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Vence Tourism Gems: 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, such as Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and 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 here in Vence draw in the crowds from near and far.

There are plenty more things to do and see in Vence.

Vence tourism: The historical center
Vence Tourism – 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.

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

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

Vence Tourism - The pretty streets
Vence tourism – the picture-perfect streets / Photo by Alehins

2. Chapelle du Rosaire – The Rosary Chapel

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

The chapel is lovely and very unusual. It combines both artistic and spiritual themes. Unbelievably, Henri Matisse began this project when he was 77 years old and in very ill-health. It was his largest and most challenging work of art in his entire career.

In fact, when Matisse completed the chapel he called it his “Masterpiece” and indeed it is! For more information about the Matisse chapel in Vence, press here.

Vence Tourism: Matisse Chapelle
Vence Tourism: Matisse Chapelle
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 art works. The city owns around six dozen Matisse works and they are exhibited in this museum on a rotating basis. These artworks consist mainly of Matisse’s 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 Tourism: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Nativité
Vence Tourism: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Nativité / 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 beautiful 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 amazing Maeght Foundation! Although this is a private museum, it owns a superb, world class collection of modern art. It houses artworks of the greatest 20th century artists such as Kandinsky, Chagall, Matisse, Bonnard, Giacometti, Miró, Braque, Dufy and many more! The sculpture gardens are wonderful and offer the most incredible views of the surrounding region!

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