Buying on the perennially popular French Riviera

This weekend, the biggest names in Jazz will gather under the maritime pines overlooking the beach in fashionable Juan-les-Pins for the annual Jazz à Juan festival . Established in 1960, it’s the oldest jazz festival in Europe and attracts the biggest names. Among the headliners of this year’s festival will be the British band Jamiroquai, who are playing on Thursday, July 18, and the festival continues until Sunday, July 21.

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Juan-les-Pins, and its sister town Antibes, are among the best-known locations along the Riviera–a slim line of coastline that hugs the Mediterranean from Menton, near the border with Italy, to Saint Tropez. Today, what is deemed to be the Riviera has also taken in the hinterland that rises up behind including villages such as Saint Paul de Vence, Tourettes-sur-Loup and Mougins.

Once a relatively obscure area, it was the British upper classes who first started to travel there during the late 18th century—its mild climate was thought to be good for those suffering from conditions including TB and doctors prescribed periods of recovery, a cure that was called “climatotherapy”.

When the railway was built in 1864, it opened up accessibility to the Riviera and drew in artists and writers including Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, Ernest Hemingway and many others. The fabled quality of light, warm weather and—in those days—cheap cost of living cemented it as an artistic colony.

But it was the statesman Lord Brougham who famously launched the English love affair with the Riviera when he discovered the charm of Cannes and built a villa there. Word got out among his set and soon a throng of English were heading south to escape the fierce long northern European winters. When they arrived on the Cote d’Azur many ended up building lavish homes with vast gardens—particularly in the still-fashionable Cap Ferrat and Cap d’Antibes.

French Riviera property market

Despite short term ups and downs in the market over the years, the French Riviera has remained popular with both French and international buyers for over 150 years—and that’s unlikely to change, says David King, head of Winkworth International.

“The key to this or any market, I believe, is the fact that it is not governed by the whims and interest of only international buyers: the French have never stopped buying there. While the Arabs and the Russians come and go, there’s currently a steady flow of interest from northern Europeans. British buyers are slightly reticent, due to uncertainty over Brexit but will no doubt be back once that has been resolved.

“The other thing to remember about The Riviera is that it’s not a holiday resort: Nice, Cannes, Draguignan, Menton are thriving French cities which are active all year round.”

The most fashionable areas

Cap Ferrat, Cap d’Antibes and Cap Martin (to a slightly lesser extent) are regarded in the jewels in the Riviera crown. Prices in these enclaves reached ridiculous heights during the boom years running up to 2008 (one house was almost sold for €500m before its Russian buyer withdrew).

Saint Tropez is a haven for yachts during the summer months—which is fortunate for those who are on them as the road in and out of time is notoriously log-jammed throughout July and August. With vineyards and olive groves sloping down to the attractive port, the cachet of St Tropez is its authenticity: unlike Nice and Cannes, it’s relatively undeveloped.

Up in the hills, the so-called “golden triangle’ is made up of Var towns of Grimaud, La Garde Freinet and Plan de la Tour which offer peace and tranquility but easy access to the action in Saint Tropez.

Did you know? Facts about the Riviera

  • The Riviera enjoys 300 days of sun a year.
  • It was the lawyer writer and poet Stéphen Liégeard who gave the name Côte d'Azur, when he wrote a travel book on the area which he described in 1887 as a “coast of light, of warm breezes, and mysterious balmy forests”.
  • Claude Monet lived and painted in Antibes; he wasn’t alone, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse spent extended periods of time on the Cote d’Azur.
  • The writer F Scott Fitzgerald with his wife Zelda moved there in the 1920s to escape Prohibition.
  • About three quarters of the world’s perfume essences are produced from gardens in Grasse, comprised of daffodils, lavender, jasmine and more.
  • In the inter-war years, the Train Bleu, which was a solely first-class sleeper train, took passengers from Calais to the Riviera. The train made its first debut in 1922 and was used by Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham, and Edward VIII.

Properties for sale

This five-bedroom stone-built bastide near La Colle-sur-Loupe, in the hills behind Saint Tropez, has been tastefully renovated by the current owners. It stands in a spacious garden with a swimming pool and south-west views over the Mediterranean.
€3.9m through Winkworth International.

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This Art Deco-style villa stands on the Cap de Nice and enjoys direct access to the sea. There are 5 bedrooms (some with sea views) and a generous outdoor dining terrace.
€4.6m through Winkworth International.

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Lying in the heart of La Californie area of Cannes, this three-bedroom apartment has a terrace overlooking Cap d’Antibes and the Lerins islands. The complex stands in a large garden with a swimming pool, two tennis courts, a volley ball court and playground for children.
€1.565m through Winkworth International.

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