Carolyne Kauser-AbbottExploreVillages Towns and Cities

Our Ideas for Spending a Day in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

From humble beginnings as a fishing village on the French Riviera, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous. Billed as one of the most expensive places on the Côte d’Azur and is reinforced by grand villas, magnificent gardens, and luxury hotels. These are only a few famous names who have lived or frequented “the Cap,” including Belgian King Leopold II, Winston Churchill, Henri Matisse, Jean Cocteau, Roger Moore, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paul Allen.

The picturesque seaside town is small, so the peninsula steals the show, and many people refer to the area as Cap Ferrat. However, regardless of the balance in your bank account, here are some ideas for spending an affordable day in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

Getting There

There are several ways to arrive in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, including by bus (#15 from Villefranche or #18 from Nice) or on foot. Shelley Dobyns and her husband Riccardo own nine (9) rental apartments in nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer, and they highly recommend walking along the coastline between the two towns.

Plage Privée Seaside 2-Bedroom Riviera Apartment in Villefranche

“You will love the walk to St. Jean Cap Ferrat. The walk is spectacular, and you’ll enjoy going there to have coffee, pick up a baguette, or have a meal. It will take approximately 40 minutes from Villefranche, and it is almost entirely along the water’s edge, and it is flat. Even we, who have lived here for over 20 years, never tire of this walk which we do regularly.”

Book an Apartment

A Bit of History

Like much of Provence and the French Riviera, some of the first people to arrive and settle in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat were Celto-Ligurian tribes. These Greek mariners called it Anao. They were followed in the 6th century by a Germanic group, the Lombards. Around the same time, a hermit monk, Sant Ospizio, resided on the peninsula where the Chapel St. Hospice is today. Although he was said to have been captured by the Lombards, he found a way (a miracle?) to prove his worth to them, which led to the name Cap-Saint-Hospice or Cap-Saint-Sospis. Then came the war faring Saracens. Finally, life on the Cap began to settle once the County of Nice became part of France in 1860, and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat separated from Villefranche-sur-Mer in 1904, becoming a separate commune.

Beach Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild commissioned this stunning villa in the early 20th century. Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild was born into the famous Rothschild banking family in 1864. She married young, and when her marriage fell apart after twenty years, she discovered Cap Ferrat, a favourite vacation spot for European high society in the early 1900s. So she purchased 17 acres of land and spent five years building her dream villa.

The estate is on a high point of land near the top of the Cap. Conceived and constructed to resemble the deck of a ship, if you stand on the second-floor balcony of the villa and look out over the gardens, you see the ocean on both sides, just as you would on a huge ocean liner. The gardens stretch out before you like the stern of the ship. Béatrice called her home “Villa Île-de-France” after a trip she took on a famous cruise ship of the same name.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

©Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild has beautiful gardens where you take in the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. The French Ministry of Culture classifies the gardens as “Notable Gardens of France.” You’ll find nine themed gardens on the property. The two largest ones are situated next to each other on the eastern side, while the other seven are in a line on the western side.

Read About the Gardens

While the gardens are a highlight, the villa is filled with art and cultural treasures, almost all of which remain on display. You will see a fantastic collection of unique furniture, paintings, sculptures, tapestry, and other art objects. One of the highlights is Baroness Béatrice’s prized collection of rare porcelain. The Villa is accessible via the local bus, and a small gift shop is near the entrance.

Grand Hotel du Cap for a Drink

Steeped in luxury with attention to every detail, the Grand Hotel du Cap, a Four Seasons resort on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, is a world-class establishment. It has been host to stars, diplomats and the filthy rich for a very long time, from Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill to Queen Victoria, Oprah and Paul McCartney, to name a few.

Grand Hôtel du Cap Entrance

©Le Grand Hotel du Cap, a Four Seasons Hotel on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

The original curved lobby, designed by Gustav Eiffel, still looks out on the Mediterranean. More recently, the hotel was exquisitely updated by world-renowned interior design firm Pierre-Yves Rochon, with stairs leading off both sides of the curved glass windows down to the 100-year-old pine-covered veranda and the lush gardens of this magnificent hotel. The renovation added new rooms and suites, a luxurious spa with a lap pool, steam rooms, a sauna, and an ice fountain.

Stop for a Drink!

Head to the Beach

One thing to understand about the French Riviera is that many beaches are not sandy. In addition, there are some places where beach clubs have the primo location. Spending the day at a private beach is popular with Europeans. Even if you think you are not a beach person and don’t like the sun or swimming, the beach club experience is worth trying. The entrance fees vary, but renting a beach lounge chair for half or the whole day is typically available. Often there are a bar and restaurant on site, with service to your chair if desired. In addition, there are washrooms and often showers too.

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat ©CRT Côte d'Azur, France, Camille Moirenc

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat ©CRT Côte d’Azur, France, Camille Moirenc

Paloma and Passable are two beach clubs in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (booking in advance is highly recommended). To get to Paloma beach, walk through the village until you arrive at a T junction, turn left and in 100 meters, you see the water. The Passable beach is across the street and down a lane from Villa Rothschild.

Palmona Beach Saint Jean Cap Ferrat

Paloma Beach (facing Beaulieu-sur-mer)
Chemin de Saint-Hospice
Telephone: + 33 (0)4 93 01 64 71

Passable Beach (facing Villefranche-sur-Mer)
Chemin de Passable
06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Telephone: + 33 (0)4 93 76 06 17

In addition to the beach clubs, several public beaches in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat include Plage de la Fosse, Plage Cros Dei Pin, Plage des Fourmis, Plage du Phare, and Fossettes Beach.

Take a Hike

The local bus will take you to the town of Saint Jean from there. You can visit the village before hiking (mostly flat walking) around the Cap. Look for Avenue Claude Vignon and the road that follows the water. Eventually, you will end up on a pathway that tracks the water. The walk only takes about an hour if you don’t stop for photos or swim at some small beaches, such as Plage de Passable.

There is a beautiful water’s edge walk around the whole of Cap Ferrat. You can walk various parts of it, such as just the little Cap of Cap Ferrat (takes about 20 minutes from the village and is worth doing) or the larger Cap, which takes over an hour and is more rugged but also spectacular.

Shop and Dine

As you might expect, along the Côte d’Azur, there is shopping temptation. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has several upscale boutiques and designer shops, perfect for a leisurely afternoon of shopping. Once you have finished exploring the stores, there are plenty of restaurants where you can sample delicious French and Mediterranean cuisine. Here are some suggestions from Riviera Experience:

BBS Wine Bar: A great place for a coffee or an aperitif before dinner.
Le Cadillac: Great wood-fired oven pizzas.
Equinoxe: Delicious food, gourmet, so a little pricey.
Nonna: Good food, good value
Paloma: Our favourite beach restaurant and club. At night, this is the most magical of beach restaurants, and the food is delicious.

Book a 2-Bredoom Penthouse

Plan your Trip

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat Tourisme (website)
Quai Virgile Allari
06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Telephone: +33 (0)4 93 76 08 90


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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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