A Côte d’Azur Gem: Medieval Town Haut de Cagnes

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Easy Hikes in the French Riviera

Something to do outdoors during the “rainy season” on the French Riviera

Normally, we are spoilt by the weather in our part of the world, but for the past six weeks, it has been raining and raining. And just when it felt that the worst was finally over, somebody up there decided to throw the sluice gates open once again, and we found ourselves cooped up for yet another week.

Conditions were so atrocious that for much of November and early December, the littoral, the coastal path, was closed, while parts of the “back country”, the arrière pays in the hills, are still in a state of emergency. This, obviously, narrows down for us the possible choice of walks in the area quite considerably, even now that the sun is out again.

You may find yourself in a similar situation one of these days, because no matter what the brochures want you to believe: rain in the south of France is not a rare event late in the fall and during winter. So, here is something you can do whatever the conditions and the weather, because you will always have asphalt under your feet, and cafés or small restaurants are never more than a few steps away, where you can run for cover until the worst of any rain shower is over.

"a cafe atop the medieval town Haut de Cagnes"

One feature of the Riviera topography, French as well as Italian, is that all historical towns have been built on inland hillsides, as a means of protecting the inhabitants from invading pirates. This means that, by and large, where there is a train station, there is an opportunity for a walk – from New Town to Old Town – right behind it. These walks can be short and sweet (from Monte Carlo to the “rock” of Monaco) or long and arduous (from Eze-sur-mer to Eze village), but they are always interesting and give you a chance of learning something new about the area you are visiting.

This is also true for the brief walk from the train station of Cagnes-sur-Mer – a modern and lively town, although one that is not, by local standards, specifically beautiful – to the medieval town Haut de Cagnes, which is magnificent, colourful and extremely charming, even in comparison with other small towns on the coast: a true gem of the Côte d’Azur.

"Through the arch in Haut de Cagnes in the Côte d'Azur"

A walk through the medieval town Haut de Cagnes

Leave the train station at the far side (walking away from the coast) and keep right, following the Avenue Auguste Renoir before turning left into Avenue de Verdun. Walk past Cagnes City Hall and move up one level into Rue des Combes which will lead you straight to the Montée de France, the medieval footpath that was built for the pilgrims who came here on their way to Rome or (in the opposite direction) to Santiago de Compostela.

"way to get to top of the medieval town Haut de Cagnes in the Côte d'Azur"

You are now entering the Old Town of Cagnes from the north.

"narrow street into the old town of Cagnes sur Mer"

Explore the maze of stairs and narrow pathways …

"one of stairways leading up to Haut de Cagnes"

"a narrow side street in Haut de Cagnes"

… and take your time: there is a lot to discover in Haut de Cagnes.

"the courtyard atop medieval town Haut de Cagnes"

Just don’t miss the splendid views from the town’s central square, immediately underneath the Chateau Grimaldi (where you can also have a snack or a cup of coffee on the terraces of a couple of handsome restaurants). We had come here on a clear and sunny day in early December, when it was warm enough to run around in shirt sleeves, but in the distance – beyond the lush winter greens of the Mediterranean landscape – we could already see the snowy peaks of the Alps.

"view of the alpine mountains atop Haut de Cagnes"

Make your way back downtown on the Montée de la Bourgade, straight down from the castle (this is the only road between Old and New Town which is not pedestrians only).

When you still have some time to spare after that, you can either visit the Musee Renoir, which is accommodated in the painter’s former residence of Les Collettes (a 15-minute walk from the town centre, just follow the signs).

Or take a relaxing walk along the river Cagne. Turn left after crossing the bridge and continue until you reach the Parc des Bugadières: you can follow the Cagne upstream from here for about a mile on a solid and well-secured trail.

"walking trail in Cagnes sur Mer"

 Read more about our other French Riviera walks here.

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