A French Riviera weekend off the beaten path in ÈzeAugust
For a quick weekend in the South of France, we wanted a relaxed vibe with beautiful beaches that didn't feel touristy. Èze, located between Nice and Monaco, fit the bill.
Duration: 2 Days
With just two days, we wanted to lay in the sun, swim in the sea, and do little else. Nice was too big and too much of a ‘city’ on the beach, Antibes was perfect last summer, but we wanted to discover a new town along the famed French Riviera. After researching and trying to get a handle on just how ‘flashy’ Cannes is, what Menton is like, how St. Jean Cap Ferrat and St. Juan les Pins compare, we settled on Èze. The beautiful, picturesque village is located on a cliff 1,400 ft above sea level. With typical Provençal stone buildings and narrow, bougainvillea covered lanes, it’s a gorgeous medieval town with panoramic views of the Mediterranean. At sea level, Èze sur Mer, and neighboring Cap D’Ail have beaches where you can spend the day swimming in the sparkling clear sea, and sipping cold rosé.
- Sight Seeing 75% 75%
- Food 80% 80%
- Ease of Transportation 25% 25%
- Activities 50% 50%
With few Airbnb options in this area, and exhaustive online research on hotels, we took one look at the views from Les Terrasses D’Eze (and their infinity pool) and decided to splurge. The hotel interiors are nothing special (sort of an antiseptic modernism), but the reason to stay here is to marvel at the views morning, noon, and night. You could easily spend the weekend just sitting and staring out into the distance. It’s a bit like Santorini in that feeling of being suspended high on a rock face above the expanse of sea below. Just be sure to request a room on a ‘high’ floor, (for example floor -1). We were down on floor -4 and were disappointed with the view from our room. That said, the pool area is insane, and the daily breakfast buffet is indulgent enough that we skipped lunch both days. The hotel is not the easiest to get to, in fact an Uber driver told us that ‘not many people know about this place’ – which is exactly what we were going for, but it can be challenging if you don’t have your own vehicle. DEFINITELY USE UBER AS IT’S CONSIDERABLY CHEAPER THAN A TAXI IN THIS AREA. We Uber’d from the airport to the hotel (still pricey at around €50, we heard a taxi would have been more like €90). We also Uber’d from the hotel down to the beach at Cap Mala (€23 for Uber, the hotel receptionist quoted us €60 in a taxi. Insane considering it’s a 15 minute drive!) Hearty walkers can get around by hiking, and using the buses and trains to get down to sea level and over to other towns, but it is time consuming and requires organization around the various bus and train schedules. With only a weekend, we wanted to maximize our time spent swimming and basking in the sun, so didn’t have as much leeway to take public transportation. We did walk to Èze village, which is a 25 minute walk (each way) along the scenic road overlooking the coast.
Beaches: Despite the picturesque views from our hotel, and the comfort of the infinity pool, we don’t come all the way to the Mediterranean for hte visuals, so we knew we wanted at least one beach day. Èze is not the most conveniently located beach town on the French Riviera given you have to descend 1,400 ft to sea level. It definitely ended up being more expensive than our comparable beach weekend in Antibes, but the combination of views, and the fact that it’s slightly under the radar made it worth the extra effort for this visit. The question was, where are the good beaches? Again after considerably online research, we decided on Plage Mala, technically in Cap d’Ail, and the hotel concierge confirmed that this was one of her favourite beaches in the area. An easier option might have been the beach at Eze Sur Mer, accessible by bus if you walk 20 minutes from the hotel to catch the number 83 bus which runs straight down to the sea. But, we were set on Plaga Mala and it didn’t disappoint.
We called an Uber because we wanted to maximize beach time (€23 from the hotel), but technically we could have taken the 83 down to Eze Sur Mer, then the coastal train one stop to Cap D’Ail, where it would have been a short walk to the beach.
