Vence, Provence: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Vence in Alpes-Maritimes

Visit Vence (Provence, France)


The small town of Vence is on the French Riviera, slightly north of the the coastal resort at Cagnes-sur-Mer. It is a very attractive town that developed on a rocky ledge and is still surrounded by its original fortifications. The town attracts many visitors during the high season.

The old town, which is the most interesting part for visitors, is still entered through the original gateways in these ramparts, where you will discover a fascinating and substantial historical centre to Vence.

Explore Vence

Ask at Vence Tourist office (outside the walls) for their informative 'route map' to make sure you see the main features. Enter the town centre through the Porte du Peyra, the tourist office and next to a 16th century ash tree donated to the town by Francois I.

Most of the pleasure comes from simply strolling around the old town admiring the ancient houses and the picturesque and shady old squares where you will find cafes and can take the time to relax and enjoy the setting. A market is held in the principal square, Place Clemenceau, each Tuesday.

quiet street in the historic centre of Vence

Among the highlights that you will discover in Vence historic centre as you explore are:

- The Cathedral of the Nativity of Saint Mary in Vence, that dates originally from the 4th century although it was rebuilt in the 12th century. You can see Roman inscription tablets either side of the doorway and inside there is a mosaic by Marc Chagall.

- the Tower of Saint-Lambert

- the Chapelle des Penitents Blancs on Rue Isnard and with a multi-coloured tiled dome

- the entrance gates: the Porte du Peyra, an original entrance although rebuilt in the early 19th century; the Porte d'Orient added in the 18th century; the Porte du Signadour, an original 13th century gateway; le Pontis, added in 1863; and the Portail Levis, an original entrance although the tower that originally stood above the gate has now been lost.

Fortified walls of Vence

It isn't immediately obvious from 'ground level' because of the more recent development outside the historic centre, but Vence historic centre is circular and retains all its fortifications intact - these are now seen as a ring of ancient houses rather than stone walls - with the five gateways allowing access to the centre.

The 13th century fortifications are so well preserved because in the 15th century it was agreed that houses could be built against the walls - so they couldn't later be demolished to make way for boulevards as happened in many medieval towns.

Despite these monuments it is above all the ensemble - the attractiveness of the town as a whole, the flower bedecked streets, the views across the countryside - that will stay longer in your memories of the town of Vence than any one of the monuments.

quiet street and cafe

Outside the historic walls you can also take a stroll around the Place du Frêne and the Place du Grand Jardin, next to the Porte du Peyra. Markets are held every day in this main square.

Matisse Chapel at Vence

About 15 minutes walk from Vence centre, another artistic treat in Vence is at the Chapelle du Rosaire, the Matisse Chapel at Vence.

The small 'Matisse' chapel was designed inside and out by Matisse in the years following the end of the second world war - and was among his greatest artistic achievements (albeit not in the traditional 'Matisse' style). The chapel is small yet perfectly formed.

Note: Matisse and Chagall, along with many other artists, were attracted here by the town, the surrounding countryside, and the closeness to so many beautiful landscapes. D H Lawrence died in Vence in 1930, and was buried here for a few years before being exhumed and his ashes sent to Mexico.

There is still a strong art connection in Vence and there are numerous small art galleries to see.

mountains close to the town of Vence

Attractions nearby

Among the many beautiful places both along the Cote d'Azur and in the surrounding Provencal countryside we particularly recommend that you visit the villages of Saint-Paul-de-Vence a few kilometres south of here, and Tourrettes-sur-Loup, to the west of Vence.

You are also likely to visit the major Riviera resorts of Nice and Antibes while you are here.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Alpes-Maritimes guide and the Provence guide.

See also:

Map of Vence and places to visit

Visit near Vence with France This Way reviews

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Alpes-Maritimes

Address: Vence, Grasse, Alpes-Maritimes, Provence, 06140, France || GPS: latitude 43.7236, longitude 7.11417

Plan your visit to Vence, Provence

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Baou de Saint-Jeannet: site of natural beauty (4km)
  • Le Vallon du Brec: remarkable garden (10km)
  • Parc Phœnix: zoo or wildlife park (10km)
  • Gourdon: most beautiful village (11km)
  • Cascade de Gairaut: site of natural beauty (12km)
  • Marineland d'Antibes: aquarium (12km)
  • Jardin botanique: remarkable garden (12km)
  • Nice: secteur sauvegarde (13km)
  • Jardin botanique de la villa Thuret: remarkable garden (16km)
  • Grasse: secteur sauvegarde (17km)

Market days in Vence, France

Regular market(s) are held in Vence each Tuesday & Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Vence (Francais)