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France

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice

Are you wanting to have a birds-eye view of the French Riviera coast and mountains? Than why not visit some of the beautiful hilltop villages or villages perches – where in some cases you can be as high as 1,500 meters above sea level. The Alpes-Maritimes department in south-east of France, which includes the Côte d’Azur, is home to several hundred medieval hilltop villages and fortified towns. Most villages emerged during the 12th and 13th centuries, and what they all have in common is that they were built in strategic locations, to protect themselves from invasion, often on rocky cliff faces 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, it is breathtaking.

Knowing which ones to visit, especially when you only have a limited number of days, is important. Our home base for a week was Nice, and we put a lot of kilometers on our convertible Fiat visiting so many wonderful places, so here is my recommendation of the top 5 hilltop villages you should visit in this area.   

St Paul de Vence

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | St Paul de Vence | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Inspired by the beauty of the surrounding area, some of the world’s best artists of the likes of Picasso, Chagall and Matisse, pay tribute to this village as inspiring their best work. You can find a large collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings in the Fondation Maeght.

5 Hilltop Villages in France Close to Nice | St Paul de Vence | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Today, it is chock full of art galleries and studios. Simply wander and get lost in the maze of charming alleyways where you will find lovely squares, ancient fountains, weathered doors and an abundant of gardens. 

5 Hilltop Villages in France Close to Nice | St Paul de Vence | www.DreamPlanExperience.com
5 Hilltop Villages in France Close to Nice | St Paul de Vence | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Eze

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Eze | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Perched in an “eagle’s nest” fashion, this village can be viewed from afar due to its ochre colour church and botanical hillside garden filled with interesting statues, cacti and tropical plants; as well as, “Nietzshche way”, due to him writing some of his most famous works walking up and down these winding pathways. 

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Eze | www.DreamPlanExperience.com
There is a small admission price to enter, but you will be awarded with some spectacular panoramic views of village rooftops and the coastline below.
5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Eze | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Within the village, you will find the same crooked, winding cobblestone alleyways, shaded squares, ancient fountains and colourful window boxes and weathered doorways. There is a reason why this is likely one of the most visited villages in this area, as it is so beautiful.

Due to the high number of tourists, you will find souvenir shops, cafes and a large number of 5-star hotels and Michelin star restaurants. Eze is also home to one of the Fragonard factories which you can tour for free. Do not let the number of visitors deter you from visiting this lovely village, trust me, once there, you won’t want to leave.

Peillon

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Peillon | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

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. Once inside this fortified village, you can admire these ancient houses up-close and the lovely weathered doorways. 

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Peillon | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

This village provides panoramic views of the surrounding forested mountains, valleys, distant cities and of Mediterranean. You will have to park below and venture up on foot, and the best part, there are very few tourists, and anything that caters to tourists, here. It is quiet, peaceful and undeniably charming.

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Peillon | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Peille

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Peille | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Peille is a charming ancient village clinging to the side of a mountain facing Monaco and Menton. Lose yourself in its narrow alleyways, small but beautiful squares, ancient fountains and stone archways. This village has conserved its courthouse and few chapels, dating back to many centuries ago. 

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Peille | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Unique to this village is the surrounding walking tours, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours. It is a great way to explore the countryside and yes, take in more of those glorious views.

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Peille | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

Roquebrune Cap Martin

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Roquebrune Cap Martin | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

With a seaside resort below,  it is there where you will find luxury villas, with its history of former famous guests of Coco Channel, Winston Churchill and royalty. But to find the ancient village it is actually perched up high above. What remains now is its 11th century castle and a chapel. But, the real reason to go here is the closeup views of the Mediterranean, making this a bit unique to the other hilltop villages. We had the entire place to ourselves, and the vista made it all worthwhile.

5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice France | Roquebrune Cap Martin | www.DreamPlanExperience.com

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14 Comments

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

    • The.Holidaymaker

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

  • Rhonda Albom

    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.

  • Sandra Papas

    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!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Tania Muthusamy

    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!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Heather

    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!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

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