What is there to do in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat?

Between land and sea, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is a spa resort on the Côte d’Azur, located just a few kilometres from Monaco and Nice. With monuments, museums and natural sites, there are many things to see and do in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

The history of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

The hamlet of Saint-Jean was, until the end of the 19th century, a fishing and farming village forming part of the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. At this time, the Compagnie Générale des Eaux created a 20,000 m3 artificial lake here, fed by the Vésubie river: the plant life diversified and densified, making the area much less arid and rocky. The Cap-Ferrat became a favourite place for an outing among the people of Nice region and the holiday resorts developing there.

In 1860, the County of Nice became part of France and in 1904 Saint-Jean separated from Villefranche to become a commune in its own right. If was first named Saint-Jean-sur-Mer, and then Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 1907.

From that time, the village would host rich foreign families (English, Russian, Belgian, etc.), especially in the winter, attracted by its mild climate and who would build great estates here. The luxury hotels began to flourish. Around 1950, the resort became a spa town and was also visited in the summer, particularly by international celebrities.

There were also many artists who stayed in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat: Matisse, Chagall, Picasso. However, it is Jean Cocteau who is most associated with the town. His frescoes decorated not only the walls of the Villa Santo Sospir, where he would visit regularly, but also the marriage chamber in the Town Hall.

Charlotte Salomon, a German Jewish painter was a guest at the Belle Aurore hotel (now the La Villa Cap Ferrat Hotel and Spa) for two years, before being deported to Auschwitz at the age of 26, where she died; her life inspired the novel “Charlotte” by David Foenkinos.

Plan your walk around Cap Ferrat!

Places to visit: The Saint-Hospice Chapel

A listed historic monument since 1929, this has become a place of pilgrimage marked by a bronze statue of the Virgin some ten metres tall.

Built in the 11th century and restored in the 17th and 18th centuries, it pays homage to Hospitius, a Benedictine monk spared in 575 by the Lombards, astonished by his calm in the face of death.

Close to the chapel, Saint-Hospice Point houses the maritime cemetery, created in 1905.

It overlooks the sea, offering an exceptional panoramic view.

The Belgian military cemetery is located below the chapel and houses the tombs of soldiers quartered at the Les Cèdres villa, belonging to the King of Belgium and transformed into a military hospital.

Not-to-be-missed chapels and monasteries

Places to visit: The lighthouse and the semaphore tower

Built in 1732 on the location of the old 16th century beacon, the lighthouse has been a listed historic monument since 2012.

Destroyed during the Second World War, it was later rebuilt but can no longer be visited by the public.

Not far from there, the semaphore tower was built under Napoleon III and stands 153 m high.

It was responsible for monitoring sea traffic and also watching out for the start of forest fires.

Places to visit: The COEXIST fountains

Located at the foot of the lighthouse and at the start of the walk to Saint-Hospice Point, these two fountains date from 2007 and were erected by the COEXIST foundation to promote exchanges between different religions.

Decorated with a logo made up of a crescent (Islam), a Star of David (Judaism) and a cross (Christianity), the fountains were inaugurated by James Kidner, the foundation’s director, Cherie Blair (wife of the former British Prime Minister) and Bono, the singer from U2.

Places to visit: The museums

The Villa Ephrussi is one of the jewels of the Côte d’Azur.

This Renaissance-inspired palace was built on the heights of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild, who died in 1934.

A listed historic monument, this villa can be visited and allows you to discover private apartments in Florentine and Venetian styles, as well as a breath-taking collection of works of art (furniture, porcelain, paintings, sculptures, etc.).

The entirety of the palace and its gardens were left to the Académie des beaux-arts [Academy of Fine Art] at the Institut de France.

The villa’s gardens can also be visited: these form nine landscaped organic parks in a variety of styles: French, Spanish, Florentine, lapidary (with gargoyles and religious buildings), Japanese, exotic, rose garden and Provencal.

They overlook the Bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, offering an exceptional panoramic view of the coast.

The Shell Museum, unique in Europe, is located in the Old Port, on Quai Lindbergh, and houses over 7,000 pieces. This is the largest collection in the Mediterranean.

Santo Sospir villa (currently closed for works) is nicknamed the “tattooed villa”: in fact, it was Jean Cocteau, a regular guest here, who painted its white walls.

Places to visit: The natural spaces

The Maurice Rouvier walk links Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to Beaulieu-sur-Mer and offers unimpeded views over the beaches, including the one at Cros deï Pin, and Saint-Hospice Point. You will discover beautiful panoramic views over the villages of Èze and La Turbie. The walk begins at the town hall or at Villa Ephrussi. On the way, you can admire the Greek Kérylos villa before arriving at the Port des Fourmis in Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Accessible to persons with reduced mobility, this short walk of about 1.5 km is very popular.

Saint-Hospice Point also offers a beautiful walk of under 2 km in the shade of the Maritime pines. The interpretation trail allows you to discover the coastal heritage thanks to 6 observation points, and also through monuments such as the Saint-Hospice Chapel and its bronze Madonna, the maritime and military cemeteries and one of the COEXIST fountains. You will also have beautiful panoramic views over Cap-Martin, the Principality of Monaco and Anse de la Scaletta.

The Cap-Ferrat tour covers about 5 km and runs alongside a seawater lido and various hotels and villas. After Malalongue Point, the landscape is punctuated with inlets and beautiful views of the coast (Nice, the Esterel, etc.).

Lastly, the underwater trail, at Fossettes beach, allows you to observe the seabeds along a path marked out by buoys and accessible with swim fins. A unique experience!

Places to visit: The great estates

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has seen great estates flourish, built by rich aristocratic, bourgeois, industrial and  artistic families.

The oldest is the Fleur du Cap villa, which hosted Chaplin and David Niven.

The Belgian king, Léopold II, purchased some fifty hectares on the Cap, at the end of the 19th century, including several villas.

The Greek Kérylos villa is a reconstruction of an old house, on the Bay des Fourmis.

The beaches

Calm and peaceful, the five beaches at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat are public ones, but many bathers also flock to the multiple inlets nestled between the pines and rocks.

  • The Port, or Cros deï Pin, beach is the largest one on the peninsula, located at the heart of the village, with houses just above the sea. It offers a children’s play area, showers and toilets.
  • Fossettes beach is located below Saint-Hospice Point and the Peace Garden. Discrete and protected, it is loved by snorkelling fans because of the quality of its seabeds.
  • Fosses beach, to the south, offers exceptional panoramic views of the villas and the old Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat quarry.
  • Passable beach, partly private, is located to the west and faces the bay of Villefranche. It is one of the most famous beaches on the peninsula, famed for its plant life and its waterside restaurant.
  • Paloma beach, to the east, also partly private, is the other emblematic beach, nestled in the greenery and offering unimpeded views over Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Èze.

Many establishments offer nautical activities: paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, trips to sea, etc. The coast is also much appreciated by divers and snorkelling fans

The most beautiful beaches on the Côte d’Azur

A truly natural setting, the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula wins you over with its protected and authentic environment, between Nice and Monaco. Less touristy than the major spa resorts on the French Riviera, it is the perfect setting for a quiet holiday or a romantic weekend.