Antibes walking tour with Via Nissa

On Saturday 12th June, I had the great pleasure to join a walking tour of Antibes. I already know a lot about Antibes’ history including the buildings, museums, art and attractions so I was interested to join this tour and learn more.

Demand for the tour was incredible; the tour was 10x oversubscribed proving Antibes’ popularity with tourists and residents. So, I felt very fortunate to have a spot for the morning tour.

The tour was hosted by Via Nissa. Based in Nice, their team is comprised of historians, linguists and archaeologists who have specialist knowledge about archaeology, art, history, culture and language.

Our small group of 15 met in Antibes opposite Port Vauban with an estimated tour duration from 10am to 11.45am / midday. Prior to the tour, all communication with Via Nissa’s representative had been prompt and helpful.

The tour was conducted in French with English translation; participants could access the French commentary via an easy-to-use hands-free tour guide system and headphones that Via Nissa supplied. Note: The English commentary was via the Uniti app so participants needed to download the app in advance, register to use the app and have mobile Wifi. Participants used their own headphones if using the English commentary option.

Our walking tour of Antibes with Via Nissa

After initial introductions, we met the tour host (French language) – Alain Bottero, who is the archivist for Antibes. Alain has a vast experience as a conservateur and archivist in Antibes and the Alpes Maritimes, so his knowledge of Roman antiquities, archaeology, religious art and the history of Provence and Nice is impressive. Taking care of the English language translation on the day was Evgenia Mokhireva; Evgenia was the person who I dealt with leading up to the tour day and she was helpful, efficient and friendly.

Via Nissa : Antibes Tour Highlights

Even though I have lived in this region for many years, I still find that Antibes is a beautifully picturesque town to explore. As we walked around the Old Town, you stroll beside historic buildings, pass the Cours Massena local market selling Provençal goods and through paved back streets.

It is a ‘touristy’ town with a large expat and yachting community, yet there are parts of French lifestyle and culture here that are distinctly Antiboise – for example, the Safranier district have a quirky traditional ‘boules carrées’ competition each year on July 14 where they play boules in the local streets with square boules.

Some of the tour highlights included the Chapelle Saint Bernardin, the column at Place Nationale, Porte de l’Orme, the old wash house, the commune of Safranier, the city remparts, the Picasso Museum and more.

Chapelle Saint Bernardin

This is a spectacular small chapel in Old Town, tucked in off Rue du Docteur Rostan – most tourists would probably pass it by without knowing it was there!

Bernardin Albizeschi was born in the 14th-century in Tuscany, Italy, and entered the Miners brotherhood. He was ordained a priest in September 1404 and spent more than 25 years preaching in Italy, playing a great part in the religious revival of the early 15th-century. He died in Aquila in 1444 and was canonised in 1450 by Pope Nicolas V.

In the 15th-century, the activity of the White Penitent Brotherhood was strong. With their riches they built this chapel.

Features of Chapelle Saint Bernardin:

The Gothic facade on Rue du Docteur Rostan: On the side you can see the hooded penitents. Above the door is the representation of Lucifer’s head. The devil, as the Chimera, the king of serpents and the winged dragon has a tail, sharp claws and a menacing stare. He reigns over 3 worlds: underground, on earth and in the air and can only be vanquished by Saints. The dragon convulses and roars at the foot of the cross and is vanquished by saints and angels.

The altar: The centrally positioned altar features a 16th-century fresco portraying the Apostles table. The baroque twisted columns are decorated with flowers and gold leaf. You can see 3 Saints: Saint Roch, Saint Sebastian (patron Saints of Antibes) and Saint Bernardin of Siena.

The vaulted room: This room has a climate-controlled storage that contains Antoine Aundi’s painting entitled “The descent from the cross”.

The side door entrance: The chapel was built on Roman ruins and the solid walnut side door leading to Rue Saint Bernardin dates from March 1581; you can see the inscription in my photo below.

