickets to Grasse, $12 tickets to Menton, and visiting the historically-charged Antibes for the day will only set you back by five bucks per journey, on average.

Southern France is definitely not a budget destination, but train travel in particular is cheap.

Plus, all of these gorgeous spots are concentrated in a single, compact province, bounded by the Maritime Alps and the bright-blue Mediterranean, and are all a maximum one hour away from one another.

The Only French Destination Other Than Paris To Host Nonstop U.S. Flights

Traveler Holding United States Passport At Airport, Unspecified Location

Finally, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is the only French airport outside Paris to currently host commercial U.S. flights, normally over the warmer season, making it an easy Transatlantic getaway for sun-seeking, culture-hungry Americans.

Every year throughout summer, Delta Air Lines offers nonstop service to Nice from their Atlanta hub, as well as New York (JFK), and this year, even earlier on May 8, American Airlines will debut its Southern France-bound flights from Philadelphia.

In Delta’s case, there are departures scheduled through September 29, and the carrier has deployed a 238-seat Boeing 767-400, equipped with 34 Delta One Business Class pods and 20 Premium Select recliners for their most faithful customers’ utmost comfort.

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