The medieval village of Saint Paul de Vence benefits from an exceptional panorama that stretches from the sea to the pre-Alps. It is one of the most beautiful perched villages in Provence. A typically Provencal village, Saint Paul is entirely surrounded by 16th century ramparts built on the orders of François I. On arriving in Saint Paul, you will first come across the famous inn La Colombe d’or, which has hosted a host of artists such as Yves Montand, Chagall, Modigliani, Picasso, or Matisse… and still houses many of their works.
Start at the Place du Jeu de Boules beneath the ramparts at the entrance to the village.
A legendary square edged with century-old plane trees where the villagers like to gather. Yves Montand and Lino Ventura engaged in hotly disputed games of pétanque here. The Café de la Place stands on one side: its terrace is the perfect spot for enjoying the atmosphere. The famous Colombe d’Or is on the other: its regulars included the greatest artists of the 20th century: Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, Braque, Léger, Folon, etc.
Follow the ramparts, climbing towards the village, and enter by the Porte de Vence.
This powerful, fortified gateway reminds us that Saint-Paul was a key border stronghold. Saint-Paul’s ramparts were constructed in the 16th century on the order of François I and have remained intact. The entrance is also protected by a tower with machicolations from the 14th century – a vestige of medieval town walls.
Turn right onto Rue de la Tour and follow the ramparts southwards to the Porte de Nice (Nice Gate). Take in the panorama of Saint-Paul’s countryside studded with vines and olive trees, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. Enter the cemetery.
Cypress trees several centuries old shade the remains of artist Marc Chagall, who spent the final years of his life in Saint-Paul (1966 to 1985).
Leave the cemetery through the Porte de Nice and take Rue Grande. Revel in the charm of the village houses and traces of their past splendour.
Number 71 is a fine gabled house from the 16th century with double and single windows opening onto the street. A little further on, number 92 was the mansion of the Alziary family from Roquefort; Honoré Alziary was the magistrate of Saint-Paul.
Take the time to browse along Rue Grande, wandering into artist studios, art galleries, boutiques and craft shops..
Located in the heart of the village, you can see the “Grande Fontaine”, built in 1850. It was once the market place. Enjoy the fresh air in the vaulted wash house where the washerwomen used to come to rub and beat their clothes.
Don’t be surprised if the sundials dotted around the village always indicate that it’s time for a refreshing break by the large fountain!
If you follow the stairs to the right of the Grande Fontaine, you will reach the Place de l’Eglise.
Turn right, up Montée de la Castre. Number 2 is the house that Simone Signoret shared with Yves Montand at the beginning of their love story. Continue to Place de l’Eglise, the highest spot in village.
You may hear the pleasing chime of the bells as they continue to mark the pace of village life. This square is edged with monuments that are jewels in Saint-Paul’s historical crown: the keep of the former château now the “Mairie” (town hall) of Saint-Paul, the Church of the Conversion of Saint-Paul constructed between the 14th and 16thcenturies, plus the Folon chapel.