If you love charming villages with oodles of historic monuments and art galleries, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is definitely somewhere you should put on your must-see list. Located in the Alpes-Maritime department on the French Riviera, this medieval village is one of the prettiest hilltop towns of Provence.
Cobbled streets, centuries old buildings, small squares, vaulted passageways, arcades and ancient fountains galore make this one of the most loved villages in southern France.
Why visit Saint-Paul de Vence?
For its historical heritage
Saint-Paul-de-Vence has an ancient heritage. Among the monuments, some of which are classified Historic Monuments, there is a fortified medieval wall. You can climb on the narrow ramparts and take a tour around the village. The keep is also worth seeing, it’s the only remains of the old fortress dating from the 12th century, though now it is the town hall.
This picturesque village also has a strong religious heritage. The Romanesque church, which was transformed into a collegiate church in the 17th century, contains a magnificent Baroque chapel as well as relics from the catacombes of Rome.
For its very welcoming atmosphere
Although this village is very touristy (especially in summer), there is a very warm and friendly atmosphere. Plan to take a stroll through its alleys at the end of the afternoon when most tourists have left. The weather is very clement, and the scent of blossom is delightful. The village has many small cafés with outdoor tables, mouth-watering restaurants and beautiful hotels – places which tempt you to linger on sun-kissed summer evenings.
A village of artists
Many artists have been drawn to in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. And it is not very difficult to understand why! Matisse, Braque, Calder, Miro, Modigliani, Picasso as well as Giono, Prévert and Chagall – all fell in love with the old village. They left behind numerous literary, sculptural and pictorial works. Chagall lived there at the end of his life and is buried in the village cemetery.
Even today, the village is full of small art galleries (especially in Rue Grande) where you can find very beautiful pieces made by local artists.
Places to see in Saint Paul de Vence
A must-see in Saint-Paul -de-Vence, the splendid and tranquil chapel dates from the 17th century. It was once the seat of the brotherhood of the White Penitents. What makes it so special? Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon painted it from floor to ceiling in 2005. The pastel colours, lines and sleek designs are captivating. The stained-glass windows are superb. It is a creation of simplicity and authenticity, exquisitely beautiful.
The museum of local history
Opposite the Chapel is a museum of wax figures dressed in period costumes, created by the world famous Musée Grévin in Paris. Reconstructions of life of the village in the old days featuring characters such as the Count of Provence, Queen Jeanne, Francis I and Vauban, Louis XIV’s master engineer.
The Maeght Foundation
The Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation is one of the world-leading cultural institutions. It is a unique architectural ensemble, designed by architect Josep Lluis Sert to present modern and contemporary art in all its diversity. Painters and sculptors worked in collaboration with the Catalan architect. Their ensuing works are integrated into the building and nature. The Giacometti courtyard, the Mirò labyrinth, the mosaics of Chagall, the basin and stained-glass window of Braque and the Bury fountain plus many more.
La Colombe d’Or, the emblematic restaurant of Saint-Paul-de-Vence
This restaurant is legendary. Since opening in the 1930s, La Colombe d’Or has cultivated an offbeat lifestyle and a traditional Provencal gourmet menu. The passionate owners, the Roux family have always been art lovers. The restaurant has been a popular haunt for artists including Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Léger, Calder and César. Each left examples of their works there, creating an incredible collection of paintings. You’ll need to book in advance, the restaurant is very popular!
Chantille de Lincourt is a freelance travel writer and photographer who specialises in small villages and French heritage. Find out more on her blog www.villagesetpatrimoine.fr
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