bagatelle beach clubs cote d'azur
Image: Kristen Pelou

Joie de vivre: The most luxurious beach clubs on the Côte d’Azur

02 Aug 2023|By Annie Lewis

Heading to the South of France this summer? Soak up the sun in style at these chic beach clubs

The French Riviera is famous for its beach clubs. And no, we’re not referencing the party types, like Ibiza’s Ocean Beach. We’re talking the sophisticated kind found on prime spots along the southern coast of France and often frequented by the rich and famous. Quite the place to see and be seen…

And, while they may not boast non-stop poolside parties or play booming music, do not mistake these clubs as being boring. Exquisite views, delectable day beds and relaxing swims are paired with attentive service and magnificent menus to create a memorable day out on the French coast. From Monaco to St Tropez, here are the best beach clubs on the Côte d’Azur

Nikki Beach Monte-Carlo, Monaco

It would be rude not to start in Monaco – a country known for its lavish exploits and uber-wealthy residents. Located on the western side of the French Riviera, here you’ll find one of the South of France’s original beach clubs: Nikki Beach. The Monte-Carlo outpost makes for a great day out, offering a roster of DJs, creative cocktails, bright white day beds and a Mediterranean menu. 

High on the rooftop of the luxury Fairmont Monte-Carlo hotel and centred around a glimmering pool, the club boasts sweeping views of the Mediterranean coastline below. And what it lacks in actual beach (it’s on top of a hotel, after all), it makes up for in style. Having long been a destination for international jet-setters and celebrities, lounge poolside with champagne on tap before ordering lunch on the pristine terrace. Pick from truffle tuna tartare, ravioli scamorza and spaghetti gamberetti – all best served with a spicy margarita or watermelon fizz. Can’t get enough of Nikki Beach? You’ll also find another pop-up down the coast in St Tropez, as well as locations in Dubai, Ibiza, Mallorca and Marbella, to name just a few. 

Visit monte-carlo.nikkibeach.com

Paloma Beach, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Situated between the private and picturesque coves of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, this beach club has been a stalwart on the South of France social scene since it opened in 1948 – with Coco Chanel, Elton John and Tom Cruise on its guest books. The exclusive pebbled beach makes way for views across the riviera, dotted with yachts owned by the well-heeled customers who often frequent Paloma Beach via the boat shuttle. Day beds and private cabins are available to book, as are water sports facilities for those who get bored sitting on a sun lounger all day. Paddleboards are available for hire (and also can be rented as a package with breakfast and an aperitivo) while high-octane activities – think jet skiing, parasailing and electric surfoiling – can be booked through Paloma Beach partner Cap Ferrat WaterSport. 

Of course, all of that paddleboarding and swimming is thirsty work, but luckily attentive waiters are on hand to bring your beverage of choice directly to your sun lounger; we recommend an ice-cold glass of the Côtes de Provence rosé. The beach-style restaurant, meanwhile, is renowned for its fresh fish dishes and local delicacies, ranging from niçoise salad and pan-fried sole to platters of fruits de mer. 

Visit paloma-beach.com

L'Effet Mer Plage, Juan Les Pins

Juan Les Pins is located just outside the famed French town of Antibes and is home to a number of clubs each possessing their own slice of sandy beach. Rustic Balinese beach-shack vibes are the USP at L’Effet Mer Plage, accessed via a short staircase and divided into a restaurant and sunbathing area. The white and olive-green sun loungers offer clear views of the Lérins Islands and the Esterel massif across the bay and are often accompanied by a backdrop of steady beats from resident DJs. 

Book a table at the restaurant for waterside dining that starts with an array of tapas dishes, including espelette pepper hummus and zucchini flower fritters in basil. Starters range from sea bream ceviche and salmon poke bowls to mango burrata and Caesar salad, before the main event of seafood and grilled meat dishes – we love the Italian-style grilled octopus in mascarpone and pesto. There’s an extensive drink selection too, offering Monte Carlo beer and the local lager, Fada Blanche, which is uniquely served with a slice of lemon. 

Visit effetmerplage.fr

Carlton Cannes, Cannes

Oozing luxury and glamour, guests at the five-star Carlton Cannes expect nothing less than top-notch service and delectable dining, which isn’t amiss at its beach club. Directly in front of the opulent hotel – which was the birthplace of the League of Nations and a filming location for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 film To Catch a Thief, starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant – you’ll find the beach club on La Croisette, the street famed for hosting the red carpet during the Cannes Film Festival. From the outside, it looks like a sea of white and beige umbrellas making way for a wooden-decked pontoon extending out into Cannes bay, dotted with striped sun loungers. However, it’s only once you’re in the club itself that you really discover its timeless decor and culinary fare. 

Chefs Alexandra Delamare and Laurent Bunel give rise to sunny, simple menus, tinged with Carlton expertise and, as they put it, “Dolce Vita à la française”. Start with a Riviera Spritz Experience cocktail, such as the 1930 with Gin D’Azur, lemon, rosemary and champagne, before picking from lobster rolls, razor clams and roasted lamb chops at lunch and red tuna in ponzu sauce, charcoal-grilled steak and lobster linguine at dinner. We’d also recommend breakfast here too, as the club opens at 10am to catch early risers in need of Viennese pastries, pancakes and eggs however you like them. 

Visit carltoncannes.com

La Guérite, Île Sainte-Marguerite

Those looking for the ultimate beach club experience should book a trip to La Guérite on Île Sainte-Marguerite – one of the small, rocky islands in the bay of Cannes. Accessed only via a pre-arranged boat and situated beneath the old royal fort of the island, La Guérite aims to be a relaxing refuge away from the other buzzy beach clubs on Cannes’ La Croisette. Pristine day beds, turquoise water and light acoustic music abound, and the club is often a bolthole for those playing around in their yachts in the bay. 

Mediterranean menus have been created by Greek chef Yiannis Kioroglou who bakes, braises and barbecues local and seasonal ingredients to create thoughtful dishes. Pick from caramelised onion tart, veal carpaccio and deep-fried calamari to start, before indulging in a John Dory fillet with artichokes, Florentine beef steak, and king crab. It’s known to get pretty lively here too, so don’t rule out dancing on the tables… 

Visit restaurantlaguerite.com

Bagatelle, St Tropez

There are several Bagatelle outposts across the world, from Bahrain to Bodrum – and there’s even one here in London. So for those who can’t get enough of the chain, a trip to the beach club in St Tropez wouldn’t be a day wasted during your holiday on the Côte d'Azur. The Bagatelle brand was founded by two French entrepreneurs who met in New York City in the early 2000s and wanted to create a place to celebrate the South of France’s festive spirit. Accordingly, the NYC Bagatelle became the first, with the St Tropez site following shortly after, both boasting ample amounts of the aforementioned spirit and luxury associated with the French Riviera. 

Nestled on Pampelonne Beach, the white surroundings of the club have been combined with a palette of French blue and vibrant orange to help the interiors stand out. Some of the most famous DJs in the world have taken to the decks here and it’s worth bearing in mind that this site transforms into a buzzy nightclub once the sun sets. The kitchen is helmed by chefs Rocco Seminara and Bilal Amrani, serving signature dishes of sea bass carpaccio, their take on a riviera salad and the delicious Jivara chocolate pizzetta with caramelised Piedmont hazelnuts to finish. 

Visit bagatelle.com

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