Discovery is the best part of travel. Whether it’s local foods, a new style of music, lifelong friends, or, ideally, yourself, it’s easy to come away from any trip with a figurative suitcase full of emotional souvenirs. Knowing that you know a tiny little pub down a mew in London, or the best place to get espresso in tiny to-go cups in Zürich, is the kind of thing that makes you feel both worldly and cool, and we’re here to help you add to your suitcase of worldly and cool travel knowledge.
Soooo let’s talk about Saint Paul de Vence.
It’s a medieval town (we’re talkin’ surrounded by a wall, up on a hill, you’re gonna expect a knight to appear around every corner) in the South of France, spitting distance from more popular destinations like Nice. It looks like this:
And walking through the city streets is, like, fine. Mildly scenic. Whatever.
There is an endless list of reasons why Saint Paul de Vence should be on your bucket list, but the number one reason is La Colombe d’Or. Staying in La Colombe d’Or costs a pretty penny, as it’s definitely a luxury hotel, but the best part isn’t staying there. The hotel was opened by a local farmer, Paul Roux, and initially it was just a café-slash-bar situation. Eventually, he added a few rooms.
Because of the ridiculous scenery…
…lots of fancy painters and intelligentsia took up residence on the Riviera during World War II, and La Colombe d’Or became a popular spot for some people you may have heard of. Only they weren’t exactly heard of then, so they often paid for rooms with paintings.
La Colombe d’Or boasts *original art* from Matisse, Picasso, Léger, Braque, and Chagall. To name a few. Ahem.
It’s not advertised as a museum, because it really is just a hotel, so you don’t have to pay admission. Definitely don’t rock through with a loud tour group, but if you’re by yourself or with a couple of (well-behaved) friends, you can just sort of stroll into La Colombe d’Or and admire art you literally can’t see anywhere else. FOR FREE.
That painting in the brown frame casually tucked into the corner? It’s a Klein. Yeah.
If you’re feeling extra splurgey, La Colombe d’Or’s restaurant will feed you what’s probably the best thing you’ve ever put in your mouth, too.
And it low-key looks like art. Okay, high-key looks like art. Plus, not saying that the waiters have mustaches you would assume only exist on cartoons of French people, but the waiters have mustaches you would assume only exist on cartoons of French people.
Like, this totally counts as art.
Okay, fine, it’s not, but if you sit on the patio, there’s a casual Legér in full view the whole time. You might have to try not to cry if you’re particularly nerdy. (Not confessing to anything here…)
And there’s a Picasso in the dining room. La Colombe d’Or isn’t exactly crawling with people, so as long as you don’t go during an event or a big dinner rush, you can absolutely stroll (quietly, politely) through the dining room and stare at this with your jaw hanging open.
Plus, there’s a Calder sculpture at the foot of the pool. WhatEVER.
None of this priceless art talk even does justice to just how beautiful La Colombe d’Or is in general. Even if it weren’t a veritable wonderland of art you can’t see anywhere else, it has some fairly average gardens…
And an indoor bar that’s sort of alright…
Basically, La Colombe d’Or in Saint Paul de Vence is the ideal travel destination you never knew existed. The whole city is walkable in an hour or so, so it’s not necessarily somewhere to dwell, but no matter what your priorities are — fine dining, good Instagrams, priceless art, #aesthetic scenery — you’re not going to be disappointed. Add this super secret art geek heaven to your bucket list STAT.