Just 15 minutes up the coast from Nice, you’ll find the ‘Billionaire’s Peninsula‘ Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat, with some of the highest property values in the world. Its coastline is dotted with sumptuous estates hidden behind enormous gates and longer driveways, and most villas are only visible from the sea. But there are two fabulous villas that you can see, the illustrious Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild and the Villa Kerylos.
Getting to Both Villas from Nice
By Bus: Take Bus #15 Port de Saint-Jean from the Promenade des Arts bus stop located behind the Place Garibaldi Monoprix, or from the Port. It leaves every 20 minutes, and for Villa Kerylos get off at the Villa Kerylos stop (which is just after the Baie des Fourmis stop), and for the Villa Rothschild get off 6 stops later at Plage de Passable/Rothschild stop, which is just after the La Rade stop. For Sainto Sospir stay on until the last stop, the town of Saint Jean, and then it’s a 20 minute walk.
Insider tip: I recommend going to Villa Rothschild first as it’s much more of a wow and if you go early you might have the place all to yourselves.
By Train The Villa Rothschild is just a 10-minute walk from the Beaulieu train station (which you might recognize from the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine as a couple of Riviera con men.)
By Uber, it will cost approximately 20€ from Nice, and you will be driven in a comfortable chauffeured sedan by a professional driver.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
After Beatrice, the Baroness of Rothschild, married into the ultra-rich Bank of France Ephrussi family, she needed a creative outlet. Upon seeing her husband’s cousin’s Greek-inspired Villa Kerylos, she decided to build her own Italian-style villa nearby. Combining her love of art and pink roses, she created and curated the villa and gardens herself, inspired by the grand Palazzios of Venice. A bit on the flamboyant side, often dressing in pink head-to-toe, she used her favorite flower and color as major motifs in her very personal creation.
The Villa: The full two floors of the opulent pink villa are open for your exploration, including Madame’s private suite and boudoir. Perouse the Louis XVI furnishings, priceless paintings and sculptures, a celebrated porcelain collection, the tapestry room, the Fragonard salon, …and the surreal monkey room dedicated to her two beloved primate companions… did I mention that Baronnes Beatrice was a wee bit eccentric?
The Gardens: The sumptuous manicured gardens will make you feel as if you’ve just stepped into a Bronte novel, as you discover hidden gazebos, ancient statuary, the Temple of Love, pools and waterfalls, and secluded corners. The immense estate is covered with 9 lovingly cultivated rosaries and gardens including French, Florentine, Japanese, Spanish, and Exotic styles. If you are into horticulture, this is for you, and if you are around in early May, don’t miss the Rose and Plant Festival at Villa Rothschild. (And for even more on Gardens in Nice, click here.)
The Dancing Fountains: The fountains are beautiful in their own right, but every 20 minutes they put on a show, with the steams and jets carefully choreographed to classical music.
The Tea Room: Open from 10am-7pm, the Tea Room offers a romantic spot for a light lunch or an elegant afternoon tea in an unforgettable atmosphere. A tea is less than 5€, but for 12€ you can pamper yourself with a ‘thé gourmande‘, a tea and your choice of pastry.
The Villa by Night: Every Monday and Tuesday night from July through August, the Villa Rothschild opens its doors from 7:45pm-11:30pm, for an evening ambiance like no other. The villa is resplendent at night lit by hundreds of candles; enjoy live ballet and ‘dancing fountains’, wander the gardens with a ‘picnic panier’, enjoy the bar, or dine in the villa restaurant. Not cheap, but quite a unique experience. Tickets are 22€, or 47€ including a picnic basket to enjoy in the gardens, or 82€ including a glass of Champagne and dinner in the villa. There is also a family admission of 63€ for two adults and 2 children.
- Spring and Autumn hours: 10am to 6pm
- Summer hours: (July and August) from 10am to 7pm
- Winter hours (November to February): winter weekends and holidays 10am to 6pm, but weekdays (Mon-Fri) open afternoons only, 2pm to 6pm. In winter the tea room is only open weekends.
- Closed days: none! Open 365 days a year!
Guided Tours: Download the free app Ephrussi for an interactive guided visit. Otherwise, audio guides are included with admission, or private tours with a guide can be arranged.
Tickets: 16€ for adults, 15€ for seniors over 65, 11€ for children ages 7-25, 13€ for students of all ages with student ID, and there is also a family pass for 45€ which is good for 2 adults and 2 children under 25. Tickets are available at the door or online via the website.
The Villa Rothschild is included in the French Riviera Pass
The two most famous villas on the coast have a family connection: The Baroness Rothschild’s husband’s cousin, Madame Fanny Reinach, built the luxurious Grecian Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu-sur-mer, and when the Baroness saw it she decided to build her own Italian-inspired Villa just two miles away, which I’m sure must have thrilled Madame Fanny no end.
Hours: Open 10am-5pm. Closed days: none! Open 365 days a year.
Tickets: 11.50€ for adults, and free for children and young adults under 25, and the disabled. Buy tickets and reserve your time online here.
The Villa Kerylos admission is included in the French Riviera Pass
How to get there:
Train: See above, and from the Beaulieu train station it is a 10-minute walk.
Bus: Again, see above; with Bus #15 Port de Saint-Jean get off at the ‘Kérylos’ stop, bus #100 get off at the ‘Église’ stop. You can see the Villa Kerylos on the far tip of the bay that starts at the Royal Riviera Hotel.
Uber: The address is Impasse Gustave Eiffel, Beaulieu-sur-Mer
The ‘Tattooed Villa’ Sainto Sospir
Update: the villa is closed due to restoration and renovation until at least 2022.
If you want to see yet another villa, something completely different and a work of imagination and modern art, call ahead and make a reservation to see the ‘Tattooed Villa’ Sainto Sospir in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
The fantastical Villa Santo Sospir is known as ‘The Tattooed Villa’ because Jean Cocteau methodically covered every surface with his boundless creativity. When a young socialite friend invited Jean Cocteau to spend a few days at her recently acquired villa, he came and …stayed for 11 years! Made restless by the newly painted white walls, he first made a drawing over the fireplace. Then he couldn’t stop, eventually covering every surface in the villa. Click here for the full story by Margo Lestz, and click here for more on Jean Cocteau including his museum in Menton (also closed for renovation…)
How to get there: If you are coming back on bus 100, get off at the Pont Saint Jean stop and cross the street to transfer to bus #81, which comes every half hour; here’s the schedule, but this bus only takes you half the way there, then it is a 25 minute walk. Or… walk down by the Royal Riviera Hotel to catch the gorgeous paved path to the Village of Saint Jean (15 minutes), and from there it is another 20 minutes to walk to get to the villa, which is on the tip of the presque-isle, near the Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat. Or just take an Uber
Tickets and Hours: TBD when it reopens
- Back up to main History Museums page