Eze Hiker in the French Riviera

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Hiking in the South of France

Eze it may be, but easy it certainly ain’t.

" Eze Hiker along the steep stone steps of the trail to Eze Village in the French Riviera"

Seemingly never-ending steep stone stairways up towards Eze Village

 

In fact, the trail from Eze-sur-mer, the small town around Eze railway station between Nice and Monaco on the French Riviera, to “Eze village” up in the hills is just one steep stairway, up and up and up for well over an hour, with nary a landing to catch breath.

Eze Hiker, that would be Mrs Easy Hiker too, thanking me for having wreaked this experience upon her in language that is, frankly, unfit for a family audience.

The last husband who underwent a similar barrage of marital profanities probably stood at the foot of his wife’s hospital bed after 24 hours of a particularly protracted childbirth. So, if you are planning to do this walk consider carefully whether all members of your prospective “climbing party” have the required level of physical fitness.

Eze Hill may not be the Nanga Parbat, but neither is it an afternoon stroll in the park.

Be particularly careful if you are setting out in summer. We did the walk in March when temperatures were in the high 50s Fahrenheit (15 degrees centigrade) under “hazy-to-overcast” conditions and were nevertheless drenched in sweat when we arrived. Later in the spring, never mind the high summer, this must be a lot harder still.

Anybody still out there? If you have made it past the first couple of paragraphs and are still undeterred from undertaking the “Eze trail” on your own, you are obviously one of those intrepid souls who can look death and marital strife straight in the eye without blinking.

"The Eze hill, for the Eze Hiker, with the Eze Village atop it in the Cote d'Azur"

It is people like you who will understand when I say that the trail – like all “hardship” experiences – also carries its very own rewards.

It certainly gives you a feeling of superiority over all those who have done it the easy way, coming up to Eze Village by bus from Monaco or by car for a brief stopover on the Moyenne Corniche, the legendary coastal road above the Riviera.

When you sip your coffee or tuck into your well-deserved snack at one of Eze Village’s many cafes and restaurants (it is a pretty lively place), pick out those – with their overfed pet dogs – who would not have survived the experience of actually making it all the way up under their own power. They are the civilians, you are the soldier – and have the sweaty undergarments and dusty footwear to prove it.

To walk up to Eze Village from Eze-sur-mer, turn right out of the train station – the sea in your back – for about 200 metres until you spot the sign of the “Nietzsche trail”, named after the famously unhinged German philosopher, that will lead you all the way to your destination.

"Start of the trail towards Eze Village in the Cote d'Azur"

According to the sign, the walk to Eze Village will take you 90 minutes, but we found this a trifle generous: even we did it in less, and some of those youthful gazelles that kept sprinting past us must have made it to Eze in under one hour.

Once past the town gates of Eze Villages, you will be pleased to hear, more stairs are awaiting you. Eze, in fact, has been laid out in several layers around the peak with a castle on top.

The hilltop was used as a fortress for thousands of years, certainly by the Romans and probably by others (including Egyptians and Phoenicians) before them, although the oldest remains in today’s village are from the 14th century when the House of Savoy turned Eze into a major garrison to defend the near-by city of Nice.

"Eze Hiker going towards Eze Village atop the Eze hill in the French Riviera"

The immediate surroundings of the castle ruins are now occupied by a botanic garden that offers splendid views across the Mediterranean. (You must pay to enter, but it’s well worth it.)

"Eze Hiker view from the Botanical Gardens atop Eze Hill"

From one of the information panels in the garden we also learned that Nietzsche – they named the trail after him, remember? – only spent “a few days” in Eze, which I found rather disappointing. (Walt Disney was another famous guest of the town. A true pity that those two never met.)

We also found out that the Grand Duchess Anastasia came here to spend her sunset years after the Russian Revolution, only to die suddenly, aged 61, in 1922 – “probably by walking up the trail”, we agreed.

Finish your afternoon by exploring the dense maze of streets on the southern side of the castle.

"Narrow alleys of Eze Village walked by Eze Hiker "

It is a small village, but big enough to get disoriented, if perhaps not downright lost, simply because the streets are so narrow and the stone walls on either side of you so very high. Eze is probably the most claustrophobic village anywhere on the Cote d’Azur.

