Èze is the name of the medieval village perched between Nice and Monaco. Èze-Village offers some of the most panoramic views of the French Riviera. Its highest point is the spectacular Jardin Exotique or Exotique Garden overlooking the Château Eza and the Mediterranean coastline. In addition to the hilltop village, Èze is also home to a seaside hamlet known as Èze Bord de Mer or Èze-sur-Mer.
The village of Èze makes for a wonderful day trip from Nice. There’s a bus to take you there as well as many tours that combine a visit to Èze with one of Monaco. We visited Èze as part of our French Riviera itinerary and drove there ourselves. Do note that parking can be a bit of a pain, especially in high season.
But whichever mode of transport you prefer, you’ll be treated to the most stunning views as you drive over the viaduct of the Moyenne Corniche. This is the middle one of three roads that scenically hugs the cliffs between Nice and Monaco.
Let me take you on a tour of Èze, its scenic highlights, and panoramic hotels.
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Highlights of Èze Village
From here, you walk the climbing road past souvenir shops, local restaurants, and the Tourist Office. The only cars allowed in are either suppliers or guests of the upscale hotel located uphill or local residents. Note that Èze is more of a museum village, as very few people actually live here.
On your left, right before the entrance to the village, you’ll see the trailhead for the Chemin de Nietzsche. This very Nietzsche path inspired the philosopher to write his famous novel “Thus spoke Zarathustra”. It’s a steep trail that leads all the way to Èze-sur-Mer.
Next on the left is the majestic entrance to Château de la Chèvre d’Or, one of the most panoramic luxury hotels on the French Riviera. It was originally a restaurant when in 1953, owner Robert Wolf’s friend Walt Disney came to visit. Captured by the unique beauty of the property, he encouraged Robert Wolf to transform it into a luxury hotel. Over the next few decades, the number of rooms multiplied by buying up the townhomes with the best views. These converted houses have kept their authentic appearance on the outside but are luxuriously equipped on the inside.
Towering in front of you is the medieval wall that encompasses Èze Village. Entering this pedestrian zone is like stepping back in time. Next to the Postern, the 14th-century fortified entrance gate, you’ll see the coat of arms. It reads Isia, the former name of the village, and Moriendo renascor, which translates as In death I am reborn. The emblem is a phoenix perched on a bone.
In 220 BC, Èze Village was a Celtic oppidum or fortified village. In subsequent centuries, the area was occupied by the Romans and the Moors. By 1388, under the jurisdiction of the House of Savoy, Èze underwent important fortifications. Several turbulent centuries later, in 1706, Louis XIV had most of the almost circular fortress destroyed in the war of the Spanish succession. It wasn’t until 1860 that Èze was designated as part of France. Climb the spiraling staircase to enter Èze’s maze of winding alleys.
The absolute highlight of Èze Village is the Jardin Exotique or Exotique Garden. It’s located 429 m (1407 ft) above sea level, making it the highest point in the village of Èze. This cascading garden was built on the ruins of the castle. Take a self-guided tour and discover the wide variety of plants.
On the south-facing side, you’ll find succulents such as cacti, agaves, and aloes from various continents. The north side is home to a beautiful Mediterranean garden and the west side offers a zen-like experience thanks to its subtropical atmosphere and cascade.
The panorama at the Jardin Exotique is just as sensational as the garden itself. It stretches from Cap d’Ail east to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and even to the Esterel Massif and the Gulf of Saint Tropez, in the west.
After your visit, follow the trail of Bougainvillea and discover the attractive shops with Provençal souvenirs, the enchanting restaurants, and the colorful art galleries. All cobbled streets seem to be heading towards the esplanade of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption.
This church was built in the 18th century on the foundations of the 12th-century church that was destroyed by the army of Louis XIV. Inside, you’ll see an Egyptian cross referencing the original temple erected by the Phoenicians in honor of the goddess Isis. Admire the baroque decorations and trompe l’œil paintings. Opposite the church is a terraced cemetery.
