The three Corniches are amongst the most spectacular coastal roads in the world. They run 30 plus kilometres parallel to each other from Nice east to Monaco and on to Menton on the Italian border. Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, Beaulieu, Èze, Cap d'Ail, Monaco - Monte Carlo, La Turbie, Roquebrune Cap Martin and finally Menton, an urban landscape on a steep rocky coast - pretty unique and dramatic.
You find more information about the towns and villages on the three Corniches here.
The Grande Corniche was built under Napoleon's reign and pretty much follows the Roman Aurelian Way; this stretch was known as "Via Julia Augusta". It is the highest of the three roads and one would wish there were more belvederes with parking facilities, because you want to stop at every turn and admire the views, which extend both seaward and inland. Alas, there are few places where you can stop. Be careful, it is the favorite playground of formula 1 wannabes, bikers with no fear and sightseeing tourists creeping along in their cars - a potent mixture.
In La Turbie you might want to take the road to Les Hautes de Monte Carlo (follow the road to Monaco and turn left at the village exit). It leads you to a promontory, with an ungainly France Telecom dome on the left. In front you have a magnificent view of the Côte d'Azur with Monaco and Cap d'Ail below. Turn around and you will see the Alpes Maritimes covered in snow most of the year.
The Grande Corniche is a popular place to shoot car commercials. Grace Kelly was filmed here in Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief". She died on September 13, 1982 in a car accident on N53, a dangerous descend full of hairpin bends, which connects the Grande Corniche with the Moyenne Corniche. Princes Stephanie survived. There is no memorial but some fresh flowers can be seen on the roadside.
The Moyenne Corniche dates from the 1920's. It was built to alleviate the congestion on the coastal road, the Basse Corniche. It offers many rewarding views. The hilltop village of Èze Village is worth a visit, albeit very touristy. Our favourite belvedere is the Plateau St.Michel above Beaulieu. Coming from Nice, make a right turn after the tunnel, about 2km before reaching Èze, and follow directions to Plateau St.Michel. A bit difficult to find but you will be rewarded with one of the most stunning views on the Côte d'Azur. If you continue on this side road you will reach the Grande Corniche.
The Basse Corniche or Corniche Inférieure is the old coastal road, connecting this string of beautiful towns and villages between the steep mountains and the blue Mediterranean sea. It can take you forever to go from A to B during the summer time, walking is probably quicker. Make sidetrips to Cap Ferrat and Cap Martin, two exclusive peninsulas, where you can see glimpses of mansions surrounded by extensive gardens with the characteristic Provence pine trees. Most are behind walls with signs "Defense d'Entrer" and security cameras. These two peninsulas are best discovered by parking your car in one of the public car parks and walk. Hard to believe, but there are a number of very rewarding walking tracks leading you to beautiful coves and small public beaches.
If you want to know more about the towns and villages on the three Corniches click here.