Monday, May 20, 2024

How to Visit the Village of Eze, France

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Village of Eze, France – A French Riviera Highlight

Like a phoenix perched on a cliff, the bewitching village of Eze soars high over the Mediterranean, offering some of the best views on the French Riviera.

It’s an ideal place to meander. Red brick paths nestled in stone twirl over ancient ground, leafy vines cling to walls and archways bend over narrow lanes.

Medieval streets in Vieux Eze France
Eze France – Photo Carol Perehudoff

The first time I visited Eze I was 16, and now that I’m, ahem, older, I was curious to see if present-day Eze held up to my storybook vision.

Happily, I liked it even more, probably because I had more time to explore.

Is a Day Trip to Eze Worth It?

Millions of tourists would say yes.

There are a couple of must-see attractions (the Exotic Gardens!) but Eze Village is more about enjoying the relaxed pace of the dreamy South of France than seeing Sights with a capital ‘S.”

The views alone are worth the trip. Even the bus ride from Nice is worth the trip as it curves around the Mediterranean coast in scenic splendour.

Whether you’re doing a day trip to Eze or staying overnight, make the most of your trip with this guide to the best things to do in Eze.

It’s got an easy itinerary to follow and lots of how-to’s on what to do and what to see.

How to Avoid the Crowds

The downside of millions of tourists saying yes to Eze is that they may all choose to be there exactly when you are.

Give them the slip: Go early in the morning or stay overnight. Make lunch reservations before you go so you’ll be assured of a table.

But. Even if you end up on a tour in the middle of the afternoon in the height of summer, this thimble-sized French Riviera destination will somehow squeeze you in.

Stone walls and flower pots in the hilltop village of Eze on the French Riviera
Medieval Street in the ‘vieux ville’ of Eze – Photo Carol Perehudoff

Where is Eze?

The village of Eze is in the South of France.

It’s 9 km from Monaco by road (4 km if you’re a phoenix and can fly there) and about 13 km from Nice.

Eze is on the Moyenne Corniche, the middle of three roads of varying heights between Nice and Menton on the French Riviera.

Eze is high. Like 427 metres above sea level (1401 feet) high.

A lofty town on the Cote d’Azur, it’s one of the best day trips from Nice, Cannes, Monaco and other French Riviera destinations.

Eze Village or Eze-sur-Mer?

Opt for Eze Village.

What’s the difference? Eze Village is the medieval town cresting the mountainside. Eze-Bord-de-Mer, also called Eze-sur-Mer, is the beach. While it’s fine, it’s nothing spectacular.

What’s the most exciting thing about Eze-sur-Mer? Bono, lead singer of U2, owns a big pink villa there.

Spectacular view of cliffs and trees from the Chateau Eza a luxury hotel in Eze
Stellar views from Eze, France – Photo Carol Perehudoff

How to Get to Eze Village

By Bus

If you’re not traveling by car or doing a tour, the easiest way to get to Eze Village is to take the bus. The bus drops you off at the base of the village and you will need to walk up. Just follow the crowd.

Nice to Eze: You can take the 82 Bus or the 112 Bus. I caught it from the Nice Boyer Station. It took about 30 minutes.

🌼 Travel Tip: The Nice to Eze bus route is a popular trip and you may not get a seat. For the best chance, you could start your trip off from Vauban Station, though it’s a bit out of the way.

Monaco to Eze: You can take the 112 Bus from the Cremaillere stop in Monaco to Eze Village.

Train to Eze – Not Recommended

Don’t take the train or you’ll end up way down on the coast at Eze-sur-Mer.

If you do end up there you’ll need to either take the 83 Bus up to the village, though it’s not that frequent, or walk up the gruelling Nietzsche Trail, which is only for the fit.

I walked down it, and it took a good hour. It’s a gorgeous walk though.

Sculpture of a female and pink flowers growing out of stone walls
Wandering through Eze – Photo Carol Perehudoff

Take a Tour

Most guided tours don’t stop only in Eze but include it in a larger French Riviera itinerary along with other tourist favourites like Nice, Monaco, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Cannes, Antibes, etc.

This means your time in Eze will be limited but it will at least give you a taste of the town.

