917km (570 miles) S of Paris; 21km (13 miles) NE of Cannes
Cagnes-sur-Mer, like the Roman god Janus, has two faces. Perched on a hill in the
“hinterlands” of Nice, Le Haut-de-Cagnes is one of the most charming spots on the
Riviera. Naomi Barry of the New York Times wrote that it “crowns the top of a bluecypressed
hill like a village in an Italian Renaissance painting.” At the foot of the hill
is an old fishing port and rapidly developing beach resort called Cros-de-Cagnes,
between Nice and Antibes.
For years, Le Haut-de-Cagnes attracted the French literati, including Simone de
Beauvoir, who wrote Les Mandarins here. A colony of painters also settled in—Renoir
stated that the village was “the place where I want to paint until the last day of my life.”
The racecourse is one of the finest in France.
GETTING THERE The train depot, Gare SNCF, lies in Cagnes-Ville (the more
commercial part of town) at avenue de la Gare. It serves trains that run along the
Mediterranean coast, with arrivals every hour from both Nice (trip time: 13 min.; one-way fare 4.70€/$6.10) and Cannes (23 min.; 5.50€/$7.15). For rail information,
call & 08-92-35-35-35. Buses from Nice and Cannes stop at Cagnes-Ville and
at Béal/Les Collettes, within walking distance of Cros-de-Cagnes. For information,
call The Société de Transports de Cagnes (& 04-93-20-45-05). The climb from
Cagnes-Ville to Haut-de-Cagnes is strenuous; a free minibus runs daily about every
30 minutes year-round from place du Général-de-Gaulle in the center of Cagnes-Ville
to Haut-de-Cagnes. By car from any of the coastal cities of Provence, follow the A8
coastal highway, exiting at CAGNES-SUR-MER/CROS-DE-CAGNES.
VISITOR INFORMATION The Office de Tourisme is at 6 bd. Maréchal-Juin,
Cagnes-Ville (& 04-93-20-61-64; www.cagnes-tourisme.com).
SPECIAL EVENTS Cagnes is the site, for 2 days every August, of a Medieval Festival
(La Fête Médiévale de Cagnes) that dominates the medieval core of Hauts-de-
Cagnes. Highlights include equestrian tournaments, jousting exhibitions, and
knights, knaves, and damsels in medieval costumes. Tickets to and information about
each of the individual events comprising the festival sell for between 7€ and 15€
($9.10–$20) each, and are available at the local tourist office.
SEEING THE SIGHTS
The orange groves and fields of carnations of the upper village provide a beautiful setting
for the narrow cobblestone streets and 17th- and 18th-century homes. Drive your
car to the top, where you can enjoy the view from place du Château and have lunch
or a drink at a sidewalk cafe.
While in Le Haut-de-Cagnes, visit the fortress on place Grimaldi. It was built in
1301 by Rainier Grimaldi I, a lord of Monaco and a French admiral (see the portrait
inside). Charts reveal how the defenses were organized. In the early 17th century, the
dank castle was converted into a more gracious Louis XIII–style château.
The château contains two interconnected museums, the Musée de l’Olivier
(Museum of the Olive Tree) and the Musée d’Art Moderne Méditerranéen
(Museum of Modern Mediterranean Art), 7 place Grimaldi (& 04-92-02-47-30).
The modern art gallery displays works by Kisling, Carzou, Dufy, Cocteau, and
Seyssaud, among others, with temporary exhibitions. In one salon is an interesting
trompe-l’oeil fresco, La Chute de Phaeton. From the tower, you get a panoramic view
of the Côte d’Azur. The museums are open Wednesday to Monday: May to September
10am to noon and 2 to 6pm, and October to April 10am to noon and 2 to 5pm.
Admission to both museums is 3€ ($3.90) for adults and 1.50€ ($1.95) for students
and children under 12.
A DAY AT THE BEACH
Cros-de-Cagnes, a part of Cagnes-Sur-Mer is known for its 4km (21⁄2 miles) of
seafront, covered with light-gray pebbles smoothed by centuries of wave action. These
beaches are Plages de Cros-de-Cagnes. As usual, toplessness is accepted but full
At least five concessions along this expanse rent beach mattresses and chaises for
15€ ($20). The most centrally located are Tiercé Plage (& 04-93-20-13-89), Le
Cigalon (& 04-93-07-74-82), La Gougouline (& 04-93-31-08-72) and Le Neptune
The orange groves and fields of carnations of the upper village provide a beautiful
setting for the narrow cobblestone streets and 17th- and 18th-century homes. Drive to the top, where you can enjoy the view from place du Château and have lunch or
a drink at a sidewalk cafe.
A NEARBY ATTRACTION
Musée Renoir & Les Collettes Les Collettes has been restored to its appearance
when Renoir lived here, from 1908 until his death in 1919. He continued to
sculpt here, even though he was crippled by arthritis. He also continued to paint, with
a brush tied to his hand and with the help of assistants.
