Eze Village and its idyllic Botanical Garden: the true essence of the French Riviera


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The terracotta roofs of Eze Village looking south towards Corsica, note the tiny cross marking the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs (protective coating because it was still technically winter when this photo was taken)

The sparkling Mediterranean sea, blue skies, soaring mountains and beautiful colours – these all represent the true essence of the French Riviera, encapsulated by the stunning village of Eze. A few weeks ago, I decided to take advantage of a spectacularly sunny Sunday afternoon to take a short drive to Eze Village and especially explore the Botanical Garden at its tip, mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t been up there for a while. The experience was beyond my wildest expectations and I was truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the setting and the peaceful atmosphere that filled me with positive energy after an exhausting month travelling around Europe. I therefore figured that I would share with you my feelings, impressions and some photos of this magical afternoon.  This slightly more in-depth section on Eze Village can also be combined with the broader article I wrote quite a while ago about the Nietzsche trail so read on to find out more and live the dream, the French Riviera Dream!

The botanical garden of Eze was built on some 12th century defensive walls that were at the tip of the eagle’s nest-shaped rocky outcrop that the village is built on top of and were destroyed in 1706, something that contributes to its unique atmosphere. The garden was founded in 1950 and the authorities decided to call up a top consultant at the time, Jean Gastaud, who had already created the Exotic Garden of Monaco and who used the same designs to bring in plenty of succulent and prickly plants from South America, thereby giving the site this “exotic” feel.

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Also, this is the only part of the village of Eze from which you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view over the coastline, 429m below, so I would advise to pay the entrance fee, even if it is a slightly steep 6€, the atmosphere is worth it…

It’s also a great way to get an overall vision of the whole village so my advice if you’ve just climbed up the Nietzsche trail from the seaside train station is to get a coffee or a drink at the base of the village for a power break and then keep climbing to the top of the mound (it’s not that tiring compared to the Nietzsche trail) and enjoy the exotic garden before walking back down and exploring the rest of the village.

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The roofs of the Old Town of Eze

Once inside the garden, get your bearings at the entrance with the map and then head straight to the top to enjoy the great panoramic view over the eastern French Riviera from the ruins of the castle…

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The old castle walls… The only way is up!

Looking west you will dominate Cap Ferrat and the Bay of Villefranche. On a clear winter’s day, you can see all the way to the Esterel mountains, the Gulf of St Tropez and if you are lucky, across the water to the island of Corsica. This is the spot where Nietzsche once sat over a hundred years ago and got the inspiration for Also Sprach Zararuthstra.

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View west over Cap Ferrat and the Bay of Villefranche

Looking east, you’ll find great views over the Tête de Chien (the distinctive mountain overlooking Cap d’Ail and Monaco), the terracotta roofs of Eze village and the famous Pont du Diable viaduct (the Devil’s bridge) that links the village to the rest of the Moyenne Corniche road.

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The Pont du Diable, looking inland

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Nitre Dame de l’Assomption and Tête de Chien

One element that makes the garden stand out and gives it a truly ethereal feel is the presence of some very beautiful and tasteful female sculptures, known as the Goddesses or Graces and who were strategically placed in the most beautiful spots by their creator, the local sculptor Jean-Philippe Richard.

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Hello!

Once you have absorbed the wonderful view from the top, just wind your way back down through the Mediterranean garden which faces east and has a completely different feel given that it has much less exposure to the sun and therefore accommodates plants that thrive in a much more humid environment. This section is graced by waterfalls, rock sculptures and lovely views over the Old Town, especially the baroque Notre Dame de l’Assomption church.

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The different atmosphere of the more humid Mediterranean garden (complete with a feline inhabitant)

I’ve left the best till last… If you look on the map, there’s a little pathway that heads down to the very bottom of the garden, where you will find a stunning relaxation terrace complete with deckchairs, waterfalls and more beautiful female sculptures – and especially a stunning view west over the Riviera, directly opposite the dining room of the Chateau Eza hotel. Just go there early if you want to be amongst the lucky few who can get hold of some of the deckchairs.

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The view over Chateau Eza, a wonderful place to just chill out!

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Magical colours

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This botanical garden represents the true essence of the French Riviera: sea, mountains and beautiful nature!

Visiting the rest of the village

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A rather convenient map of the village!

Allow at least an hour to soak in the lovely atmosphere of this garden and absorb the sensory overload and once you are done, you can go and explore the rest of the village. As I mentioned in the other article, there isn’t a huge amount to see but the small alleyways are so picturesque and pretty that every step is a wonderful photo opportunity.

At some point you will come across the 14th century Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs (close to the Chateau Eza hotel) which some claim is the oldest building in the village. You can just about distinguish the tiny rooftop cross amongst the roofs of the old houses when on top of the botanical garden as it just blends in with the surroundings. Even if it is shut, you can take a peak through the doors at the beautiful yet sober interior.

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Inside the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs

Once you are back down to the base of the village, you can also visit the interesting Galimard perfume factory and learn about the history of the local perfume industry, I had a great experience there creating my own perfume a few years ago and you can read about it in this article. If ever you bump into my friend Delphine Roux, please send her my greetings 😉

If you are lucky enough to be in the village in the evening, makes sure that you have a good wander around the old streets after dark – like the Old Town of Monaco, it is a completely different place and you can really travel back in time to the medieval era and imagine looking out for Saracen invaders from the fortified castle walls.

Where to eat or have a drink

There are plenty of snack bars of pretty much equal quality but here are some I can recommend:

  • Le Nid d’Aigle: located right at the top near the entrance of the Botanical Garden, this simple venue is packed with tourists during the day but it has a lovely setting and garden and the menu of local specialties is reasonably priced.
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The pleasant setting of the Nid d’Aigle and Deli’

  • Deli’ , located just next door up a small flight of steps, specializes in regional olive oils and wines and is therefore a great way to stay in the authentic mood of the area after visiting the Botanical Garden.
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Authentic olive oil at Deli’

  • If you want to splash out on THAT special meal during your stay, look no further than the gourmet restaurants of the Chateau Eza and Chèvre d’Or hotels: the latter has more Michelin stars and is pricier than the former but both are equally good and will provide a truly memorable experience of fine dining on the French Riviera with one of the best possible views.
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The magical Chateau Eza vowed from the Botanical Garden – now just imagine sitting on that terrace and having a romantic dinner at sunset!

Getting to Eze Village:  

By train or bus: if you are feeling fit and adventurous, either take the train or the no. 100 bus to Eze sur Mer and then hike up the Nietzsche trail to Eze village (see the relevant article about this lovely pathway but do not take it in the summer as it gets very hot). Alternatively take bus line 112 from either Nice or the Monte Carlo tourist office (timetables here) for direct access to the village or bus line 82 from Nice Riquier train station to the east of the centre (timetables here).

By car: just take the Moyenne Corniche road from Nice (20 minutes) or Monaco (15 minutes). Car parking at the foot of the village isn’t too tough to find but pretty expensive.

Useful links:

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please let me know and I wish you a wonderful stay on the French Riviera!

Warm greetings from Monaco,

Kevin

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