Sightseeing in SAINT-PAUL DE VENCE

The weather has been warm and sunny while my brother is here so we decided to visit Saint-Paul de Vence.

Saint-Paul de Vence is a stunning little village that is a popular tourist spot and was frequented in the past by famous artists, actors, film directors and more.

St Paul de Vence (image spdv.com)

St Paul de Vence (image spdv.com)

The village has been greatly restored, however the remparts and streets are authentic.  You will find cobbled alleyways, art galleries, jewellery makers, shops selling olive oils, baskets of dried herbs, fragrant soaps.

My advice is to visit in the morning before midday if possible as the afternoon sees the arrival of organised tour groups and the village becomes busier.

local transport, St Paul de Vence

local transport, St Paul de Vence

How to get to St Paul de Vence:

By car: Take the A8 motorway and get off at exit 47 (Villeneuve Loubet/Cagnes sur Mer/Vence from Marseille) or exit 48 (Cagnes sur Mer/Vence) from Nice or Italy. Follow the signs on the RD436 road to ‘La Colle sur Loup/Vence’.  Saint-Paul is located between La Colle sur Loup and Vence, and only 15 minutes from the motorway.  If you drive to Saint-Paul, park your car at the Espace Sainte-Claire multi-storey carpark.  There are elevators to the street level; you must pay for your parking at the machines there before you return to your car.  At the street level, there are public toilets opposite Chapelle Sainte Claire (including accessible toilets for wheelchair users), the charge is 0,20€ (20 centimes).

By train: The nearest train station is Cagnes sur Mer and then you need to take Bus number 400 which travels from Cagnes sur Mer to Saint-Paul in around 15 minutes.

By bus: You can also take Bus number 400 from the Nice bus station (Gare Routiere) to Saint-Paul, the journey takes around 1 hour. The bus stop at the village is across from Chapelle Sainte Claire.

Now, you are ready to begin exploring this historic village.

MY TOUR 1:  Suggested walking tour in St Paul de Vence for families with baby buggies/strollers (this walking tour includes some small manageable stairs but is mostly flat and good quality paved surfaces)

Walking tour for families

1. Begin at the Espace Sainte-Claire carpark.  Across the road you will notice the small Chapelle Sainte Claire which marks the entrance to the village, from there walk left towards the main remparts and you will pass by the famous hotel/restaurant on your left, La Colombe d’Or.  La Colombe d’Or is decorated with artworks from Picasso, Leger, Matisse and other struggling artists who settled their bills with paintings.  You can’t just wander in and look around, but you can make a reservation for lunch or dinner in the courtyard terrace, or drink an apéritif in the bar and enjoy the artful surroundings.

Colombe d'Or (image Access Riviera)

Colombe d’Or (image Access Riviera)

2. Continue walking towards the village and you see Café de la Place on your right-hand side, a nice spot to enjoy a cold drink on the terrace or under the plane trees and watch the locals play boules (petanque).

3. From there, straight ahead is the Gate of Vence (Porte Royale), the stone tunnel entrance to the village.  However, take the lower path on the right that hugs the stone walls past Le Petite Chapelle restaurant – just around the corner is an open area where there is a small children’s playground and you can look out over the local villas and a vineyard.  The path does continue onwards from the playground but it is not paved, you are best to return to the Gate of Vence.

4. Back at the Gate of Vence, notice the arched portico, the 14th-century cannons and the fortified tower and you begin to sense the history of this hilltop village as one of the first examples in France of a bastioned enclosure.  Most tourists walk uphill on the main street – rue Grande – but just inside the gate take the first street on the right, rue de la Tour, and this leads you along the western remparts and provides great views over the landscape.

5. Walk along to the other end of the remparts until you reach another gate, the Gate of Nice, and the cemetery (cimetière).  The cemetery is the resting place of the famous painter Marc Chagall, his simple white tomb often topped with pebbles as tributes (a Russian and Jewish tradition).  Exiting the cemetery, there are steps to the right up to a lookout area for a panoramic view of the valley, mountains and sea.

6. Next, walk up rue Grande with it’s houses with doors bearing coats-of-arms.  The pathways have stone flowers and mosaics.  Look for hidden nooks in the stone walls with lanterns, religious santons and clay figurines.  You will pass via La Placette, a small square with a fountain and see the old arched doorway of an ancient stable which is now the ground-floor of the Galerie Jean Carré.  Just ahead on rue Grande, le Pontis is a small bridge over the road built in the 15th century which allowed passage between two houses situated on opposite sides of the road.

cobblestones and archways, St Paul de Vence

cobblestones and archways, St Paul de Vence

7. Turn right into rue du Pontis, then right again onto rue du Plus Bas Four.  From there you can walk left along the eastern remparts until rue de Derrière l’Eglise. Admire the cobbled streets and the view from the remparts with olive, fig and cyprus trees.

