A Brief Overview of the Area
If you’re considering buying a luxury French Riviera property, it’s definitely worth remembering that the Riviera isn’t just about the coastline and the best-known towns. An original option for your search is to head inland into the hills behind Nice, Cannes, Antibes, etc. where you’ll find perched medieval villages and towns which were founded to defend local people from marauders, acres of forest, winding gorges, national parks where wilderness beckons. This is home to some of France’s most breathtaking landscapes. You’ll also find real gems in the property stakes.
Some of our most prestigious villas can be found in this hinterland. Here’s a short guided tour of some of the villages to consider:
The village of Mougins sits in the heights of Cannes, a fifteen-minute drive away from the centre. Mougins has worked its special charm on artists and celebrities for many years. Picasso, Cocteau, Man Ray, Yves St Laurent, Dior and Churchill are just some of the people who have succumbed to the delights and the light of this medieval village. Today it’s a vibrant cultural hub which has also become a renowned culinary hub. Chefs Roger Verge and Alain Ducasse have both managed restaurants in the village, and the restaurant l’Amandier in the heart of the old village, among others, attracts diners from all over the world. Mougins even hosts an International Gastronomy Festival, called Les Etoiles de Mougins, every September.
Not far from Mougins, the 16th-century village of Valbonne, which means ‘good valley’, with its 12th-century abbey is a thriving hub close to the high-tech centre of Sophia Antipolis. Unlike in neighbouring villages, the layout here follows a grid pattern, inspired by the Roman military camps, with the Place des Arcades at its centre. It’s a very chic residential area, in a village which has kept its charm, with a lovely selection of shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as its own wine produced from the Servan grape.
To the west of Grasse is the little village of Peymeinade, traversed by the Siagne canal. There’s a newer part with shops and cafes, and the upper older original part which has a square with a 19th-century fountain, pretty houses, church, sundial and trompe l’oeil painted walls. Peymeinade is surrounded by olive orchards and flower fields and is a delightful village to live in, combining peace and tranquillity with proximity to the coast, Grasse, Cannes and Nice, and the high-tech business centre of Sophia Antipolis.
Set in the hills above Nice and Antibes is the beautiful town of Vence, where olive and orange trees are cultivated, and the air is refined. The original old walled town is as it was hundreds of years ago. Inside the walls, pierced by five different gates, is the Place Clémenceau lined with cafe terraces and a view of the church, and outside the walls are more cafe terraces under the plane trees from where you can sit in the shade and watch the world go by. The town has long been a magnet for artists, sculptors, and writers. The chapel was designed and decorated by Matisse, who no doubt took advantage of the weekly food markets that locals and visitors can still enjoy today, as well as the clear mineral water of ‘La Foux’ which comes from a source just above the village and can be collected at several fountains around the village.
Unlike the villages mentioned before, Grasse doesn’t really come into the category of a village. It’s a bit big for that; it boasts an 11th-century cathedral, and you definitely cannot say it’s unknown. There can’t be many people who don’t know the importance Grasse has had in the perfume industry since the 18th Century. Grasse’s microclimate and abundant water supply has ensured its place as a world leader in perfume creation since an enterprising tanner called Galimard came up with the idea of creating a pair of scented leather gloves for Catherine de Medici. Today visitors flock to Grasse to visit the factories of famous perfumers such as Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard. Visitors aside, it’s also a delightful place to live on its own account. It’s 20kms to Cannes and 40 to Nice, 20 minutes from the coast and only an hour to the ski slopes.
Highlights of the Social Calendar
This is by no means a full list, and the social calendar for the French Riviera is filled with more dates than you can probably attend, but just to concentrate on a selection of the events in the villages listed above:
- Feast of St Blaise, Valbonne ~ January
- Urban Trail race, Mougins ~ March
- Provencal Festival, Valbonne ~ March
- Grasse Alpine Auto Rally, Grasse ~ April
- International Rose Festival, Grasse ~ May
- Les Etoiles de Mougins, International Gastronomy Festival ~ June
- Nights of the Abbey (classical and jazz music) ~ July
- Jasmine Festival, Grasse ~ August
Outstanding French Riviera Properties for Sale
There’s a good choice of properties for you to visit in the French Riviera hillside.
