Cagnes-sur-Mer is a town located around 8 miles west of Nice on the Cote d’Azur and includes the perfect mix of a picturesque old town and bustling new town, all within a short drive to the beach. I took a trip to discover what was on offer and definitely was not disappointed!
HAUT DE CAGNES
Haut de Cagnes is the older part of Cagnes-sur-Mer, located on a steep hill above the town. Its colourful houses and small roads really does make it feel like a world away from the hustle and bustle of town life which lies below. Wander around the narrow cobbled streets and take in the stunning views over the town (but make sure you’re wearing your walking shoes as it is a steep climb to get up there).
‘Château-Musée Grimaldi’ is a 14th century castle, located in Haut de Cagnes, built by ‘Rainier Grimaldi’ – the Lord of Cagnes. It was originally used as a fort to protect the town against outside attacks but in 1620, ‘Jean-Henri Grimaldi’ turned it into a palace before it became a museum in 1946. The first time I visited, it was a Tuesday and, just my luck, it was closed (so bare this in mind before visiting!) I returned again the day after and managed to enter for free as I am under 26 – admission otherwise would have cost €4. Inside, admire the stunning architecture, browse the large collection of ‘Suzy Solidor’ portraits or view the artwork on show. It was interesting enough (with narratives in French, English and Italian) but it wasn’t anything which left a lasting impression. I don’t know whether it was due to the construction work happening at the time but it didn’t really stand out compared to the numerous other museums I’d visited on the Cote d’Azur – but then again, I have visited SO MANY other museums so maybe I’ve become a tough critic.
Situated next to the museum is ‘L’église Saint-Pierre’. The door was open so I wandered inside where there was a viewing platform overlooking the altar. It’s worth a look if you have chance but there’s not much more than that. Another church I had read about in a tourist magazine was ‘L’eglise Notre Dame de la Protection’ so I decided to go and take a look for myself. It wasn’t open and so there wasn’t really anything more to see than the exterior but nevertheless, the panoramic views over the town were worth the visit.
After exploring the sights of Haut de Cagnes, I climbed down the hill and entered back into reality. The town of Cagnes-sur-Mer is just as you would expect a town really – busy roads, banks, hairdressers, cafés. It was full of life and lots of stuff going on which I think is a good thing! In the town itself, you can find ‘Cité Marchande’ which is an undercover food market selling lots of yummy goods from cheese, to fish, to patisseries. It’s open every day except Mondays from 7am to 1.30pm.
And from covered to uncovered…
….the Polygone Riviera is an open air shopping mall located between Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villeneuve Loubet. It took me around 30 minutes to walk there from the town centre but I will literally trek anywhere if there’s shopping involved (especially when I heard there was a Primark there!)
I was really impressed by the mall itself and wish I had longer to browse the shops. With my rushed au pair schedule, I only managed to visit 3 stores before having to get the bus back home in time for school pick up – well I mean, I did still spend 2 hours there, I’m a slow shopper okay! There are so many well known and affordable shops including Zara, H & M, Bershka, Mango and Sephora to name a few. It was nice to be able to go shopping and actually come home with some goodies unlike the window shopping I’ve been forced to do in Monaco and other places on the Cote d’Azur (sighhh one day) I would have loved to have stopped into some of the food outlets which were plentiful had I had the time; an Asian restaurant named ‘Woko’ particularly took my fancy! As I’ve mentioned, I walked there from the town centre (and on the way I tried to find a closer bus stop on the ‘Lignes d’Azur #200’ line but that didn’t really cut much time either!) There is a bus stop named ‘Drakkar’ right outside the mall which you can get to by taking the #57 bus from the Gare SNCF. You can also park free for 2 hours so there are much easier ways to get there than the way I did!
In summary, Polygone Riviera is a must see if you are a bit of shopaholic like me. It’s clean, affordable and even plays this weird calming music while you’re walking around. Although it’s not technically in Cagnes-sur-Mer, I would recommend adding this to your ‘to-see list’.
Considering the town is called ‘Cagnes-SUR-MER’, it was actually quite a long way from the coast. From the centre of town, it’s roughly a 40 minute walk to get the beach so I would suggest treating the two places separately and not as one. I was planning on walking there but I actually ended up stumbling across a small town named ‘Cros de Cagnes’ instead (I’m very glad I did as I was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer – another blogpost will be coming soon!) It took around 30 minutes to walk there but once I’d arrived, I felt like I’d had my dose of the coast and didn’t even venture across to the beach at ‘Cagnes-sur-Mer’. From photos online, the two beaches seem very similar with small grey pebbles so I don’t think I missed out on much there.
HIPPODROME DE LA COTE D’AZUR
Another place worth mentioning is the ‘Hippodrome de la Cote d’Azur’ which is located on the beach at Cagnes-sur-Mer. If you’re flying into Nice or getting the train through Cagnes-sur-Mer, I’m sure you would have noticed the sign dominating the coastline. Inside, it hosts horse races so make sure you check out the racing calendar if you fancy checking it out for yourself.
On the outskirts of the town (but still only a 15 minute walk) you can find the ‘Musée Renoir’ which was the home of French painter, ‘Pierre August Renoir’. Although I had no idea who he was beforehand, I am very glad that I visited – even if it was just to admire the stunning architecture and grounds. If anyone is wondering what I want my future house to look like, it’s that (complete with the orange grove please and thank you) Entry is usually €6 but free on the 1st Sunday of every month and for those aged under 26 and this allows you to look around the house, grounds and a gallery of the artist’s sculpture work.
The train station, served by the popular TER line, aswell as the ‘Lignes d’Azur #200’ bus make this town very accessible from anywhere on the Cote d’Azur – so there really is no excuse not to pay a visit to ‘Cagnes-sur-Mer’