The house was built in 1907 in an olive and orange grove. There’s a bust of Mme
Renoir in the entrance room. You can explore the drawing room and dining room on
your own before going up to the artist’s bedroom. In his atelier are his wheelchair,
easel, and brushes. The terrace of Mme Renoir’s bedroom faces a stunning view of Cap
d’Antibes and Haut-de-Cagnes. On a wall hangs a photograph of one of Renoir’s sons,
Pierre, as he appeared in the 1932 film Madame Bovary. Although Renoir is best
remembered for his paintings, in Cagnes he began experimenting with sculpture. The
museum has 20 portrait busts and portrait medallions, most of which depict his wife
and children. The curators say they represent the largest collection of Renoir sculpture
in the world.
19 chemin des Collettes.&04-93-20-61-07. Admission 3€ ($3.90) adults, 1.50€ ($1.95) children 12–18, free for
children under 12. May–Sept Wed–Mon 10am–noon and 2–6pm; Oct–Apr Wed–Mon 10am–noon and 2–5pm. Ticket
sales end 30 min. before lunch and evening closing hours.
WHERE TO DINE
IN LE HAUT-DE-CAGNES
Fleur de Sel FRENCH/PROVENÇAL Energetic owners Philippe and Pascale
Loose run this charming restaurant in a 200-year-old stone-sided house in the center
of the village. In two ocher-toned dining rooms outfitted with Provençal furniture and
oil paintings of bouquets of culinary ingredients, you’ll enjoy the kind of cuisine that
Philippe learned during employment stints at some of the grandest restaurants of
France, including a brief time with Marc Meneau at L’Espérance in Vezélay. Tasty recommendations
include foie gras with artichoke hearts in puff pastry; cappuccino of
crayfish with paprika and pistachios; scallops braised with spinach; and filet of beef
braised in a hearty local red wine, Bellet.
85 Montée de la Bourgade.&04-93-20-33-33. Reservations recommended. Main courses 14€–23€ ($18–$30);
fixed-price menu 21€–39€ ($27–$51). MC, V. Fri–Tues noon–2pm; Thurs–Tues 7:30–10pm.
Josy-Jo TRADITIONAL FRENCH Le Cagnard (see “Where to Stay,” above)
has a more elegant setting, but the food here is comparable. Behind a 200-year-old
facade covered with vines and flowers, this restaurant was the home and studio of
Modigliani and Soutine during their hungriest years. Paintings cover the walls, and
the Bandecchi family runs everything smoothly. The menu features grilled meats and
a variety of fish. You can enjoy brochette of gigot of lamb with kidneys; calves’ liver;
homemade terrine of foie gras of duckling; stuffed Provençal vegetables “in the style
of Grandmother”; and an array of salads.
8 place du Planastel.& 04-93-20-68-76. Reservations required. Main courses 25€–28€ ($33–$36). AE, MC, V.
Mon–Fri 12:30–2pm; Mon–Sat 7:30–9:30pm. Closed Nov 19–Dec 22.
Le Grimaldi TRADITIONAL FRENCH Here you can dine under bright parasols
on the town’s main square or, if you prefer, within a room that was originally built during
the Middle Ages. Taken over by new, English-speaking owners in 2004, the restaurant
attracts many local diners thanks partly to a well-prepared versions of salad
Niçoise, risotto laced with scallops; velvety foie gras, roasted rabbit with mushrooms
and fresh vegetables, and poached turbot with butter-flavored wine sauce, fresh
asparagus, and vegetable flan.
The establishment, which was radically upgraded by the owners, offers five comfortable
but unfrilly bedrooms, usually with the original, rough-hewn ceiling beams and furniture inspired by traditional Provençal models. With breakfast included, doubles
rent for 125€ ($163) per night, suites 165€ ($215), plus 9€ ($12) per night for
overnight parking. Each unit has a private bathroom with shower.
6 place du Château.&04-93-20-60-24. Reservations recommended. Fixed-price menus 32€–52€ ($42–$68). AE,
DC, MC, V. Daily noon–3pm and 7:30–11pm. Closed Jan 15–Feb 15.
Loulou (La Réserve) FRENCH This restaurant, which like Josy-Jo and
Cagnard has a Michelin star, makes the Cagnes area a gourmet enclave. It’s across the
boulevard from the sea and named for a famous long-departed chef. Brothers Eric and
Joseph Campo prepare spectacular versions of fish soup; shrimp steamed and served
with fresh ginger and cinnamon; and grilled versions of the catch of the day. These
dishes are served as simply as possible, usually with just a drizzling of olive oil and balsamic
vinegar. Meat dishes include flavorful veal kidneys with port sauce, and delicious
grilled steaks, chops, and cutlets. Dessert might include caramelized-apple tart.
The glassed-in veranda in front is a prime people-watching spot.
91 bd. de la Plage.& 04-93-31-00-17. Reservations recommended. Main courses 27€–85€ ($35–$111); fixedprice
menu 38€ ($49). AE, MC, V. Mon–Fri noon–1:30pm and 7:30–9:30pm; Sat 7–9:30pm.