7 hilltop villages to gaze out at the Mediterranean

Equally as charming as the coastline of the Côte d’Azur—its beaches, its capes, the Croisette and promenades from Nice to Cannes—is its hinterland. Here are villages perched as balconies with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean and the Alps, a few kilometers from the coast. Take in the fresh air at high altitude, relax on a café terrace, stroll through shady lanes and discover beautiful museums and heritage sites. Here is our selection of our favorite high-altitude villages of the French Riviera.

Vence, a must-see

Facing the sea, leaning against the plateaux and flat-topped cliffs, Vence seems to have been spared by the weather. Wander through picturesque narrow streets, from medieval homes to a charming little square, between shops and galleries. Like Saint-Paul de Vence, stronghold of the Maeght Foundation, a few kilometers away, the small Riviera city is a favorite of artists and artisans. Matisse designed the Rosary Chapel, white and arresting, clad in blue glazed tiles and stained glass windows that filter the beautiful light of the Côte d'Azur.
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The village of Eze, the eagle's nest

Èze is a medieval city perched on what seems like an enormous eagle's nest above the Mediterranean sea, with an exotic garden nestled in the ruins of an ancient fortress. The site of the village of Eze is one of the most beautiful, and undoubtedly the most extraordinary view of the Côte d'Azur, ranging from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. Shops, artisans, perfume factories, hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants complete the scenery. Further down, the seaside of Eze, a small beach resort is dotted with elegant Belle-Époque villas which blend in seamlessly.
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Gilette, the sweetness of living

On a rocky outcrop, the ruins of the old Château de l’Aiguille have been looking over Gilette and its inhabitants for about 800 years. Acessible by calm, colorful narrow streets that testify to the sweetness of life and the flavor of traditions in this village. Wash houses, fountains, oil mills and a small museum of trades of yesteryear all make for refreshing and interesting stops. From the panoramic viewpoint and the esplanade of the castle, spectacular views of the village, the mountains, the surrounding rivers and even the Mediterranean, in the distance, reward the brave.
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Cagnes-sur-Mer, the aesthete

In Cagnes-sur-Mer, there is the beach and Polygone Riviera, the first outdoor shopping mall. On higher ground lies an authentic medieval village with the Grimaldi castle museum overlooking the sea from behind all its crenellations. Haut-de-Cagnes has attracted many personalities and artists, such as painter Auguste Renoir, whose beautiful home is open to visitors at "Domaine des Collettes". In the main village square, lined with pedestrian streets full of pretty houses and flower gardens, you can attend a game of boules with Provençal locals or admire the sunset dipping below the sea.
Visit Cagnes-sur-Mer
(External link)

Carros village, the picturesque

With the peaks of Mercantour National Park in the background, its traditional medieval architecture, its old houses and its castle housing an International Center for Contemporary Art, Carros village has earned its place in the list of picturesque sites in the Maritime Alps. At 400 m (1312 feet) of altitude, it offers its visitors a sublime view of the plain of Var, from the sea to the peaks of the Alps.
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Tourrette-Levens, the white

On one side, the sea; on the other, the mountains. Wherever you look from the heights of Tourrette-Levens, the view is exceptional. Nestled around the square tower of its old castle, said to be one of the most beautiful in the region, the village is captivating at first glance. Ramparts and old houses in white stone are arranged in a perfect composition, and the perfect harmony makes you want to stay longer. This is perfect, since several museums—of natural history and butterflies, traditional crafts or even Prehistory—welcome visitors for a nice, long stay for free.

Falicon, the fortified one

On a hill studded with olive and fig trees overlooking the city of Nice, Falicon seems to be watching over its big neighbor. Behind its ramparts, still pierced by fortified gates, discovering the village is a workout for the legs, but the charm of the place makes you forget the climb thanks to its spiral lanes, little cobblestone squares, vaulted passages and baroque houses with pastel-colored facades and surprising frescoes in trompe l'oeil style. From the well-named Bellevue ("Beautiful View") plateau, the view is simply breathtaking.

Getting to the Côte d’Azur