My visit to the adorable medieval hill town of Saint Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera, almost didn’t happen.
I’d read that the town was too touristy, way overcrowded, and had lost its charm. I actually almost skipped it and decided to do something else that afternoon. But my friends ganged up on me and insisted we couldn’t miss it, so we piled in the car and followed the tour bus up the hill.
And we all fell in love. Whether you’re here for the views, the old buildings, the pastries, or adorable flowers crawling up buildings, here are nine reasons that you, too, will fall in love with Saint Paul de Vence.
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It’s easy to navigate
There really is only one main street in St. Paul, which makes it really easy to get around. Sure, there are little side alleys and a couple of small branches here and there, but mostly you keep on trekking up (and yes, it is upward) that main street. Then I recommend navigating the outside, along the wall, and doing it all over again to see what you missed the first time.
Twisty, winding, steep paths
I mean, how cute are these little alleys?! The tall buildings block the intense sunlight and make this a cool, peaceful stroll.
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Medieval history and modern art
St. Paul is one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera, but has become known as an enclave for for modern and contemporary artists. This paradox is a huge part of the town’s charm and unique vibe. Wander through galleries or, if you’re not a huge art person (like me), watch other people enjoy it and eat a pastry while browsing past tons of colorful painting and sculpture galleries.
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Red vines—no, not the candy
These vines are the coolest. Full stop.
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Adorable little alcoves
Don’t you love when you turn a corner and are completely surprised by the view?? St. Paul offers that in spades, with super cute little nooks and crannies all over the place. Little fountains, bursts of flowers, a bright umbrella—luxuriate in the details (like that cute little “Eau Potable” fish sign there).
Shocker that this makes the list for me, I know 🙂 Since we were there in late afternoon and I’d already had like…3 almond croissants with my breakfast, I decided to branch out with an eclair. And cappuccino, because duh.
That is the face I made when I get a cappuccino and eclair. Though I’ll be honest, I’m definitely more a fan of cinnamon on my cappuccino rather than the chocolate powder Europe is so fond of.
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This building absolutely covered in ivy and purple flowers in late October
I was obsessed. There were tons of different buildings covered in vines and flowers, it was hard to pick a favorite. But this was my favorite. So…actually not so hard, I guess.
The shopping (though yes, it can be touristy and overpriced…)
I ended up getting an apricot hand cream that I adore (or j’adore!) in St. Paul. While the town has tons of kitschy souvenirs, it also has cute and not crappy-looking magnets and aprons and the like, delicious jams and honey, and obviously tons of art. Yes, you’ll pay too much for the art. But if you find a piece you love and it will be a treasured memory? I believe it’s worth it.
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Hill town = great views. For our last hour in Saint Paul de Vence, we found a terrace restaurant, ordered a carafe of wine, and just chilled. We didn’t feel the need to make conversation or fill the silence. We just took pictures, grinned like idiots, and let the quiet sink in.
We were sad to say goodbye, but had to head back to our hotel in Roquebrune-surs-Argen. Vence gave us a beautiful sunset to say farewell, though.
For reference, Saint Paul de Vence is around 30-35 minutes from Nice, driving. Like much of this region, it would be challenging to reach with public transportation.
What is your favorite medieval French town? Let me know in the comments!