The French Riviera is synonymous with glamour, Europe’s most exclusive destination where an international who’s who of the rich and well-connected are buying luxury houses and have promenaded and partied for well over one hundred years. Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, the Aga Khan, the Agnelli family, Rita Hayworth: Kings and Queens, Europe’s aristocracy and Hollywood celebrities set the elegant tone, coming to stay in gilded mansions and along the Cote d’Azur.
At the very pinnacle of this glamour with a location prized above all others, is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, where exclusive properties command the very highest Riviera property prices. This month, Knight Frank open a new office on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, showcasing some of the most extraordinary and beautiful homes anywhere on the Mediterranean.
Above: Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. If you want to know more about the lifestyle and property, read our buying guide in the Cote d’Azur.
The secret to Cap-Ferrat’s global prestige? Primarily the exquisite natural beauty of the delightfully unspoilt peninsula combined with the superb yet discreetly hidden properties on it. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is densely wooded and fragrant, encircled by umbrella pines and eucalyptus which provide an alluring backdrop to the magnificent villas.
Walk the coastal footpaths and you can catch brief glimpses of grand Belle Époque and Art Deco mansions set in carefully tended gardens, all dazzlingly close to the turquoise sea.
Then there is the location. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is secluded but not at all remote. Nice to the west and Monaco to the east are both thirty minutes away and the Italian border and the start of the Ligurian coast within 50 minutes.
The mountains behind the Cap mean it is protected much better than St Tropez from the worst of the Mistral wind. Immediately beside the Cap, the atmospheric villages of Villefranche to the west and Eze and Beaulieu-sur-Mer to the east also offer interesting properties, both close to the water and up on the steep hillside.
Above: Peninsula of Cap Ferrat. For more information contact Mark Harvey, Head of International Sales at Knight Frank.
Cap Ferrat itself stretches for two miles past the small fishing village of Saint-Jean with only one road in and out, enhancing both security and exclusivity. The best beaches are on the eastern coast along with the charming Port, a 560-berth marina and the Old Town while the western coast has a steeper coastline and excellent views across the bay towards Antibes.
The magnificent Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat built in 1908 and now operated by global super-brand hoteliers Four Seasons, is on the south coast.
The peninsula has around 500 private homes – compared with closer to 2,000 on Cap d’Antibes – many with notable histories. Les Bruyères was owned by Queen Victoria’s son for over twenty years while La Mauresque, owned by writer Somerset Maugham, became a bolthole for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, its garden boasting the first avocado trees planted in Europe.
Perhaps most famous of all, Villa Les Cèdres is a palatial fourteen-bedroom mansion in 35 expertly tended acres, built in 1830 and owned for a time by Belgian King Leopold II before recently going under offer for a reputed €180 million.
And while ultra-high worth individuals (Paul Allen from Microsoft and composer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber among them) have replaced the bohemian artists who once flocked to the Cap for its marvellous light and beauty, there is still a relatively low-key, understated atmosphere, a rarity in other famous towns along this coastline.
Above: Cap Ferrat
Property prices on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in the French Riviera range from €2,000,000 to €200,000,000 with the most active band between €5,000,000 and €10,000,000 says Mark Harvey, Head of International Sales at Knight Frank.
Prime property prices there increased by 4 per cent in the year to 2018 but this is a most extraordinary market, one that resonates far and wide with international buyers and also those based in Monaco looking for a nearby escape with a slower pace of life. The unique homes on glorious Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat make the market anything but predictable.
For more information contact Mark Harvey, Head of International Sales at Knight Frank.