My favourite feature of this small chapel is the beautiful trompe l’oeil and star-studded ceiling. The trompe l’oeil has 4 evangelists around the outside: Saint Mathew (the angel representing Genesis (origin) of man), Saint John (the eagle, his evangelism starts with celestial mystery), Saint Mark (the lion who roars in the desert) and Saint Luc (the bull who symbolises the sacrificed priest and sacrificed cow). In the middle, the Virgin Mary with Christ and Saint Bernardin between them with Latin inscriptions about God and hope in virtue.

The column at Place Nationale

Napoleon, returning from the Island of Elba, landed in nearby Golfe Juan on March 1, 1815; the gates of the city of Antibes were closed to him, it was bombarded and associated with the Bourbon. Louis XVIII moved by the heroism of the city of Antibes took 90,000 Francs from his personal funds intended to repair the damage, and on March 20, 1816 he raised the city to the rank of the good cities of the kingdom “Fidei servandae exemplum 1815”. 

In gratitude, the city of Antibes erected this column to Louis XVIII. It’s made of Carrara marble and cost the sum of 5748 Francs.

Its pedestal is covered with four marble slabs, on each side: 
– the inscription of the ordinance of King Louis XVIII 
– the arms of France 
– the arms of the city of Antibes
– the inscription of the King “the conduct of the city of Antibes will never leave my memory.”

Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted the photos I had of the column but you can see it clearly at Place Nationale directly in front of the Musée Peynet.

Porte de l’Orme

The Porte de l’Orme and its towers is one of the best preserved parts of Antibes. Throughout the Middle Ages, the walls were maintained until they were reinforced by the Grimaldi lords in the late 16th-century. It was the first line of defence for the castle, now known at the Picasso Museum. The Porte de l’Orme has been historically listed since 1939 and along with the towers and walls it defines the old city limits.

The old lavoir (wash house)

Tucked in behind Rue de la Tourraque, the old lavoir (wash house) was one of three local wash houses where town residents came to wash their clothes. Of course, it was a meeting place too so no doubt there was some gossiping that went on! If you look closely at the walls surrounding the wash house there are small sculptures set into the stone work – angels, faces, hands – these were made by Ho Lui, a local sculptor who has an atelier on Rue James Close.

The commune libre de Safranier (the free commune of Safranier)

Safranier is a picturesque district in old town with flower-filled streets – lots of tourists head here to take Instagram photos particularly on rue du Bas Castelet and rue du Haut Castelet. Villa Fontaine is situated in Safranier where they have an artists in residence programme, and Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzaki used to live in this district (he was famous for writing Zorbas the Greek and ‘The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel’ which was his poem based on Homer’s Odyssey) – you can see a commemorative seat dedicated to him in Safranier with a famous motto from the Zorbas film: “I hope nothing, I fear nothing, I am free”.

Antibes remparts

The remparts stretch from the port in Antibes to Bastion Saint-Andre near Salis beach. The Bastion was built in 1698 by Vauban, it consists of two vaulted brick galleries surmounted by a vast paved terrace.  Historically listed in 1930, below is the Archaeology Museum that has a collection begun in the 15th-century, with 150 exhibits including ceramics, vases and mosaics, some dating back more than 2000 years.

In 1979, there was a collapse of the seabed off the coast of Nice which was simultaneous with the collapse of a dike at the Nice port end. The result was two mini tsunamis which hit the coastline; including at Salis beach in Antibes. The remparts remained undamaged.

Picasso Museum

The Picasso Museum is one of the popular attractions of Antibes. Originally the ancient Château Grimaldi, it is now the first museum dedicated to Picasso. The collection, originally composed of paintings, drawings and ceramics left by the artist, also houses artwork from many other artists including Germaine Richier, Joan Miró, Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung and Yves Klein.

Beside the Picasso Museum, you can see the beautiful Antibes Cathedral.

Fort Carré & Port Vauban

No visit to Antibes would be complete without wondering about the history of Fort Carré across from the town. The star-shaped fort is a historic monument and was one of the first fortified strongholds to be built in the Renaissance under the orders of the King of France, Henri II. It was used to guard the nearby border with the County of Nice and to defend the town of Antibes. Today, you can visit the fort by guided tours that can be arranged through the Antibes tourist office and it is open to the public during the Journées du Patrimoine (we didn’t visit Fort Carré on this particular tour, however there is a great view from the fortress ramparts over Port Vauban and across to old town Antibes).

