Eze, The Gem of the French Riviera

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My first visit to Eze truly amazed me. As a young teenager, I remember the breathtaking view of the perched village overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, the hilltop village commands stunning views of mountains falling sheer to the Mediterranean. With its clusters of houses perched on rocky outcrops above the cliffs, Èze truly is one of the most celebrated resorts of the French Riviera. I am pleased to present a guide to the medieval village. If you have any additional information to add to this post, please leave a comment at the bottom of the article.

Plan your trip to Eze and its surroundings!

Èze © Jean Pierre Lozi - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Èze © Jean Pierre Lozi – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons


Situation of Eze

Eze occupies a beautiful site between Nice and Monaco. The village lies on the Corniche Roads at an altitude of 426 m above sea level. You’ll find the entrance to the hilltop village itself on the Moyenne Corniche (D6007).

Eze Situation Map

The view of Eze is most surprising when coming from the M6007 road in Nice. You can see the ruined castle on its eagle’s nest. Then a tunnel cut into the rock leads to a viaduct that you have to cross before arriving in the village.

Arriving in Eze. Photo: @spritzphotos via Twenty20

Arriving in Eze. Photo: @spritzphotos via Twenty20

The people of Eze

The population amounts to approximately 3,000 residents called Ézasques

Eze has welcomed a number of celebrities since the last century: Charlie Chaplin, Francis Blanche, Bono, Walt Disney, Princess Antoinette of Grimaldi…

It was in Eze that The Edge, lead guitarist of the band U2, got married in 2002.

The 3 areas of Eze

The commune of Eze is made up of three main urban areas:

  1. the perched village to the hilltop,
  2. Èze-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean coast,
  3. and between them, a residential zone with villas called Saint-Laurent-d’Èze.

The palindrome of Eze

Curiously, along a few other towns and villages, Èze forms a palindrome, ie. a name that reads the same forward or reversed:

  • Callac (Côtes-d’Armor),
  • Laval (Mayenne),
  • Noyon (Oise),
  • Sarras (Ardèche),
  • Senones (Vosges),
  • and Serres (Hautes-Alpes).
Èze © Geir Hval - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Èze © Geir Hval – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The motto of Eze

The motto of Èze is “Isis Moriendo Renascor” (in death I am reborn) and its emblem features a phoenix perched on a bone.


Eze: a bit of History

Èze © Toby 87 - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Èze © Toby 87 – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Ancient Times

It is believed that Celtic-Ligures tribes first populated the surroundings of Èze around 2000 BC. The oldest traces of human occupation were found in Mont-Bastide to the west of the hilltop village. The Romans later colonised the region. The first mention of the site dates back to the 2nd century, in the itinerary of Antonin.

Old engraving of Eze

Old engraving of the village

In the Middle Ages

In the 8th century, the coastal region was not safe for the population who preferred to seek refuge in the rocky spur that now occupies the hilltop village. The threat was the Moors who occupied Èze for some 80 years before William of Provence chased them in 973.

In 1388, Èze and the County of Nice became a possession of the House of Savoy.

The proximity of the village with Nice, in addition to its strategic eagle’s nest position commanding a fair view over the Mediterranean coastline, brought the village a few difficult times.

For example, in 1543 French and Turkish troops seized Èze under the command of Barbarossa. French king François I and his ally Soliman the Magnificent were waging war against Charles V and the House of Savoy.

The modern era

Then in 1706, Louis XIV ordered the dismantlement of its fortifications and castle during the war of the Spanish Succession, along with the castle of Nice.

Old photo of Eze

After the Napoleonic Wars, Eze became part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.

In 1860, Èze unanimously voted for its annexation to France by referendum, as did the whole County of Nice.

Eze became French in 1860. Photo @sophia via Twenty20

Eze became French in 1860. Photo @sophia via Twenty20

The village started to become a tourist attraction with the arrival of the railway between Nice and Menton.


