Saint Paul de Vence – a beautiful artists’ village high above the sea
Oh, Saint Paul – one of my favorite spots on the Côte d’Azur! Why? You’ll see right away.
St. Paul de Vence is located in the back country of Nice. It can easily be reached from Nice or Cannes. It is a nice artist village, a so-called “village perché” and definitely worth a trip.
What is a “village perché” anyway?
This typical construction method of villages dates back to the Middle Ages and was used for defense at that time. The outer wall was formed by three-storey or multi-storey houses that were completely smooth on the outside and had hardly any windows. At the bottom there were often two workshops or stables on top of each other and then the residential floors followed. These were the houses of the poorer population, because the more money the inhabitants had, the more central their house was in the village. These villages were difficult to access from the outside, partly because of their location – they stick like an eagle’s nest on a mountain peak – and partly because of the smooth outer walls. They are typical for the region. Another example is Mougins.
How to get to Saint Paul de Vence
From Cagnes-sur-Mer you drive into the back country. First, the road is pretty awful, you drive through an ugly industrial area. The road leads past the Polygone Riviera, a shopping mall that was opened in 2015 and is actually quite nice. In the beginning, the press enthusiastically jumped at the lack of parking spaces. And indeed, you have to pay a little attention when you go there: I would definitely avoid arriving on a Saturday before Christmas. And you shouldn’t necessarily come to the rush hours during sales.
You can really spend a lot of time looking for a parking space. But if you are relaxed, you can also laugh heartily: many parking lot ushers direct the guests wildly through the area and you often get the impression that the chaos would be smaller without them. Once you’ve made it, you can go beyond the usual giants like H&M and Primark and make a few small discoveries that are worthwhile. Or at least admire the architecture, because the buildings are really beautiful.
As soon as the way to Saint Paul de Vence pasts the Polygone Riviera, it becomes very pretty: quiet, idyllic and after the first breath of fresh air, you remember why you find the Côte d’Azur so beautiful.
Soon, the village appears on the hill.
Shortly after entering the village you will find a large parking lot with costs. But during the high season parking costs some money everywhere, so you can avoid the stress of searching for a parking space and drive into the first you see. Passing the famous Boule place, where both beginner courses and competitions take place, one gets through an archway into the medieval town that is surrounded by a fortification built around 1540. The town is much older.
It is a village of artists and craftsmen, which can be seen on every corner. Many galleries and shops invite you to stroll and buy. One of the most famous artists who lived here is certainly Marc Chagall. He came in 1966 and stayed until his death in 1985, he is even buried here, his (somewhat inconspicuous) grave can be visited in the cemetery.
Another interesting place is the hotel and restaurant “La Colombe d’Or”. With the many sketches or installations of famous artists, among others Matisse, Calder and the omnipresent Picasso, it almost resembles a museum.
The Fondation Maeght near Saint Paul de Vence
If you have roamed enough through the village, bought some souvenirs and regaled yourself, a side trip to the Fondation Maeght, a famous art museum, built by a pupil of Le Corbusier, is the right choice. The house has a significant collection of modern paintings, installations, sculptures and mosaics by artists such as Miró, Giacometti, Braque, Kandinsky, Chagall, Matisse – this list could be continued indefinitely. It is fun to stroll through the garden in the shade of the “parasol pines”, to admire a piece of art now and then and to buy some postcards as souvenirs in the museum shop.
How did you like Saint Paul de Vence? What did you experience? Tell us!