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The beautiful hilltop Saint-Paul-de-Vence
The beautiful hilltop Saint-Paul-de-Vence | © Tim Gage / Flickr
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An Art Lover's Guide to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

Picture of Holly Howard
Updated: 20 March 2018
Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a delightful pocket of France. During World War I, many artists and writers fled Paris to the south of France seeking sanctuary and attracted by the Mediterranean light. One venue in particular – La Colombe D’Or – acted as ‘home’ to the painters during their time, cementing this hilltop village as a bit of an artistic hub.

Must-visit museums

Fondation Maeght

Gallery owners and art dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght moved to Saint Paul de Vence in 1950 and years after opened up their private foundation, Maeght Foundation. It is a real highlight with one of the largest collections of paintings in Europe and so don’t miss it for anything. The building itself is pretty dazzling, including the Giacometti Court sculpture garden, internal patio and the unique Miro Labyrinth space. Tickets cost €15 for adults, there’s free entry for under 10s and the foundation is open every day.

Insider tip: You have to pay €5 if you want to photograph or film inside the venue.

Fondation Maeght, 623 Chemin des Gardettes, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, +33 493 328 163

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The Fondation Maeght Museum in Saint-Paul-de-Vence | © Tim Gage / Flickr

Musée d’Histoire Locale

A rich trip back in local history. Wax characters (made in the Musée Grévin workshops in Paris) in period costumes take the visitor back in time. There’s also the creative space of artist Jean-Michel Folon to discover here.The entry fee starts from a very reasonable €4.

Insider tip: Your tickets gets you access to visit of The Folon Chapel located directly opposite the museum. The Folon Chapel is an incredible example of artist Jean-Michel Folon’s design and artistic links with the village for over 30 years.

Musée d’Histoire Locale, 2 Montée de la Castre, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, +33 493 328 695

Must-visit galleries

Bogena Galerie

A vast, contemporary, light art space featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings and more. Bogéna Gidrol is an architect and art enthusiast and this understanding of shapes and spaces is clear in the building design. The venue is also used throughout the year for exhibitions and art events. Open every day, in the winter months you can visit between 10am and 7pm and this extends to 10pm in the high season or summer months.

Insider tip: The lively eatery of La Terrasse sur Saint Paul is just a few minutes away; perfect for a nearby lunch after a morning of art.

777 Route de la Colle, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, +33 493 325 360

Art Seiller Galerie

A really incredible gallery in the heart of the village, especially noted for its sculptures.

Art Seiller Galerie, 28 Rue Grande, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, +33 493 321 094

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Galleries lining the streets in Saint-Paul-de-Vence | © andrea castelli / Flickr

Cafés – An artsy pit stop

Café de la Place

Enjoy an aperitif in one of the most atmospheric spots in the village. From simple snacks to Mediterranean lunch dishes are all washed down with a Provencal glass of rose.

Café de la Place, 1 Place Du General De Gaulle, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, +33 493 328 003

Saint Paul de Vence Cemetery

It’s no surprise that Saint-Paul-de-Vence’s cemetery is where painter Marc Chagall is buried. He lived in the village from 1966 to 1985 and for all of these years, painted the local landscapes. The cemetery itself boasts the most incredible views and is just a short walk from the center of the village and so well worth the time away from the main hustle and bustle. Cyprus and palm trees add to the Mediterranean vibe here, with the sea in question visible from the plateau.

Saint Paul de Vence Cemetery, Chemin de Saint-Paul, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, +33 493 324 100

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Incredible views from the cemetery in Saint-Paul de Vence | © Paul Downey / Flickr

A village of sculptures

Art flows into the streets of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, filling nooks from the village’s walls to the cobblestones underfoot. You’ll have never seen so many sculptures each way you turn and so really just start exploring by foot, twisting and turning through the village’s streets. Don’t miss Lucky the horse – Saint-Paul-de-Vence’s lucky charm – is made from 3,000 horseshoes as is located on the village’s western ramparts. Secondly, the much-loved square of Place du Jour du Boules is tree lined and beautiful and where you’ll find the boules sculpture (pictured below), as it is said that actors Yves Montand and Lino Ventura once had a hotly disputed game of pétanque here.

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Benitier de boules sculpture | © Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

A road trip to Chapelle du Rosaire

Located in the village of Vence, just 15 minutes north of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, is the Chapelle du Rosaire, known as the Matisse Chapel, because it was artist Henri Matisse who devised its creation and decoration between 1949 and 1951. The three stained glass windows that flood the whole space in multi-colour – Matisse spent a great deal of time on these – are among the most notable aspects to the seemingly simple exterior of the chapel. There are also three big murals, all black paint on the white tiles, whose iconic style could only be that of Matisse.

Chapelle du Rosaire, 466 Avenue Henri Matisse, Vence, France, +33 493 580 326

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Chapelle du Rosaire, known also as The Matisse Chapel | © andrea castelli / Flickr

Restaurants – end your day with art

La Colombe D’Or

A gorgeous auberge favoured by artists like Picasso and Matisse oozing art at every step, especially the famous dining room. What feels especially unique about this venue is that even though its art collection is second to none, you’ll see no labels or pamphlets describing the pieces, it’s simply part of the furniture. Pauk Roux, the founder of the family-run La Colombe D’Or, would offer artists free accommodation in exchange for paintings, so even though you feel like you’re dining in a gallery, the art is ingrained in the building’s history and is a must-experience when in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

1 Place du General de Gaulle, St-Paul-de-Vence, France, +33 493 328 002

La Fontaine

Right in the heart of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and overlooking the famous fountain Grande Fontaine de 1850, is this classic Provencal restaurant. Soak up the ambiance of the whole village from this elevated spot, as lovely during the day under the iconic red umbrellas as when the sun is dipping below the horizon. Classic dishes and not too expensive.

La Fontaine, 10 Montée de la Castre, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

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La Fontaine restaurant at St Paul-de-Vence | © Andy L / Flickr