The hilltop village of Èze

The hilltop village of Eze. Photo: Jimi Magic (Public Domain)

The hilltop village. Photo: Jimi Magic (Public Domain)

French writer George Sand put it nicely when describing Eze:

It is really an enchantment the panorama of the corniche… The curves of the coast offer at each step a splendid background. The ruins of Eze, planted on a cone-shaped rock, with a picturesque village perched on a sugar loaf, stop the glance inevitably. This is the most beautiful point of view of the road, the most complete, the best composed. At the foreground there is the tremendous opening of mountains that open to let appear the Saracen fortress at the bottom of an abyss dominating another abyss.

Touristic Map of Eze

La Poterne: the entrance to Eze

To enter the historic village, go under the double fortified gate of “La Poterne”.

Eze's Poterne gateway © Abxbay - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

La Poterne © Abxbay – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

It was built by the counts of Savoy in the 14th century as part of their plans to improve the fortifications of Èze. This was the unique access to the village during the Middle Ages.

Eze - The Poterne gate. Photo: @spritzphotos via Twenty20

The Poterne gate. Photo: @spritzphotos via Twenty20

A museum-village?

Unlike villages like Sainte-Agnès or La Turbie, Èze has sometimes been described as a “Museum-Village” (Musée-Village) as only a few people of local origin reside within the walls of the old perched village. I learnt that approximately 20 people live permanently there although I don’t know if this is true…

Eze. Photo: Porojnicu @ envato elements

Eze. Photo: Porojnicu @ envato elements

Anyway, many gift shops, art galleries, and restaurants cater for tourists and therefore might repel some of them looking for more off the beaten path sites (if this is the case I recommend visiting Peillon, another hilltop village).

However, the charms of the village are undeniable, particularly when you (can) avoid the high season of summer. Indeed, the village welcomes on average between 1000 and 1500 visitors per day.

Whatever the season of your visit, the views from Eze will amaze you. From above the lofty cliffs, the panoramic and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are unforgettable.

The rooftops of Eze © avu-edm - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The rooftops of Eze © avu-edm – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The calades of Eze

Once through the gate, you reach the small square of La Placette. From here, two streets start:

  • The one that goes down is Rue du Barri and joins Rue du Malpas.
  • The one that goes up is the Rue Principale. It is this street that you must take to go up to the castle.

The old village is made up of a maze of narrow winding little streets punctuated by shady small squares and vaulted passages. In Provence, people call them “les calades“.

The calades of Eze @baconandsouffle via Twenty20

The calades of Eze @baconandsouffle via Twenty20

They lead to the rocky spur, crowned with the ruins of the 12th-century castle and a fine exotic garden.

At the bend in the streets, you will notice the shops set in old cellars or stables.

Eze © jimmyweee - licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Eze © jimmyweee – licence [CC BY 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

As you walk through the old village, you will discover luxuriant vegetation of date palms, and orange, lemon, carob and banana trees.

An old street in Eze © Abxbay - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

An old street in Eze © Abxbay – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Eze - A shady courtyard © avu-edm - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

A shady courtyard © avu-edm – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Eze - Rue Principale © avu-edm - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Rue Principale © avu-edm – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

In the past, the locals designed the steps of the village for the passage of donkeys loaded with water, stone or mandarins. The floors of the alleys are covered with pebble mosaics in the shape of a rose window.

If you look up, you will see the open-air granaries where residents dried apricots, figs, and tomatoes.

Place du Planet

On the Place du Planet (or simply Le Planet), you will discover the Riquiers House. The Riquiers were a powerful family from Nice and lords of Eze.

Place du Planet © Abxbay © M.Strīķis - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Place du Planet © Abxbay © M.Strīķis – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Italianate fountain of 1930 is the work of one of the last owners, the American composer Barlow.

Rue du Bournou

Rue du Bournou © M.Strīķis - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Rue du Bournou © M.Strīķis – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

In Rue du Bournou is the house of a Bohemian woman who, according to legend, read fortunes to Monte Carlo clients in the 1920s. No doubt she has made a fortune with such clients…

Two hotels among the most beautiful in the world!

