St Paul de Vence is a beautifully preserved example of a fortified hilltop village and makes a great day trip from Nice. In the 1920s, artists Paul Signac, Modigliani, Pierre Bonnard and Chaim Soutine discovered it, gathering at the restaurant Colombe d'Or, which now contains an impressive art collection. Other artists, writers and personalities followed including actors Yves Montand and Simone Signoret who made it their home in later life.
The little village's brush with celebrity has made it one of the most touristed destinations on the French Riviera. Yet beneath the stardust there are serious artists and artisans still working in St Paul. Their works are for sale in the shops and boutiques that line the main street.
What else to do in St Paul besides shop? Take a walk around the walls; the view over the hills to the sea never fails to delight. At the tip of the village, you'll come to the cemetery which contains the tomb of Marc Chagall, another former St Paul denizen. He chose the most relaxing spot in St Paul for his everlasting rest.
Outside the village is the Fondation Maeght, a first-rate contemporary art museum with an extraordinarily restful sculpture garden. Although the museum is only a kilometre or so out of the village, the climb is steep; try to arrange your walk in the cooler hours of the day.
Getting to St Paul de Vence
By Car from Nice
Take the A8 motorway to exit 48 and follow signs to La Colle sur Loup on Rte 436.
By Bus from Nice
Bus No 400 leaves every 30 to 45 minutes and takes about 1 hour.
Tourist Information in St Paul de Vence
The St Paul de Vence tourist office is right at the entrance to the village.