Col de Vence

The unexpected metropolitan territory

1 September 2021

Discover the unusual Nice Côte d’Azur, through its places, accommodation and restaurants that are off the beaten track.

1 – Unexpected places

The coastal and hinterland hiking trails are often an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and reconnect with nature. However, at the bend in the path, you can discover sites with an unexpected past steeped in history!

You think the French Riviera holds no secrets for you anymore?!
You’ll be surprised to discover the wonders and unexpected places it has to offer that are just waiting to be explored!

Ideally located between the sea and the mountains, the destination Nice Côte d’Azur abounds with amazing sites and addresses both at the top of the slopes and along the seaside. Keep your eyes open because the vast natural spaces, the hiking trails or some of the establishments may surprise you!

At the bend in the footpaths…

A monumental bronze virgin at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

At the bend in the customs officers’ path from Pointe Saint-Hospice to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, take the Edmund David crossing towards the chapel of the same name. You won’t want to miss the monumental bronze statue (listed as a historic monument since 1929) that sits on the forecourt next to the building. 11m40 high, this bronze statue is an ex-voto representing the Virgin and Child. Surprise guaranteed!

Access: from the Peace Garden, crosses Edmund Davis.
Duration: 40 minutes (1 hour with the visit of the Chapel)


A pyramid on the slopes of Mont Chauve in Falicon

No need to go to Egypt to see a pyramid! Located a few kilometers from Nice, opposite the village of Falicon, on one of the slopes of the Mont Chauve, you will be surprised to discover one that dominates the Ratapignata (bat in Niçois) cave. Today almost in ruins and planted in the middle of the garrigue, this building is registered as a historical monument since August 7th, 2007.

Discovered in 1803, the origin of its creation has given free rein to several theories (ancient Gallo-Roman temple, refuge of the Templars or landmark for the plague victims of the Black Death …).

Access: from the Saint-Michel area above the Gairaut district.
Beware, the path is not marked to reach the pyramid. Take the Châteaurenard path (marked out on the GR5) until you reach a ruin. Leave the GR and take the narrow path on your right just after the ruin. You will see the Pyramid at the last moment, just below you.
Duration: about 45 minutes

The arsenic mine of l’Eguisse in Duranus

A gold mine? …almost! Located 30km from Nice, in the Vésubie gorges, the village of Duranus shelters the remains of an arsenic mine that you will be able to see during your hike from the Eguisse mine. During your ascent, you will find at the level of a plateau the old arsenic mine which was in activity at the beginning of the last century (from 1913 to 1931). The remains of the factory are still visible, such as the imposing chimney (which can be seen in the distance from the village, which may seem surprising in such an environment!), twisted rails, a gallery entrance or old ruined huts and rusty machines (beware, access is forbidden).
On the village square of Duranus, some pieces of the equipment used during the exploitation of the mine are presented.

Access: from the village of Duranus
Duration: 4H (the plateau is about halfway)

Prehistoric engravings of the Parc National du Mercantour from Belvedere

Take a leap into prehistory and discover “the wonders “* that are open to you!

The Vallée des Merveilles site, located at an altitude of more than 2000 metres, contains an open-air treasure trove of more than 40,000 rock engravings drawn on rocks polished by glaciers.
This unique site has been classified as a Historic Monument since 1989 and is one of the largest rock engraving sites in Europe! To discover absolutely!

Possible access: from the “Pont du Countet” at Belvédère
Duration: about 4 hours

* site accessible only in the presence of a guide

Unusual passes, circuits and routes

The roads of the metropolitan territory are a true wonder and offer you varied landscapes. Don’t be surprised to find unusual places sometimes just a few meters from your vehicle! So what are you waiting for to hit the road?!

Le Camp des Fourches on the highest asphalt road in France from Saint Dalmas le Selvage

It’s worth it!
Located 8 km from the Col de la Bonette at 2250 m altitude, Camp des Fourches looks like an abandoned village! You walk along the road towards the pass and cross a mountain barracks composed of stone huts built for alpine hunters (you can walk inside the Camp which has been restored by the Department to discover the history of this military site).
If you wish, you can push the walk to the Col des Fourches (15 minutes walk – very easy); the view is breathtaking, and you will find interpretation panels on the marmots that are omnipresent on the site!

The military remains of the Authion circuit from La Bollène Vésubie

In the same spirit, the Authion circuit offers you an unusual universe, between green landscapes and military remains. Barracks, ruins, tanks and fortifications will accompany you in your discovery of this strategic site of French military defence. At the top of the Pointe des 3 Communes, don’t miss La Redoute* which bears the same name and bears the scars of the liberation of France from the enemy during the 2nd World War.
*Visible from the outside, access is forbidden.

The fascinating Col de Vence

From exceptional landscapes to paranormal phenomena, the Col de Vence will not leave you indifferent!

Situated 10 km from Vence, it is an unmissable site which is part of the regional natural park of the pre-Alpes d’Azur. You will find incredible walks that offer different landscapes from those found in the Mediterranean. Recognized by ufologists as a mecca for UFO sightings, it is often linked to paranormal phenomena! (Keep your eyes open, you never know what you might encounter there!).

