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Vence Travel & the Post Impressionism Trail

Vence is a charming medieval town in the French Riviera. It is located up in the mountains, far removed from the maddening crowds of the seaside towns.

Was this the drawing card for the post-impressionism painters, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, along with many other artists? Did they come to Vence and the surrounding countryside for its charm, beauty and laid back atmosphere?

Chagall and Matisse left their mark in this lovely town. In fact their art works draw in the crowds from near and far. But there are plenty more things to do and see in Vence.

The historical center of Vence
Vence Travel – the Old City / Photo by  bill anderson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

The Five best Travel tips for Vence

1. The Old Town of Vence

The historical quarter of Vence exudes medieval charm. Many of its buildings date back to the 13th century. There is no better way to enjoy this town than wonder through the pedestrian-only, charming, historical streets.

Charming cafes, fabulous shops and delicious French bakeries are scattered throughout this picture-perfect town. Peaceful Vence feels so authentic… it is wonderful and certainly deserves a visit.

It is also a perfect base when visiting this part of France.

Vence Travel - The pretty streets
The streets of Vence / Photo by Alehins

2. Chapelle du Rosaire – The Rosary Chapel

This Chapel is also called “The Matisse Chapel” as the famous French artist, Henri Matisse, designed and constructed it. It was Matisse’s way of thanking his dedicated nurse, Monique Bourgeois, who looked after him when he was sick with cancer.

It is a lovely and unusual chapel, combining both artistic and spiritual themes. Unbelievably, Matisse began this project when he was 77 years old and in ill-health. It was his largest and most challenging work of art. When Matisse completed the chapel he called it his “Masterpiece” and indeed it is! For more information press here.

Stained-Glass Windows made by Henri Matisse, Vence Travel
Stained-Glass Windows designed by Matisse in the Chapelle du Rosaire
Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

3. Musee de Vence – Emile Hugues Foundation

The art museum of Vence is situated in the heart of the old town. It is considered one of the must-see cultural attractions when travelling the Cote D’Azur region.  Throughout the year, the lovely museum exhibits modern and contemporary artworks of both French and international artists. 

In addition this museum has an added bonus for all Matisse fans. On the second floor, the museum showcases a permanent exhibition of Matisse artworks. The city owns an impressive six dozen artworks of Matisse and they are exhibited in this museum on a rotating basis. The artworks consist mainly of graphic works, charcoals, lithographs and etchings. 

Museum Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday – 11:00 to 18:00 Closed on Mondays

For more information about exhibitions and ticket prices, press here

4. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Nativité

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Nativité is the smallest cathedral in all of France.

Although small in size, it is beautiful and very interesting. It contains a 5th century sarcophagus, collections of painted wooden statues, intricate paper sculptures and fantastic carved timber stalls.

Vence Cathedral
Vence Cathedral / photo by Jon Anderson

However the MUST-SEE artwork that draws the crowds from near and far, is the Baptistery. Marc Chagall decorated the baptistery with a mosaic portraying the biblical scene of baby Moses being saved from the River Nile.

Vence Tourism - Chagall Mosaic in the Notre Dame Cathedral
Marc Chagall Mosaic in Vence Cathedral / Photo by Jon Anderson

From Monday to Sunday:  from 9am to 6pm 
Mass on Saturday 6:30pm and Sunday 11am

Free entrance
Place Clemenceau, 06140 Vence

5. Take a Bus to the Sister Town – Saint Paul de Vence

There is plenty to do in Vence but it would be a shame to miss the nearby town of St. Paul de Vence. This hilltop village is one of the oldest and best-preserved medieval towns in the entire Cote d’Azur.

Wander through the narrow, cobbled, winding streets and lose yourself in history! This small town oozes art, history and French chic.

Medieval town Saint Paul de Vence - Vence travel
Medieval town Saint Paul de Vence / Photo by andrea castelli

Scattered throughout Saint Paul de Vence are the most gorgeous little boutique shops, a great selection of restaurants, chic cafes and lots of art galleries.

Make sure you do not miss the Maeght Foundation. The museum is privately owned and it is amazing! It has the best collection of modern art including artworks of Kandinsky, Chagall, Matisse, Bonnard, Giacometti, Miró, Braque, Dufy and many more! The sculpture gardens are wonderful and offer the most incredible views!

The sculpture garden in the  Maeght foundation, Saint Paul de Vence
The sculpture garden in the Maeght foundation, Saint Paul de Vence
Photo by Pierre Metivier

Looking for a guided tour to Vence & Saint Paul de Vence? Check out these wonderful options below:

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For more French Riviera Travel Tips in the footsteps of the Impressionists, check out the articles below