Vence or St Paul-de-Vence?
Vence, a pretty market town in the hills close to Nice (about 20 minutes from Nice airport), is often overshadowed by its more glamorous sister, St Paul-de-Vence. Whereas the village of St Paul-de-Vence is a pristine example of a tourist village perché (a village set high on a hill), Vence is more down to earth and affordable).
Vence is not a museum piece; instead, people live there year-round. At its heart is a beautiful and historic old town, known for the chapel designed by Matisse in the late 1940s and the annual summer musical festival – Nuits du Sud. As the many tour buses pull up to St Paul to let the tourists wind their way through the lanes full of art galleries (many of which are closed in winter), in Vence the bustle is all about the shops, restaurants and the market. As well as Friday’s local market, there is an organic market on Saturday mornings in the town square.
What to Buy?
For some reason, the town has remained a little under the radar for foreign buyers. It has however always been popular with French buyers, including expat French families looking for a home base.
They like that the town is more authentic and not a “show” village. They also like its proximity to Nice, the airport, and the coast, as well as the countryside feeling, without being isolated. Most of the houses are in quiet subdivisions just outside the town, or in a semi-rural environment.
The town offers a range of prices that is more affordable than other more well-known Riviera towns. The brand new nearby Polygone Riviera mall that opened in 2016 – a chic outdoor shopping mall and cinema complex – is another draw.
I recently helped Tokyo-based French clients buy a beautiful old house in the Vence countryside for a very good price. They have a magnificent view of the village of St Paul-de-Vence and are equidistant between St Paul-de-Vence and Vence – without the price tag of the former. To my mind, it’s the best of all worlds.
Property Prices in Vence
As is the case all over the Côte d’Azur, asking prices in Vence are negotiable and this is not set to change in the near future. However, property here is as much about quality as price. Between €600,000 and €800,000, there is a choice of neo-Provençal contemporary houses on the market, which are mostly for local families. If you’re thinking of moving to or buying a holiday home near Vence, you’ll get the best properties at a budget of 1 – 3 million euros. A quiet location with a pretty view of St Paul-de-Vence, for example, is more important than having a sea view, as the sea would be very distant in any event.
Apartments outside the Old Town of Vence are relatively affordable, but of less interest as an investment. If your budget is not enough for a house but town appeals to you, then the charming and bustling Old Town is the best place to buy in. Prices for one bedroom apartments there start at around €150,000.
I believe Vence is set to grow in popularity in 2017 and is an excellent place to invest in.
Property expert Rebecca Russell lives in Nice and has been a search agent (chasseur immobilier) on the Côte d’Azur since 2009. Contact us for more information on buying in Vence or elsewhere in the region.