The Côte d'Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from either Menton or the Italian border in the east to Saint Tropez, Hyères or Cassis in the west.
This coastline was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as a winter health resort for the British upper class at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it became the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales. In the summer, it also played home to many members of the Rothschild family. In the first half of the 20th century it was frequented by artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley, as well as wealthy Americans and Europeans. After World War II it became a popular tourist destination and convention site. Many celebrities, such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot, have homes in the region.
Its largest city is Nice, which has a population of 347,060 (2006). The city is the center of a communauté urbaine - Nice-Côte d'Azur - bringing together 24 communes and over 500,000 inhabitants and 933 080 in the urban area.
The French Riviera surrounds the principality of Monaco with a total population of over two million. It also contains the seaside resorts of Cap-d'Ail, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Cannes, Saint-Raphaël, Fréjus, Sainte Maxime and Saint-Tropez.
The French Riviera is a major yachting and cruising area with several marinas along its coast. According to the Côte d'Azur Economic Development Agency, each year the Riviera hosts 50% of the world's superyacht fleet, with 90% of all superyachts visiting the region's coast at least once in their lifetime.
As a tourist centre it benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants.