Day trip to Saint Paul de Vence and Cannes

A visit to St Paul de Vence and Cannes can be done in one day on summer from Nice but you have to start early.

Saint Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence is probably the loveliest of the perched villages you’ll find in the south of France. This little village became a magnet for artists and art lovers in the 1920’s, when a group of impressionist painters rediscovered this worn down town. Nowadays St Paul de Vence is filled with art galleries, boutiques and sidewalk cafe. A walk through its winding streets reveals elegant fountains, vine-covered stone walls and statues tucked into nooks in the walls. There are breathtaking views of mountains and sea. Even the ground below is attractive, as the cobblestones are laid into the shapes of flowers.

How to get there

The easiest way to get to St Paul de Vence from Nice is via tram and change to the bus. Take tram line 2 from central Nice to the Parc Phoenix stop. From there, get on the LR400 bus, which takes about 50 minutes. Best Schedule here. Tickets cost €1.50 and you can buy them in advance.

When to Come

Best to come early morning especially in the summer. We took the 08:25 bus from Nice and we were able to get seats on the bus and had a pleasant ride up. The Village was still empty when we came so we had the village much to ourselves for the first few hours until tour buses arrive around 11am.

What to do

Walk the Ramparts

The ramparts of St Paul de Vence were finished in 1547 and they still hold St Paul de Vence together today. These ramparts remind us that St Paul was once a military stronghold and they are very cool to see. Walk along the top of the ramparts for the best vantage point over the villages below. You can walk on top of the walls when the gates are open, and this is a brilliant way to see the countryside.

Walk to the Cemetary and see Mac Chagall’s grave

While you are in the neighborhood, you might as well stop in the cemetery to have a look around. It’s a unique setting and I love seeing the frequent names of families who clearly had a big influence in the history of St Paul de Vence. One of its most famous residents is Marc Chagall, an all around artist and painter. He’s probably most well known for his paintings of religious themes, and ones where you’ll frequently see a bride, a bouquet, a horse or a chicken, or a combination of all of them. But he also did tapestries, stained glass, ceramics and mosaics.

Chagall moved to Vence in 1949 after WWII, but it wasn’t until 1966 that he moved to St Paul, which is where he passed away in 1985. If you enjoy Chagall’s works then you absolutely must visit the National Chagall Museum in Nice.

Take a stroll past the quasi flat iron Jacque Prevert home

Jacque Prevert was a poet, screenwriter and artist who lived in St Paul de Vence for some 15 years. He was drawn away from Paris in 1941 when the Victorine Film Studios in Nice were in their hey-day. And he was also instrumental in the set up of Fondation Maeght. You also find collages he created that adorn the walls of the famous Colombe d’Or hotel.

Fondation Maeght

Fondation Maeght is one one of the largest and most important private collections of modern and contemporary art in France. It’s located just 1/2 mile before St Paul de Vence village. If you are on the bus from Nice, it’s the stop just before St Paul, and is sign posted. You can then walk up the steep road onto the grounds.

Dungeon of Saint-Paul-de-Vence or the tour de la Mairie

This dungeon or Donjon, as it’s referred to in French, is actually the first structure that was the start of St Paul de Vence. The base formed part of the original Chateau. It dates from the 1100s, and the bell tower was installed in the 1440s. It is now the town hall of St Paul de Vence and you can get married there. They also refer to it as, The Keep.

L’Eglise Collégiale

The Collegiate Church was built in the 1300s and finished in the 1700s. It’s the main church of St Paul de Vence, but is not considered a cathedral. The lighting makes it quite sombre inside, but it’s very unique, architecturally, built in Romanesque style. There are 4 chapels inside, one in Baroque style, and others have paintings, antiquities, parchment from the 1500s, and jewellery. The bell tower is from the 1700s. Pop on in and take a look. It’s nice and cool on a hot summer’s day.

Walk thru the cobblestone path and pop into various arts shops

St Paul de Vence is a place where you just have to wander around instead of ticking the must see attraction. Go inside the cute shops, explore all the quaint alleys, buy yourself a painting or two and chose a restaurant to have lunch and coffee afterward.

We had a nice lunch in the village before continuing out journey to Cannes. Instead of taking the bus 400 we took the train to Cannes to save the time.

CANNES

Once a small fishing village,  Cannes is now a glamorous and expensive seaside town considered to be one of the social hubs of Europe. Its moment to shine arrives in May where the Cannes Film Festival takes place, entertaining the rich and famous. During the festival, fans can see actors, celebrities, and directors up close and in person on the famous steps of the Palais des Festivals at the end of La Croisette.

How to get there

Although its nightlife, casinos and high end restaurants give Cannes a feel of exclusivity, Cannes does have alternatives to suit all types of budgets. Tourists can check out the beauty and architecture of Le Suquet, with its cobbled streets and breathtaking views, or sit at street side tables and enjoy the favored hobby of people watching up and down the lovely marina.

You can take the bus no 400 from Nice, the same bus that takes you to st Paul de Vence or taking a train which will be faster (30-40 minute) and cost €1.50. Cannes’ train station is walking distance to La Croisette (where Cannes film festival takes place annually)

What to Do

Walk up Boulevard de la Croisette

Next to Monte Carlo in Monaco, La Croisette has the highest concentration of designer boutiques on the French Riviera. Along with haute boutiques like Chanel and Dior, you’ll find colourful sculptures, grand hotels and a parade of pricy sports cars. Unlike Promenade des anglais in Nice, Boulevard de la Croisette equals glitz.

Check the Other Side of the Promenade de la Croisette

If you cross the street to the Mediterranean side, the boulevard is transformed into a lively beachside promenade complete with palm trees, beaches, food stands, playgrounds and bright blue chairs – pull one up, sit back and watch the scene.

You’ll even find the cheery sight of a carousel, so it’s a great place to hang out in Cannes with family.

Take a picture at the red carpet

You can find the red carpet on the steps of the film festival building, the Cannes Palais des Festivals et des Congrès at the west end of La Croisette. The blocky Modernist-style building seems awfully utilitarian for hosting such a glittery event, but it’s celebrity central anyway. Inside Cannes Palais des Festivals et des Congrès are 15 auditoriums where you can watch the films.

The Tourism Office is located at the base of the building. You can pick up a map or getting information on Cannes points of interest you can’t find online.

Check out the yachts at Vieux Port

Just past the Palais des Festivals building to the west is the old port, the Vieux Port. Here you can get so close to the sleek-looking yachts it seems only fitting the global elite invite you onboard. I find the marina, one of the prettiest places to visit in Cannes; full of gleaming sailboats, fishing boats and floating palaces that add to the exclusive French Riviera mystique.

Explore Le Suquet, The Old Town

From the Vieux Port you’ll spot the the Old Town rising up in a peak of red tiled roofs, weathered stone and walls of faded ochre and pink.

This old quarter of Cannes has been around a lot longer than the film festival or the flashy shops on La Croisette. In fact, the Romans were here for five centuries, and the Ligurians before that. In the 12th century, the land became the property of Cistercian monks who built a castle fortress at the top of the hill, the Château de la Castre.

Nowadays Rue Saint-Antoine, once the domain of fishermen, is now a pedestrianized street lined with bistros and souvenir shops, with restaurants like Table 22 upping the culinary game from touristy to gourmet.

The castle fortress is now a museum called the Musée de la Castre, and houses a mixed bag of artifacts ranging from 19th century landscapes to Tibetan masks. The museum isn’t going to take up much of your time, but it’s the journey that counts. One of the most popular things to do in Cannes Old Quarter is to walk the 109 steps up to the castle for the stunning views over the Bay of Cannes. However instead of walking, we hop on to the petite train which took us to the top.

At the top, our petite train stopped for a break and gave us time to go inside Eglise Notre Dame d’Esperance, a notable Cannes landmark that took more than 100 years to complete.

If it was cold and rainy yesterday in Monte Carlo but Cannes today felt like we were at the midst of summer. Tired of walking in the heat, we decided to hop on the mini train to sightseeing around Cannes.

Hit the Beach

We seriously felt so we got the wrong costume when we saw people are already sunbathing on the beach in March. You can go deluxe and pay for a lounge bed and wait service at a private beach club like Mademoiselle Gray Plage Barrière, or grab your favourite beach essentials and plunk your towel down for free in 5-star territory at the public Palais Festivals Beach. If you have one full day in Cannes and the weather is nice and sunny, you can take boat excursion to the Calanques of the Esterel or take the half day catamaran cruise with lunch.

Shop at Rue d’Antibes

While most tourists window shop on La Croisette’s high end designer shops, they do the actual shopping on Rue d’Antibes. This busy shopping street that runs behind La Croisette is full of shoe stores, perfumeries and clothing boutiques that range from international chains like Zara and Mango to French fashion brands such as Morgan and Maison 123.

We had a nice dinner in Cannes around 8 before returning to Nice by train.

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