One of the most surprising things I learned recently about Antibes was there used to be a sea plane base at Port Vauban in the 1920’s. Alain our tour guide knew about this of course – L’Aéronavale used to fly between Antibes and Corsica, passengers were so used to travelling by boat that flying was viewed as reckless. Putting the seaplanes into the water at Port Vauban wasn’t easy – they were transported on trolleys to the wharf where a crane lifted them into the water. You can see in the vintage photos below the seaplanes and cranes opposite Fort Carré, as well as the hangars that used to house them. This hangar area is now where the Antibes ferris wheel at Pré des Pêcheurs is located.

About Via Nissa

Based in Nice, France, Via Nissa, specialises in organising in-depth experiences for seasoned travellers, the local foreign community and their visitors: those who want to be in the Côte d’Azur not as a detached observer, but as hands-on participants seeking uncommon access. They also curate historical tours, taking their visitors beyond the spaces allocated to tourists, into a world typically available only to insiders. Their sixth-sense experiences take you back to the world of the Provence many recall from the movies… scenes of long leisurely lunches, fine wines and stimulating conversations.

Disclaimer: I was not sponsored to join this tour, nor am I an affiliate partner or salesperson for Via Nissa. This review is my own unbiased and honest account of the tour that I experienced. I highly recommend Via Nissa if you want a tour that immerses you in the history and culture of a destination.

10 of the Best Museums on the French Riviera

The French Riviera has over 40 museums with rich collections often set in picturesque locations overlooking manicured gardens, village squares or the sea.

From Belle Époque paintings to modern sculptures, visitors to the region will find enough cultural places of interest to entertain them for a day, week or longer.

french riviera museums

Musée Matisse in Cimiez, Nice

If you are planning on visiting a number of museums, look into the option to purchase a museum pass from the Tourism Offices – the Côte d’Azur Card has a good range of attractions and activities, or the Pass Musées de Nice offers access to Nice’s municipal museums including some of the smaller ones such as Terra Amata and Musée d’Art Naïf. NOTE: If you are a resident of Nice or the metropolitan area, you get free access to Nice’s municipal museums. You simply give I.D plus verification of your address and you are issued with the Pass which is valid for 3 years.

classical art museum mougins

Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins

The Best Museums on the French Riviera

For a cultural dose, click on the article link here to find out who rates in the ‘Top 10 Museums on the French Riviera’.

monaco oceanagraphic

Monaco Oceanarium is a natural history museum- aquarium

Other great museums I like (not included on this list above) are:

Musée des Merveilles at Tende

Musée Bonnard in Le Cannet

The National Sports Museum and Museum of Asiatic Arts, both in Nice

Férnand Léger Museum in Biot

Musée Volti at the Citadelle in Villefranche-sur-Mer

I hope you enjoy visiting these museums!  Don’t forget on the first Sunday of the month most museums have free entry too 🙂


7 Favourite Museums in Provence Côte d’Azur via Lou Messugo

Provence Côte d’Azur has an abundance of excellent museums worth discovering ranging from special interest such as the Perfume Museum (Musée International de Parfum) in Grasse right through to museums dedicated to artists (Picasso Museum / Musée Picasso).

Musée International de Parfum in Grasse

Musée International de Parfum in Grasse

I was kindly invited to share my thoughts about a few of my favourite museums as part of a blog post by Lou Messugo.

You can read the entire post here:

What are your favourite museums in the region?

Antibes : 10 Facts You Didn’t Know

Antibes is one of the first towns I visited in France and I’ll never forget the journey from the airport along the Bord de Mer coast road and that stunning turquoise sea beside the road all the way to Fort Carré.

Entering the archway to Old Town Antibes and following the road along the ramparts is lovely – the view overlooking plage Gravette with Port Vauban, Baie des Anges and the Alps in the distance is still one of my favourites.