The village includes two other remarkable residences that have become luxury hotels: the Château de la Chèvre d’Or and the Château Eza.

These are some of the most beautiful hotels in the world. Their golden location, on the slopes of Eze and overlooking the Mediterranean, makes them a fairy-tale world.

Here, everything is in full bloom, fine and subtle – a true paradise. From the terraces of jasmine, olive and lemon trees to the rooms which open onto the deep blue sea, not forgetting the stunning cuisine which will delight you.

The Château de la Chèvre d’Or

Legend has it that in 1953, the site seduced Robert Wolf. On the advice of Walt Disney, he acquired village houses and converted them into rooms. 👉 Book your room!

Hôtel de la Chèvre d'Or. Photo: chevredor (Public Domain)

Hôtel de la Chèvre d’Or. Photo: chevredor (Public Domain)

The garden of the Chèvre d'Or Hotel © M.Strīķis - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The garden of the Chèvre d’Or Hotel © M.Strīķis – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Château Eza

The château was the former residence of Prince William of Sweden. It is now a luxury hotel-restaurant with a formidable view of Eze-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the Cap d’Antibes, the Lérins islands, the Esterel and sometimes Corsica. 👉 Book your room!

The Château Eza hotel and its formidable view. Photo: @aralumut via Twenty20

The Château Eza Hotel and its formidable view. Photo: @aralumut via Twenty20

Chateau Eza © Stuart Locke - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The terrace of Château Eza © Stuart Locke – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs

The main street (Rue Principale) winds up to the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs. Also known as Chapelle de la Sainte-Croix, this is Èze’s oldest monument, dating back to 1306.

The sanctuary held the meetings of the White Penitents who were in charge of helping victims of the Plague. The particular shape of its bell tower recalls the time when Èze was part of the Republic of Genoa.

The bell tower of the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs. Photo @Barbara.Papa via Twenty20

The bell tower of the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs. Photo @Barbara.Papa via Twenty20

Inside are old crucifixes and statues of the Virgin dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. On the 15th and 16th April 1860, it was in this chapel that the people of Èze voted unanimously to join France.

Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Church

The light-ochre church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption was rebuilt between 1764 and 1778 on the foundation of a former sanctuary that was falling apart.

Eze - The Church of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption. Photo: Jose Antonio (Public Domain)

The Church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. Photo: Jose Antonio (Public Domain)

The bell tower was added in the 19th century.

Contrasting with the Neo-classical façade, the interior of the church displays a rich Baroque decoration with altarpieces and trompe-l’œil windows.

Eze - The nave of the church. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The nave of the church. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Eze - The choir of the church. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The choir of the church. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The pulpit in extravagant Baroque style:

Eze - The pulpit of the church. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The pulpit of the church. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Note on one of the altarpieces a representation of the castle of Eze with, at its top, not the French flag but that of Savoy.

The French State listed the church as a Historic Monument in 1984.

Eze Castle and the Exotic Garden

At the very top of the village, the ruined castle of Eza boasts one of the most beautiful botanical gardens on the French Riviera and offers a breathtaking view over the sea and the coastline.

Eze - The exotic garden. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The exotic garden. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Mayor André Gianton and Jean Gastaud of the Exotic Garden of Monaco created the garden on a steep sloping ground after World War II.

The garden contains a great collection of cacti and succulents originating from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, Africa, and the Americas. These plants adapted to arid or tropical climates find the Riviera’s climate favourable to their growth.

Eze Exotic Garden Trichocereus pasacana by Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Trichocereus pasacana at the exotic garden. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The amazing view from the top

At an altitude of 429 m, the garden dominates straight down the sea. An orientation table locates the main famous sites on the French Riviera up to 120 km from Saint-Tropez to the Estérel Mountain range, the Lérins islands, Nice, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the Italian shores. Under specific atmospheric conditions in winter, you can even see the shores of Corsica towards the southeast.

Eze - The exotic garden. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

View of the exotic garden. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Eze - The exotic garden. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The village from the exotic garden. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

It is possible to visit the castle, or rather what remains of it.

