Allure of the Côte d’Azur
Experience the beauty of the Mediterranean coast and discover why renowned artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh were drawn to this picturesque region.
Begin in Nice’s vibrant Old Town and discover charming Provencal seaside towns and mountainous villages, Aix-en Provence’s distinctive atmosphere and Marseille’s thriving Old Port and contemporary art spaces.
Retrace the footsteps of literary greats and artists from around the world, including Matisse in Nice, Renoir in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Picasso in Antibes, Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence. Learn about renowned artists and architects like Pierre Bonnard, Fernand Léger, Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier that also influenced the region.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Arrive in Nice on suggested flights and make your own way to the hotel. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements including travel insurance (a condition of travel), private hotel transfer, accommodation before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.
In the evening, join your tour leader Julie Ewington and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by dinner.
Following a morning talk by Julie, enjoy a walking tour in the old town of Nice, including the elegant Promenade des Anglais along the Mediterranean seafront, the bustling Cours Saleya, the Neoclassical Palais de Justice and Sainte Reparate Baroque Cathedral.
After lunch, transfer to the hilly Cimiez area and visit the Matisse Museum. Henri Matisse lived on the Côte d’Azur for almost 40 years and was deeply devoted to the region, whose colourful landscapes left a vibrant imprint on his work. The museum’s collection holds an overview of works made by the ‘Master of Colour’ throughout his prolific career. Continue to the Monastère de Cimiez and visit the cemetery where Matisse is buried.
This morning, drive along the French Riviera to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, a charming ‘perched village’ with breath-taking views overlooking the Mediterranean. Visit Villa E1027, a veritable icon of modernist architecture and first major architecture project designed by Irish architect Eileen Gray, and Le Corbusier’s holiday home Cabanon next to it.
Continue to the magnificent villa and garden of Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, regarded as one of the finest on the Côte d’Azur. Built during the Belle Époque period, the palace is home to an extensive art collection and surrounded by nine themed gardens with sea views.
Depart Nice and travel to the village of Vence, where Matisse lived during World War II. Visit the Rosary Chapel, designed and decorated entirely by Matisse. The quaint white chapel with a blue-and-white-tiled roof hosts stained-glass windows that cast a kaleidoscope of bold colours onto the marble floors.
Continue to the nearby town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, perched on a hilltop. Discover the Fondation Maeght, a private foundation that presents one of the most extensive twentieth century art collections in Europe, including many important paintings and sculptures by Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Fernand Léger and other influential modern artists. Enjoy some time at leisure to wander through the picturesque village before lunch.
Then, visit the Renoir Museum in Cagnes-sur-Mer that contains a small collection of Renoir’s works, as well as works by Dufy and Bonnard. Explore this lovely estate surrounded by olive and citrus trees where Renoir lived with his family for the last 12 years of his life before arriving in Antibes in the late afternoon.
After a morning talk, visit the Picasso Museum, located in the Château Grimaldi, where Picasso lived and had his studio. Picasso gave many important works to the city; the small museum presents more than 250 artworks by Picasso and other modern artists.
Enjoy some free time at the Provencal market and then, continue to the National Picasso Museum that includes War and Peace, a monumental composition painted on panels in the Chateau de Vallauris chapel.
Discover the Fernand Léger Museum, home to the largest collection of colourful paintings, sculptures, mosaics and ceramics by Fernand Léger that unveils the creative power of this avant-garde modern artist.
Depart Antibes and visit the Bonnard Museum in Le Cannet. Housed in a restored Belle Époque villa, the museum is dedicated to the work of Pierre Bonnard, a founding member of the post-impressionist group Les Nabis, and displays a collection of his paintings, posters, furniture, sculptures, photographs and illustration projects.
Then, transfer to Aix-en-Provence and arrive in the late afternoon.
After a morning talk, enjoy a walking tour of the old town. Walk along the Cours Mirabeau where Zola, Camus and Hemmingway, in their day, could often be found lunching. Continue to the Quartier Mazarin to visit the collections of the Hotel de Caumont, an outstanding example of eighteenth-century French architecture.
After lunch, visit the Atelier Paul Cézanne, the last house and studio of the artist, which has spectacular views of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire mountain ridge. Continue to the viewing-platform offering a panoramic view of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, one of Cézanne’s favourite subjects. Today, the mountain looms majestically over the town, just as he once painted it.
Today, travel to Arles. Originally a Greek settlement that was later developed by the Romans into a ‘little Rome’, Arles is located on the most southerly crossing of the Rhone River. Explore the historic centre, dominated by the remains of the massive Roman amphitheatre, built under Emperor Domitian, and the ruins of the first century theatre, which was erected under Emperor Augustus.
Arles is also known for its association with Vincent van Gogh, who immortalised the town’s winding streets, citizens and surrounding countryside in many of his later paintings. Discover the Espace Van Gogh, the former Arles hospital where the artist stayed for months and painted his famous painting Garden of the Hospital.
Then, explore LUMA Parc des Ateliers, an extensive contemporary project and new cultural site located outside of Arles’ old town. Inaugurated in 2021, the Tower has been designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and includes a twisted façade decorated with stainless steel bricks.
This morning, visit the Granet Museum, which features paintings by the likes of Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck, Paul Cézanne and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Then, transfer to Marseille, the second largest city in France. Discover the basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, a wonderful example of Neo-Byzantine architecture. Perched on a hilltop with stunning panoramic views, the basilica is one of the city’s best-known landmarks.
Following a morning talk, explore the vibrant city of Marseille. From its early days as a Greek settlement and a part of the Roman region of Gaul, Marseille rose as a great medieval port under the Counts of Provence. Enjoy a walking tour around its picturesque Old Port and Le Panier area.
Continue to the stunning Mucem, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, an architectural masterpiece built on reclaimed land at the mouth of Marseille harbour, which forms a bridge between the Mediterranean and Europe.
Then, visit the elegant Cantini Museum, a modern art museum renowned for its collection of paintings from the first half of the twentieth century, with a strong line-up of post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism artists.
This morning, visit the Unité d’Habitation, the first large-scale project for the famed architect Le Corbusier. He was commissioned after World War II to design a multi-family residential housing project. Completed in 1952 as a “vertical garden city”, it is a fine example of Brutalist architecture style.
Continue to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Recently reopened, the collection includes almost 800 works, based on the collection of the Cantini museum from the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Then, enjoy the afternoon at leisure to explore the city at your own pace.
Tonight, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
Make your way to Marseille Airport for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including a private airport transfer, additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour and travel insurance (a condition of travel).
Per person, twin-share
Deposit per person (at time of booking)
Final payment due
10 July 2024
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in 4- and 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including drinks with dinners
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Julie Ewington
- Gratuities for local guides, drivers and wait staff
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person) in certain hotels
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Nice – Splendid Hotel and Spa****
Antibes – Royal Antibes Hotel****
Aix-en-Provence – Hotel Renaissance*****
Marseille – Radisson Blu Marseille Vieux Port****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.
Tour code: AG2410
Fitness level: Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.
Suggested airlines: Qantas/Emirates
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for France.
Download booking form here.