Vence is an inland town of the French Riviera.

Vence, with the Mediterranean below in the background

It is an attractive old town surrounded by a ring of hills with splendid views down to the Mediterranean over Antibes and Cagnes-sur-Mer. It has an mild climate throughout the winter months because the hills on the northern side of the town protect it from the cold which can make the winters in the Var region to the west, very uncomfortable.

Vence has always attracted artists, writers and poets. Dufy, Matisse, Chagall, Dubuffet, Carzou, Arman, Anthony Mars, D.H. Lawrence, and W. Gombrowicz have all been part of the Vence scene.

Get in

By road


By train

Nearest station: Cagnes-sur-Mer.

By plane

Nearest airport: Nice Côte d'Azur.

Get around

Most sites in Vence are within walking distance of each other, but there is a "petit train" that links them together, and can be useful for getting to the Matisse chapel if you prefer not to walk too far.


Part of the interior of the Chapelle du Rosaire (Matisse Chapel)

The chief attraction of Vence is the town centre which consists of a pleasant main square with numerous cafés and restaurants spread around three sides, and particularly the old medieval city (" vieille ville").

The cathedral (9:00-18:00 daily) houses a Chagall mosaic.

The Château de Villeneuve, Fondation Emile Huges, Place de Frêne, 04 93 58 15 78, houses a changing variety of art exhibits, mostly modern. Hours: Summer 11:00-19:00 daily; Winter 10:00-12:00, 14:00-18:00, closed Monday.

The Place du Frêne was named for an enormous ash tree that is said to have been planted in 1538, in memory of the visit of François I and Pope Paul III. From the end of it there's a good view of the Baou des Blancs and Baou des Noirs - the two giant cliffs that rise above the town. Baou is a provençal word meaning "rocky spur".

The Chapelle du Rosaire des Dominicaines de Vence, or the Matisse Chapel, is a 5-10 minute walk from the centre of town, across a bridge and up the Avenue Henri Matisse towards St. Jeannet. This white chapel with its striking blue roof was designed and decorated by Matisse between 1947 and 1951 and is famous for its stained glass windows which spill colours onto the white marble floors. Matisse apparently considered it his masterpiece, "Despite its imperfections..."

Opens: Mo, We, Sa 14:00-17:30, and Tu, Th 10:00-11:30 and 14:00-17:30. Closed November.


Enquire at the tourist office for details of local events such as guided photographic tours and botanical walks (French essential).

Go on a self-guided walking tour of the old town. Pick up a map from the tourist office, and follow the numbers, reading on panels (in French and English) about the ancient gateways, fountains, Roman remains and other fascinating sites.

In July and August, Vence hosts "Les Nuits du Sud" - open air concerts on Friday and Saturday nights. Acts are various, but favour Cuba.


The old city centre has a number of pleasant shaded alleys which provide plenty of cool shade in the summer, some delightful restaurants, shops, art galleries and the Hotel de Ville.


Vence has a wide range of restaurants, from the 2 Michelin starred Maximin at the top end down to various pizza places and cafés at the lower end. What is difficult to find is anything other than French cuisine (with the exception of Italian and Vietnamese/Chinese) - this probably won't bother you if you are on holiday, but if you are a resident, you may want to take a trip to Antibes or St Laurent du Var for their Japanese, Thai and Indian cuisine.

The following restaurant reviews are ordered from most expensive to least expensive, with a rough indication of cost being given.

If you're having a night in, Mister Pizza (61 Avenue Rhin et Danube, +33 4 93 24 31 24) deliver to most of Vence. Be sure to ask for it to be sliced and note that the olives are stoned.


Go next

The walk path from Vence to St. Paul is nice. There are two starting points from Vence: Either start from the western part of the city, walk down the ravine and continue up through the woods towards the Fondation Maeght just outside Saint Paul de Vence.

Alternatively, walk down to the little chapel on the southern side of the city, then down the residential roads, downhill to the river and up through the woods to the little parking lot at the north end of Saint Paul de Vence.

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