Mougins: An Ideal Culinary and Culture Get-a-way
The spiraling road of Mougin’s hilltop village is worth a tour if one is finding a different kind of gastronomic experience among the towns of French Riviera. On those times when celebrity A-listers and movie industry giants flock for the annual Cannes Movie Festival, the place for them to hang around is this chic village perché. They would dine on its famous classy restaurant after the red-carpet event. It retains its image as an unspoiled village, being ahead of Cannes in prestige during the medieval times. Its culture and love for arts remain unchanged, mainly when one of the modern art masters, Pablo Picasso, chose to live here for twelve years until his death.
But the charm also comes from the town’s own features. Old cottages line the turning streets. Flowers trail the lovely terraces. Mansions hidden will greet one on its corners. Fascinating museums house valuable pieces of artworks and other treasures, even from ancient days. Everything and all adds up as the town’s tourist magnet. With those who crave for sights and savors, this town will surely satisfy any longing. Take a look at this French Riviera‘s culinary and cultural center here in this travel guide for Mougins.
The town’s basic information
Just next to the eventful town of Cannes, the perched village of Mougins sits silently and elegantly among the hilltop. The expansive Valmasque forest surrounds it. Around is a beautiful panoramic view of the pristine Baie de Cannes, the emerald islands of Lerins, and the jagged lines of the Préalpes.
The town of Mougins sits well within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, in the Alpes-Maritimes départment. It has a population of around 19, 400 (2016 figure). Like the rest of French Riviera, it enjoys the perfect Mediterranean climate with 300 assured days of sunshine. The then fortified hilltop village is but a central point of the communes of Mougins. It has circular, spiraling roads, and one can find it similar to a snail shell. The town is ever inhabited, with grand houses of ancient times and colorful flowers bordering historic narrow roads. Today, the town is a focal point of culinary hubs, art galleries, and also, of real-estate agents. Some communes of Mougins has housing estates such as the modern Mougins-le-Haut. Along Route Napoleon and the adjoining Tournamy section, shops and businesses settle themselves that adds up to the contemporary touch of the entire town.
A little history
It was also once an occupied town even before the Romans rule. The Ligurians then occupied it and held it against Byzantine invasion, until the City of Genoa put it under control between the 11th and 15th century. Many of the structures of the old village were built from these years. The monks of St-Honorat from Îles de Lérins administered the hillside region of Mougins when the Count of Antibes put them in charge. It is a fortified village then. Some remains of the ramparts and walls from those years stand to date. The Porte Sarazzine is one of the three original towers.
Some of the ramparts were removed by the plundering Austro-Sardinian army, during the War of the Austrian Succession of the 18th century. But the war didn’t stop the town as it revived itself again when several new street and houses were built on the 19th century. During the 19th and the 20th century, it became a center of flower production that Grasse uses for its perfumeries.
The modern art master decided to live here because of its pure beauty and elegance. He spent the last twelve years of his life in the town. The church Notre-Dame-de-Vie charmed him, along with its surroundings. His property is next to the church in the suburb, built his house known as L’Antre du Minotaure (or, “the Minotaur’s Lair.) It was his gift to his second wife. From 1961 to his death in 1973 at the age of 91, he has his studio here finding inspiration from the area around. The time he spent here in Mougins is also the time of the height of his fame as an artist. Most of his essential work created here were The Dance of Youth (1961), The Chicago Picasso (1967), and Femme nue au colier (1968). Most of the Picasso collection can be found in Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins.
The culinary history
Mougins’ history when it comes to gastronomic arts is undeniably remarkable. Famous chefs and culinary experts contributed to the recognition of the town. Their names are also associated with the restaurants where they practice their expertise. Take for example L’Amandier, where geniuses Roger Vergé and Alain Ducasse served as chefs and restaurant managers. Vergé opened L’Amandier Mougins in 1977. From 1970-1974 he received Michelin stars and was also made Maître Cuisinier de France on 1980. Ducasse served as assistant to Vergé from whom he learned Provençal cooking which later made him a sought after for chef. He took over the kitchens of L’Amandier in 1980. He currently held 21 Michelin stars.
Les Étoiles de Mougins
Yearly, an annual gastronomic festival, Les Étoiles de Mougins, celebrates the culinary history and fame of the town. It is the time of the gathering of the top chefs across the continents where they share their skills and passion in creating sumptuous cuisine. Activities like cooking demonstrations, lessons, competitions, workshops, and concerts are present on this occasion, including food-themed activities and workshops for children. It is held every September of the year. During those days, the streets and the squares are filled with visitors who want to share the experience.
