Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
First things first: Vence is not to be confused with its next-door neighbour Saint-Paul-de-Vence, the better-known of the pair. It’s an easy mistake to make… After all, they’re both medieval hilltop towns, sound similar and sit just 5km apart on the Côte d’Azur.
But singular Vence (no frills, no flounce) has its own charms. The very atmosphere is different, feeling distinctly less touristy and more authentic than its coastal counterpart.
The pedestrian-only streets and narrow alleys invite curious adventures à pied, where you’ll discover painted shutters and balconies groaning with flora. Heaps of shaded outdoor eateries provide a place to recharge your batteries in the summer and people-watch, and if caffeine’s your scene, you can get your fix in trendy cafés like Coffea on Place Clémenceau.
There’s plenty of culture to go around as well. One of the most famous sights in town is the Chapelle du Rosaire, designed and decorated by Henri Matisse just before his death in the 1950s (many great artists, including Chagall and Picasso, hopped between Vence and its wordier cousin for inspiration). You can’t miss the striking white-and-blue tiled roof.
As you might have gathered, life here is both quiet and vibrant at the same time. The population is rather small at around 18,000 – and with a growing expat community, who favoured Vence over the Riviera’s glitzier (and pricier) postcodes. Of course, property prices are still quite high, but considerably less so than in other coastline towns like Villefranche-sur-Mer.
A budget of around €250,000 to €450,000 will fetch you a decent apartment either in the centre or the leafy outskirts (still within walking distance of town). Space might be limited, but is often maximised with built-in wardrobes or shelved alcoves. Many flats come with balconies, boasting dreamy sea views and drenched in sunshine for most of the year. At the higher end of the market, you’ll come across sprawling bastides and villas offering the luxurious Mediterranean lifestyle. Starting at around €500,00 and shooting upwards of €4m (some scraping an eye-watering €5m), these properties tend to come with a private pool, a considerable amount of land and landscaped gardens, and grow more extravagant the higher up you go. An afternoon dip in the infinity pool, anyone?
● With thanks to our partner agencies in Vence