A photographer’s guide to St. Jean Cap Ferrat

A Photographer’s Guide to St. Jean Cap Ferrat

Hey friends and travelers! My guide to the French Riviera continues with one of my favorite locations on the French Riviera, St. Jean Cap Ferrat! This is one of my favorite places along the coast and it’s often overseen for the larger towns like Cannes, Nice and Monaco. What this tiny town lacks in population it makes up for in pure beauty. 


St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Location and Getting there:

My super sophisticated map of St. Jean Cap Ferrat. If someone wants to buy me one of those mansions I would proudly re-label that “home” and invite everyone over for champagne showers.

Located between between Nice and Monaco, St. Jean Cap Ferrat is a stunning peninsula of land surrounded by mountains falling into the sea and the stunning bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer. Its spectacular location isn’t one of the most easily accessible places on the coast, but that’s also part of its special charm. Once you have arrived you really feel like you have discovered a secret (a secret shared amongst the rich and famous). The name ST JEAN CAP FERRAT, I mean, it’s like a mouthful of escargot. Let me break it down for you. The part Cap Ferrat, basically is the English equivalent to Cape Ferrat, and is the geological name of the peninsula. St. Jean is the name of the village that is found on Cap Ferrat. Does that make sense? I hope so. 

During a romantic photoshoot on the French Riviera. This shot was taken from Villefranche-sur-Mer overlooking St. Jean Cap Ferrat in the distance. If that doesn’t make you grab someone you love and book your tickets today then I don’t know what’s wrong with you but I will share my doctors number.

So how do you get your pasty buns there to start sun bathing? You can get there from the Nice Airport/Nice center by car. You can take Uber or Taxi but get ready to pay around 60 euros because oh-la-la that sh*t isn’t cheap. The drive however, is very picturesque. A much cheaper option (less than 2 euros) is to take one of the two buses that leave from Nice. The bus #100 or #15… if I use this option I take the bus #15 and get off in the Port of St. Jean. The bus can be crowded and in the evening when the beach goers are leaving it can smell like the collective armpit of 100s of tourists. If that is your fetish you will be heaven. If that’s not your thing, leave before the sun-sets OR chill out at a cafe and wait an hour AFTER sunset for the bus to be much less crowded. A general rule and trick on the French Riviera is that traffic tends to follow the pattern of the sun because the beaches empty out as the sun sets and people leave the beach. This is when I avoid moving at all costs. I keep my sweaty beach bum in one place until I know that traffic has died down. The third option to getting there is probably my preferred method but it requires that you enjoy walking a bit. I normally take the train from Nice to Beaulieu-sur-Mer (the closest train station to St. Jean Cap Ferrat) and then I walk into town along the coastal path and in 30 minutes I am in the port of St. Jean. This is my preferred option as I get motion sick on the bus, the train is normally less crowded and the walk between Beaulieu-sur-Mer and St. Jean is INCREDIBLE. 

A Google Map screen shot of the walk between Beaulieu-sur-Mer train station and the center of St. Jean. The walk is a beauty little hike if you have the time.

This is me being a dork standing in front of one of my favorite public murals in St. Jean  on the French Riviera (it also might be the only public mural that I know of, lol)

What to do in St. Jean Cap Ferrat: Beaches

Okay, now that you have figured out how to arrive in paradise, what are you going to do? What makes this place so special?


Hanging out with my beaches: When I go to the beach, I prefer to go to St. Jean Cap Ferrat then to spend the day on the beach in Nice. In Nice the pebbles are large and uncomfortable, the beach is crowded and dirty and the bay is so large and vast it has less charm. In St. Jean Cap Ferrat you have several beautiful swimming options. The most famous beaches in SJCF are Paloma Beach and Plage de Passable. 


Paloma beach faces Monaco and has incredible views of mountains and cliffs. Normally, there is a luxurious private beach found here also called Paloma Beach but last year the beach was semi-closed for not conforming to a local law and it’s uncertain if it will re-open (the beds are finished but you can still eat in the restaurant). I will talk about that restaurant in more detail later on.

 

Plage de Passable is on the side of SJCF and has a stunning view of Villefranche-sur-Mer. The benefit of this beach is that the sun lasts longer here in the afternoon; at Paloma Beach the sun hides behind the cliffside. There is a private beach restaurant at Plage de Passable where you can rent a bed, drink wine, and eat local specialities. I have ended photoshoots here with a glass of wine while the sun sets. Life’s not so bad here. 

After this gorgeous surprise proposal in the port of St. Jean Cap Ferrat we wandered around looking for champagne (lol) and because it’s France we managed to find some! Cheers to a happy life filled with adventure for this adorable couple.

You can also find two more smaller public beaches les Fosses and les Fosettes which are beautiful but don’t have any private beach club/restaurant. However at Les Fossettes you can find a sandwich stand normally. If you want more information and an even more complete list of beaches in St. Jean Cap Ferrat you can check out this page by the Office of Tourism. 