Here’s a taste of what might be your new home to whet your appetite starting with a spectacular 5 bed Provencal villa in Vence. It consists of a mansion and an independent ground floor apartment, a 2800 square metre mature landscaped garden with heated swimming pool, summer lounge area, pool house and bar stand and covered terraces. There is also an indoor pool as well as a gym, a sauna, and an entertainment room. The cherry on the cake is the master suite complete with jacuzzi.
If contemporary style is your thing, this modern villa with separate apartment in Mougins will certainly seduce you with its clean lines, high ceilings and 660 square metres of living space. It has five bedrooms and five bathrooms, sumptuous living and dining areas, cinema room, sauna, steam room, gym, heated swimming pool and permission to build on another 320 square metres. The property is situated in a prestigious private domaine.
If a larger property is what you need, a sumptuous 8 bed bastide with independent 4 bed guesthouse awaits you in Peymeinade. The 600 square metre bastide, built in 1998 and entirely renovated in 2011, is set in 5900 square metres of land with its own vineyard producing around 1000 bottles per year. Among the top-notch facilities and features are two infinity pools complete with underwater lighting and sound, outdoor showers and spa, a Japanese deco pool, a boulodrome, and an olive tree orchard.
Investing in French Riviera Real Estate
In such a remarkable area as the French Riviera, it could be a real headache to decide where to put down roots. It’s essential to get out and about and discover the area for yourself. It’s only by driving around and taking some time to explore the towns and villages that you’ll get a real feel for what works for you. It might be a particular view that cinches it for you, or a cafe on a cobbled street where you can imagine whiling away your mornings with your laptop and a cappuccino. Whatever the spark is for you, it’s true that anywhere in the French Riviera hillside will guarantee:
- Fantastic weather year-round
- Slow living when you require that, and a faster pace of life only a short drive away
- Beaches a short drive to the south and ski resorts to the north
- Restaurants and cafes galore
- A rich cultural landscape to discover
- Miles of hiking trails on your doorstep
- Ease of access from anywhere in the world because of proximity to Nice International Airport
Living on the French Riviera
Living in the hills above the coast is a wonderful way to get the best of both worlds - the buzz and excitement of the Mediterranean beaches and hotspots, and the slow pace and real living of the Provencal countryside. The weather is mostly excellent all year round, with hot summers and mild winters. Any kind of land or sea sport you can imagine is possible not very far from home, and the possibilities for a rich social and cultural life are endless. In fact, it would be true to say that if you live here, it will feel like you are on holiday all the time.
From any of the French Riviera hillside villages mentioned above, the towns of Nice, Cannes and Antibes are not far away for a day’s shopping, a visit to the cinema or casino, a day’s yachting or kite surfing, or to go out to the bars and restaurants. If you’re a golfer, you could play every day for a fortnight and be on a different course each time. Two of the best golf clubs are in Mougins and Valbonne.
If you’re hungry to broaden your cultural experiences, don’t forget you are based not only in one of the most historically rich areas to explore, but also you are following in the footsteps of many a celebrated artist who settled here. There are so many museums and galleries, churches and monuments to visit that you’ll get dizzy just trying to decide where to go. Not to mention the wealth of theatre and opera events.
For families, there are international schools in Monaco, Nice, and Mougins and bi-lingual schools in Nice and Cagnes Sur Mer. For newcomers to the area, there are lots of groups to help you settle in, learn the language, make new friends, find your feet and start to really feel like a local.
Arrange a viewing
The team at Beauchamp Estates are on hand to guide you in your choice so feel free to give us a call at any time. If you’d like to know more about living in the French Riviera Hillside, and want to know what we can propose for you to visit, just give us a ring. We’d be delighted to help you.