"Rooftops of house in Eze seen from Botanical Gardes in the Cote d'Azur"

For your return, you can walk the same way down again, of course, but if you want to give your tired knees a rest, you can also take a bus to Eze station. Buses stop at the main road, the Moyenne Corniche, on the far side of the large parking lot to the north of the ancient city wall.

We will give you more travel tips in the French Riviera soon. Don’t miss our latest by following us on Facebook or subscribing to get them via email.

 

18 comments to Eze Hiker in the French Riviera

  • Yes, not a very easy and a bit tiring trail to Eze. Also onwards for me two Sundays ago here in Italy.

  • Oh, Mrs Easy Hiker is looking back at this hike and admits that she did enjoy it all the same except for the fact that she didn’t have the right footwear on that day. Thanks for dropping by, Mary Ann.

  • Beautiful photos!! I love Eze, have stayed on the middle corniche several times. Just gorgeous! I don’t blame Marlys for a few choice words for you during the hike. I would never have made it! Cheers!

  • I went the lazy way (*blushing*) but it was a quite bitter day in February….well, that’s my excuse, plus I was holidaying with a friend who doesn’t walk much! It is a fascinating place though. On an overcast day quite eerie in fact….part of that claustrophobia you mentioned I think. Somewhere I could easily believe in ghosts. I’m pretty sure it was there where there is a graveyard and a wee church, clinging to the hillside,no? If I’m write it’s one of the most interesting graveyards I ever saw.

  • It doens’t look like a very easy hike, but I’m sure it was all worth it. I mean, I looked at the pictures and I was like “wow”! I’m sure your lady was happy, in the end, that she took this “trip” :)

  • Bravo to Mrs. EH!
    I wouldn’t mind trying it for the feeling of pride I’d feel after. And I’d love seeing those narrow streets.

  • I love your description of the trail (mentioning Nanga Parbat for example) – and I’m sure it would be one I’d enjoy – after I’d done it. There is almost always a reward for hard work and the views and sense of accomplishment would do it for me. I’m sure there’s a glass of wine at the end too.

  • Petra, there is really a lot more to the Cote d’Azur than beaches. Next time, make sure you explore inland.

  • Totally agree, Ted. Despite the cranky attitude, Mrs Easy Hiker is now proud she did the uphill walk to Eze.

  • Oh, Mrs Easy Hiker was really just in a complaining mood that morning because she thought we would just be sauntering around the town. I myself didn’t know until midway the climb, that the trail was that steep and that long. In the end, we survived and are having a good laugh about it now. And yes, Mrs Easy Hiker enjoyed it too.

  • Eze is worth a visit, next time you come to the South of France. Thanks for dropping by, Raul

  • The stairs and trail on the first picture is certainly intimidating. Those views are gorgeous and well worth the climb and hardships. I’ve been enjoying the French Riviera posts.

  • What a perfectly charming place. I’m looking foward to visiting it some day. By bus!

  • We consider these types of hikes as reminders that we aren’t as old and feeble as some youngin’s might think we are. Figure if we can still make it to the top – we’ve got some life left in us. Good work you two!

  • I have spent some time in that area of southern France but never got to go to Eze. The small towns are worth the effort to go there and, like you, I would prefer the climb experience! Love how the locals talk about Anastasia… didn’t her remains in Russia get positively identified a couple of years ago as have been murdered in 1918 after all?! :) Great post. Look forward to reading others here!

  • One perk of difficult hiking is you usually get a reward at the end. The feeling of conquering the hill and the beautiful view are some nice perks. Not sure it is worth the marital strife, but only you can make that judgement. Hope the snacks and coffee at the nice cafés helped patch things up.

  • This is super! I recently went to dinner at Chateau Eza in the village of Eze and thought it was great except that my hotel failed to tell me not to wear heels! It was a long, steep walk up to the top! And a super long way down in heels after a huge 7 course dinner with wine and champagne!
    Next time I will do it in hiking gear during the day your way.
    Cheers,
    Priscilla

  • I’ve been several times on the french riviera and on he Cote d’Azur, and I always had the feeling that those beautiful white rocks must be hiked once. Unfortunately, I haven’t realized my wish yet, I’ve preferred to sunbathe and swim in the sea, maybe this summer;) Your post affected really inspirational, your pics are beautiful!

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