Sainte-Agnès, a perched village above Menton

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When driving on the mountain road D22, the hilltop village of Sainte-Agnès makes a great impression. It is perched on the flank of a mountain high above the town of Menton and the Mediterranean sea. Locals claim the village is the highest coastal village in Europe. Whether this is true or not, from there, the panoramic view over the French Riviera is breathtaking. Each year, over 50,000 tourists climb to Sainte-Agnès, which holds the prestigious label “Plus Beaux Villages de France” (France’s most beautiful villages).

Watch this video about Menton to get an idea of what to see around Sainte-Agnès:

Plan your trip to Sainte-Agnès and Menton!

Welcome to Saint-Agnès! © Pmk58 - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to Saint-Agnès! © Pmk58 – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons


Where is Sainte-Agnès?

Sainte-Agnès lies 11 km (7 miles) of Menton at an altitude of 800 m above sea level. The D22 village that climbs to the village from Menton is a narrow winding mountain road.

Sainte-Agnès Map HR

Sainte-Agnès is an attractive site due to its fantastic position which dominates Menton and Roquebrune-Cap Martin. The French motorway A8 is clearly visible crisscrossing the outback of Menton through a series of viaducts and tunnels.

View of Sainte-Agnès from Cap Martin. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

View of the village from Cap Martin. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

You can use the village as a base for great walks in the mountains, including a two/three-hour climb to the Pic de Baudon (1,264m), where the stunning views are among the most beautiful in the region.

Views from and to the village

Here’s a view of Menton and the Mediterranean sea from Sainte-Agnès:

The view of Menton from Sainte-Agnès © Ondřej Žváček - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The view of Menton from the village © Ondřej Žváček – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The castle from the Biovès Gardens in Menton:
Saint-Agnès from Jardins Biovès. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Sainte-Agnès from Jardins Biovès. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Here is Roquebrune-Cap Martin with Cape Martin to the right:

Cap Martin from Sainte-Agnes. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Cap Martin from Sainte-Agnes. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

A general view of the hilltop village of Sainte-Agnès:

General view of Sainte-Agnès © Patrick Rouzet - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

General view of the hilltop village © Patrick Rouzet – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons


Sainte-Agnès: A bit of History

The history of the village starts with legends…

The legends

Legend has it that Sainte-Agnès was founded by a Saracen prince named Haroun who had fallen in love with a local maid.

Another story tells of an Italian princess on a journey who would have found refuge in a village’s cave while trying to avoid a violent storm.

A coveted and strategic place

A number of local powers coveted the strategic site of Sainte-Agnès that overlooks the Mediterranean coastline:

Unlike Menton, Sainte-Agnès belonged to the County of Nice.

Sainte-Agnès: the village and the castle © Mossot - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Sainte-Agnès: the village and the castle © Mossot – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Alongside Nice and its county, France annexed Sainte-Agnès in 1860 following a referendum on the matter.


What to see in the Hilltop Village of Sainte-Agnès

Upper view of the village. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Upper view of the village. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The centre of the village comprises many picturesque cobblestone streets – some with arched passages and stairs. They date back to medieval times.

On your stroll, you’ll find craftsmen stores, artists workshops, restaurants and cafés in well-restored houses from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Under an old arch in the village. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Under an old arch in the village. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

A vaulted passageway in the old village:

Rue des Sarrasins. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Rue des Sarrasins. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Rue des Sarrasins:

Rue des Sarrasins. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Rue des Sarrasins. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The town-hall:

Sainte-Agnès - The Town-Hall © Berthold Werner - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Town-Hall © Berthold Werner – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The church of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges

The Baroque Notre-Dame-des-Neiges church dates from 1535 and 1744. The sanctuary is quite remarkable with its bell tower covered with glazed tiles.

The inside of the church:

Inside the church of Notre-Dame des Neiges. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Inside the church of Notre-Dame des Neiges. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)


The castle at the top of the mountain

Sainte-Agnès - The castle ruins. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The castle ruins. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Atop a jagged peak above the village are the ruins of the feudal castle which once was a retreat from the Saracen invaders. The castle dates back to around 1180. However, its foundation could well be from the end of the 10th century.

The fortress was partially dismantled by the order of Louis XIV to put down the rebellion of the neighbouring village of Peille. The defensive interest of the castle was again used during the War of Austrian Succession from 1744 to 1749.

The medieval garden

At the base of the castle’s ramparts is a medieval garden laid out and maintained by the association “Peintres du Soleil” which offers a stunning panorama over the Mediterranean Sea.

Medieval garden of Sainte-Agnès. Photo:

Medieval garden of Sainte-Agnès. Photo:
Tangopaso (Public Domain)


The Maginot Line Fort

The Maginot Line fort of Sainte-Agnès. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

The Maginot Line fort of Sainte-Agnès. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

A fort built deep into the rock in the 1930s was the southernmost point of the Maginot Line’s Alpine extension. The French army built the concrete bunker (Ouvrage de Sainte-Agnès) to defend the Bay of Menton from a potential invasion coming from Italy.

It stands at an altitude of 780 metres above the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1940 it only served fifteen days but had enough firepower to defend itself against Italian fighters.

The fort is open to public visits in the summer.

Inside the Maginot Line fort of Sainte-Agnès. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)

Inside the Maginot Line fort of Sainte-Agnès. Photo: Tangopaso (Public Domain)


English-French Vocabulary

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

      • annexation = annexion (f)
      • castle = château (m)
      • count = comte (m)
      • county = comté (m)
      • feudal castle = château féodal (m)
      • fort = fort (m)
      • French Riviera = Côte d’Azur (f)
      • House of Savoy = Maison de Savoie (f)
      • Italy = Italie (f)
      • Maginot Line = Ligne Maginot (f)
      • Mediterranean Sea = Mer Méditerranée (f)
      • mountain = montagne (f)
      • panorama = panorama (m)
      • perched village = village perché (m)
      • Saracen = Sarrasin (m) / Sarrasine (f)
      • viewpoint = point de vue (m)
      • village = village (m)

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Sainte-Agnès for Pinterest by French Moments


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Have you been to Sainte-Agnès or Menton? If so, what did you like the most? Leave me a comment just below!


 

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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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