World-Class Art on the Côte d’Azur 

Basking in brilliance under the French Riveria sun.

Exterior view of Musée Matisse Nice, contemporary wing and the villa | Photo © François Fernandez

Think of the French Riviera, and images of bronzed bodies, glamorous beach clubs, and yachts floating in azure waters spring to mind. True, that sun-drenched vision is a significant part of its allure, but scratch the surface, and you’ll discover the Côte d’Azur is equally endowed with a rich artistic heritage that continues to inspire contemporary creators.

The French Riviera’s luminous light and vivid colours have long captivated artists from Renoir to Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso. Their enduring legacy fuels the region’s thriving galleries, thought-provoking installations, and world-class museums stretching from Cannes to Nice.

Nice, the Riviera’s capital, boasts an impressive array of museums and galleries. The Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain showcases an exceptional modern and contemporary art collection featuring works by iconic artists such as Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Klein, and Andy Warhol. Although it is currently closed for renovations, art enthusiasts can still enjoy the museum’s temporary exhibitions throughout the city.


Interior view of the Musée Matisse Nice, contemporary wing and the work Fleurs et fruits | © H. Matisse Estate for the artist’s works | Photo © François Fernandez


Boards of the Poésies by Stéphane Mallarmé, 1932, and Tahiti I, 1935, Musée Matisse Nice | © H. Matisse Estate for the artist’s works | Photo © François Fernandez


Also in Nice, the Musée Matisse offers a fascinating glimpse into Henri Matisse’s life and creative process. It houses his paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and personal objects. The museum’s tranquil gardens, filled with olive trees and Mediterranean plants, offer a serene space for contemplation and inspiration.

“When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is,” Picasso is said to have declared shortly before Henri Matisse’s death in 1954. Those colours are on radiant display at the nearby Musée Marc Chagall, which the renowned Russian-French artist helped design. The museum’s permanent collection features many of Chagall’s iconic paintings, stained-glass windows, tapestries, and sculptures, all inspired by biblical themes and his experiences. Its serene setting, Mediterranean gardens, and stunning views of Nice provide a perfect backdrop for appreciating Chagall’s vibrant and dreamlike creations.



Photo by Mark Sissons


For photography enthusiasts, Nice’s Musée de la Photographie Charles Nègre is well worth visiting. Named after the pioneering French photographer, it showcases the history of photography through an extensive collection of photographs, cameras, and related equipment. It also hosts temporary exhibitions featuring the work of celebrated contemporary photographers.

Nice’s vibrant art scene extends beyond its major museums, with numerous cutting-edge galleries. Galerie des Ponchettes, located in the heart of the Old Town, and Galerie Lympia in the trendy port district are known for their cutting-edge exhibitions and installations showcasing the work of emerging and established French and international artists.

Located along the glamorous beachfront Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes, the Centre d’art La Malmaison, housed in a stunning 19th-century villa, offers an intimate setting for immersive exhibitions by international contemporary artists. The museum is currently closed for maintenance until December 2024. For a taste local Cannes creativity, explore the cobblestone streets of Suquet des Artistes in the Old Town with its colourful houses and independent art galleries and studios.


Photo by Mark Sissons



Photo by Mark Sissons


No artist is more indelibly linked to a Riviera town than Picasso is to Antibes. The Musée Picasso, in the historic Chateau Grimaldi, where the artist lived and worked in 1946, offers a fascinating glimpse into one of the 20th century’s most playful minds through its collection of his paintings, drawings, and ceramics. The museum’s stunning seaside location and beautifully preserved interiors provide a unique and intimate setting for experiencing Picasso’s work.

Occupying a former Antibes public bathhouse, the Galerie des Bains-Douches offers an industrial chic aesthetic, pushing the boundaries of contemporary art, making it a favourite among art lovers and collectors alike.

The French Riviera Pass is an essential purchase for making the most of the French Riviera’s incredible museums and galleries. It offers affordable access to over 60 cultural sites along the Côte d’Azur, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the region’s blend of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and world-class art. Rail Europe offers travelers a convenient, competitively priced one-stop platform for booking train tickets and passes across France and Europe, simplifying the process of planning rail travel.