Winter Walks in Côte d’Azur

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Spectacular views, Provençal sunshine, wild nature, sea and mountains – the land between Nice and Menton is a hiking heaven.
There are around 60 walking/climbing routes officially created, maintained and indicated in the Côte d’Azur/Alpine region. You can find out more about all of them from brochures available at tourist offices (Les Guides Randoxygene), unfortunately only in French.
Below few routes I tried and checked for you, they are spectacular any time of the year and safe and easy in winter even for beginners. You won’t need any special equipment but it’s useful to have a warm jacket, especially if you plan to climb and comfortable walking shoes. So leave you heels for the evening, pack something to eat and let’s go.

1.    Trophee d’ Auguste

Distance – around 6.5km
Difficulty – medium/easy
Duration – 3h30

The trophy is a huge monument Augustus, the founder and first Emperor of the Roman Empire, built in La Turbie to celebrate his victory over the Lugurian tribes of the area. The views from the village, especially over Monaco, are one of the best in the whole Riviera.
The walk starts and finishes at the Monaco railway station – take the east exit to Boulevard Princess Charlotte and turn left to Avenue d’Alsace and then through rue Pascal to Boulevard Moneghetti and through Chemin de Turbie (partly via stairs) cutting Route de Moyenne Corniche. Then follow signs to La Turbie (the path is well indicated) and the trophy. More information about the Trophy and how to access it (there is a fee applied) can be found here.
On the way back choose the road going to Monaco from the east (through Avenue de la Pinede or Chemin de la Batterie) via an old Roman road.
If you want you walk a bit off the track to Tête de Chien (just follow the signs from La Turbie, one way should take around 20 minutes) – the view from the top is simply remarkable.

There won’t be many places on the way to stop for a snack or meal but La Turbie is a relatively large town with plenty of restaurants and shops. You can also depending on the time start or finish your expedition with lunch at Monaco i.e. at the food hall of Condamine Market – best prices in the whole Principality and great local food. We particularly like socca from the little corner shop eaten with few glasses of rose from next door Bar ‘Le Zinc’.

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2.    Tour de la Tête de Chien

Distance – around 6.3km
Difficulty – medium
Duration – app. 4h

Like I said Tête de Chien (Dog’s head) has one of the best views over the Riviera, you won’t regret the effort taken to climb there. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and take warm clothes with you; it can be quite chilly on the top, especially in winter.
You can start your expedition from Cap d’Ail (there is a train station there) – just walk north towards Route de la Turbie (it’s best to take Chemin de las Mimosas and then turn right from Moyenne Corniche to Chemin Roman).  There is no secure crossing from Chemin Roman through Route de la Turbie – it’s not a very busy road though. The access to the mountain path is indicated and you can follow it to the top; pay attention when you will be cutting through the road again.

It’s a great idea to have a little lunch somewhere close to the top – there are few tables and benches prepared, in my opinion, the best picnic spots in France. I am sure you will love the view over Eze and Cap Ferrar on one side and Monaco on the other side – really impressive.

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To walk back to Cap d’Ail you may choose the track on the eastern side of the slope. Walk towards La Turbie (if you haven’t been to the town yet it’s definitely worth a visit too) and then find a path going down from Chemin de la Betterie. It will take you down to the area called Bautugan from where you easily walk back to the station or village centre via the some way you took to the top.

3.    Nietzsche walk
Distance – around 2km one way
Difficulty – medium
Duration – up to 2h (going down around 1h)

Fredrick Nitzche climbed up from Eze Bord-de-Mer to Eze village, which apparently helped him to write the 3rd part of Thus Spake Zarathusta. The walk, the view and the nature are definitely impressive, didn’t bring me much closer to understanding Nietzche but are definitely worth trying.

