If you are traveling to the South of France, you must visit Èze (pronounced ‘ehz’). Located on a cliff 1400 feet above the French Riviera, this medieval village is nothing short of magical with its incredible history, remarkably well-preserved architecture, and magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea.
The best way to reach the village is to start at the base of the mountain in Èze-sur-Mer and walk up. The trail that was originally used by goats came to be called Le Chemin de Nietzsche, or Nietzsche’s Path, after the German philosopher who was known to walk the trail daily while living in the area during the 1880s. He later said of his time in Èze, “I slept well, I laughed a lot, and I found a marvelous vigor and patience.”
The hike is moderately difficult and takes about 1.5 hours. The sun can get very bright and not all of the trail is shaded, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen. There are paved steps on parts of the path, but other sections closer to the top have loose, slippery gravel, so it is recommended to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Pause periodically on the way up to rest and check out the stunning views of the scenery.
Evidence indicates that Èze has been inhabited since ~2000 BC. By 1388, the House of Savoy obtained control over the area, which had previously been occupied by the Romans and the Moors, and fortified the city. The village was later seized by the Turkish fleet and its French allies, and, in 1706, King Louis XIV ordered the destruction of the city wall and castle. Fortunately, the majority of the village survived this turbulence, with the oldest building dating back to 1306. In 1860, the village of Èze became part of France by a unanimous vote.
There is only one point of entry to the city, and as soon as you step through it you feel like you have walked into a fairytale. Walt Disney himself was enchanted by the town and stayed for several months. The village winds around the hill in a circular pattern at the base of what used to be the castle. Each turn is more beautiful than the last as you wander through the maze of ancient cobblestone paths, archways, and vine-covered buildings. Scattered throughout the village are several restaurants, cafés, shops, and galleries selling watercolors and paintings by local artists.
Le Jardin Exotique sits in the ruins of the former castle at the center of the village overlooking the Côte d’Azur. The garden is filled with many species of succulents and other rare plants. The panoramic view from inside the garden at the top of the hill makes it well worth the €6 entrance fee. There are several resting spots and benches where you can stop to soak in the surroundings.
Church of Our Lady of the Assumption
The church in Èze dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption was built from 1764 to 1772. The exterior features a deep yellow-colored neo-classical façade, while the interior displays elaborate Baroque decor with ornate chandeliers and artwork.
Two of France’s oldest perfumeries, Galimard and Fragonard, from nearby Grasse have outposts in Èze just outside the village entrance and offer free tours of their factory and museum. I visited Galimard and learned much about the history and science of perfume-making. If you visit in the summer during peak season, you can schedule an appointment with a master perfumer to customize your own fragrance by selecting a base, mid, and top note. If you go during the off-season, you can still purchase a bottle of one of their signature scents from the gift shop.
Planning Your Trip
When to Go
The French Riviera is beautiful year-round, so it is possible to visit Èze during the off-season. I went in November when the temperatures were mild and the crowds were minimal. Early spring can also be a nice time to visit. Some hotels and restaurants close for the winter from December to February, so be aware of that.
If you want to visit when everything is in full-swing, summer is the time to go. Be prepared to face hotter temperatures, higher hotel prices, and swarms of tourists. You may want to arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds, or spend the night in Èze to have the village to yourself after the day-trippers leave.
Where to Stay
There are a few hotels in Èze that can make for a nice romantic getaway if you want to prolong your stay in the village.
Nice is just a short distance from Èze and has more options for accommodations. I stayed in Nice and visited both Èze and Monaco in the same day.
How to Get There
If traveling by rail, take the train to Èze-sur-Mer. Once you exit the station, the Nietzsche trail is just up the hill to the right. If you do not want to make the hike, bus 83 will take you up to the village. If coming from Nice, you can take bus 82 directly to Èze Village.
You can also book a trip with a guided tour company, call an Uber, or rent a car and drive yourself.
Like this post? Pin it!