Nestled away in the hills, Saint Paul-de-Vence has a bit more breathing room than the coastal cities of the French Riviera like Nice, Cannes, and Monaco. Larger than Èze, but still small, this place reminded me so much of the Luberon Villages we had visited a couple weeks before. Just a half-hour drive from Nice, it's an easy way to have a taste of Provence during your stay on the Riviera.
As you walk to the city's gate you'll pass La Colombe d’Or, an important part of Saint Paul's artistic history. Over the years, this hotel and restaurant has hosted some of the world's greatest artists - Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró - the city's cemetery is even the final resting place of Marc Chagall. These artists often paid for their meals and accommodations with their work, which today is displayed as the hotel's private collection around their grounds. While only guests of the hotel have access, it's certainly worth the price of a meal to see these pieces.
If you look at a map of Saint Paul, you'll see it's shaped like a teardrop - a winding web of inner streets outlined by wider roads and the city wall. Make your way into town, climbing stone steps and passing buildings dotted with flowering vines. Of all the towns we saw in the French countryside, this one possibly has the highest count of charming doorways to find hidden throughout the city. While you're exploring, pop into a few shops and galleries - we loved everything at L'Herbier en Provence.
The town can be crowded in the middle of the day, but we arrived in the late afternoon as tour groups were clearing out. The golden-hour light and relatively empty streets made for some especially beautiful sights and photos.
Following the outer streets along the wall, take in Saint Paul's views over the surrounding countryside. Stop at the southern tip of town to see the cemetery and join other camera-toting visitors up on the city's wall. Continue your walk around the edge of town and settle in for dinner as the sun sets. We ate at Le Tilleul, which had pasta and wine almost as good as its view of Baou de Saint-Jeannet to the north. If you're looking for lunch, have a meat-and-cheese plate on Le Fromager's shaded patio, finished with gelato from Dolce Italia.