Full Day Guided Tour

One option that gets good reviews is a Full-Day Tour of Eze and Monaco from Nice in an 8-seater luxury van. From $110 USD.

Check prices and availability for the full day tour here.

Private Tour

If you prefer to be in charge over your itinerary you could try a Private Half Day Tour of the French Riviera in a Vintage Car. From $475 USD for a group up to 4 people.

Check out prices and availability for a private tour here.

View of the Grand Corniche Road from the Exotic Garden
The Grand Corniche Road above Eze – Photo Carol Perehudoff

By Car

It’s a spectacular drive. Go early to get parking. There is some parking at the base of the village but spots fill up fast.

Things to Do in Eze

When you arrive in Eze, you’ll be at the lower part of the village. There is a tourist information office if you have questions or want to pick up a map.

There are also public toilets (take coins), but they often seem to be closed.

🌼 Travel Tip: If you really need a bathroom, buy a coffee in the restaurant across the street.

1. Tour the Fragonard Perfume Factory

Also at the base of Eze Village is the Fragonard Perfume Factory.

Here you can do a tour and gather up all the rose-and-musk scented souvenirs you can fit in your shopping bag.

🌼 Travel Tip: If you’re on a group tour, don’t spend all your time sniffing scents or you won’t have time to explore the village. If you’re also going to visit Grasse, the perfume capital of France, I recommend skipping the Eze perfumery altogether.

Heading Up to the Main Sights

The main tourist attractions are a few minutes uphill walk from the base. Pass through the fortified gateway, la Poterne, that dates back to the 14th century and voila, you’re in the medieval world of Eze.

🌼 Travel Tip: The Village of Eze is an up and down destination – comfortable shoes will save your soles.

Bird's eye view of Our Lady of the Assumption Church
Eze church – Our Lady of the Assumption – Photo Carol Perehudoff

2. Visit Our Lady of the Assumption Church

My first stop was Our Lady of the Assumption Church, its bell tower rising up like a yellow exclamation mark over the red-tiled roofs of the village.

Neoclassical on the outside, the church is more elaborate inside, a frothy Baroque mix of pastel trompe l’oeil, ornate ceiling paintings and statues.

Built in the 18th century, it was constructed on the foundations of an earlier church.

But its roots as a sacred site go deeper.

The Ancient Roots of Eze

The Phoenicians had a temple on this spot dedicated to Isis, goddess of magic, fertility, healing and rebirth. Yes, Eze is that old. It was inhabited as early as 2,000 BC.

In fact the town’s name of Eze may stem from the word Isis.

In front of the church is a large square with lovely views (you’ll soon see that lovely views are a recurring theme in this guide) and there is a cemetery at the back where the French actor Francis Blanche is buried.

Gnarled tree growing over the cobblestone street in Eze in the South of France
Eze is one of the prettiest towns on the French Riviera – Photo Carol Perehudoff

3. Stroll

From here you’ll want to wander. Ambling around the winding lanes is pretty much the main thing to do in Eze.

The pedestrian-only streets are a movie-set mix of tumbling flowers, antique signs and stone walls that harbour mouse-sized gift shops and art galleries. It’s a fun place for shopping though not exactly cheap.

Vaulted arch over a cobblestone street in Eze
The doorway to the Chapel of the White Penitents is to the right – Photo Carol Perehudoff

4. Find the Chapel of the White Penitents

Located under a peach-coloured vaulted arch, the wrought iron doorway to the Chapel of the White Penitents, the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, is fairly nondescript so you may pass it by. Keep an eye out.

Also called the Chapel of the Holy Cross, this low-key Eze attraction is closed to visitors but you can peek through the grid. The oldest building in Eze, the Chapel of the White Penitents was built in 1306.

It’s interesting for its history: it was the meeting place of the White Penitents, a Christian brotherhood who sought forgiveness for their sins by helping the sick during the plague that was sweeping through Europe.

Lunch of sea bream at the 5 star Chateau Chevre d'or hotel in Eze
Chevre d’or – ARestaurant with a view – Photo Carol Perehudoff

5. Have Lunch at the Chèvre d’or

Eze is petite so it won’t take long before you might be thinking of lunch (as long as you can get thoughts of the plague out of your mind).