There are two restaurants that rent beach chairs for exhorbitant amounts (when we went, it was €50 for a chair in the ‘front’ row by the sea). In between both restaurants are little public beach areas so we staked out our own front row place even closer to the water and paid nothing for it. There are some places where it makes sense to rent a lounge chair for the day but this isn’t one of them. Bring your own towel (we always travel with a Turkish towel or a parea that doubles as a towel in these situations), and stake out your own sliver of paradise right next to the pricey chairs. Many Mediterranean beaches have you perched on sharp, craggy rocks, but here the smooth pebbles are perfectly comfortably for a day of lounging. The water is crystal clear and warm, there is a stand renting SUPs and kayaks, and a floating deck with a diving board that you can swim out to. If you’re really on top of things, you should bring your own fruit, water, and maybe rosé from the local market. We weren’t that prepared this time so bought a couple €9 glasses of rosé, which seemd like a bargain when we were quoted €5 for a small bottle of water (skipped that).
In short, the beach is lovely, the water is perfect for swimming, and there is an inexpensive way to enjoy it and an overpriced way to enjoy it with little actual difference between the two experiences.
After a full day in the sun, we walked back up to Cap d’Ail’s main road to summon an Uber, stopping at the local boulangerie for fresh, warm bread, and the local marchéfor cheese and produce. No dinner has ever tasted as good as the baguette, local chèvre, and prosciutto picnic we enjoyed back at the hotel, with perfectly ripe local peaches and apricots for dessert.
Despite the picturesque views from our hotel, and the comfort of the infinity pool, we don’t come to the Mediterranean just to stare at it, so we knew we wanted at least one beach day. Èze is not the most conveniently located beach town on the French Riviera given you have to descend 1,400 ft to sea level. It definitely ended up being more expensive than our comparable beach weekend in Antibes, but the combination of views, and the fact that it’s slightly under the radar made it worth the extra effort for this visit. The question was, where are the good beaches? Again after considerably online research, we decided on Plaga Mala, technically in Cap d’Ail, and the hotel concierge confirmed that this was one of her favourites. An easier option might have been the beach at Eze Sur Mer, accessible by bus if you walk 20 minutes from the hotel to catch the number 83 bus which runs straight down to the sea.
We gasped out loud when we rounded the bend and caught our first glimpse of Èze village. Imagine a quaint, medieval stone city perched on top of a rocky crag, overlooking the expanse of the Mediterranean below. It’s simply stunning. That said, there’s not much to do in the village, and a few hours are more than enough time to traipse every charming square inch of it. If you want to splurge and stay in town, the best hotel (and two Michelin star restaurant worth booking in advance) is La Chèvre D’Or.
While we didn’t have time for a Michelin meal on this trip, we walked the ~20 minutes from our hotel to the village, walked all around the charming streets, admired the views of the surrounding landscape, and went to the beautiful (and absolute must-do) jardin exotique perched at the highest point in the town.
Imagine a succulent garden in the clouds, with expansive views of the Mediterranean Sea, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and Nice in the distance, and you’ll have some idea of this spectacular garden. Admission is €6, and it was worth every centime. After walking all around the town, and taking in the views from the jardin, there isn’t much more to see or do in Èze village, so we walked back to our hotel (stopping at a patisserie for a tarte aux framboises to take with us on the walk), and went to spend the afternoon by the pool.
A few final notes:
With a bit more time, we would have ventured to Nice for dinner one night (or you could easily take the train to Monaco or Menton if you wanted to continue East). With limited time, the transportation costs mounted quickly using Uber (and would have been completely impossible in a taxi). There are other areas to cut back though. By indulging in all the croissants, baguettes with fresh jam, eggs, yoghurt etc at our hotel each morning, we skipped lunch and opted for picnic dinners. We were happy to spend two days baking in the sun (one on the beach, one by the pool), so the fact that there isn’t much to do in Èze didn’t bother us. Plage Mala was just the low key beach we were looking for (just don’t pay for chairs!), and the main street in Cap d’Ail met all our boulangerie / marché / glacerie needs. If you want a more lively, and walkable weekend, Antibes is certainly ‘easier’ logistically, and offers more to do. But we enjoyed exploring one of the lesser known towns with our visit to Èze. For people staying in Nice, or with more time on the Riviera, this could easily be done as a day trip from wherever you’re based.
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