Sainte-Agnes is a hilltop village on the Cote d’Azur known as the “highest coastal village in Europe” at 780m above sea level. Once a Ligurian town, a lot of inhabitants can be heard speaking both Italian and French. It is perched on top of a mountain with a crumbling castle at the very top which overlooks Menton and the coastline below. It’s the perfect day-trip from either Nice or Menton!
If you want to practice your Italian on your trip to Sainte-Agnes (I sure did!!) check out italki! Try out a class and you’ll thank me later. They’re usually $9 or less!
How to Get to Sainte-Agnes
Unless your trip is centered around Sainte-Agnes itself, I recommend that you stay in either Nice or Menton and take a day trip from there to visit the village. It shouldn’t take more than a day to see everything.
From Nice, there is no public transport to Sainte-Agnes. You will most likely have to travel to Menton first by TER Train and then take a Zest Bus to Sainte-Agnes.
They are like Ligne d’Azur buses but they are run privately and it costs about $1.50 for a single ticket.
You can use their itinerary builder to figure out which buses would be best for your trip. The trip below takes bus 2 and bus 10 to get from Menton to Sainte-Agnes.
From Menton, you can take a Zest Bus to Sainte-Agnes. They are like Ligne d’Azur buses but they are run privately and it costs about $1.50 for a single ticket.
You will need to buy a ticket either on your phone using their app or at one of their designated areas for buying tickets. Use their website to get the best information.
Where to Stay in Sainte-Agnes
There aren’t very many hotels in Sainte-Agnes because it’s such a small village. However, if you would like to stay in the village this is your best option. It’s a small townhouse with an amazing view and great amenities. If you want to check out Sainte-Agnes hotels click here!
What to do in Sainte-Agnes
Here is everything you need to do while in Sainte-Agnes! The activities are also in order so that you can use it as a walking itinerary through the town.
If you follow them in order, you will have walked through most of Sainte-Agnes!
If you plan to move to France or just want to understand the French better, definitely read this book or this book before your trip! Trust me, it will make your transition and understanding of French culture so much better.
Viewpoint of Sainte-Agnes
If you are hiking from Cime de Baudon, you will pass by this viewpoint of the whole city on your way down to the village. If not, I highly recommend you hike about 10-15 minutes to get to this view!
You can see the ruins of the castle on top of the hill, the village underneath as well as the ocean off to the right (and left, just not shown in this photo!).
I’ve marked the exact location of the viewpoint that we stopped at on this Google Map below, however just hiking in that direction I’m sure you’ll find great viewpoints of your own!
Wander the Town
As always with hilltop towns in France, just take out your camera and start exploring! There are so many adorable corners (and lots of paned windows!) that will catch your attention.
Viewpoint of the Mountains
In the area near the Hotel de Ville (city hall), Mairie, and the church Notre Dame des Neiges, you can look out from the Place de l’Eglise and get an incredible view of all the mountains that surround the small village of Sainte-Agnes.
If you happen to be visiting in late July, you might be just in time to see la Fete de la Lavande in Sainte-Agnes happening in the Place de l’Eglise.
It’s a bit difficult to find information on exactly when the event will be each year, however, it is usually held for about a week in the last week of July.
If you’d like to visit during the lavender festival, make sure to ask your Airbnb host/hotel to find out through locals when the exact dates are since there isn’t a lot of information online.
Grab something to eat at a local Restaurant
Although we didn’t stop to eat, there were two main restaurants in the town that looked very popular! The first was a “tea and crepes” shop that was super adorable called the Ô Gaîné, which looked perfect for more of a snack than a sit-down meal.
Then right next to it you have a restaurant called Le Saint Yves perched right on the side of the mountain with views overlooking the valley and farmland below.
If we weren’t trying to get to 4 different hilltop villages in one day (we hiked from Peille to Cime de Baudon to Sainte-Agnes to Gorbio to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin…big day!) then we definitely would have stopped at one of these places to take in the scenery more and relax a bit.
Chateau Sainte-Agnes with a view of Menton and Sainte-Agnes
The castle ruins at the top of Sainte-Agnes are an absolute must-visit on your trip. The ruins themselves aren’t super impressive (they look better from the first viewpoint) however, you can get some of the best views of Sainte-Agnes village AND the whole coastline from Menton all the way to Nice from the castle.
It doesn’t cost anything to enter the castle, however, it is recommended that you donate to help support the town and the ruins. There is a small garden inside the grounds of the castle ruins where you can has a view of the whole coastline below.
After you visit the garden, you can head up to the highest point of the castle where there is a small set of stairs that lead up to a platform to get a better view of the area. This area is very small and may be a bit unsafe for anyone who has trouble walking.
viewpoints from the parking lot
Walking down the stairs from the castle, you will see a parking lot with tons of great viewpoints!
The Fort de la Ligne Maginot
The Fort de la Ligne Maginot is the perfect stop if you’re interested in the history of the military in this area. There are hundreds of forts and “ouvrages” with tunnels all over France.
If you’d like to learn more, here is a website (although it’s in French) that explains a bit more about the Fort and its history!
We decided to skip visiting the inside of this fort, but if you’d like to visit, be aware that the hours listed online may not be accurate and they most likely change seasonally.
Hike to Cime de Baudon
You can start a hike up to the peak of Cime de Baudon at the village Sainte-Agnes. The hike is 3.5 km and takes 1 hour and 15 minutes each way.
You can choose to continue through to Peille instead of returning to Sainte-Agnes as well as that hike is the same distance and time spent hiking.
Hike to Gorbio
Another beautiful village that is within walking distance of Sainte-Agnes is Gorbio. However, DO NOT follow Google Map’s Walking Directions to Gorbio.
It leads across a very unsafe path that is now closed to the public (we found that out the hard way).
Instead, there are signs near the first viewpoint that was mentioned in this blog post that should lead you on a different path to Gorbio.
You can also find the route here on Wikiloc. It is a 3.69 mile-long hike with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain.
View of Sainte Agnes from Hike to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
This last one is a bit of a stretch since most people will not walk this far just for a viewpoint (which is totally understandable!), but I really wanted to show another perspective of Sainte-Agnes from afar.
From the freeway that leads down to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, you get a true view of exactly how high up Sainte-Agnes is and how amazing it looks perched on the side of a mountain! It truly earns the name “the highest coastal village in Europe!”
There are plenty of other hilltop villages to visit on the Cote d’Azur (I’ve made it my personal mission to visit each one!). Make sure you add a few to your South of France itinerary!