Are you wanting to have a birds-eye view of the incredible French Riviera coastline? Why not visit some of the beautiful hilltop villages or villages perchés.  The Alpes-Maritimes department in southeast France, commonly known as Côte d’Azur, is home to countless medieval hilltop villages. Where in some cases you can be as high as 1,500 meters above sea level. Here are the best 5 hilltop villages near Nice worthy of adding to your itinerary. (Updated: November 2022)

Côte d’Azur Villages

Most villages in the Cote d’Azur emerged during the 12th and 13th centuries. What they all have in common is that they were built in strategic locations, to protect themselves from invasion, often on rocky cliffs making it hard to access and easy to defend. They each have a center point, the church and a bell tower, with the curvy cobbled alleyways winding down from there. You may also find large archways and tunnels, that presumably would have provided some shelter to the outdoor elements. Many still have a castle, or ruins of a castle, nearby. Needless to say, they are all breathtaking. Be prepared to park your car just outside the town limits and walk to the centre of town. 

stone courtyard with ivy

Related reading | Your Guide to Nice and The Top Things to Do

Best Hilltop Villages near Nice

ST PAUL DE VENCE

St Paul de Vence is considered one of France’s most beautiful villages. With cobbled streets, centuries-old buildings, tiny squares and lovely fountains at every turn, this pretty hilltop village is a definite must-see.  

stone village perched on hill in france

The beautiful hilltop village of Saint Paul de Vence inspired some of the world’s best artists, like Picasso, Chagall and Matisse. A large collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings can be found in the art galleries dotted through this lovely village, especially along rue Grande. If you only visit one, go to Fondation Maeght, where they combine the love of architecture, art and nature together. The best thing to do in St Paul de Vence is to simply wander and explore. Walk along the fortified medieval wall, climb the narrow ramparts, and stroll through the vaulted passageways and you’ll feel the history here. Gazing upon the weathered ancient doors and potted plants is a photographer’s dream. 

For a tiny village, there is no shortage of restaurants in St Paul de Vence. The most legendary is La Colombe d’Or. This restaurant has been serving guests since the 1930s. It was a favourite of many artists and writers, some of which left behind their work creating an art gallery feel to this restaurant. Reservations are a must. 

15km west of Nice – recommend going to the nearby village of Vence 

Experience | Head to Saint Jeannet for a winery tour and tasting and visit Saint Paul de Vence on this half-day tour from Nice, click here.

EZE

Eze is one of the prettiest villages, but also the hilliest. Be prepared to climb – a lot. But, it’s worth it as the views are simply incredible which makes Eze a must-visit day trip from Nice.  

village perched on hilltop with views of sea

Eze is perched in an “eagle’s nest” fashion. This beautiful village can be viewed from afar due to its ochre colour church. A botanical hillside garden filled with interesting statues, cacti and tropical plants is a must-visit while in Eze. Take the path called “Nietzsche way” paying tribute to the philosopher writing some of his most famous works while walking up and down these winding pathways. Within the village, you will find the same crooked, winding cobblestone pathways. Shaded squares, ancient fountains and pretty doorways filled with colourful window boxes are abundant. Tour, for free, the Fragonard perfume factory. 

Due to the high number of tourists, Eze has many shops, restaurants and hotels. Stay and dine at 400-year-old Chateau Eza, offering the best views of the French Riviera.  Don’t let the number of visitors deter you from visiting this lovely village, trust me, once here, you’ll never want to leave.

12km east of Nice – recommend visiting nearby Monaco and Beaulieu Sur Mer

Experience | Join a tour from Nice and visit the village of Eze and perfume Fragonard, along with the Monaco, and the circuit of Formula 1, click here.

PEILLON

Peillon is a beautiful hilltop village that is perched on a sheer cliff. This tiny tightly-packed village won’t take you long to explore, but it is definitely worth visiting. 

Peillon, the south of France. This village is tiny, but spectacular. You are immediately struck by the tall stone-built houses that appear to be carved out of a rock.

Peillon may be tiny, but it is spectacular. You are immediately struck by the tall stone-built houses that appear to be carved out of a rock. Once inside this fortified medieval village, you can admire these ancient houses up-close and the lovely weathered doorways. Stroll the narrow cobblestone streets, vaulted bridge and stone staircases. Visit the baroque church and chapel and view the 15th-century frescos. Peillon provides panoramic views of the surrounding forested mountains, valleys, distant towns and the Mediterranean sea. 

Peillon is a hidden gem with very few tourists that visit here. It is quiet, peaceful and undeniably charming.

20km northeast of Nice – recommend visiting nearby La Turbie and Menton 

PEILLE

Peille is an ancient village clinging to the side of a mountain facing Monaco and Menton. Lose yourself in its narrow streets, small but beautiful squares, pretty fountains and stone archways. 

Peille is a charming ancient village clinging to the side of a mountain facing Monaco and Menton, in the south of France.

The hilltop village of Peille feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Many of the buildings date back to the 12th century. There are four religious monuments to visit. The village Church of Sainte Marie from the 13th century, the Chapel of the Misericords (now an oil mill), Chapel Saint-Sebastien (now the town hall) and the Chapel Saint-Joseph. Unique to this village is the surrounding walking tours, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours. It’s a great way to explore the countryside and yes, take in more of those stunning views.

Peille may be a bit remote, and off the beaten path for most tourists which is a reason to add it to your day trip from Nice. Don’t expect to find many shops or restaurants- only a charm can be found here.