- La Place de Mougins: It is now under the management of another culinary expert, Dennis Fétisson. The place has a terrace and dining room with 80 seats, and a lounge area, a bar, and an exclusive room that accommodates 20 to 25 people. There is the signature menu with flavors around the world: Golden egg with truffle; king prawn carpaccio; roasted duck foie gras in Voatsiperifery pepper; wagyu beef roasted; and smoked with pine needles of St-Hulien, among others. Also, there is Le menu Gourmandise a Mougins and à la carte entrées.
- L’Amandier: Also, under the guidance of Fétisson, it serves Niçoise dishes. The whole team of L’Amandier dedicates themselves to continue the Cuisine de Soleil, of the “Cuisine of the Sun started by Vergé. The menu is particularly created to commemorate the era when Mougins became an important place for an exceptional culinary experience. There is spider crab with, avocado, and grapefruit; lobster tortellini, noilly prat melted leeks, creamy bisque, and anise foam star; roasted lamb chops with garlic and parsley, French Peas style, onion Fried, Marjoram juice; among other delicacies. There is a lounge named after Roger Vergé that can seat 20 diners. The restaurant has 120 seats indoors and another 120 on the outside both on its two levels. A cookery class is also available.\
Best Gastronomic Sites
- Resto des Arts: A budget-friendly traditional bistro in the center of the town. The head chef prepares genuine French dishes. It serves delicious basil-spiked soupe au pistou, red mullet doused in tomato sauce, or seared steak with morel mushroom. The dining area can serve up to 60 persons while the outside seats can accommodate 18 persons. It also serves breakfast.
- Le (Mas) Candille: A restauranté gastronomique under David Chauvac featuring his subtle innovative cuisine with an exceptional surrounding. It blends classicism, timelessness, and modernity. The capacity of 60 seats in both the dining area and the terrace provides a proper setting. The menu is in gastronomic Provençal cuisine with an Asian influence. Enjoy crab soufflé with caviar or breast of pigeon with sot caramel glaze. It also offers a cooking class with the chef.
Museums to visit
- Museé d’Art Classique de Mougins: The founder of this museum is the British businessman Christian Levett. It has an incredible collection of 600 works that spans five millennia. The displays are in categories depending on the influential civilizations: Greek, Roman, Egyptian. Contemporary artworks are also present with works of Chagall, Matisse, Cocteau, Man Ray, etc. The museum designates the top floor for the displays of ancient armory including helmets, shields, weapons, and armors. There are numerous works of Picasso present with proper representation. The side-by-side display of classic and modern arts and artifacts bridges the ancient and contemporary wonders that give deeper and unexpected connection for the onlookers to ponder with as they tour.
- Musée de la Photographie André Villers: Its location is next to Porte Sarazzine and contains exhibits of photographs of Pablo Picasso by photographers Andre Villérs and Henri Lartigue. It also has a regular exhibition with fashion themes and war photography.
- Le Lavoir de Mougins: This place is an old washhouse that promotes the works of local painters and sculptors. under a very unusual setting.
For a nature experience, this large pond is highly recommendable. It is a five-hectare swath of greenery on the edge of Valmasque forest park. In Europe, it is the most massive pond with the colony of lotus flowers. The blooming season is from July to September. Migratory birds and waterfowls are also present, numbering over 60 different species. Close to the pond is the chapel, Notre-Dame-de-Vie and the manor-villa of Picasso. A bakeshop, Boulangerie de l’Etang serves breakfast on its terrace. Is serves freshly-squeezed orange juice and coffee. Pastries and bread include a basket of freshly baked croissant (un pannier), pains au raisins, and croissant Chocolat. The best choice among the tempting options is their brioche au sucre.
How to get there
Car: Driving up to Mougins means taking a complicated network of roads. Take the A8 motorway junction 40 (Cannes). Next, take the N85 pénétrante with a sign Grasse and Mougins. Turn left on the D3 after taking the first exit going left to the roundabout then left again crossing the bridge after the pénétrante. Parking is available just below the hilltop.
Bus: Bus #600 between Grasse and Cannes frequents Mougins, but does not go into the old village. Get off on Val de Mougins and take the bus #650 (Sophia Antipolis) or Palmbus #27 to reach the village center on the hill. Alternatively, one can walk right up to the village, which can take 10 to 15 minutes.
The international reputation of Mougins makes it the top destination for celebrities and regular tourists alike. The gourmet and the timeless art pieces will give pure satisfaction to those who seek an inimitably gratifying (or, may we say, hedonistic) experience.
Click this link to see the Tourism Offices information.