Curiosities in the heart of towns and villages

It is not uncommon to find curiosities in towns, some make crowds move and others are discovered almost by chance!


An ancient Greek villa in Beaulieu-sur-Mer*

During a visit, this dive into history will make you live a most unexpected experience! Be the privileged guest of this exceptional residence, a faithful reproduction of an ancient Greek villa.

Villa Kérylos is one of those Belle Epoque gems that you won’t expect to discover on the coast!

An obscure street in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Immerse yourself in medieval Villefranche by walking the 130 meters of the Rue Obscure! Imagine that this old defensive road was the object of a “wild” urbanization which explains its almost total covering. The mysterious atmosphere of the place inspired the artist Jean Cocteau, who filmed “Le Testament d’Orphée”.

A Roman sarcophagus in a wall in La Gaude

If, like the Roman legionnaires, you take the Aurelia Way from La Gaude, you won’t be able to miss the Roman sarcophagus embedded in a wall near the Living Ecomuseum of Provence. Less well known than the famous Cimiez arenas, this unusual vestige will arouse your curiosity, to say the least!

An archaeological crypt in Nice*

Become a witness of the medieval past of the city of Nice by visiting the remains of the fortifications in the Archaeological Crypt of the Place Jacques Toja in the Garibaldi district, which were buried for almost 3 centuries!

This most unexpected and perfectly preserved place was discovered during the creation of the first tramway line in 2006. It was the most important archaeological discovery since the foundations of the Louvre, due to its size and its remarkable state of preservation. The discovery can only be made during a guided tour.

La Grotte du Lazaret in Nice

Go back in time and discover the Grotte du Lazaret, a prehistoric site that retraces more than 70,000 years of the ancient history of mankind.

It has been classified as a Historic Monument since 1963.

Auron’s “Vertigo”

Step into the void! Don’t hesitate to walk the 5 meters of the “Vertigo”, this metal footbridge that bears its name well! Step over the void and let yourself be seduced by the 180° panorama that awaits you! The view is breathtaking over the Tinée valley and the high peaks of the Mercantour. Then will you dare to take the plunge?!

* Included in the French Riviera Pass

Vierge immergée@Eric Dallera

There are curiosities that are only visible under the sea!

Unusual diving spots are to be discovered along the metropolitan coastline.

In addition to the exceptional and rich fauna of the seabed of the coast, you will not be able to miss the “Cuttlefish of Nice” name given to a statue of the virgin which is immersed at the level of Rauba Capeu since the years 68.

On the Villefranche-sur-Mer side it is a wreck of a small plane which is still visible (don’t trade until it disappears) or that of a yacht which was wrecked off the Pointe Saint-Hospice at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat: the Shéhérazade.
Photo @Eric Dallera

2 – Unusual accommodation

Who hasn’t dreamt of sleeping in strange places?!
Perched in the trees, from the most basic to the most luxurious, the cabins are a real cocoon. Installed in the middle of nature, they allow you to enjoy a relaxing environment and live a unique experience.
A child’s dream come true!
On a completely different register, let yourself be tempted by a most original experience: sleeping under the stars … in a bubble!
The sky within reach of your bed!
And if not, why not try an eco-responsible establishment? Your conscience will thank you!

Where to sleep?

3 – Restaurants like no other

Establishments at the top

From the trendiest addresses on the coast to the high altitude establishments located at the top of the slopes, take to the heights to live an unforgettable experience (it is advisable not to be afraid of heights!).

The city of Nice abounds in trendy and unmissable bars on the rooftops of some hotels. Located on the seafront or in more discreet areas of the city, they offer exceptional panoramas. The opportunity to discover different points of view and to dominate the city of Nice.


View on the old town:

Moon Bar, of the Aston La Scala Hotel


A change of scenery and atmosphere! Take the direction of the ski resorts of the metropolitan territory that offer the most authentic natural rooftops! Imagine yourself sitting on the terraces of high-altitude restaurants with only green (or white!) as far as the eye can see and 360° panoramas. Feeling of freedom guaranteed!


The good deal:
All the ski lifts in the Mercantour d’Auron, Isola 2000 and Saint-Etienne de Tinée resorts will be free throughout the summer!

Unusual establishments

Live an atypical experience by having lunch or dinner in out-of-the-ordinary establishments!

Attend a horse race in Cagnes-sur-Mer

Eat while enjoying the show (on race days). Guaranteed adrenaline rush!

Le Pesage restaurant, Le Paddock brasserie and snack bars

Dinner under the stars at the Cagnard in Cagnes-sur-Mer

The magical atmosphere of the place and the sliding roof of the bistronomic restaurant will not fail to surprise you! Guaranteed wow effect!

Perching on a diving board! in Nice

Rarely has an establishment been so well named. “Le Plongeoir” in Nice, would almost make you want to dive directly into the Mediterranean.

Le Plongeoir @OTM NCA / J.Kelagopian

In a “boules” bar in Nice

Whether you are a petanque fan or simply curious about the concept, don’t hesitate to spend an evening at the first ephemeral boules bar set up at the Rosalina Bar of La Boulisterie.

Experience more

Émilie et Laetitia


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