The quaint and unexpected Côte d’Azur’s villages perchés - perched villages - were originally gaunt, heavily fortified medieval strongholds built on rocky peaks to defend the coast from foreign raiders.
Today, one of those villages, the ancient fortified village of Eze is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle which were torn down in 1706. The village houses are all built facing the sea to spot and repulse any invader. There is a network of tunnels, mostly blocked or built over now, which enabled the inhabitants to escape if necessary.
Yet despite its bloody past Eze is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque villages on the Côte d’Azur. It is located approximately halfway between Nice and Monaco and is perched on top of a huge rock, the summit of which is 430 meters (1,410 feet) above sea level.
Walking through the narrow cobblestone streets under stone passageways and step through the Roman Archway - the entrance to the village you will discover the magic of this exciting historical monument with something interesting to marvel at every bend of the street. Le Jardin Exotique is an exotic cactus garden with a 360° view of the sea, coastline, and mountains. A must see is the ruins of the Old Castle - located at the highest point of the village, which was destroyed by order of Louis XVI, and is now popular for summer concerts. Another popular attraction is the Fragonard perfume and soap factory.
Along with the boutiques of all kinds dotted about the narrow streets and the variety of restaurants ranging from casual and simple to gourmet dining there are the private residences of people whose families have lived in the village for generations and of people who fell in love with the tiny streets, ancient stone houses, and stunning views and decided to stay.
History lovers should visit the La Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs - the Chapel of the white monks where plague victims were cared for during the Middle Ages. Also worth a visit is the local church - built between the years 1764 to 1772 which has been recently restored and embellished by the local priest Friar Paul. Many couples from all over the world come to this quaint village church to be married.
As you walk through the small archway that leads into the village, the streets become narrow and more intimate, sometimes twisting upwards in a series of steps, other times running smoothly beside carefully restored houses in small passageways, where you sometimes must shoulder your way through the tight crowds that arrive often each day in a never ending stream of buses. Yet despite these crowds there are still a few spots where you can get away from the crowds and the village can be enjoyed to its utmost.
One of these spots is Chateau Eza, an enchanting hotel and restaurant made of stone which clings to the side of the ancient rock walls of the village. Each of the ten rooms and suites can be reached by walking under stone passageways and most rooms feature private balconies with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
Château Eza was built 400 years ago within the ancient city walls of the 9th century village of Eze. In modern times, Château Eza served as residence for Prince William of Sweden from 1923-1953. As an author, he did much of his writing in this location. His father Gustav V, and his brother, Gustav Adolf, were both kings of Sweden. The present king of Sweden, Carl Gustav, is Prince William’s nephew.
The rooms at this splendid abode boast such romantic sounding names as La Chambre Marie-Antoinette - an atmosphere of Louis XVI with bedroom and dressing area fit for a queen and La Chambre Panoramique - the highest secluded room of Château Eza with spectacular view terrace, rustic open beam ceiling and charming stone fireplace.
Château Eza´s award-winning restaurant has an indoor glass dining room and several outdoor terraces including a couple of smaller private decks. Here, atop the cliffs, you may enjoy the panoramic view on the sparkling waters of the sea by day, or the magic of sunset and a thousand twinkling lights along the spectacular French Riviera coastline each night.
Without a doubt the village of Eze is synonymous with peace, tranquility and breathtaking scenery unrivalled in France and is very much off the beaten track for Cote d’Azur.