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Once a quiet fishing village with a sheltered port, today Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat sits at the heart of one of the most sought-after destinations in Europe. The Cap Ferrat peninsula is covered in eucalyptus forest, pitted with rocky beaches and cradled by the cobalt waters of the Mediterranean.

It's also close enough to Monaco and Cannes to provide all the glitz and drama required of a star-studded location, yet has the tranquil charm of an exclusive retreat. Beloved by aristocrats, celebrities and the affluent, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is the peninsula’s little port that still exudes an old-world charm and allure.

The woodland that surrounds Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and covers the cape hides the grand villas and mansions of its wealthy residents. Follow one of the coastal paths out from the village for dazzling views over the sea and glimpses of the extravagant properties. Many of the villas date from the Belle Époque, when Cap Ferrat became the world's top destination for the European aristocracy and the wealthy elite.

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, French RivieraIn the early 20th century, King Leopold II of Belgium established a vast estate here, which was soon followed by the grand plans of Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild. No expense was spared when building the Baroness's Tuscan-style palazzo Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, one of the cape's most elaborate Belle Époque mansions. Completed in 1912 and now open to visitors, it’s filled with over 5,000 artworks, Louis XVI furniture, Flemish tapestries, and Sèvres and Vincennes porcelain.

Outside, the meticulously maintained formal French garden was planted along with a series of other themed gardens reflecting the planting style and species of Spain, Japan, Mexico and Florence, among others. The fountains pump to classical music as you’re lead down pathways to lookouts offering superb sea views.

Nearby is the Jardin Botanique, or Les Cèdres, a botanical garden established in 1924 around another lavish villa, once owned by the Belgian king and later bought by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, who created the orange-based liqueur Grand Marnier. It’s cultivated with more than 14,000 species of exotic plants and has 25 greenhouses as well as bamboo, palm and equatorial forest groves.

Along with the mansions, sheltered coves and quiet walks through the forest, the region has a reputation for fine food and wine. You can dine here in style as you trace the footsteps of some of the many legendary names who were once residents or regular visitors, among them Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham, Elizabeth Taylor and Sir Winston Churchill.

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