Medieval charm and modern masterpieces go hand in hand in the winding, stepped streets of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. The village, a jumble of narrow stone laneways flanked by ancient townhouses, is set on a rocky hilltop that offers sweeping views down over the plains to the Mediterranean.
A popular spot with artists for many years, its lanes are lined with art galleries. A strategic defensive position since antiquity, Saint-Paul’s first ramparts were constructed in the 14th century. Two of the original towers, Porte de Vence and the Tour de l’Esperon date from this time, though the curtain walls and bastions were erected on the order of François I in the 1540s. In the 17th century, the village continued to play an important military role and noble families built lavish mansions here, their façades elaborately adorned with decorative friezes.
Saint-Paul's medieval church was extended and embellished at this time and contains a beautiful series of frescoes that climax in the remarkable Baroque Saint Clement chapel. Also dating from the 17th century is the Folon Chapel, home to the brotherhood of white penitents, pious laymen who did good deeds to earn forgiveness for their sins. The chapel closed in 1920 but was restored and reopened in 2008, delicately decorated by Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon.
In 1911 a tramline opened that linked Saint-Paul to the outside world, and soon word of the village's beauty spread. By the 1920s a number of artists had settled here or were regular visitors, including Russian Expressionist Chaïm Soutine, French Fauvist Raoul Dufy and French Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac. Matisse and Picasso lived nearby and were frequent visitors, while Russian Modernist Marc Chagall made the village his home for 19 years. He was buried in the little cemetery at the top of the hill when he died in 1985.
Another legendary resident was writer and activist James Baldwin, who was regularly visited by actors, musicians and writers, making tiny Saint-Paul-de-Vence one of Europe's most creative hubs in the 1950s and 60s.
Today, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is, understandably, an extremely popular destination on the French Riviera. It sits enclosed within its ring of sturdy ramparts, overlooking the surrounding hills covered in flowers, vines and olive trees. Bougainvillea and creepers gracefully cling to the old stone buildings. Art galleries and excellent restaurants abound, but wander the lanes in the early morning or late evening and you understand the enchantment that attracted so many legendary names to this historic village.
Suggested itineraries featuring Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Saint-Paul-de-Vence
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Places near Saint-Paul-de-Vence
- Nice 10 kilometers away
- Antibes 14 kilometers away
- Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat 17 kilometers away
- Grasse 17 kilometers away
- Èze 20 kilometers away
- Monaco and Monte Carlo 25 kilometers away
- Saint-Tropez 62 kilometers away
- The French Riviera 63 kilometers away
- Provence 82 kilometers away
- Aix-en-Provence 137 kilometers away
- Roussillon 149 kilometers away
- Ménerbes 155 kilometers away
- Gordes 157 kilometers away
- L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue 169 kilometers away
- Saint-Rémy-de-Provence 185 kilometers away
- Les-Baux-de-Provence 188 kilometers away
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region 189 kilometers away
- Avignon 189 kilometers away
- Orange 193 kilometers away
- Arles 202 kilometers away
- Pont-du-Gard 210 kilometers away
- Rhône-Alpes 212 kilometers away
- Uzès 220 kilometers away
- Chamonix 239 kilometers away
- Talloires 249 kilometers away
- Annecy 259 kilometers away
- Lyon 293 kilometers away
- Dordogne 441 kilometers away