Eze - The ruins of the castle. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The ruins of the castle. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The Revère Fort

In the outskirts of Èze, the Revère Fort was part of the Séré de Rivières fortification system. Built between 1879 and 1885, it hides underground barracks linked by a wide network of tunnels.

Fort de la Revère © Fabrice Dury - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Fort de la Revère © Fabrice Dury – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The site, accessible by car, has an orientation table that helps to locate the main sites on the panorama: the Mediterranean coastline, the Nice hinterland and the French Alps range of Mercantour. The view is particularly stunning in winter when the deep blue of the sea contrasts with the snow-capped mountains of the Maritime Alps.

The magnificent view from the Revere Fort © avu-edm - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The magnificent view from the Revere Fort © avu-edm – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Nietzsche’s Path (chemin de Nietzsche)

The length of the route is 2 km and the difference in altitude 400 metres (medium difficulty).

Starting from the village (below the Poterne Gate), the route includes many fairly high steps. Then, the path winds through the scrubland through the rocks.

Chemin de Nietzsche © Tangopaso - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Chemin de Nietzsche © Tangopaso – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

It takes about 45 minutes for the descent and 1.5 hours for the ascent.

The path pays homage to Friedrich Nietzsche, who stayed for the first time on the French Riviera on 2 December 1883.

At that time, his morale was at its lowest. In addition to being ill, his books were not selling well. He had just been rejected by Lou Andreas-Salomé and his former friend Richard Wagner had died a few months earlier. So, on the French Riviera, he rediscovered the creative emotion necessary to write.

Eze - Chemin de Nietzsche © Solundir - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

A walk on the Chemin de Nietzsche © Solundir – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Eze - Rocks around Path of Nietzsche © Solundir - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Rocks around Path of Nietzsche © Solundir – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Nietzsche’s Path © Tangopaso – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The seafront from the Chemin de Nietzsche © Solundir - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The seafront from the Chemin de Nietzsche © Solundir – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The coastline from the Chemin de Nietzsche © Tangopaso - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The coastline from the Chemin de Nietzsche © Tangopaso – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Fragonard Shop and factory laboratory

Before leaving the village, don’t miss the amazing Fragonard shop to buy soaps, scented candles and other Provençal delicacies.

Fragonard in Èze © Georges Jansoone - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Fragonard in Èze © Georges Jansoone – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

You can take a free tour of the Fragonard factory with a guide trained by a professional perfume maker and who knows all about the history of the trade. After exploring the manufacturing techniques and the history of the precious fluids, you will test your nose with a free olfactory game at the end of the tour.

The perfumery is located just outside the historic village (no need to take the car to get there if you are already parked, you can just walk there).

👉 More info on their website


How to get to Eze

Situated between Nice and Monaco, the village of Èze is easily accessible although traffic during the months of July and August and weekends is usually extremely busy.

Eze-sur-Mer train station. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Eze-sur-Mer train station. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

By car

From Nice (11 km) or Monaco (7 km), the hilltop village of Èze is accessible by the Moyenne Corniche road (D6007). The nearest motorway exit on the A8 is number 57 (La Turbie).

By train

There is a train station at Èze-Bord-de-Mer on the Nice-Menton TER line. A bus connects to the hilltop village.

By air

Nice, France’s third airport after Paris CDG and Orly, is only 18 km from Èze.

Pot-pourri. Photo: @jessica.trigiani via Twenty20

Pot-pourri. Photo: @jessica.trigiani via Twenty20


English-French Vocabulary

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs

  • castle = château (m)
  • county = comté (m)
  • exotic garden = jardin exotique (m)
  • French Alps = Alpes françaises (f,p)
  • French Riviera = Côte d’Azur (f)
  • House of Savoy = Maison de Savoie (f)
  • Mediterranean Sea = Mer Méditerranée (f)
  • mountain = montagne (f)
  • perched village = village perché (m)
  • Prealps = Préalpes (f,p)
  • village = village (m)
Eze © avu-edm - licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The village on its eagle’s nest © avu-edm – licence [CC BY 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons


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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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