At 800m above sea level, the utterly beautiful mountain village of Sainte-Agnes is the highest coastal village in Europe. Roosting on the hillside high above Menton by the Italian border, this village offers breathtaking views across the Italian and French Rivieras.
Listed as one of the most beautiful villages in all of France, Sainte-Agnes is a place of cool stone alcoves and vaulted chambers, pretty terrace cafes and artisan workshops and boutiques tucked away on cobbled lanes. Presided over by the ruins of a 10th century chateau-fort, the village's strategic value was again noted during WWII when Fort Maginot was built to defend France against attack from across the Italian border.
The village itself is charming, full of stone alcoves and vaulted chambers - little craft workshops and artisan boutiques are tucked away on cobbled back streets and delicious smells from the restaurants waft through the air.
History & Culture in Sainte Agnes
The ruins at the top of the village are what’s left of an older fort built in the 12th century, it was restored in the 15th century but then fell into neglect. It is currently being maintained and you scramble around what remains for a small donation. From the summit you can see for miles around in all directions and you really appreciate what made Sainte-Agnes such a fantastic defensive location.
Sights & Attractions in Sainte Agnes
According to legend, the chateau fort that sits above the town was built by a Saracen prince when he fell in love with a local Provencal girl. Today it is in ruins, but you can clamber around the remaining walls, visit the medieval garden, and take in the stunning coastal views of the mountains falling sheer into the Mediterranean Sea. In 1932, the town built a new fort- a concrete bunker built into the cliff to protect France from invasion from the Italian border. The Manigot Fort marks the most southerly point of the famed Petite-Maginot Line and its now open as a museum for those who have an interest in military history. There's also the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, built in the 12th century and reconstructed in the 18th century.
Things to Do in Sainte Agnes
Sainte-Agnes is right in the centre of wonderful hiking terrain, there is a wide network of trail criss-crossing the Alpes-Maritime and linking so many of these remote little villages - a lovely itinerary is the Circuit de Bausson that links Sainte-Agnes to Gorbio - see our hiking page to find routes in the area.
If you’re visiting with children then call into the tourist office to pick up a “jeu de piste” - a map that leads you round the village, looking for clues and solving puzzles to find your way and learn about the local history. The map is available in English, French or Italian.
Dining in Sainte Agnes
Despite being a tourist destination, Sainte-Agnes does not have too much of a “touristy” feel to it - and doesn’t seem to have taken advantage of “touristy” prices. There are a number of good restaurants offering home cooked local dishes as reasonable prices, you can usually get a set menu of 4 courses for under 20€. Expect to see traditional meats such as rabbit or wild boar on the menu as well as local produce such as myrtilles and figs. We’ve tried a couple and they’ve all been good but Le Saint-Yves is our current favourite, especially for the desserts!
Nightlife in Sainte Agnes
Buzzing nightlife in medieval mountain village? No. Sorry. Glass of wine on a café terrace enjoying one of the best views on the planet? Certainly, coming right up. On warm summer evenings there'll probably be a bit of live music to get you in the mood as the twightlight lingers over the Mediterranean and the Alps are bathed in pink light. Who can ask for more? Ok, if you want more, the glittering lights of Monaco just down the coast are calling... see our nightlife guide for details.
Getting to Sainte-Agnes is possible by public transport but you have to plan ahead, as there are only a few buses per day from Menton. The best way is to take either the train or the 100 bus from Nice to Menton and then bus number 10 from Menton train station - you can look up the timetable on our bus services page.