With a humid, subtropical climate, the French Riviera plays host to some truly impressive gardens. Modern villas sit side by side with art deco facades, surrounded by plant species from all over the world. These outdoor oases make for the perfect day out with family or friends, and many can be enjoyed at any time of the year. But with so many beautiful gardens in the South of France, how to choose which ones to visit first? Not to worry; we’ve done the research, so all you have to do is enjoy!
Our pick of the 5 most beautiful gardens in the South of France
1. Jardin de la Serre de la Madone, Menton
This historical site was designed by the renowned landscape gardener Lawrence Johnstone between 1919 and 1939. Rockeries, pergolas, terraces and ponds are planted with a collection of rare species and perfumed plants, enhanced further by citrus undertones from the magnificent orange grove.
Open: January – October
2. Jardin Exotique, Eze
Located on the site of a medieval fortress 429 metres above the coast, this garden offers a spectacular panorama across the Cote d’Azur, extending all the way towards the Esterel Mountains and the Gulf of Saint Tropez. Its setting means Jardin Exotique isn’t just one of the most beautiful gardens in the South of France - it’s also the garden offering the most amazing views.
The north face offers caves, cascades and shelters plants from the local region, as well as from other humid regions. Meanwhile, the sunny south-facing side of the garden features succulent varieties and xerophytes from all over the world.
Open: Year round
3. Les Jardins de la Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, St Jean Cap Ferrat
Not only is this an incredible villa to visit, but the gardens are truly something to behold. The main gardens were designed by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild to represent the shape of a ship’s deck, with the sea visible on either side. They are decorated with waterfalls and ponds, with the Temple of Love at the bow.
The Spanish garden takes the form of a covered patio, where the ochre walls and arches create an oriental ambience and in the summer the fragrances of datura, arum lilies and honeysuckle fill the air. Pomegranate trees give way to Birds of Paradise, with their striking orange and blue petals.
Pass by the neoclassical marble angel in the Florentine garden, view the azaleas in full bloom between February and April in the Stone Garden and enjoy the peace and harmony in the recently restored Japanese garden. The Exotic garden, with its steep winding paths, was nearly destroyed by frosts in 1985, but today the various species of agave and barbary figs stand strong.
It is however, the Rose garden that gives it its status as one of the most beautiful gardens in the South of France. Adorning the tip of the rocky outcrop, the rose garden is an enchantment for the senses. Best viewed May to July, when the flowers are in full bloom and at their most fragrant.
Open: Year round
4. Jardins du Château de la Napoule, Mandelieu la Napoule
These gardens were designed by Mary Clews, wife of the American sculptor Henry Clews, who restored this 14th century castle by the sea in the Gothic style at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The charming design comprises of four hectares of French-style gardens, complete with fountains and trimmed plants. Henry decorated each column, capital and frieze with mythical creatures, giving the Jardins du Château de la Napoule a truly magical feel.
Open: February – November
5. Parc Phoenix, Nice
As far as beautiful gardens in the South of France go, Park Phoenix is a must-visit location. Over 20 themed gardens, offering over 25,000 varieties of plant species, can be visited on this 17.5-acre site. The ‘Green Diamond’ greenhouse - one of the largest in the world - recreates seven tropical and sub-tropical climates and is home to several thousand rare plant species, including tree ferns and a large collection of orchids.
The lake is inhabited by hundreds of species of birds, including ducks, pelicans and black swans, while caimans, iguanas, lemurs and free-flying exotic birds delight visitors.
Open: Year round