Where to Buy Property on the French Riviera: Vence
By Sophia Mose:
Buying Property in Vence versus St Paul-de-Vence
Vence is a pretty medieval market town in the hills north of Nice on the Côte d’Azur. About 20 minutes from Nice airport, it has a population of about 19 000 people. The town is often overshadowed by its more glamorous sister, St Paul-de-Vence. Whereas the more touristy village of St Paul is a pristine example of a village perché (a village set high on a hill), Vence is more down to earth and more affordable when it comes to buying property.
Vence is not a museum piece; instead, people live there year-round. At its heart is the beautiful and historic Old Town. It is famous for the chapel designed by Matisse in the late 1940s and the annual summer music festival – Nuits du Sud. The tour buses pull up to St Paul to let the tourists wind their way through the little streets full of art galleries, many of which are closed in winter. However, in Vence, the year-round bustle is based around the artisanal shops, restaurants and the morning market. As well as Friday’s local market, there is an organic market on Saturday mornings in the town square.
For some reason, Vence has remained a little under the radar for foreign buyers. It has however always been popular with French buyers, including expat French families looking for a home base.
They like that the town is more authentic and not a “show” village. They also like its proximity to Nice, the airport, and the coast, as well as the countryside feeling, without being isolated. Most of the houses are in quiet subdivisions just outside the town, or in a semi-rural environment.
The nearby Polygone Riviera mall that opened in 2016 – a chic outdoor shopping mall and cinema complex – is another draw.
Property Market in Vence
Vence appears set to grow in popularity and is an excellent location to invest in. The town offers a range of prices that is more affordable than other more well-known Riviera towns. As is the case all over the Côte d’Azur, asking prices are negotiable and this is not set to change in the near future*.
However, property here is as much about quality as price. A quiet location with a pretty view of St Paul, for example, is more important than having a sea view. The sea would be very distant in any event.
Between €600,000 and €800,000, there is a choice of neo-Provençal contemporary houses. These homes are mostly bought by local families. If you’re thinking of moving to or buying a holiday home near Vence, you’ll find that the most attractive properties are between 1 – 3 million euros.
Apartments outside the Old Town are relatively affordable, but of less interest as an investment. If your budget is not enough for a house but the town appeals to you, then the charming and bustling Old Town is the best place to buy. Prices for one-bedroom apartments there start at around €150,000.
* This article was written in 2017 – prices and information may be out of date.