Antibes - Chappelle Saint-Bernardin - Safranier - MAMO Le Michelangelo

Antibes – Chappelle Saint-Bernardin – Safranier – MAMO Le Michelangelo

For a town I visit regularly, it has lots of history and places still to discover – and some surprising facts that may be new for residents!   Read more here :

Art Trails on the French Riviera

The French Riviera has fascinated painters, poets and artists for centuries who have been inspired by the beautiful landscapes and luminous light of the Mediterranean.

From Renoir to Chagall, from Picasso to Monet and Matisse the region is scattered with wonderful art museums and collections from the finest painters.

Follow my guide ‘Art Trails on the French Riviera’ for places to visit with an artistic influence including classic and contemporary art collections as well as off-the-beaten-track suggestions.


Musée Peynet

Musée Picasso

Musée Picasso. Antibes

Musée Picasso. Antibes


Musée National Fernand Léger

Cagnes sur Mer

Chateau Musée Grimaldi

Musée Renoir


Centre d’art La Malmaison

Musée de la Castre


Musée d’art et d’histoire de Provence

Le Cannet

Musée Bonnard


Musée Jean Cocteau

Musée Jean Cocteau, Menton

Musée Jean Cocteau, Menton

Mouans Sartoux

L’espace de l’art concret at Château de Mouans Sartoux


Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins



Galerie de la Marine

Galerie des Ponchettes




Monastre de Nôtre Dame de Cimiez (burial place of Raoul Dufy and Henri Matisse)

Musée des Arts Asiatiques

Musee des Beaux Arts

Musée Marc Chagall

Musée Massena

Musée Matisse

Musée Matisse, Nice

Musée Matisse, Nice

Hôtel Negresco

Hotel Villa La Tour

Hotel Windsor

Palais Lascaris

Villa Arson

Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Villa Santo Sospir

Saint Paul de Vence

La Colombe d’Or

Fondation Maeght

Fondation Maeght, St Paul de Vence

Fondation Maeght, St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence cemetery (burial place of Marc Chagall)


Musée National Picasso


Chapelle du Rosaire

Chapelle du Rosaire painted by Matisse

Chapelle du Rosaire painted by Matisse

Villefranche sur Mer

Chapelle St Pierre

Chapelle St Pierre, Villefranche sur Mer

Chapelle St Pierre, Villefranche sur Mer

La Citadelle (home to the Musée Volti, Collection Goetz-Boumeester and Collection Roux – to read more about these 3 museums read my previous blog post about Villefranche sur Mer here

To see a map of Access Riviera’s ‘Art Trails on the French Riviera’ locations, click on this link (thanks to Wanderant!) where you can click on each location to read more:

If you found this Art Guide informative, please share on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!

Image credits: Cimiez, Deluxe Drivers, France Culture, Oopartir, Panoramio

Free entry tonight at French museums – Nuit Européenne des Musées

Tonight, take advantage of free entry to many museums across France as part of the Nuit Européenne des Musées.

La Nuit Européenne des Musées (image: official website)

La Nuit Européenne des Musées (image: official website)

This initiative is a lovely way to experience some of the French Riviera’s best museums as the sun sets and the buildings and displays are illuminated.

Some participating museums on the French Riviera include:

  • Picasso Museum (Antibes)
  • Musée National Fernand Leger (Biot)
  • Musée Renoir (Cagnes sur Mer)
  • Musée des Beaux Arts (Nice)
  • Musée National Marc Chagall (Nice)
  • Musée de la Citadelle (Villefranche sur Mer)

The listing of participating museums in the Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur region is  downloadable here:  Programme_PACA

For full downloads of France-wide participating museums, see the link here:

Top tip: I have visited the website and the geo-locating and search is not very specific, so for the best user experience I recommend you click on the Programme_PACA link above, or for a general search go to ‘Accéder Au Programme’ or ‘A Proximité’ and zoom into the map of France, then the French Riviera region.  Click on each pin to see details of each participating museum including opening hours this evening.