Dining on the terrace of Les Remparts Restaurant at the 5-star Chèvre d’or Hotel is one of the activities that bumped up my day trip from Nice from fun to fabulous.

Set in a centuries-old castle, the Chèvre d’Or hotel was a favourite vacation spot of Walt Disney’s.

There are two main restaurants in the hotel, the 2-star Michelin Chèvre d’Or Restaurant and Les Remparts, as well as the casual Café du Jardin for lighter fare.

Carol Perehudoff on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean
Enjoying the panoramic views

Les Remparts is an ideal place to relax.

With sweeping views of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the sun-dappled sea, I was able to sit back, breathe in the scent of jasmine and enjoy the joie de vivre of the French Riviera, just as Marlene Dietrich, Roger Moore and so many others have done before me.

For lunch I opted for the Sea bream fillet with wood-fired roasted leek, capers and lemon, but the dish most diners looked excited about was the King prawns linguine with courgettes and a bisque enhanced with ginger.

Everyone seemed to opt for one of pastry chef Julien Dugourd’s desserts, mini masterpieces of strawberry, lemon, chocolate or cream.

Plants and a sea view at the Exotic Garden
View from the Exotic Garden – Photo Carol Perehudoff

6. Visit the Exotic Garden

After lunch I was fully fuelled and ready to visit the Exotic Garden of Eze – the Jardin Exotique d’Èze.

The description – lots of cacti and succulents – doesn’t sound that thrilling.

The reality is that it’s as lush as a cacti garden can be, and unique in its location on a cone-shaped peak that stands at the top of the town.

Flowering cacti, aloe and prickly pear cling to the mountainside in a tangle of blooms, thorns, and waxy leaves.

You’ll find citrus, agave and tree ferns, and stylized bronze and terracotta female figures by sculptor Jean-Phillipe Richard that made me think of Isis.

Have a Lie Down at the Exotic Garden

Wait … what? Yes! How cool is that? There are some sun beds in the Zen Space on the west side of the garden.

The remains of Eze castle at the Exotic Garden
A trace of the castle – Photo Carol Perehudoff

7. See the Ruins of Eze Castle

Slim pathways wind their way between towering cacti up to a square on the peak, where the weathered ruins of a 12th-century castle stand like ghosts of the town’s ancient past.

Built in the 13th century, the castle was destroyed in 1706 on the orders of Louis XIV during the War of Succession with Spain, when Eze was under the rule of the House of Savoy.

From the terrace you’ll get another magnificent viewpoint that stretches all the way from Italy to St Tropez.

A different viewpoint reveals the Grand Corniche, the upper cliff road built by Napoleon. It follows an ancient Roman route called the Via Julia Augusta.

If it’s a clear day the Exotic Gardens are one of the best things to do in Eze.

Chateau Eza Luxury Hotels Eze France
Chateau Eza Hotel – Photo Carol Perehudoff

8. Take a Break at Château Eza

If you weren’t lucky enough to score a Zen Bed at the Exotic Garden, there are lots of other places to take a break.

While my heart is wedded to Chèvre d’or, another historic luxury Eze hotel makes use of the town’s dramatic mountainside setting, the 5-star Château Eza.

Once the residence of the Prince of Sweden, Château Eza is 400 years old and the medieval ambience is carefully nurtured.

I would have explored every nook and cranny but I got stopped from wandering around with my camera. Let’s just say security is good.

A cocktail or pastry here won’t come cheap, but small indulgences can be big moments to remember.

Nietzsche Trail hike on a mountainside on the Cote d'Azur
A historic hike – the Nietzsche Trail – Photo Carol Perehudoff

9. Hike Down the Nietzsche Trail

If you like adventure travel, it’s possible to hike down the steep Nietzsche Trail to Eze-sur-Mer.

From here, if you’re traveling by public transportation, you can catch the train back to Nice, Monaco or other places from the bottom.

The trail is named after Friedrich Nietzsche. He was an influential German philosopher who tramped up it daily when he stayed in Eze in the 1880s.

Today the Chemin de Nietzsche is one of the most popular hikes on the beautiful Cote d’Azur.

Rated, moderately challenging, and a bit slippery on the rocks in places, this 4.2 km trail takes a twisted route down the mountainside.

