Known as the 'City of Art', Vence has a rich history of attracting artists and writers, from D H Lawrence to Chagall and Matisse.
The old town retains its ancient walls within which are tightly packed houses centred around a small square with its beautiful church and lively cafés. The church is actually the town cathedral, which houses a very beautiful and classic Chagall mosaic. The streets are filled with art galleries, gift shops and beautifully decorated buildings - you can happily spend hours browsing.
The medieval town centre is surrounded by a slighter newer town that spreads into the surrounding hillsides. At it’s heart is the Place du Grand Jardin, where there is an excellent local produce market every morning; antique dealers congregate here every Wednesday morning too.
History & Culture in Vence
Vence has a rich history of attracting artists and writers, from D H Lawrence to Chagall and Matisse. The old town retains its ancient walls- which are actually a ring of houses built high upon the rock wall. Inside the wall, tightly-packed pastel and stone buildings are centred around a small square with a beautiful church and lively cafés. The streets are filled with art galleries, gift shops and beautifully decorated buildings. The medieval town centre is surrounded by a slighter newer town that spreads into the surrounding hillsides, which are full of flower fields and olive and orange groves. While touristy, Vence does not attract the shoulder to shoulder hordes you'll find in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
Sights & Attractions in Vence
The church in Place Clemenceau is actually the town cathedral, which houses a very beautiful and classic Chagall mosaic. The town's gates are also definitely worth seeing- there are 5 gates cut out of the rock- each one has its own character and history. Just outside the town is the very famous Chapelle du Rosaire - also known as Matisse's Final Masterpiece . You can either walk there in about 10-15 minutes, or there is a bus that drops you right outside.
Events in Vence
Vence has been a market town for many centuries, and this tradition continues with an excellent daily produce market just outside the city walls in the shady Place du Grand Jardin Here you'll find local honey and Provencal herbs, fresh fish and baskets of flowers, oranges and olives grown in the surrounding countryside. There's also antique dealers congregate here every Wednesday morning too.
The town offers plenty of events and festivals throughout the year, of which the Nuits du Sud is probably the liveliest, when the Place du Grand Jardin is transformed into a big open-air concert venue for two weeks during July and August.
Things to Do in Vence
Nature lovers are also provided for, with over 200 kilometres of marked pathways in the area, including a pleasant woodland trail to the neighbouring town of Saint Paul de Vence. Vence is a popular stopping point for road cyclists, as the Col de Vence departs from the town and is a stage in the famous Paris-Nice cycle race.
Dining in Vence
Right opposite the square is a number of restaurants, cafés and ice cream shops - if you like to be in the hustle and bustle then it’s a great place to stop for lunch or a quick coffee. If it’s gourmet gastronomy you’re looking for then the 2 Michelin starred Maximin is on Chemin de la Gaude just outside of the main town.
Otherwise, there are lots of lovely places to eat in the old town. Place du Peyra has a boulangerie and a couple of restaurants right by the old fountain, or you can sit in the shade of the trees opposite the cathedral in Place Clemenceau. Henry’s Bar, right next to the Porte du Peyra normally seems to have a fair few locals sat outside, which is usually a good sign! Every tiny square and narrow lane has some sort of restaurant tucked away on it, so have a wander round and take your pick.
Hotels in Vence
There are several lovely places to stay in and around Vence. There are some magnificent views down to the coast and the sea from most of the properties.