It was the middle of one of the hottest summers on record in France. I was studying for my masters at a university in Nice and had been in the South of France for a couple of months. Every week, my friends and I would get together to visit a new town or area of the French Riviera.
On this particular weekend, we decided to visit Èze – a small mountaintop village with breathtaking views of the Med.
Now, we could have gone the traditional route and caught a bus into the hilltop town, but we decided to be a bit more adventurous and hike instead. Disclaimer: I’m no hiker, especially when the weather hits over 30 degrees Celsius. But here I was, hiking my way into a historic French commune mid-morning in the heat of summer.
All Aboard the Èze Express
We started our journey at Nice-Ville, the central train station in Nice, where we caught a train to Èze-Sur-Mer. The journey took under fifteen minutes and cost less than three Euros.
Another option would be to hop on the number 112 bus from Nice to Monaco and get off at Èze-Sur-Mer, but this journey will take you double the time. The most direct option would be to catch the 82 bus from Vauban in Upper Nice and travel to the Plateau de la Justice just outside the hilltop village.
About Èze: The Secrets of a Hilltop Time Capsule
Set 1401 feet above sea level overlooking the French Riviera, Èze began as a Medieval stronghold in the 12th century. It was strategically positioned to defend against invasions and remained so throughout the Middle Ages. Today, the town has evolved into a tourist destination known for its winding cobblestone streets, world-class views, and historical charm.
The drive to the village follows a narrow single-lane road that twists and turns its way from Èze-Sur-Mer along the coastline and into the mountains. The town itself is vehicle-free, so once you reach the entrance, the only way to get around is on foot.
The Trail to Èze
The Nietzsche Path is one of the main attractions of the area. Leading from the sea to the medieval village, this 1.4-mile trail is an easy to moderate hike made up of plenty of stairs and a dusty trail. As the name suggests, the hike was named after the German philosopher, who would hike the trail almost daily when he lived in the area in the late 19th century.
Set aside around an hour and a half for the hike, which follows a few steep sections, sunny viewpoints, and a more shaded section or trail toward the summit. We hiked from Èze-Sur-Mer up to Èze, but if you’re planning the hike in summer like we did, do yourself a favor and walk downhill instead of up.
While I recommend taking this trip in reverse, the hike up was beautiful, with the low sun casting gorgeous shadows on the mountain path. The trail is clearly marked and safe. I think our main mistake was not dressing correctly. Make sure you wear proper hiking shoes or trainers, a lightweight top, and a sun hat, and bring along plenty of water and sun cream.
Along the route, we ran into a cat. Well-fed and happy, he ended up following us almost the entire way up the mountain. As a bit of a cat-person myself, the interaction with this little cat was one of my favorite memories of this trip.
We reached the village a little tired and sweaty, which, for me, is a good enough reason to hike down instead of up. First, we grabbed a Coke from the first restaurant we came across for a bit of extra energy and hydration. L’Atelier Gourmet is a sandwich shop that offers dine-in and takeout options, and is perfectly located towards the entrance of the town.
Walking through the narrow, cobblestone streets is like stepping into a medieval world. Each step echoes centuries of history, with weathered buildings clad in ivy, bougainvillea, and blossoming jasmine. As the sweet scent of jasmine hangs low in the summer air, it really feels as if time has stood still in this little village.
We meandered our way through the town, passing boutique shops and terraced cafes all nestled between towering trees and greenery. The shops were a mix of tourist traps and well-curated boutiques, so be warned that you could probably purchase most things on sale here for a lot less elsewhere. Some of my favorites were Atelier Torraca Èze Village, Galorie Anicroche, and Fragonard Boutique.
One of the notable attractions we passed was the Notre Dame de l’Assomption, a Baroque church built in the 18th century. We didn’t enter the church because the thought of being indoors without air conditioning was too hot to handle – literally. But I can relay that the interior is just as impressive as the architecturally stunning exterior.
Bon Appétit, Èze-style
It was time to do what we do best: eat. We hadn’t booked a table for lunch, and it proved challenging to find a space for six guests without a reservation that was budget-friendly for a group of students and that served what we felt like eating.
After checking out all the restaurants we could, we settled on Le Nid d’Aigle, which had shaded terrace seating and served moderately priced pizzas. I had an olive and tomato pizza – my favorite – which at the time cost around €11.
If I were to do this trip over, I would splurge and book a table on the terrace at the Hôtel Château de La Chèvre d’Or. Easily the most famous hotel in the village, this hilltop hotel has terraced gardens overlooking the Mediterranean bay below. The hotel has a few restaurant options, from a Michelin-starred experience to a more casual bistro-style dining experience in a laid-back atmosphere.
We also popped our heads into La Taverne d’Antan an Èze on our search for a restaurant for lunch. The food looked as good as the cabin-esque atmosphere. However, we were adamant on finding a space with outdoor seating.
Clifftop Cacti at The Jardin Exotique
With a boost of energy from lunch, we walked a few minutes to the pinnacle of the town, the Jardin Exotique. Home to over four hundred Mediterranean cacti, citrus trees, and blossoming flowers, the garden stands where a medieval castle once stood tall, before it was demolished by Louis, the 14th King of France.
We paid €6 to enter the garden, which was absolutely worth it – mainly for the views overlooking the terracotta roofs and out across the French Riviera.
Altogether, we spent around four hours in the village itself, which was more than enough time to get a taste of the atmosphere and check out some of the shops and gardens.
The Journey Down
It was around mid-afternoon, and we were in desperate need of a cool-down. We filled up our water bottles at one of the iconic spouting water fountains in the village, and some of us grabbed a takeaway coffee for the journey back to sea-level.
We decided to take the bus back to Èze-Sur-Mer, enjoy a swim at the beach, and take the train back to Nice later on in the afternoon. The 83 bus from Plage Saint Laurent was busy – to say the least. We couldn’t fit onto the first bus, so we waited an annoying 30 minutes for the next one.
We caught the bus just outside the village at Plateau de la Justice, and 23 minutes later, we were dropped off just above the SNCF train station we arrived at earlier that morning.
The Shaded Shoreline of Plage d’Èze
From here, it was about a five-minute walk to a beach called Plage d’Èze, across a road and under the train tracks. We hobbled over the classic French Riviera stones to the water’s edge and dived into the calm Mediterranean water.
Coming from a country with some of the world’s best beaches, the beaches on the French Riviera weren’t as impressive to me as they were to some of my classmates from central Europe. Nevertheless, it’s hard to talk-down on a refreshing swim after a day in the heat.
We laid out the lightweight towels we brought with us on the adventure and relaxed in an area of the beach shaded by trees. There was hardly another soul on this beach, which was a welcome respite from the tourist-packed beaches of Nice.
The Road Home
After a leisurely hour-or-so on the beach, lapping up the late afternoon sunshine with no one but the birds to share it with, we decided to make our way back home. Conveniently, the train station was just above the beach. We walked the three minutes to the station and brought tickets home on the easy-to-use self-service machines.
We hopped on our train and traveled for fifteen minutes to Nice-Ville and parted ways. I decided to end the day as strong as it had started and walk home to the western outskirts of the city.
I walked down the busy Avenue Jean Medecin, which was bustling with activity, and onto the Promenade des Anglais. From there, I walked about thirty minutes along the promenade, watching the swimmers enjoy their final dips of the day as the sun set into the horizon.