It’s tiring, even going down, so make sure you have the stamina, proper shoes and water. Much of it is in the sun.

Pebbled beach of Eze-sur-Mer
Eze-sur-Mer – Photo Carol Perehudoff

10. Visit the Beach at Eze-sur-Mer

If you do make it down the hill on the Nietzsche Path, you can follow the signs from here to the beach. I met two lovely Swedes on the trail down, and we made our way to the seaside together.

The beach at Eze is rocky and we didn’t have bathing suits, so after posing around for awhile and looking out over the water we ran out of things to do.

Handily, it’s steps to the train station so it was easy to get back to Nice.

Day Trip or Stay Overnight?

How Much Time to Spend in Eze?

If you’re doing a day trip to Eze, it depends what you want to do.

If you simply want to walk around, shop and maybe visit the Exotic Gardens, a couple of hours is enough.

If you want to have lunch, tour the perfume factory and hike the Nietzsche Path or visit the beach, you could easily spend the whole day.

When it comes to staying overnight, most people stay only one or two nights, though if you don’t mind that it’s not on the train line, the Village of Eze can be an atmospheric base for exploring various places on the French Riviera.

Cacti at the Eze Gardens along the path
Exotic Gardens in the heart of Eze Village – Photo Carol Perehudoff

Why Stay in Eze?

The benefits of staying in Eze Village are that you’ll have the town to yourself in the evening and early morning, and will really be able to dig your heels into its dreamy vibe.

On a more basic level, you’ll get the benefit of valet parking if you’re at one of the luxury hotels and won’t have to worry about your car. You’ll still have to walk up from the lower end of the village, though.

The Downside of Staying in the Village of Eze Overnight

Is it too quiet? If you’re after nightlife you’re better off staying somewhere like Monaco or Nice.

There is a lot of uphill and downhill, so if you’re mobility challenged it will be difficult.

Eze is not on the train line so you’re dependent on buses if you don’t have a car. The Sunday bus schedule is limited.

Luxury Hotels Eze

It’s hard to believe a small hilltop town could have two of the best hotels in the French Riviera, but it has long been a destination for celebrities, royalty and rock stars, drawn by its laidback elegance and romantic ‘hideaway’ feel.

It’s also a huge hit as a honeymoon stop for newlyweds touring the French Riviera.

Outdoor swimming pool at the Chateau Chevre d'or hotel
Chevre d’or swimming pool with a view – Photo Carol Perehudoff

Château de la Chèvre d’or vs Château Eza?

Both hotels get rave reviews.

The Château de la Chèvre d’or has an outdoor pool, is slightly larger (I think about 38 rooms) and feels a bit higher up the ‘sophisticated luxury’ scale.

The Château Eza is intimate with more of a medieval-castle feel.

They are both central and have breathtaking views, though not every room will have them. Ask before you book.

Château de la Chèvre d’or Review

Voted the Best Resort Hotel in France by Travel & Leisure in 2020, the Château de la Chèvre d’or is one of the most romantic hotels on the French Riviera.

The gardens are a delight, a sunny mix of olive trees, lemon trees, sculptures and fragrant jasmine, and the hotel is almost like a little village on its own.

I was thisclose to booking a room here, but ended up staying in Monaco instead. Now that I’ve seen the ‘Golden Goat Hotel’ for myself, I regret not fitting it into my South of France itinerary.

Check prices and availability for the Chateau Chevre d’or Hotel here.

Outdoor terrace overlooking the Mediterranean at the Eze hotel called Chateau Eza
Chateau Eza terrace – Photo Carol Perehudoff

Château Eza Review

The boutique luxury hotel Château Eza has only 14 rooms and suites, so you’ll be sure to get personalized service in a spectacular setting in the very heart of Eze.

Rooms are scattered around the property and, if you opt for one of the sea view rooms, you may never want to leave the room at all, unless it’s to make your way over to the hotel’s Michelin-star restaurant.

Why Visit Eze?

Eze is a French Riviera town that gets better with age.

While it’s sometimes referred to as a museum town, which suggests there are more tourists than residents, it’s one of the top things to do in the South of France with to-die-for views, a hint of glamour and a magic age-old feel.

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