8.  Follow rue de Derrière l’Eglise onto rue Saint-Esprit and turning right you lead to the Église Collégiale, the  Collegiate church with a strong Baroque influence. Across from the church entrance, buy a mouth-watering gelato from La Dolce Italia, a small Italian gelateria.  As you savour your gelato in the church square, you will find the old keep of the Chateau which now houses the Town Hall and the White Penitents Chapel (entry for the chapel can be purchased at the adjacent local history museum).

9.  Past the White Penitents Chapel, turn right onto rue Cassette and then right onto rue du Haut Four.  This will lead you back down to the Grande Fontaine at the heart of the village, where you can admire the old fountain from 1850 with it’s wash house.

10. From there, meander down rue Grande and explore it’s art galleries and artisan stores.  Saint-Paul de Vence has a reputation as one of the ‘must-see’ towns on the Cote d’Azur, and whilst it can be agreed that it is very tourist-orientated it also has a relaxed feel.

MY TOUR 2:  Suggested discovery tour for wheelchair users, or those travelers with reduced mobility (this tour avoids the numerous staircases in the village and sticks to flat ground)

Discovery tour for wheelchair users

1. Begin at the Espace Sainte-Claire carpark.  Across the road you will notice the small Chapelle Sainte Claire which marks the entrance to the village.  There are wheelchair accessible toilets at road level here before you head to the village (the cost is 0,20€ which is 20 centimes). From here follow left towards the main remparts and you will pass by the famous hotel/restaurant on your left, La Colombe d’Or.  La Colombe d’Or is decorated with artworks from Picasso, Leger, Matisse and other struggling artists who settled their bills with paintings.  You can’t just wander in and look around, but you can make a reservation for lunch or dinner in the courtyard terrace, or drink an apéritif in the bar and enjoy the artful surroundings.

2. Continue towards the village and you see Café de la Place on your right-hand side, a nice spot to enjoy a cold drink on the terrace or under the plane trees and watch the locals play boules (petanque).  From there, straight ahead is the Gate of Vence (Porte Royale), the stone tunnel entrance to the village. See the arched portico, the 14th-century cannons and the fortified tower and you begin to sense the history of this hilltop village as one of the first examples in France of a bastioned enclosure.

3. It is quite a steep uphill tunnel, but it is paved and once you are through it you can turn right onto a flat section and avoid the uphill route.  Just inside the gate take the first street on the right, rue de la Tour, and this leads you along the flat western remparts. Travel along to the other end of the remparts until you reach another gate, the Gate of Nice.  This is at the southern end of the village where the cemetery and lookout point are located, however these two sites are not accessible due to stairs (no ramps).

4. Next, follow rue Grande with it’s houses with doors bearing coats-of-arms.  Once again, it is uphill so will require some effort but it is paved. The pathways have stone flowers and mosaics.  Look for hidden nooks in the stone walls with lanterns, religious santons and clay figurines.  You will pass via La Placette, a small square with a fountain and see the old arched doorway of an ancient stable which is now the ground-floor of the Galerie Jean Carré.  Just ahead on rue Grande, le Pontis is a small bridge over the road built in the 15th century which allowed passage between two houses situated on opposite sides of the road.

village street, St Paul de Vence

village street, St Paul de Vence

5. Turn right into rue du Pontis, then right again onto rue du Plus Bas Four.  From there you can head left along the eastern remparts until rue de Derrière l’Eglise.  Admire the cobbled streets and the view from the remparts with olive, fig and cyprus trees.

6. Follow rue de Derrière l’Eglise, turn left onto rue Saint-Esprit and turning right you join onto rue Cassette.  Follow rue Cassette until you reach the White Penitents Chapel on your right-hand side (entry for the chapel can be purchased at the adjacent local history museum). In the church square you will also see the Chateau of the old keep which is now the site of the Town Hall.  To the right is the Église Collégiale, the  Collegiate church with a strong Baroque influence (though there are steps to enter the church).  Across from this church entrance, buy a mouth-watering gelato from La Dolce Italia, a small Italian gelateria.

7. From here, head left down the rue du Haut Four, turn right at rue de l’Allee and rue de l’Etoile.   This will lead you back down to the Grande Fontaine at the heart of the village, where you can admire the old fountain from 1850 with it’s wash house.

8. From here, it is a downhill route on rue Grande where you can see art galleries and artisan stores.  Saint-Paul de Vence has a reputation as one of the ‘must-see’ towns on the Cote d’Azur, and whilst it can be agreed that it is very tourist-orientated it also has a relaxed feel.

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9 thoughts on “Sightseeing in SAINT-PAUL DE VENCE

  1. Thank you so much for making these!

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  6. Useful information especially the location of the little playground which could be missed easily.

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