Some houses seem to have been dug into the rock while others wrap around it. Notice the many details, like the wrought-iron street lamps, the commemorative plates honoring notable residents, and the trompe l’œil shutters.
Other noteworthy sites are the Riquier Mansion, the former residence of the first aristocratic family in medieval times, and the Place du Planet with its 20th-century Italian-style fountain.
There’s also the 14th-century Sainte-Croix chapel, with its idyllic bell tower, and the Château Eza, former residence of Prince William of Sweden from 1923 to 1953. This medieval castle has been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel. It features a Michelin-star restaurant and a lounge bar with exceptional views.
Coastal Èze has its own train station. If you head there from Èze Village then you can do so by bus, by car, or by hiking down the Nietzsche Path.
The seaside shows a very different side of this beautiful little town. The elegant pink and ochre-hued villas that dot the meandering streets look out over the blue bay. Èze-Bord-de-Mer has its own microclimate.
Èze-sur-Mer’s pine-shaded pebble beach stretches out from Cap Roux to Cap Estel. It’s equipped with a lifeguard station and bathrooms. There’s also a water sports club, Club Nautique, that rents outs paddles and kayaks. Did you know Bono has his residence here too? Look for the pink, oceanfront, four-story mansion called Villa les Roses.
East of Cap Estel is another pebble beach. This hidden gem is called Saint-Laurent Beach. It’s small and narrow, tucked away behind a pine forest. Also, note that the coves between Cap Estel and Saint-Laurent Beach are mainly frequented by nudists.
Tour suggestions (available via our partner GetYourGuide)
Eze, Monaco, & Monte-Carlo Half-Day Trip
Monaco, Monte-Carlo & Eze Full-Day Tour
From Nice or Cannes:
Monaco, Monte Carlo & Eze Half-Day Trip
Where to stay in Èze
While most tourists choose to visit the village of Èze on a day trip while staying in Nice, you could just as well make it a weekend trip. The medieval village itself is pretty compact but there’s so much to explore in the wider area, from hiking the Chemin de Nietzsche to lingering on the beach of Èze-sur-Mer and exploring the neighboring towns and villages.
After a day of blissful experiences, you retreat to your hillside hideaway where you can indulge in the finest cuisine as the sun sets over the Mediterranean. Sounds heavenly, now doesn’t it?
Here’s an overview of the best hotels in Èze:
And here are two amazing villas for rent in Èze-sur-Mer:
Èze for foodies
In addition to the views and the sightseeing, this small perched village is also known for its gastronomic food scene. As mentioned before, Château Eza operates a * Michelin restaurant. Château de la Chèvre d’Or is home to a ** Michelin restaurant, a terrace restaurant with the most outstanding views, and a more casual restaurant. The latter doesn’t take reservations so walk-ins have every chance to be seated and treated to a delicious meal at an extraordinary location.
At Èze-sur-Mer, there’s Anjuna Beach, a surfer-chic seafood restaurant on the beach with a delectable menu.
Within the city walls, you’ll also find a couple of food outlets. A paella was prepared on the patio of Le Cactus when we were there. We didn’t stop by for dinner though, since we had reservations at Boccaccio in Nice (where they also serve paella and a damn good one too!).
When to visit Èze France
Èze is bustling with life in spring and summer. In winter, it’s quite sleepy, and therefore some hotels in Èze close their doors during the winter months. Château Eza reopens in mid-December and Château de la Chèvre d’Or reopens in early April. The same goes for the shops and restaurants. The views are always available and also the Jardin Exotique remains open.
Since the tourist season is rather short and hotel inventory is limited, we’d recommend booking early. That’s especially true when you plan your visit in July or August. The best time to visit Èze is shoulder season when the temperatures are mild enough to go hiking yet warm enough to enjoy the beach or the many terraces. We were there in the last week of May and it was perfect in terms of weather and crowds.
That’s it for this Èze travel guide. Have you visited this gem yet? Or do you feel inspired to visit after reading this article? Let us know in the comments. Happy travels!