What to do in St. Jean Cap Ferrat: Seaside Hike

When I posted on my instagram account that I was researching for this blog post, I asked locals what their favorite thing to do in St. Jean Cap Ferrat was. The overwhelming majority of people mentioned the Seaside path that covers the entire length of St. Jean Cap Ferrat. This path in French is known as the Sentier Littoral de St. Jean Cap Ferrat. It’s a 14km path that follows the coastline filled with stunning views of the seaside. You can attack the entire path (It will take you all day) or do it in small parts. For example a path that I regularly take is from Paloma beach to the beach Les Fosettes. This part of the path takes about 20 minutes and includes a beautiful pine tree grove next to the sea and heavily perfumed fig trees. For me, this is one of my favorite things to do because sitting on the beach tends to bore me, I like action. Pack a lunch and your bathing suit, because there are plenty of spots along the path to picnic and jump into the crystal clear waters. You will look like a local as this is what they do to avoid the tourist crowds. 

A screen shot of the loop I like to do starting at Paloma beach and ending at Les Fosettes. At Les Fosettes you can normally find a small truck vendor selling water and simple food.

Attractions in St. Jean Cap Ferrat: Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Visiting the stunning Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is really no secret, it’s one of the main attractions on the French Riviera. The Tuscan styled villa looks like a wedding cake, and a visit to the botanical gardens and dancing fountains is perfect if you love beautiful flowers and exotic plants. I’ve done many photoshoots here and it’s really romantic. I recommend getting there early to avoid the crowds. If you’ve rented a car I recommend getting there 15 minutes BEFORE it opens to get a parking space. Bus #81 that I talked about earlier will also drop you off a few minutes away. Just follow the crowd with the fanny packs and visors you wont miss it. 

A beautiful surprise proposal that I capture in the gardens at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. In the distance is the Cap de Nice and Mont Boron and on the right would be the village of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Attractions in St. Jean Cap Ferrat: Water Sports

Getting off the land and into the water is an amazing way to experience the French Riviera. You don’t have to be a Russian billionaire to enjoy the blue waters. You can charter a small boat or enjoy the water by canoe, kayak, or even paddle board. It’s simple and I recommend Cap Ferrat Watersports that is located where St. Jean Cap Ferrat and Beaulieu-sur-Mer meet (I marked it on my handy map at the beginning of this post). Trust me the views are stunning and at 20 euros for a paddle board you wont break the bank for some incredible memories. 

This cute model was playing to the camera during a photoshoot in St. Jean Cap Ferrat at the famous Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat. Bring your beach towel and a good book, you’re never going to want to leave this place. Fun fact, the pool and “Club Dauphine” is open to the public and a day pass will cost you around 90 euros. It’s not cheap but you only live once.


What to do in St. Jean Cap Ferrat: Photoshoot

I mean, I obviously have a very biased opinion on this one but I would be foolish not to mention how fun it is to do a photoshoot in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. We all live such busy lives, that taking a moment to soak it all in is necessary. Here on the French Riviera you can smell the roses and the sea too! A photoshoot is an amazing way to remember these happy moments. I have had clients that have traveled the world and do photoshoots in every location. When they are busy working at home, they watch their memories on a projector that plays all day long. They said it gives them a moment to stop, reflect, laugh and remember what is important in life: focusing on the people you love. 


Where to stay in St. Jean Cap Ferrat

It’s important to note that St. Jean Cap Ferrat is a small peninsula, and probably 80 percent is residential. The number of hotel and accommodations is definitely limited. However it is easy to stay in a town nearby and take trips into St. Jean Cap Ferrat. Finding a hotel in Nice is a great option and then coming into the town for the day is completely normal. However, if you want to stay in St. Jean Cap Ferrat because you love that quiet seaside village feel (personally I love). Then there are several smaller hotels in town such as the Hotel Brise Marine which I love for its location just footsteps away from Plage les Fossettes and Paloma Beach. Hotel La Villa Cap Ferrat is also a nice option. Those hotels are moderately priced and within walking distance from pretty much everything. If you have the budget, the obvious choice would be the Four Season St. Jean Cap Ferrat, the only 5 star hotel on the French Riviera to receive the prestigious “Palace” ranking.  It’s also often called the Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat (not to be confused with Hotel du Cap in Cap Antibes). I have shot here many times and it’s no wonder that it has been a favorite of celebrities, royalty and politicians. 

Want to go for a ride? There are plenty of classic car rentals on the French Riviera and taking one for a spin around St. Jean Cap Ferrat is a great way to feel like you blend into the landscape of billionaires.

Places to Eat in St. Jean Cap Ferrat

Now onto my favorite topic, where to eat and drink in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. If you are like me, a bad meal is one of the worst things that can happen during a vacation. As much as I love the French Riviera, I have to be honest, it’s really really really easy to fall into a tourist trap here. Well, luckily you have me! A rule in general is that if someone is standing outside the restaurant trying to rope you in, you need to avoid that restaurant. 

