Exploring a hilltop village in France

A hilltop village on the edge of the French Riviera and the Alpes Maritimes, fortified since medieval times and presently boasting with an art collection within its narrow streets to make you weep.  The hilltop village of St. Paul de Vence is the perfect escape for a busy mind.

Hilltop Villages1St. Paul de Vence in perfectly preserved in time, with the narrow streets still exactly the same as it was in medieval times and in 16th century when the village fortifications were added.  It is easily reachable from Nice and Antibes and a morning or day spent here will be well worth your time.  When I researched my trip to the Cote d’Azur, St. Paul de Vence was not a place I was particularly interested in.  Other hilltop towns on the Cote d’Azur like Eze village, is much more publicized (what a waste of money in my opinion!) than St. Paul de Vence.  It was only when the wise owner of the B&B we stayed at in Nice advised as to rather go to St. Paul de Vence first, as we won’t be disappointed.  We followed her advise and took the bus to the village.  You can take the Vence->Nice line 400 to the village.  Going by car is probably faster, if you have one, otherwise the bus is a perfect budget option.  Go early, before the rush and maybe take some time to have breakfast once you’re there.

Firstly, you’ll be greeted by the canon and a big stone arch entrance.


The best part about St. Paul de Vence in not all the old structures that’s still standing, but the fact that almost every shop in the narrow streets has been transformed into some form of art gallery.  You can find high-end pieces here up to artwork that will suit a budget traveler’s pocket.  It’s possible to stroll around for hours, without a map and go from gallery to gallery to just explore then artist mind.  Looking is free, of course.

Why did a fortified strategic town end up as a mini art hub?  Well, there used to be only one restaurant in town, Cafe Robinson, that was frequent by the big names of the Riviera Art Trail like Picasso, Matisse, Signac, Renoir, Chagall, Soutine and Braque.  Apparently the owner accepted painting for compensation for dining at the restaurant and built up quite the collection.


DSC00479DSC00474*Photos of artwork taken with permission of shop owners.

What else you should not miss:

– The narrow streets and beautiful views of the area

– ‘Cave shops’

– Landmarks: The Grand Fontaine, Place de la Mairie, Eglise Collegiale, Pontis and the Local History Museum

– Stylish souvenirs


I was so happy that I followed the advice of our host!  St. Paul de Vence really surprised me.  It’s not filled with tacky souvenir shops, nor is it overrun by massive Asian tour groups.  I guess it’s touristic without being touristic, or even trying.


This is part of the #AllAboutFrance linkup

Lou Messugo


18 thoughts on “Exploring a hilltop village in France

  1. Thank you for reminding me of an identical experience I had there some years ago – Discovered it by accident and went there on local bus . Discovered a great restaurant for lunch too….Des.


  2. I love the gorgeous narrow streets! So charming! I haven’t been to St Paul de Vence but have been to Eze many years ago as a student – it was pretty but definitely not very students!


  3. St Paul is 20 mins from my home and I love taking visitors there or going for an evening wander particularly out of season. Your photos are lovely and show off its beauty but I find it hard to believe you thought Eze wasn’t worth it! It’s such a stunner of a place, especially the views from its botanical gardens which are utterly unique. Anyway, we all have different tastes and expectations. I’ve written about 13 of my favourite hill villages around Nice which you might be interested in if ever you come back this way. I won’t link it here as you might not like external links but you can find it on my blog if you search hill villages or look in the archives from Sept 2015. Thanks for linking this to #AllAboutFrance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved the little town! I think my opinion of Eze is clouded because my visit coincided with two busloads of Asian tourists and the top garden was totally packed we couldn’t get any nice photos. I loved the narrow streets though. I want to give it another try 🙂 I’ve heard Eze beach is also good. Thanks for reading!


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