Caryatids, frescoes and ornamentation – look no further than the sky to admire the hallmarks of the period that shaped the Côte d’Azur as we know it today: Belle Epoque architecture. Eclectic, elegant and sometimes a little exaggerated, it allowed architects to compete in creativity at the end of the 19th century. A precious legacy of a unique history, the Belle Epoque can be experienced every day in the open air, from the streets of Nice to those of Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
Behind the scenes of Belle Epoque architecture on the French Riviera
The Belle Epoque began around 1870 (a little earlier for Nice) and lasted until the pre-war period in 1914. As the Côte d’Azur established itself as a winter holiday destination for wealthy families, mainly from Europe, the region saw the emergence of buildings that symbolised the splendour of those who built them. With a barely concealed ulterior motive: to make their homes more beautiful than those of their neighbours.
Given the diverse origins of the wintering population and their virtually unlimited resources, the Belle Époque style, with eclecticism as its dominant trend, flourished during these 45 years. The idea was to borrow old architectural elements, whether Classical, Gothic, Baroque or Renaissance, to create a new and original building.
The importance of ornamentation was paramount: facades were enriched, stucco was applied to plasterwork, gables, colonnades and bas-reliefs were designed to impress passers-by.
Some great names were involved in this effervescence, such as the architect Charles Garnier, the star of the age, who designed the Paris Opera, the Nice Observatory and the Monte Carlo Casino.
Where to see the most beautiful Belle Epoque residences
The Côte d’Azur is full of examples of the Belle Epoque, but there are a few buildings that stand out. These include
The Château de l’Anglais
Located on the hill of Mont Boron in Nice, this is an eccentric, exotic and even fanciful building. It was commissioned by Robert Smith, the famous ‘Englishman’, Colonel of the English Engineers in India, and was inspired by neo-Mongol architecture.
The Excelsior Regina Palace
Located on the Cimiez hill in Nice, the Excelsior Regina Palace was once the home of Queen Victoria. The facades are covered with a multitude of ornaments, giving the palace an air of omnipresent luxury.
Villa Ephrussi de Rotschild
It was the dream of the Baroness de Rotchild that led to the construction of this residence, inspired by the Italian Renaissance. Both the size of the villa, with its pink Verona marble columns, and its formal gardens stand out on the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula.
This is Théodore Reinach’s token of love and admiration for Ancient Greece. Located in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, his villa is an uncompromising ode to the residences of the period: from the materials to the marble, the mosaics and even the objects, every detail is designed to immerse you in the Greek islands of the 5th century BC.
Key figures of this emblematic period, these buildings are just some of the treasures scattered around the Côte d’Azur. Take a stroll through the Cimiez or Mont Boron districts of Nice, stroll around the Rotonde in Beaulieu-sur-Mer or venture as far as Cap d’Ail to admire many examples.
Buying a Belle Epoque villa on the Côte d’Azur
You’ve fallen under the spell of this architectural style. And there’s no shortage of reasons for this: the evocation of an era in which a certain art of living was combined with elegance, the sumptuous, meticulously selected materials, the bold, carefully crafted architectural choices…
Buying a Belle Epoque villa is like owning a piece of history. These villas are adorned with elaborate features, frescoes and lush gardens. Owning such a property is like preserving a piece of French history, a living testament to the grandeur of the Belle Époque.
The region is a particularly good place to buy this type of property. With a very wide price range, depending on whether you’re in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (around €11,000/sq m or more), Beaulieu-sur-Mer (between €7,000 and €12,500/sq m), Nice – Basse et Moyenne Corniche (between €4,500 and €9,000/sq m) or Cap d’Ail (around €9,000/sq m).
These price differences also take into account whether the property is a house or an apartment, as villas are more expensive per square metre.
Buying a Belle Epoque villa on the Côte d’Azur is not just a property investment, it’s also an investment in history and luxury. With the right advice, you can own a piece of this era and live the Mediterranean dream in your own way.
Would you like to know more about our Belle Epoque properties for sale? Contact us to discuss your project. A local agent will have in-depth knowledge of the market and will be able to guide you through your purchase.