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The Alpes-Maritimes (department number 06) is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region and has an estimated population of 1,069,997 (approximate in Jan 2006). The department is located in the far south eastern corner of France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea.
The capital of the department is the city of Nice with the large town of Grasse within the immediate area.
The area is predominately mountainous right down to the coast and because of this the Southern area of the Alps is termed the Maritime Alps.
Why you should visit Alpes-Maritimes for your next holiday in France
The department exudes a Riviera atmosphere and is considered to be an extremely affluent area. Due to the departments close proximity to Italy, there is a definite Italian influence to the area and this only adds to the departments ‘chicness’. A great destination to experience how the other half live and to also appreciate what the quieter and less hectic side of the department has to offer.
The climate is welcoming with long warm summers seeing temperatures reaching 35C and mild winters. From June onwards there is practically no rain. The only unfriendly aspect is the mistral, a dry cold wind from the north, which can last from three to nine days at any time in spring or autumn, bringing sharp falls in temperature.
What to see in Alpes-Maritimes
Alpes-Maritimes includes the famous French Riviera coastline on the Mediterranean Sea with the important towns and cities of Cannes, Nice, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Antibes.
The city of Nice is the department’s capital and a leading resort on the French Riviera. A popular choice for tourists, the pebbly beaches are clean and well maintained. The city has a young and lively atmosphere with plenty of places for fun as well as relaxing.
Set in the hills to the left of Nice is the small town of Vence. A popular home to artists and sculptors, the town is well known for its spring water and there are many fountains from which to collect this delicious water.
The fashionable town of Cannes was recently voted the most pleasant place to live in France by Le Point magazine. Every year sees Cannes plays host to the famous film festival. With the glitzy hotels, the town is a popular destination for the rich and famous. Le Suquet is the old part of the town and offers perfect opportunities for breath-taking panoramic scenery.
Monaco is the world’s smallest French speaking country and second smallest independent nation. Covering a tiny area of just 1.9km, Monaco is a tax haven. Although outside of the EU, there is an agreement with the French government meaning that there is no queuing when crossing the border.
Monte Carlo is the main residential and resort area with the casino in the east and northeast. Considering the town’s size, there is plenty to see and do. A place definitely worth a visit is the Musee Oceanographique, one of the best aquariums in the world and certainly the largest in Europe.
A little further south is Antibes. Again, said to be home to the really rich, Antibes also boasts the best market along the coast and the finest Picasso collection in its ancient seafront castle.
Menton, the lemon capital of France, is situated just before the Italian border and offers a slower pace of life when compared to the other towns within the area. This quaint seaside town hosts the annual celebration of lemons. A fantastic aroma of citrus fills the streets for the duration of this colourful festival, which takes place around February/March time.
In addition to lemons, Menton is also famed for being the city with the highest average age in France. It is the perfect retirement retreat due to its balmy climate.
Nearby, you will find Isola 2000, a man made ski resort offering the hottest skiing in the country.
Slightly inland brings you to Grasse, France’s perfume capital and also the wealthiest city outside the Ile De France. The mild climate makes it a popular winter resort and it is noted for its fields of roses, jasmine and lavender, which are harvested and distilled to make scent and essences.
To the south-east is Cagnes-sur-Mer which is famous for its horse racing.
How to get to the Alpes-Maritimes
The region is easily accessible by air from most countries. The main international airports are Marseilles and Nice. Low cost airlines operate to both from the UK.
Calais to Nice is approx 1230 km and will take about 11 hours. Roads along the Cote d'Azur do become very busy in the summer months.
High speed TGV trains take about 3 hours from Paris to Marseilles and also serve Cannes and Nice.