Back in March (trip #34 to France), after visiting Fondation Maeght in St. Paul-de-Vence, I made a stop in a town that is best known for its beautiful medieval section. But for me, what really stood out were the views from Château Musée Grimaldi and the parking in Cagnes-sur-Mer. I know. Why would I write about the parking? Read on. If you’ve ever visited Haut de Cagnes (the upper part of the town), you’ll know what I mean.
Château Grimaldi in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Antibes, and Monaco
Grimaldi Fortress And Château In Cagnes-sur-Mer
The drive up and back from Nice to Saint Paul de Vence takes you through Cagnes-sur-Mer. Haut de Cagnes is the higher village and the place to visit. It is a well-preserved medieval hilltop village and the main attraction is the Grimaldi Castle Museum also known as the Grimaldi fortress.
It began in the 1300s by Rainier Grimaldi as a military fortress and then in the 1600s it was converted into a palace. In 1937, the town of Cagnes-sur-Mer acquired the Château and changed it once again, this time into a museum. In 1948 it was classified as a Historic Monument and is most often referred to as Château-Musée Grimaldi.
Today, there are temporary and permanent contemporary art exhibitions as well as a museum devoted to olive trees.
Here are two other Grimaldi Castles in France
Grimaldi Castle-Picasso Museum Antibes
Oddly enough there are a number of Grimaldi castles in France because various members of the family constructed chateaux using the name. In Antibes, there is another Château Grimaldi which now houses the Picasso Museum. It is now referred to as Musée Picasso.
Chateau Grimaldi-Prince’s Palace Of Monaco
There is also the House of Grimaldi whose founders established Monaco. It was first a fortress and eventually became a residence and called the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. The current reigning monarch is Prince Albert II of Monaco, the son of actress Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier III.
Walking Through Cagnes-sur-Mer
The old town of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Haut de Cagnes is a medieval village with steep hills, narrow streets, and the town has done a nice job of highlighting some of its famous sites by showing copies of paintings that have been done of these sites.
As you walk from the parking up to the top of the village, you pass a number of them, such as:
- Chapelle Notre Dame de la Protection
- La Colline Cagnes-sur-Mer (hill in Cagnes-sur-Mer)
- Eglise Saint Pierre
Chateau-Musée Grimaldi (Haut de Cagnes)
Interior and Views of the Mediterranean
In the château, what I really liked was the interior architecture and design, stairways, and courtyard. But the best part were the magnificent views of the village and Mediterranean Sea from the tower. [Note: you will be climbing up 3 flights of stairs].
Suzy Solidor Portraits
Throughout the castle there are original furnishings as well as a permanent exhibition of modern paintings. The Suzy Solidor portraits didn’t do anything for me. She was a famous French actress and cabaret singer from the early 1900s and donated portraits (of herself) to the Château.
Solidor owned a number of night clubs in Paris and loved to collect portraits of herself and display them all throughout her clubs and now in Château Musée Grimaldi. There are about 40 in the Château. They were done by famous artists such as Jean Cocteau, PIcasso, and Braque. She was often referred to as “the most painted woman in the world”.
Olive Tree Museum
The Château also has an exhibit with information about olive trees, olive wood, and olive oil production. I don’t know why this is highlighted in the Château except that olive oil production is certainly big business in the south of France.
Unique Car Parking In Haut de Cagnes
A word about driving and parking in Haut de Cagnes. First, don’t try driving around town. There are very narrow, one-way roads and it’s impossible to find street parking. I had to park underground. The underground parking garage, called “Planastel” is confusing but cheap and effective. After going through the gate, you drive your car into an elevator.
Yes, an elevator. You get out of the elevator, speak to the cashier and are given a parking stub. The automated elevator whisks your car away….somewhere down below into a subterranean lot and when you return, you hand your parking stub to the attendant, pay your fee (cheap===it was about 1.5 € for 2 hours) and your car is “retrieved” mechanically and brought to you automatically at the exit. I was amazed.
Planastel Parking In Haut de Cagnes: 12 Rue du Château
- Admission: 4 €
- Guided tours: June-September in English and French
- Opening hours;
- July and August: 10-1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m.
- September, April, May and June: 10-12 p.m. and 2-6 p.m.
- From October to March: 10-12 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.
- Closed Tuesdays
- Address: Place Grimaldi – 06800 Cagnes-sur-Mer
Getting To Cagnes-sur-Mer
Autoroute A8 westbound to Exit 48-Cagnes-sur-Mer-Vence
- Limited free parking
- You can also park down below and walk up or take the free shuttle (No. 44) from the city centre bus station. It runs every 15 minutes 7 days a week.
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