Visiting St Jean Cap Ferrat
During my recent weekend on the French Riviera, I revisited one my favourite places in the world. My childhood stomping grounds, St Jean Cap Ferrat, are just a short drive from Nice. At the start of the 20th century, European royalty discovered the quiet fishing village. Movie stars and moguls followed the aristocracy onto the coast. Today, St Jean is home to some of the most expensive real-estate on the planet, but the Mediterranean village retains a certain sense of tranquility. If you’re looking for a retreat underneath the cypress trees, scroll on for my St Jean travel guide and photos!
Views, Views, Views
As you wander through the village of St Jean or up on the Cap Ferrat, you just have to look around to see some of the most breathtaking cliff and coast panoramas of the Riviera. In my opinion, at least! Look to the east on a clear day and you will be able to see down the coast all the way to Italy. To the west, you can make out Villefranche, Nice and Antibes. In between, nothing but blue ocean and glistening white yachts.
A 5 km path, the Tour du Cap, winds its way around the peninsula’s rocky headlands, past a lighthouse, crater-esque seashores and plunging seascapes. For your comfort, make sure to bring water. As a word of caution, don’t try your luck on stormy days, as the waves sometimes crash too close to the path for comfort.
A shorter walk loops around St Jean’s pine grove on the Pointe Saint Hospice. Staircases lead up from this trail to the 1000-year-old Saint Hospice Chapel, open to the public. If you’d prefer to stay on the flat, follow the path around the pine grove to discover secluded beaches and coves.
The Port and Village
The village of St Jean is very small and walkable, with just a few streets flanked by villas with red-tiled roofs. I hadn’t been back to St Jean in 5 years, and many of the small businesses, from the boulangerie to the florist’s, were still up and running. Stop at one of the cafes on the main square for an espresso with views of the open water, or make your way over to the strip of restaurants that line the port, many of which offer seafood caught locally. Go for a stroll through the port for closeups of super yachts.
Beaches, Spas and Entertainment in St Jean Cap Ferrat
If you’re walked out, there are so many other things to do in St Jean. Relax with a book and set your towel down at one of the beaches. While Paloma Beach offers all amenities for a daily fee, Plage Cros Dei Pin, just off the port, is smaller yet public. As you relax on the sand, watch local schools’ sailing lessons unfold. Travellers can dip their toes in the water well through October. Even during the off season, the sun is warm enough for you to sit on the beach.
Meanwhile, hotels such as the Voile d’Or and Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat open their doors to day spa visitors. Pick up calissons d’Aix at one of the patisseries on the main street. Or browse the upscale boutiques under the town’s shady arcades, just steps from the yacht club. In July and August, the small town is buzzing with a Wednesday night market.
Where to Stay in St Jean Cap Ferrat
If you’re staying in St Jean overnight, there are many accommodation options, but these tend to be quite pricy. In fact, budget rentals don’t really exist in this tiny town. If you’re not quite ready to splurge on the oceanfront Grand Hotel, take a look at self-contained apartments. These are more reasonably priced if you stay for a week or longer, whether you are looking for a villa on the hill or a studio at the heart of town.
When to Visit St Jean Cap Ferrat
There isn’t a bad time to visit St Jean. The coldest months, December through February, might deter some sun-seekers. But I for one love the peninsula over the holidays, not the least for the fairy lights in the palm trees! Over the summer, the village’s bars and restaurants are all open and buzzing with activity. And of course, you can swim or do some water sports. It is up to each visitor to decide what works best!
Curious about St Jean? Leave me a comment or check out Instagram for more photos of St Jean Cap Ferrat and my other recent travels!