Roquebrune & Cap Martin Travel Guide
Cap Martin is a rocky finger barely 2 kilometers long that pokes out into the Mediterranean at Roquebrune, just east of Monaco – but it’s one of the most important sites in the history of modern architecture, and of women in design.
In fact, the whole of Roquebrune can be seen as a kind of architecture theme park. There’s the beach at Cabbé where Corbusier died while swimming in 1965, which today teems with retirees patronizing a kitsch copy of Le Cabanon, which serves as a shoreline cafe. Up above is Roquebrune’s cemetery, where a brutalist memorial marks Corbusier’s grave, and the Hotel Victoria, which is themed around Gray and Corbusier, with paintings and photos from the fecund period when this Riviera hotspot was at the center of the artistic world, with people such as Coco Chanel and WB Yeats passing through.
There are two districts: the historic perched-village (Roquebrune) and the more modern coastal area (Cap Martin). The medieval town has narrow streets, arched passages, intimate little squares, ancient fountains, and incredible views of the coastline of the French Riviera. Cap Martin is where you’ll find beaches and magnificent villas reminiscent of the Belle Époque era (including one that was owned by Karl Lagerfeld).
|As one of the medieval perched-villages, Roquebrune rises up to 300 meters in altitude. Surrounded by lush vegetation and the unspoiled coastline, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin has breathtaking views stretching from Italy to Monaco. If you’re a history buff, there’s a lot here to see, from medieval attractions to magnificent villas and avant-garde structures.|
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is nestled between the Principality of Monaco and the charming town of Menton, on the French Riviera.
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin has around 12,000 inhabitants, and locals are called Roquebrunoises. Roquebrune got its name from the brown stones that were used to build the old houses in the village.
Nature in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
Louis Nucéra wrote ‘Roquebrune is a succession of miracles. In this blessed place, the gems immediately spring to your eyes. Their beauty radiates in the sky as it does on earth, because nature has not stinted here in any way.’ He could not have found a better way to describe the loveliness of the natural environment around Roquebrune!
One of the Oldest Olive Trees
One of the oldest olive trees in the world lives here, called the ‘millennial olive tree’. Historians and biologists have dated this tree to somewhere between 1,800 and 2,200 years old, yet the tree still produces little black olives. You can see this ancient tree east of the Roquebrune village. It has a total circumference of 23.5 meters and a total mass of foliage measuring 18 meters wide. The historian and minister Gabriel Hanoteaux saved it from being cut down by purchasing the land where it is planted.
Cap Martin Park
Cap Martin Park is a small public park in the center of Cap Martin with numerous olive trees aging several hundred years old. The park has several contemporary sculptures, some of famous personalities who stayed in the town. There is a playground for kids and a place to buy snacks and drinks.
Promenade le Corbusier Nature Trail
Another seaside nature trail is the Promenade le Corbusier. It serves as a link between the point of Cap Martin and Monaco following the edges of the sea. It weaves its way by many private estates on Cap Martin and has a magnificent seaside landscape all around. You can find along the path the bust of the architect Le Corbusier, his Cabanon, and E1027 house.
Cros de Casté Park
Cros de Casté Park is a great place to relax and do some outdoor activities while enjoying the stunning view of nature. This nine hectares of land is in the hills of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and has pathways around military forts.
Historical Sites in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin
The history of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is felt everywhere, much to the pleasure of history and architecture lovers, and those nostalgic for the Roaring Twenties. The past reveals itself in the medieval village and its castle, St. Marguerite’s church, the ancient olive tree, the cave of Vallonet and Le Corbusier’s cabin.
The luxury of the villas remind us of the royalty, writers, and artists who came looking for inspiration and rest here: Winston Churchill, Coco Chanel, Sacha Guitry, Jacques Brel, Silvana Mangano…
For a medieval experience, visit the Château de Roquebrune. It is the hilltop castle and belongs to the list of the oldest fortresses in France, and a surviving example of a Carolingian fortress. Some of the castle’s interiors look like the builders carved them from the solid rock mass. Decorations are set-up on many rooms and halls so visitors can enjoy the ambiance of the medieval period.
The topmost part of the château opens to picturesque views of the Mediterranean coast. From here you can see ancient lavoirs (traditional wash areas), Place des Deus Frères, St-Marguerite Church, and a 2000-year-old oak tree.
|Open Times: From October 1 to January 31: from 10am to 12:30pm and from 2pm to 5pm. From February 1 to May 31: from 10am to 12:30pm and from 2pm to 6pm. From June 1 to September 30: from 10am to 1pm and from 2:30pm to 7pm.|
Closed on May 1, November 1 and 11, December 25 and January 1. Closed Fridays between November 1 and January 31.
Cost: Adult: €5, over 60: €4, children and students: €3 (includes audio guide).
Roman antiquity is also present on Cap Martin. The Tomb of Lumone is the only remnant of the Roman way station Lumone built during the 1st century BC. It also served as a Roman funeral monument for a nearby ancient Roman villa of Julia Augusta. You can see the vaulted arches, inscriptions, and some traces of fresco decorations.
Cap Moderne: Cabanon Le Corbusier
Another interesting structure is a small cabin in the bay, the Cabanon Le Corbusier . The notable French architect Le Corbusier (1187-1965), a pioneer of modern architecture, built this beach hut to serve as his holiday retreat. He lived here until his death in 1965.
It is the smallest of all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Inside, you can see the mural paintings and other works of Le Corbusier while noticing the harmony of the interior.
This cabin is an excellent example of modular and minimalist functionalism in architectural designs. A lush garden surrounds the cabin, and there are five comping units in the area that Le Corbusier designed himself.
Cap Moderne: the E-1027 House
Another important structure is the E-1027 house . It is one of the outstanding icons when it comes to modernity in architecture. The celebrated Irish designer Eileen Grey created this seaside villa together with the pieces of furniture inside. The house overlooks the bay facing Monaco. It has an intimate open interior, ingeniously designed free and fixed furniture, and evocative gardens. Murals from Le Corbusier is also present inside and outside.
Together with the Cabanon Le Corbusier, the nearby restaurant, and the camping units, this villa is part of the exceptional real estate complex called “Cap Moderne.”
Check out our full guide to Cap Moderne’s E-1027 and La Cabanon.
Beaches in Cap Martin
There are a number of beaches on Cap Martin:
The Carnoles beach is a pebbly beach that stretches over a kilometer on the coast. This beach is more urbanized than the other beaches in the town. It has a good view of nearby Menton on the east. The offshore breakwater makes it a good place for kids to take a dip.
Hawk Beach is another good public beach. It is also a pebbled beach which you can reach on foot from the nearby train station car park or through the Promenade Le Corbusier seaside walk. Freshwater springs surge up beneath the sea among the rocks of Cap Martin and Pointe de Cabbé.