Thursday, 7 November 2013 11:58 AM
If you're planning a trip to the French Riviera and want to get away from the major cities like Nice, Cannes and Monaco then Saint Paul de Vence is a fantastic destination for a day trip. Less than half an hour's drive from Nice, this charming village is one of the oldest and best preserved medieval towns in southern France, and over the past century or so has become famous across the world for its high-class art galleries.
Despite feeling a world away from its larger neighbours, Saint Paul de Vence shares that same 'je ne sais quoi' that seems to permeate the whole of the French Riviera – namely a taste for the finer things in life. History and art are the order of the day here, with the local population of just 3,000 living amongst the old city walls and superb galleries, as well as enjoying the sublime Mediterranean climate.
Getting to Saint Paul de Vence is relatively simple if you have a car, with the journey along the famous Promenade des Anglais providing some exquisite coastal views. Hiring a car at Nice airport and making the short trip is therefore a wonderful way to enjoy the scenery for which this part of France is so famous. Just make sure you rent your vehicle from a reputable company like Auto Europe.
Medieval history brought to life in Saint Paul de Vence
The town wall that surrounds Saint Paul de Vence was originally built way back in the 16th century when France was under the rule of Francois I, and has remained largely unchanged to this day. This is perhaps what makes the town so remarkable – unlike most medieval settlements, it has barely expanded or developed over the years and appears completely stuck in time.
Other monuments and sites worth visiting include the main tower of the old fortress, which was erected in the 12th century, and a cannon muzzle that was used in the Battle of Cerisoles in 1544.
Art galleries in Saint Paul de Vence
As previously mentioned, Saint Paul de Vence has become synonymous with fine art over the years, and is home to a number of world renowned galleries and studios. Among these is the Fondation Maeght, which was founded in the 1960s and is one of France's premier contemporary art exhibition centres. Works by many of the most prominent creators of the 20th century can be seen here, including the likes of Joan Miro, Pierre Bonnard, Fernand Leger and more.
A number of older works of art are also to be found embedded into the old city walls themselves, so make sure to keep an eye out for these as you stroll around. Other galleries worth visiting include the Galerie du Vieux Saint-Paul, the Galerie Catherine Issert and Galerie Art Passion, among many others.
Just wandering the streets of Saint Paul de Vence is a highlight in itself, with the town being famous for its picturesque stone walls covered in vines, numerous statues and sculptures, and charming fountains. Sitting atop a hill, the small town also offers incredible views stretching all the way to the Alps, while shopping is another major activity here. Art, antiques and unique jewellery can all be bought here, as can fine wines and other Provencal produce.