France – Haut De Cagnes

High up on the hills bounding the French riviera, like some lofty nests of birds of prey, sit the villages perchés.

The perched villages, originally built as defensive fortifications against marauding pirates and invading armies, fell into disrepair postwar, receiving a new lease of life over the next decade, when coastal residents restored the crumbling buildings to their former glory. Then renowned artists like Renoir and Matisse decided to call them home, and led to the influx of an avalanche of tourists.

Cagnes Sur Mer was Renoir’s final home, but somehow escaped the fate of St Paul de Vence and similar hill towns, while retaining much of its tranquil charm, thanks mainly to its residents dogged resistance to commercialisation.

Cagnes Sur Mer comprises the lower and relatively modern town of the same name and the medieval Haut de Cagnes capping the hill. The two are connected by a navette (shuttle) that plies the route every 15 minutes until 10pm. On the other side is the rather overdeveloped fishing village and beach resort called Cros de Cagnes.

We chose Haut Cagnes as our base to explore the Cote d’Azur, as much for its visual and architectural appeal as for its proximity to Nice and the fact that the lower town was a major transport hub for the area. Nice, Vence, St Paul de Vence, Antibe, Eze, were all minutes away by bus or train.

At the core of the lovely village is the little square, lined with a handful of wonderful restaurants and dominated by the Chateau Grimaldi, whose ramparts reward one with panoramic views over the countryside, all the way to the millionaire coast in the distance!

Our charming B&B overlooked the square where the entire village seemed to congregate in the evenings, and we spent many hours people watching and witnessing Boule contests. Even mock sword fights between petit knights!

Our favourite passtime though, apart from exploring those narrow cobbled streets, was to carry a bottle of our favourite wine (stocks replenished at an excellent store downhill) out to a bench on the edge of town, and watch the light fade across the valley.

Haut de Cagnes
The Mediterranean sea from the Chateau grimaldi

Haut de Cagnes, Cote d Azur
An arcaded path leading to ‘our’ bench.
Haut de Cagnes
View from the ramparts of Chateau Grimaldi

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

43 thoughts on “France – Haut De Cagnes

  1. Love your photos Madhu. Thanks for the tour of another part of the world. It helps discredit those that propagandize hatred of other countries.

    1. Thank you Jerry. You are so right! Travel makes us realise that people are just people, however alien their cultures.

      1. We all are one. There is no separation, only the belief in separation makes it so. That will soon come to an end. 😉

  2. Oh, Madhu. I am in love. Haut Cagnes looks like a place I would love to stay in for awhile. You must have had a wonderful time there, and I love your evening ritual.

  3. Loved the tour and your photo’s as usual Madhu. It’s so beautiful there. Thanks for sharing hon. 🙂 *hugs*

  4. 35 years ago I was here ….. we could have stayed at the same little “pension” – wonderful spot, but the whole of Cote d’Azur is so beautiful .. had forgotten about this little village. Thanks for reminding me. Had a “boyfriend” living in Monte Carlo .. in the beginning of the 1970’s, we meet in 1972 and it carried on for a couple of years. St Paul de Vence, is my little favorite spot ..down there.
    Madhu, wonderful post and … and fantastic photo, as Bumba said .. we wouldn’t expect anything else from you. Thank you so much for bringing me back *smile

    1. A romance on the riviera! What an exciting life you have led Viveka! Would love to know more about your French boyfriend sometime 🙂 And thank you so much for the kind words.

      1. He was Greek, but lived in Monaco … never had a French boyfriend … they are not my type *smile
        Have been thinking about doing a post about him, Byron … dead since many years back now.

    1. Yes, the entire Provence-Alps-Maritime region is so incredibly picturesque, it is easy to understand the fascination of artists for these towns.

    1. It is the Riviera after all Patti 🙂
      It was August and very hot, and the rest of the Riviera was awfully crowded. Felt good to have this little haven to get back to each evening.

  5. I always learn so much about the places you visit in your posts and truly enjoy the photos. Thank you for sharing them. Take care. -Max-

  6. Beautiful photos Madhu, especially the header one 🙂 I have been wanting to go there for quite some time.

  7. what a beautiful place! we have been wondering where to go next time we are in France … this gives me an idea thank you Madhu 🙂

  8. ah,the pleasure of opening your blog and browsing through the posts on a sunday evening!
    the photos -downright marvellous!

  9. Thanks for showing us another beautiful part of the world. Sharing a bottle at day’s end, overlooking the countryside…heavy sigh. 🙂

  10. Certainly one of these history charged villages of the Cote d’Azur, a real City of Artists, not only Renoir, but with such painters as Ziem, Derain, Cezanne and Modigliani who all helped to make this city famous. Great pictures!

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