The exquisite Côte d’Azur, 115 kilometres (71 miles) of azure Mediterranean coast in the South of France, is a top global leisure and tourist destination. The year-round temperate climate, glittering beaches, turquoise sea, exciting festivals and renowned glitz and glamour attract over 13 million visitors to its beautiful countryside and shores every year.
The region also boasts cultural richness, historical significance, ancient architecture, quaint and picturesque villages, intriguing museums and striking gardens. Some of the best of these are high in the hills, offering breathtaking views of the French Riviera.
One of these hilltop gems is the medieval town of Èze. A sought-after location, away from the bulk of the summer crowds and offering unusual privacy, Èze attractions include appealingly authentic accommodation, a charming beach, a castle and exotic garden, an enticing cemetery, an ancient chapel, pretty winding streets and a heart-stopping view!
Is Èze Worth Visiting?
If you’re based in Nice or Monaco, head to the nearby open-air museum town of Èze for a day trip. Better still, schedule an overnight stay in this small yet magical village to make the most of this unique location. When visiting Èze in France, your trip to this hilltop haven could include a hike, Èze sightseeing, delightful dining, and time at the beach. With so many activities to enjoy and things to see in Èze, what more could you need?
How to Get to Èze
You can get there by car, train or bus.
From Nice, a self-drive will take around an hour, and you’ll need to find parking once you arrive.
However, the most affordable and convenient option is the number 82 bus from Nice (labelled ‘Passage Èze Village’). The trip will take longer than 60 minutes as the bus winds its way slowly up the steep roads. However, the journey allows you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the scenery, especially if you choose a sea-side window seat.
The train is also an enjoyable adventure; however, you’ll alight at sea level and need to hike up the hill to reach the village.
From Monaco, Èze is even closer: 10 minutes by train, 15 minutes by car or 25 minutes by bus (number 112 from Monte Carlo). You can also enjoy a pleasant one-and-a-half-hour walk if you’re up for it!
If you do decide to drive, there are numerous car parks sprinkled around the countryside close to Èze, as you cannot drive into the village itself. The car parks are well signposted and offer a shuttle bus service to the hilltop village.
Where to Stay in When You Visit Eze
If you want to experience Èze without the crowds, the best way is to stay overnight in the village. This way you can appreciate morning walks before the day trippers arrive, or watch the sunset over the village from your own private balcony.
There are only a handful of places to stay in Eze & you can’t go wrong with either of the following centrally located hotels:
La Chèvre d’Or – somewhat of an Eze icon, this 5-star hotel boasts the best views over the Cote d’Azur. Enjoy your own slice of Eze by wondering the private gardens, swimming in the cliffside pool, or eating in any of the on-site restaurants.
Chateau Eza – Offering beautifully decorated rooms in a traditional setting, this 5-star property also boasts sea views from the restaurant, and on-site spa services.
Top Things to Do in Èze Village in France
With the village being so compact, it’s easy to explore on foot, and at leisure. However, if you’re wondering what to do in Èze village, and its surrounds, here are some of our favourite activities and places to visit in Èze.
Preview the View of Èze From the ‘Bella Vista’
Before you even get to Èze, if you’re driving, be sure to pull over at the well-known viewing point, the Bella Vista, or get off the bus a stop early. There’s a short walk into the village, but it’s worth it.
From here, you can take in the view of Èze itself and the vast expanse of the stunning Côte d’Azur. As you near Èze, there’s a bridge to cross, with the village of Èze on your right.
Enjoy the Enchanting Village of Èze
This authentically medieval village offers an inspiring walk through its maze of narrow streets between traditional yellow-hued stone buildings. When you park your car or alight at the entrance, make sure you have your camera ready to make the most of every small and delightful detail.
A likely high point of your holiday, the destination is literally a high point of the French Riviera, often described as an ‘eagle’s nest’ thanks to being positioned on a cliff 427 metres or 1401 feet above the shining Mediterannean.
The area has been inhabited since 2000 BC, including by the Moors and Romans, and fortified by the House of Savoy. With the oldest building in the village dating to 1308, being surrounded by 700-year history will take your breath away. Take this in while you meander through the enchanting village to the garden at the top of the hill and perhaps the best views in the South of France.
Feast Your Eyes on, and in, L’Eglise d’Èze
The striking Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption is a neo-classical 18th-century catholic church on the Place de l’Église that can be seen for miles around. Once inside, the exquisite interior is fascinating. Look out for the Egyptian cross, reminding visitors of the original Phoenician temple built here to honour the goddess Isis, to whom, it’s told, the town owes its name.
Plan to spend a little time in this tranquil location, enjoying the beauty and splendour of the interior or meditating in the church’s peaceful and comforting ambience.
Survey a Riveting Vista From Le Jardin Exotique d’Èze
The Exotic Garden, also called the Jardin Botanique d’Èze, is located on the Place du Général de Gaulle, built atop the ruins of a castle.
This aptly named garden contains an intriguing collection of gorgeous succulents and cacti, including indigenous varieties and exotics from as far away as the Americas and Africa. The garden’s star attraction is an imposing 13-metre cactus weighing one ton. Designed and created after the Second World War in 1949, the park is situated on a steep slope dipping over 400 metres to the Mediterranean.
You’ll find strategically positioned signs displayed around the gardens detailing the history of some of the sights, helping the garden double up as a fresh-air museum. The striking site also offers a rocky terrace with thoughtfully placed chairs and sunbeds for visitors to relax and bask in the sun. So, take your time and enjoy.