You can get to Eze Bord-se-Mer by train and find the entrance to the path almost directly across the road from the station. The waterfront of the ‘bottom’ part of the village is quite impressive but apart from that it’s just a residential area – great as a place to stay though. It you need breakfast, coffee or lunch I would recommend La Vieille Maison (18 avenue de la Liberté, just opposite to the train station) – nothing fancy, just a solid local place but offering a very good value for money and warm service. Their tartines with butter and raspberry jam were my favourite breakfast option during my last holiday at Eze.
The walk to the top is quite demanding so comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and a little snack in case of energy drop will definitely be useful.

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Eze village, the ‘top’ part, is one of those typical Provençal mountain towns and what makes it special is the view over almost the entire Riviera and the number of Michelin starred restaurants it has. Two of them Château Eza and Chevre d’Or are especially recommended not only for the quality of the food served but also stunning views which come with it (booking is essential even in winter). Having a meal there won’t be gentle to your wallet but those who tried say it’s worth it.

After resting and visiting Eze you can either come down through the same path you took to climb up or choose a route around Mont Bastide, cut Moyenne Corniche road and go back to Eze Bord-de-Mer through the western side. I have not yet taken this track – if you need search for more information from Les Guides Randoxygene (French only, Pays Côtier/Le Pays Niçois/Circuit du Mont Bastide)

4.    Sentier de Cap d’Ail
Distance – around 3km
Difficulty – easy
Duration – up to 2h

Lovely as they are, mountain walks can be very demanding so if you need something a bit more relaxing check our sea sentiers as well.

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This one is my favourite – it takes you from Plage Mala at Cap d’Ail to Monaco. Just look for directions to Mala (you can of course arrive to Cap d’Ail by train) and enter it just next to the impressive Eden Hotel. Then follow the sea front via the path through Cap Mala, Cap Rognoso (with its famous villa ‘the Rock’), Pointe des Douaniers till Plage Marquet where you will enter Monaco. You can then continue walking through Monaco Heliport (offering helicopter service across the Riviera – this is their offer if you were interested) and Port Hercule to Monte Carlo.
I would recommend climbing to the old part of the city and having a walk across its tiny streets. If you do so, then definitely visit the Cathedral and my favourite Avenue Saint-Martin with its old stylish villas.
Again Condamine Market is the best place for a bite to eat in Monaco (check opening hours here).

To go back you can either take a train (the station is behind the corner from the market) or walk back the same way – I am sure the views are worth it.

Please note that the walking path may be closed often during ‘rough’ weather in winter – you may still enter it but I would avoid the first part of it (between Cap Mala and Cap d’Ail) during heavy rains or winds, as it may be too dangerous.

5.    Tour du Cap Ferrat
Distance – app. 6km
Difficulty – easy
Duration – up to 2h

Cap Ferrat is often called the Billionaires’ Peninsula and I am sure you will also dream of having a house there if you take a tour around it. Best starting point is the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat Port – unfortunately there is no train station there, the closest one in Beaulieu is around 2km away.

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Find a way to Les Fosses Bay i.e. through allée du Cinéma where at no 1 there a Club Bouliste, some kind of a petanque private club. I have to say I am totally obsessed with jeu de boules and can just stare for hours at other people playing so this is usually my first stop on the way…
From the bay simply follow the path around the cap – there are plenty of opportunities for taking photos, sitting down to rest or even for sun bathing if the weather allows you to.
When you get to the end of the path, Passable beach, just look for a way back to the Port.

There are many restaurants at the Port but I haven’t yet found one I would like to recommend so the best option is probably to take your own food and eat it somewhere at Passable plage.

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6.    Pointe Saint-Hospice
Distance – app. 4km
Difficulty – very easy
Duration – up to 2h

This is probably the easiest and the shortest of my walks. It starts from the same point as the previous one, the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat Port, and goes from la Paloma beach through Point the Saint-Hospice to les Fosses bay. You may go off the route mid-way to visit a little St-Hospice chapel. It’s a pretty little church and cemetery founded at XVI century. From les Fosses follow the sings back to the Port.

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Enjoy the views and let me know which of the walks is your favourite!

Those who prefer getting to know Provence from the car can try our tour over 7 medieval village.

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