Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and Villa Kerylos
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, and soon a third, the Tattooed Villa will reopen.
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 Rothschild 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 anyone under 25, or disabled. Villa Kerylos admission is included in the French Riviera Pass
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 Palazzos 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 Baroness 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 little show, with the streams 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 35€, or 60€ including a picnic basket to enjoy in the gardens (note: no bringing in your own food/bottles), or 105€ including Champagne and 3-course dinner in the villa. There is also a family admission of 80€ 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!
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. Admission to the Villa Rothschild is included in the French Riviera Pass.
Audio guides are included with your admission.
Getting to Both Villas from Nice
By Bus: Take Bus #15 Port de Saint-Jean which leaves under the MAMAC arches, just off Place Garibaldi, and runs every 15 minutes during the week, 20 minutes on Sundays and French holidays. For Villa Kerylos get off at the Villa Kerylos stop (all stops are announced and shown on the screen), and for the Villa Rothschild get off at Plage de Passable/Rothschild stop.
The bus fare for either bus costs just 1.70€, and you can also use a day or week pass, all of which you can buy in the ticket machines at any tram stop (plus the rechargeable card Le Carte, which costs 2€ but is refundable). You can also buy your tickets from the driver as you board, but it will cost extra (4€!) . Also note that your bus/tram ticket gives you unlimited transfers in Nice for 74 minutes, so if you take the tramway to get to the stop to transfer to the Bus #15 (tram stop Massena) or #607 (tram stop Port), the bus will not cost extra.
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… And if you want to see more of the area, here’s an itinerary for a day trip to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat plus neighboring Villefranche-sur-mer
By Train The Villa Kerylos 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. Even better: first-time Uber users can click here and save 7€ on each of your first 5 rides!
The ‘Tattooed Villa’ Sainto Sospir
Update: the villa is closed due to restoration and renovation until at least 2024.
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: From the village of Saint Jean it is a 25 minute walk, or simply take an Uber. The address is 14 avenue Jean Cocteau.
Tickets and Hours: TBD when it reopens
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