Our suggestion for a 3-day itinerary to discover the pretty villages of the Nice Côte d’Azur coastline and middle country.
Preserved heritage, old stone facades, fountains and wash houses, arts and crafts, narrow and steep streets, old oil mills, chapels, panoramic views of the sea or the mountains, authentic gastronomy… Discover these old villages that have retained their charm of yesteryear!
You will appreciate particularly in this itinerary :
- The authentic villages
- The panoramas
- The preserved environment
- Proximity to the coast
- Rural and religious heritage
- Local gastronomy with the “cuisine nissarde” label
You will discover the towns and villages of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Vence, Saint-Jeannet, Saint-Laurent-du-Var, Carros, Gilette, Bonson, La Roquette-sur-Var, Tourrette-Levens, Castagniers, Falicon
Day 1 – Cagnes-sur-Mer, Vence, Saint-Jeannet, Saint-Laurent-du-Var
Discover the beautiful villages in the West of the Nice Côte d’Azur.
Discover the beautiful villages of the Nice Côte d’Azur metropolitan area. Start with the medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes (17 kilometres from Nice) whose Grimaldi castle-museum proudly dominates the city. Its fortress-like silhouette contrasts with the refined interiors resulting from the embellishments of the Baroque period. The Château-Musée Grimaldi houses the Olive Tree Museum, the Solidor donation and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
This area of Cagnes-sur-Mer, classified as a historic site, has managed to preserve the mystery of Provence’s strongholds. With its remarkable views of the Mediterranean and the Mercantour Massif, it is not surprising that the painters Soutine, Renoir, Modigliani or Ziem fell in love with it… It’s your turn! Guided tours are available all year round. Go to the Tourist Office for more information.
Then continue your discovery of Cagnes by the seaside and the charming little fishing port of Cros de Cagnes.
Surrounded by ramparts built in the 16th century, the old town centre has changed little over the centuries.
You will discover narrow streets, medieval and Renaissance houses, welcoming squares and squares where it is good to sit.
Don’t hesitate to also push the door of shops and galleries where you can admire the work of many artists. On the Place du Grand Frêne, in the Château de Villeneuve, discover the Musée de Vence-Fondation Emile Hugues which presents works by artists who lived or stayed in Vence (including Matisse).
If you wish to combine a visit with an activity, you can then, from Vence, go horse-riding, walking or cycling and discover the surrounding preserved nature. Go to the Tourist Office on the Place du Grand Jardin for more information on the possibilities of activities.
Would you prefer to stroll in another charming village? Go a little higher and continue on your way for 8 kilometres. Nestled at the foot of an immense Baou – an impressive cliff – the village of Saint-Jeannet will seduce you with its houses tightly packed together forming a rampart around the church. The village is still dominated by a fortified castle and the ruins of a dungeon. Offering a breathtaking panorama, the medieval village is also a real little paradise for lovers of climbing and hiking.
You can also go back to the seaside and walk along the Promenade des Flots Bleus and the lively port of Saint-Laurent-du-Var where many restaurants offer a varied cuisine. Have a nice evening!
Day 2 – Carros, Gilette, Bonson, La Roquette sur Var
Continue the discovery of the typical villages of the middle country of Nice by going to Carros, (25 kilometres from Nice).
At an altitude of 400 metres, between sea and mountains, this village of Carros, listed in the inventory of picturesque sites of the Alpes-Maritimes department, is organized around its 12th century castle and has kept all its traditional medieval architecture. Today, the castle is home to an international centre for contemporary art, an opportunity for a singular encounter between historical heritage and artistic creation.
Before arriving in Gilette, another charming village, make a stop at the private museum of the trades of yesteryear “Lou Ferouil“. From the road, even before entering the site, you will be intrigued by the old yellow and black jalopy that sits on the hillside and by the biplane that seems to be preparing for a new flight. You will see extraordinary things, witnesses of a past era…
Are you a little hungry? See you at the Lou Countea restaurant! The chef offers an authentic cuisine, rooted in the traditions of the region. The olive oil, pressed at the village mill, comes from his three-hundred-year-old olive grove. Taste his specialities: potato gnocchi, spinach chard platters, sweet chard tart and his pissaladière. The know-how of a culinary heritage of yesteryear is perpetuated here and it’s worth the detour as it’s so delicious.
Then wander through the peaceful and colourful alleys of Gilette. Climb up to the ruins of the castle, a listed site. There too, you will be entitled to a superb panorama of the village, the Estéron river and the rest of the valley.
9 kilometres further north, you will reach the village of Bonson, at an altitude of 480 m. Built lengthways, like a vertiginous belvedere, the village has preserved part of its medieval architectural heritage. Its southern slope is made up of restanques planted with olive trees. It has a church and several chapels, one of which has a blue-painted façade and has been transformed into a cultural centre.
On the way down to the seaside, make a stop at La Roquette-sur-Var, overlooking the Var Valley. You will appreciate the view. With a bit of luck, you will attend a lively game of petanque on the main square, an opportunity to chat with the Roquettans.
Finish your evening in one of the many restaurants in Vieux-Nice. In this unmissable area, we recommend the following restaurants with the “Cuisine Nissarde” label.
Jour 3 – Tourrette-Levens, Castagniers, Falicon
Other hilltop villages, not far from Nice, offer visitors a gentle tranquillity and extraordinary panoramas.
Climb to the top of the old village of Tourrette-Levens, up to the magnificent esplanade of the castle. Enjoy this exceptional view of the sea and the mountains and take a deep breath of the fresh morning air. The serenity and magic of this place will surely fill you with joy. Then enter the tower of the castle. Inside, the free museum of butterflies and insects will certainly amuse your children. On your way down, stop at the André Carles Museum of Traditional Crafts. This private collection invites you on a journey back in time. You will discover some 7,000 authentic tools used between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Surprising and fascinating!
(Cover photo, Tourrette-levens @Marc.Alfonsi)
Don’t miss a visit to the boutique atelier of the first emblematic blue chairs of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
You can also opt for a game trail in the village. The aim of this fun tour is to help visitors discover the hidden treasures of the village while having fun. It is organised around 6 stages that allow you to take a curious look at your surroundings, to get off the beaten track to observe known heritage elements, but also those that are hidden from the usual view. The visit is made by means of a booklet sold for 3 € in the shops in Turin.
More information regarding the Game trail.
The village of Castagniers is made up of residential hamlets in a quiet hinterland and the old village, the central square of which has a Saint-Michel parish church and contemporary works of art.
Time for lunch? Taste the Chez Michel restaurant.
Are you full now? Continue your taste discovery at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de la Paix where Cistercian sisters welcome you for a visit of their chocolate shop. Taste the milk-caramel chocolate. Made by hand by the workshop founded in 1950 in the abbey, it is also one of the references of the “chocolate sisters”!
With its surrounding countryside planted with olive trees, this medieval village of Falicon has retained all the charm of the perched villages of yesteryear. Behind the walls of its rampart, still pierced with fortified gates, small narrow and tortuous alleys and colourful flower-bedecked squares, Falicon will know how to charm you.
It is now dinner time at the restaurant “Au thé de la Reine” where you will be served excellent traditional Niçoise cuisine. Enjoy your meal!
Return to Nice
In only 8 kilometers, you will be back in Nice. Casinos, moonlight strolls on the Promenade des Anglais, cinemas, piano bars or pubs are possible components to end your evening and your stay in beauty. But there are many others…
You got it. The hinterland of Nice is full of cultural and culinary treasures. Enough to satisfy all your senses!