The Chemin de Nietzsche in Eze
The Chemin de Nietzsche in Èze is great if you want an easy but tiring uphill hike while you enjoy beautiful seaside views from above. The round-trip trek of the 427-meter-high former mule path will take about three hours, and at moments it is rocky and quite strenuous, though not for a reasonably fit person. But what really leaves you breathless is the emotional sweep that seems to carry and lift you, especially on the descent, when the coast reveals itself and leaps straight up from the limestone rock formations.
Èze Village is about 430 meters above sea level, which takes about an hour to get to uphill (or 40 minutes downhill) if you are a more determined walker or about an hour and a half if you choose a relaxed pace. The fastest you can manage to get up it is 30 minutes if you’re fast. It is certainly one of the toughest walks in the area with its steep incline and many stairs, but all that work makes the views on the top even sweeter.
The trail connects Èze-sur-Mer (on the main road above the beach) to the picturesque hilltop Èze Village. You can start your route straight opposite the train station in Èze-sur-Mer, where there are plenty of places to park your car, or start in Èze Village and work your way down to the beach (to get to the beach you must take the tunnel under the road, accessible from the north side of the road by the real estate agency).
If you start in Èze Village, the first part of the trail through Le Vallon du Due-the Duke’s Valley-has remnants of paving, and without the correct footwear, the loose gravel renders this the most perilous part of the journey (you can do the walk in sturdy sneakers, but I always bring hiking shoes when traveling)•
The trail soon becomes stone and dirt, and as you descend, the path plays tricks, turning sharply and vanishing, while a seemingly new one opens to expose a fresh slice of sky and a sliver of the Mediterranean. The air is a perfume of rosemary, rock rose blossoms, olive trees, and myrtle, all of which cluster here and there near the path. Butterflies flit about as they have for thousands of years. And then there are the crags that rear and loom to form the twisted walls of the valleys, some of which also disappear sideways. At times, the sheer grandeur of the rock faces seems almost on the scale of Yosemite. Soon, the sea appears in full, jutting out from the valley in a perfect V, and the trail extends to the main road, crossing over to a white stretch of sand.
Be sure to take the little trail marked by two square reservoirs that look like ruins to see the hidden waterfall (the water is clean if you want to cool off). It’s a little trail that takes you off the Nietzsche Path, but it’s easy to find your way back and worth the adventure.
As mentioned above, you may also do this walk in reverse; start at the beach and work your way up, but if you’re not feeling adventurous enough for a round-trip, you can catch a bus in either direction from Èze Village back to the train station and the coast.
If you’ve walked down, it’s a good idea at least in summer to bring a bathing suit, because you’ll want to cool off in the gentle surf. The trek back up is steep in parts, and the cliffs that seemed like friendly giants on the way down now seem a tad forbidding.
Remember to look up, because the stone facades of Èze Village begin to emerge like characters out of a fairy tale through the leaf cover. The path zigs and zags, and soon, the bell tower of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption seems to rise straight out of a giant spur. Behind you, and off to the right, is the sea again, a soothing wash of blue.
The trail was named after Friedrich Nietzsche, a famous German philosopher who had loved the challenges of avoiding the easier paths of life. His works are a relevant basis of modern Western moral values.
“And when he had reached the top of the mountain-ridge, behold, there lay the other sea spread out before him: and he stood still and was long silent,” wrote Friedrich Nietzche in one of his masterpieces, conceived on this Èze trail.
It was the early 1880s, and for a time he was ensconced on the sunny coast between Nice and Genoa, suffering from failing eyesight, melancholy, and burgeoning madness. If he had been able to find joy at all in his tormented life, he found it here.
This walk may inspire you to bone up on your Nietzche. Maybe you skipped most of your Philosophy IOI lectures or never quite got acquainted with the man most famously known (and misunderstood) for the declaration that “God is dead.” It’s worth it. Thus Spoke Zsirathustra is about a prophet who descends from a mountain to offer his wisdom to the world, and it’s not a stretch to see how this climb, these boulders, this ascent from the sea to the Eagle’s Nest inspired the philosopher to produce his greatest work.
“My muscle tone was always greatest when my creative energies flowed most abundantly,” he wrote about his daily uphill jaunts from the train station. “The body is spirited — let us leave the ‘soul’ out of play. One could often have spotted me dancing.” Or, just stopping to smell the rosemary.
Wear the right shoes to have a better grip and avoid slipping. Don’t go if it’s raining as the stones will become slippery. Bring plenty of water and sun cream because the path in many places is exposed to the bright summer sun. Start early or later in the day to prevent the strongest afternoon sunlight (from about 10:30am to 4:30pm in the summer).
How to Get there
Train from Nice to Eze: If you arrive by train, it will let you off near the bottom of the Nietzsche Path. The cost of the train is €3.50 each way. You can either hike back down to return by train or catch the bus at the base of the village to return to Nice.
Bus from Nice to Eze: Bus #100 from Nice will drop you off near the train station, near the Nietzsche Path.
Bus between Eze-sur-Mer and Eze Village: Bus #82 or #112 will drop you off at the base of the village. It is a bit of a climb up to the village from town but not overly strenuous. This is the closest you can get to the village of Eze by public transportation. This is also where the public car park is located. The cost is €1.50 each way or €10 for a 10 ticket pass which is valid for both buses and trams.
Please note that the buses do not run frequently. Take a picture of the schedule, so you know when to be back at the bus stop.
If you’re not feeling adventurous, take bus #82 to Eze then walk down the Nietzsche Path after you have visited the village. This will allow you to explore the beach area before hopping on bus #100 for a ride back to Nice.
Best time to visit
Winter is a wonderful time to visit Eze. The village won’t be overcrowded with tourists, and you will feel like you have the entire place to yourself. However, most shops, galleries and restaurants close for the winter season. One luxury hotel remains open, however, so you can still have a drink or meal with a view of the sea. If you are interested in shopping in the village, you’ll want to consider visiting another time of year. Spring or fall are not too hot, perfect for shopping, and the flowers will be in full bloom. Summer is the busy season and can get very crowded.
Useful Reader Reviews
- “Do not attempt this walk unless you’re in the full of your health and at least 30 years younger than us! Having visited Vieux Eze we decided that walking to Eze-sur-Mer to catch the train would be a pleasant alternative to queuing for a packed bus. Big mistake. We expected rough terrain but this path is really quite difficult to negotiate in parts unless you are an experienced hill walker. The sign at the start of the path said it was a 45 minute walk but it took us an hour and a half and there were times when we thought we would end up spending the night on the mountain. We had to have a restorative drink at a local hostelry before we could summon up the strength to catch the train. Definitely not for pensioners!”
- “We parked at the train station at Eze Sur Mer and the hike was only a few steps away. Make sure to take water and sturdy shoes. I didn’t have sneakers but wore sturdy sandals. Was a bit tricky at times as it rocky and slippery. Views are gorgeous. They said it would take about 1 1/2 hours, we climbed it in 50 mins. It depends on your pace and ability. Highly recommend. When up in the village take time to get a coffee or glass of rose in Chèvre D’Or patio. Walk the small streets of this miedeval town. Views are gorgeous. Walk around maybe by a few things. You come out right near the Garmund perfume store. Then hike back down to car. Overall great 1/2 day activity.”