In addition, being at the top of the hill, the views from the tiered garden with its spiralling path are panoramic and spellbinding, making the hike up the hill well worth it. From here, you can see the second most expensive residential area in the world after Monaco – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and even the silhouette of distant Corsica.
Pay Your Respects at Cimetière de Èze
Adjacent to the garden is a small but picturesque cliffside cemetery. Accessed through a rusty metal gate, this tiny graveyard houses gravestones and mausoleums, a peaceful location to spend a few hours during your Èze stay. Albeit the site is highly photogenic, please note that taking photographs inside the cemetery is not allowed.
From here, start making your way back down through the village.
Don’t Miss Out on the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix
The 14th-century Chapelle de la Sainte Croix is the oldest building in Èze, with architecture particular to when Èze was part of the Republic of Genoa. It was also where the brotherhood of the White Penitents of Èze would meet. The members of this lay order were tasked with providing medical assistance to the poor, caring for the sick, including lepers, and burying the dead. In Èze, they are renowned for assisting plague victims while wearing their signature white balaclavas and robes.
With its pebble mosaic porch, high alter and unusual Catalan crucifix representing the smiling Christ, this ancient chapel is a must-see for visitors. However, while the Èze church is hard to miss, the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix is easy to overlook as you explore the village. It’s located in a tunnel near the end of the Chemise de Chapelle, so keep an eye out for it on your wanderings.
Shop for Souvenirs, Savour Delicacies, and Stay Cool in Èze
After exploring and getting to know the village, it’s time for some rest, refreshments, art appreciation and retail enjoyment. As Èze has few residents, most of the town comprises appealing restaurants, hotels, boutique shops and art galleries.
Browse and shop for clothes, gifts or souvenirs, or enjoy some window shopping. Look out for quaint, low ceilinged stores, such as the Goat Cavern, where you can’t stand up straight. This quirk is thanks to the first floor historically providing accommodation for donkeys and goats while the second floor housed the humans (one of the many interesting facts you’ll learn in the Exotic Garden).
The local and hotel restaurants offer high-quality cuisine but can be pricey. However, for an iconic Èze dining experience, head to the Chateau Èze with its Michelin star restaurant, the two Michelin-star Les Remparts at Chateau of the Golden Goat (Château de Chèvre d’Or), or Le Nid d’Aigle.
Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, stock up on refreshments at the station and enjoy a picnic at any of Èze’s scenic locations. However, look out for gelaterias, such as at Le Glacier D’Èze at 10 Rue Plane, for affordable, delicious ice-creams, essential in the height of summer.
Breathe in the Scents of Èze’s Fragrant Perfumeries
For an informative and entertaining olfactory experience, you can also visit the Galimard perfume and soap factory or the Fragonard perfume factory, both open year-round.
Here you can enjoy a free tour of traditional scent and soap-making processes and stop to purchase a gift or keepsake from the onsite shop. The stunning premises blend ancient and modern, providing quality parfums, Eaux de cologne, Eaux de parfums, and gift-worthy home and bathroom scents.
Experience the Rugged and Romantic Nietzsche Path
After exploring the village, you may be wondering what else to do in Èze, France. In that case, just off the Avenue du Jardin Exotique, you’ll find the start of the Nietzsche trail, one of the most enjoyable experiences in the area.
This five-kilometre-long fairytale path down to the beach is truly magical. It’s named after the famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who came to the region after suffering a deterioration in his health. The beauty and impact of the route restored him to wellness and helped him realise some of his most radical ideas, eventually inspiring the third section of his novel, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The philosopher and writer claimed it was on this mountain path that ‘his creative energies flowed most abundantly’.
However, do be aware that the trail is steep and can be strenuous, so it’s best hiked downhill. The route takes at least an hour and requires sturdy walking shoes and adequate water.
Cool Down in the Welcoming Waters of Plage d’Èze
At the end of the Nietzsche trail, follow the signs to ‘La Plage’, and you’ll come to the beautiful local beach.
By now, you’ll be ready for a cool and inviting dip in the crystal-clear, calm water, ideal for swimming and watersports. This charming, family-friendly beach offers a lifeguard in summer and convenient toilet and shower facilities. In addition, running along the Avenue de la Liberté, the area provides access to restaurants for beach-side snacks and dining. Beyond the public access beach, two beach clubs provide parasols and sunbeds. Alternatively, although a verdant row of pine trees offers some shade, bring your own towels or picnic blankets as the pebbly beach can get hot.
Finally, with your dreamy day in Èze coming to a satisfying end, instead of returning uphill along the challenging Nietzsche path, make your way towards the beach club and through a tunnel to access the main road to the village. From here, walk up to retrieve your car or catch bus number 82 or 112 back to Nice or Monte Carlo. Note that, although the train is not ideal for arriving, it’s perfect for travelling back to your base, as the station is near the beach.
This perfect Mediterranean village is tiny and compact; you don’t really need to stick to an itinerary of things to do in Èze. Instead, you can see the whole medieval town in 30-minutes. Or, you can take hours to experience and digest each stunning, historic location listed above. Either way, don’t forget your comfy walking shoes, hat, sunblock and camera, and always carry water.
So visit Èze in France, and prepare to relax and be charmed. For, as Friedrich Nietzsche said of his time in Èze, ‘one could often have spotted me dancing: at that time I could wander through the mountains for seven or eight hours at a time without tiring. I slept well. I laughed a lot—I was fit as I could be, and I was patient.’