So you think you can dance? There is no better time to grab someone you love and show them you’ve got moves than on the French Riviera. We grabbed this shot in the Port of St. Jean Cap Ferrat.

Here are some addresses that you need to know in St. Jean Cap Ferrat


La Civette: Avenue Claude Vignon, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

This is a must do for a coffee or a Spritz when you are finished at the beach. It’s the center of life in the town of St. Jean and the main attraction here is people watching. Apparently it’s not impolite to stare here. So sit back and enjoy the show!

Ending my photoshoot with a lot of sweetness. This cute couple grabbed an ice-cream at La Civette, a must visit spot for people watching on the French Riviera.

Le Cadillac: 2 Avenue Jean Mermoz, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

This cafe and restaurant is just next to the Civette and has the same ambiance and people watching potential. 


La Nonna: Port de Plaisance, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

For a full menu of tasty and original pizzas I recommend La Nonna in the Port of St. Jean Cap Ferrat. The view of the harbor is hypnotizing and soon you will find yourself ordering too much food and returning home with a couple extra kilos (not talking about your luggage). 


Paloma Beach: 1 Chemin de Saint-Hospice, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

I mentioned this place already talking about beaches. Traditionally this has been a place where you could get a sun lounger and order on the beach, however last year the beds were not available but you could still eat in the restaurant. It’s a popular choice to take a long lazy lunch here. Night is more quiet and don’t think that this is going to be a budget meal. 

When people talk about St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Paloma Beach is normally the first thing they mention. This place is a legend and once you arrive you won’t have a hard time understanding why. This photo was taken during a photoshoot on St. Jean Cap Ferrat with style star Temi Otedola

Leo Lea: le Port de Plaisance, 06230 St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France+33 4 93 85 79 50

This restaurant is for meat lovers. I know that might not be what you are thinking of when talking about a seaside restaurant, but I have to include it because the food is SO GOOD. The steak with french fries and “paradise sauce” is literally making my mouth water as I type this. 


Plage Cros dei Pins

So I don’t actually even know the name of this place, but when you arrive at the public beach, Plage Cros dei Pins there is a small snack bar there that has amazing snack food. They make a local specialty called Pan Bagnat which is a tuna sandwich and is DELICIOUS. At 5 euros it’s the cheapest and most satisfying lunch you are going to find on a budget in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. 

My favorite local street food in St. Jean Cap Ferrat is the Pain Bagnat at the snack bar at the public beach “Cros dei Pains” … you will look like a total local if you pull up here flashing your 5 euro notes. It may seem like a simple sandwhich, but to win my vote of approval is no small feat.

Restaurant Capitaine Cook: 11 avenue Jean Mermoz , 06230 St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

For delicious mediterranean food that makes you feel like you are eating at your Southern Grandma’s house you have to check this place out. It’s not glamorous but it’s one of the rare authentic experiences that still prevail on the French Riviera. 


Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat: 71 Boulevard du Général de Gaulle, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

If you’re traveling to the French Riviera for a special occasion and want to treat yourself to a truly exceptional experience I can highly recommend the Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat. If the iron gated entrance and security intimidate you just put on some fancy shoes and walk in like you own the place. Throw down a 30 euro glass of champagne on the terrace during sunset and think about your credit card later! I mean, you’re on vacation after all! 

From a glamorous photoshoot at the Four Seasons Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat with style star Temi Otedola. This dress is an amazing Oscar de la Renta, check out her website at https://jtofashion.com/

Where to shop in St. Jean Cap Ferrat

When in St. Jean Cap Ferrat I would definitely recommend checking out a couple local shops that have a touch you can’t find everywhere. 


Hells and Bulles: 6 Place Georges Clémenceau, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

This is a local artisan jewelry store where you will be able to walk away with a unique souvenir. I actually love buying jewelry when I’m on vacation because when you wear it later on it brings back great memories. They have a range of prices so you wont have to break the bank to walk away with a Riviera inspired keepsake. 


Les Garcons: Nouveau Port, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

This chic concept store is found in the Port of St. Jean and features both casually chic beach fashion as well as a hair dresser. If you don’t know what to wear for your upcoming trip, just pack light and return with a heavy suitcase. 


The quicklist: Here is a summary of all the places that I mentioned in this blog post that you can easily copy and paste.

  • Paloma Beach
  • Plages Passable
  • Plages les Fosses
  • Flages les Fossettes
  • Plage Cros dei Pins
  • Sentier du Littoral Seaside Hike
  • Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
  • French Riviera Watersports
  • Hotel Brise Marine
  • Hotel La Villa
  • Four Seasons Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat
  • La Civette - Cafe
  • Le Cadillac - Cafe 
  • La Nonna - Restaurant
  • Restaurant Capitaine Cook
  • Hells and Bulles
  • Les Garcons 


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