25km northeast of Nice – recommend visiting nearby La Turbie and Menton

ROQUEBRUNE CAP MARTIN

The hilltop village of Roquebrune Cap Martin is known as the gem of the French Riviera gem. As it lies very close to the Mediterranean sea and has views of nearby Monaco. 

hilltop village with bell tower and sea views

Roquebrune Cap Martin has two distinct parts. A seaside resort closest to the coastline is where you’ll find luxury villas where former guests of Coco Channel, Winston Churchill and royalty would stay. The ancient village of Roquebrune Cap Martin has perched up high above. What remains now is an 11th-century castle and chapel. But, the real reason to go here is for the close-up views of the Mediterranean, making this a bit unique to the other hilltop villages. 

views of town by sea

25km east of Nice – recommend visiting nearby  Menton, Monaco and  Beausoleil

As a holidaymaker…

The French Riviera, or la Côte d’Azur, stretches from Marseille to Menton. It’s a stunning coastline that attracts many. But there are still some quiet and peaceful spots to be found. Go a bit inland and visit some of the most beautiful hilltop villages close to Nice. 

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41 Comments

  1. Such dreamy settings. I loved Eze in particular. As you said, it does seem like a climb worth the view. And plus I would love to visit the Fragonard factory – did not know that it was here. I so hope to get to Nice and South of France. Will definitely be making time for these villages.

  2. Each of these hilltop villages close to Nice look fabulous in their own right. I especially love the idea of Nietzshche strolling through Eze, and artists creating sketches while dining in St. Paul de Vence. And, the appeal of fewer tourists of charming Peillon makes it quite attractive! But for me, the draw always seems to be the ocean; so if I had to chose one to visit, it would be Roquebrune Cap Martin. Of course, ideally, I would love to tour all of these lovely medieval hilltop towns. I hope someday I have that opportunity!

  3. When I went to Nice about 8 years ago, I literally just had time to visit one and it was Cote d’Azur. I was truly mesmerized by how charming it was! I didn’t know there were so many others but to be honest, I still feel with the limited timein hand, Cote d’Azur was probably the best choice out of all!

  4. We really wanted to explore more of the small villages around Nice when we visited. We loved a half day as we wandered in Eze. But never made it to these other lovely villages.. These hilltop villages provide great spots for panoramic views. And narrow streets to wander. I am just imagining heading back again and exploring more.

  5. I have read a lot about Côte d’Azur,. But now, I got a virtual tour of the quiet areas around too. If I do get to visit the area, then St Paul de Venice is on my list. I could just imagine myself sitting by the fountains and walking through cobbled streets.

  6. Wow, charming villages, indeed! I’m fascinated by the cobbled alleyways and archways. These hilltop villages are well worth a visit. Just by looking at the shots, I’m enamored by the breathtaking views from up top. In the near future, I’d like to explore more of this location.

  7. This hilltop villages close to Nice look so dreamy. I would love to visit one or two of them when I am in the area. Hopefully threre are buses running to this villages from Nice. I do not like driving on Mountain roads and I guess parking space might be a problem in the villages (expecially in summer).

  8. Eze is one of my favourite French villages and I hope to visit it again at some point. The other ones you have highlighted all look charming and I think the walking tour of Peille is something I would enjoy.

  9. I can’t blame why tourists love Eze. Just from your description and pictures, I fell in love with the village already. The botanical hillside garden is very unsual. But I prefer to walk down only, not up and down like Nietzsche did.

  10. I had no idea there were so many beautiful hilltop villages in this region. I visited Nice years ago and loved it but I might have to return and explore some of these quaint little villages. So pretty, and what incredible views

  11. Those are beautiful little villages with fantastic views! I love exploring little towns and villages, but what makes it even better is when they have great views of the town itself, mountains, or rivers. Great post!

  12. The photos on this post are stunning, really capturing the essence of the architecture of these villages. Its an area of France I’ve heard a lot about but have never explored and this post encourages me to plan for this one day. The walking tour of Peille is something that would definitely interest me. Thanks for the info.

  13. This is exactly the type of article I’m looking for when researching the best views for destinations. I can only imagine how great the photography (which is my goal) is from these hilltop villages. Interesting that each has a center point, church and bell tower! I think my favorite is Eze both for its eagle-nest style (love how it stands out alone almost) and its concentration of Michelin start restaurants!

    1. Thank you Heather, I am glad that you think this would be helpful to those who may be traveling to this area. Eze is definitely my favourite too for those very reasons.

  14. I went to Nice on a tour many years ago and spent a day in St Paul de Vence. The town, especially the alleys and fountains are magical. I would love to visit the other hilltop villages, like Roquebrune Cap Martin for the views of the Mediterranean. If it was good enough for Coco Chanel, then it’s good enough for me!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, the interesting part about that place is it is split into two – most people just visit the lower portion which is very similar to Monaco, but it is the original upper part, where all there is, is an old castle ruin is where you see those uninterrupted views of the Mediterranean.

  15. We spent 4 days in Nice a few years ago but did not get to any of these villages sadly. There was a taxi strike at the time and things were a bit nuts. Oh well, next time, especially Eze I hope!

    1. Well, at least there is a lot to see and do in Nice. We spent just over a week there and felt like it wasn’t enough time. Thanks for commenting.

  16. Beautiful villages. I think if I visited one of them I would feel like I was in a movie. Love the old bricks and the little fountains. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hello Mayi, yes they are. I haven’t been to Rocamadour, but it is on my list! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading the blog. Yes, you are right, as soon as you arrive, you daydream what it must be like to live there. It would be so lovely. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    2. These hilltop villages in Nice are incredibly beautiful with quaint cobblestone pathways, chapels and splendid coastlines with panoramic views.

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