There are three roads carved into the mountainside: the Grande Corniche is at the top, the Moyenne Corniche in the middle and the Basse Corniche (or Corniche Inferieure) along the coastline. Each of them has its own charm and magic.
The Basse Corniche
The coastal Basse Corniche (the N98) takes you from Nice, the Capital of Côte d’Azur, through all the brilliant seaside resorts of the French Riviera – Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze (Bord-de-Mer), Cap d’Ail, the Principality of Monaco, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and finally ends in Menton bordering to the Italian frontier.
This is probably one of the most beautiful roads which you have ever travelled. Contrasting coastal landscape with emerald azure sea, sky reaching cliffs, green valleys, aristocratic villas from the past centuries, and lazily floating millionaire yachts.
At a peak time (7h00-9h00 and 17h00-18h30) road may be traffic-clogged. During the high-season (July to August) traffic may be more difficult all day long, especially on weekends. If you not drive, you can take a Lignes d’Azur bus 100 taking a route Nice-Monaco-Menton.
The Moyenne Corniche
The Moyenne Corniche was built between 1910 and 1928. This Corniche also offers entrancing views of the French Riviera (the N7), but less hair-raising than the Grande Corniche. It’s also more developed and there are more traffic.
The main sights on the road are the medieval town Roquebrune Village topping the Monaco, and the medieval Èze Village nestling the top of the hill. If you want to make a spectacular photo, you should stop at the Col-de-Villefranche, and you will get a panoramic shot of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat, and Villefranche-sur-Mer.
If you it is still not enough, we recommend to visit the Mont-Boron. This is a luxury district of eastern Nice, adjacent to Villefranche-sur-Mer. There are a great park full of old olive trees, and perfectly suitable or picnics, and eye pleasing walks with panoramic views. Here stands an ancient defensive Fort du Mont Alban.
At the peak times there are potential of congestion, especially in the parts bordering with Nice and Monaco. If you don’t have wheels, you can take a Lignes d’Azur bus 112, Nice – Col de Villefranche – Èze Village – Beausoleil (Town located above Monaco).
The Grande Corniche
The vistas are indeed heady on this dizzying road (the D2564) that climbs to 550m above sea level. Built by Napoleon, it follows the ancient Roman via Julia Augusta. On one side the Mediterranean meets sky, while the other side is interspersed with rustic villas, pines, cactuses, and rocks.
This is the most rustic of the Three Corniches and the most fatal to drive. Alfred Hitchcock filmed a part of “To Catch a Thief” here in 1955; in 1982 Princess Grace of Monaco met her death here in a car accident.
The main town up here is La Turbie, known for the Roman Trophée des Alpes and for its frequent fog (well it’s not a real fog, town is so high that just often gets plunged into the cloud). The views from the Grande Corniche can be obscured by mist in which case you should descend to the Moyenne Corniche.
If you plan to visit La Turbie, turn on the Tête de Chien, this is a high rock promontory, overlooking the Principality of Monaco and Cap d’Ail, and it is the highest point on the Grande Corniche road.
Traffic jams are very unlikely. Drive responsibly.