Jean Cocteau's legendary dreamhouse is reopening to the public this Autumn and you simply can't miss it.

Nestled along the hilly coastline of Cap Ferrat lies a dazzling mid-20th century artistic and architectural gem. Facing the warm cerulean embrace of the Mediterranean, this hub of art, quietude and creativity has captured the imagination of visitors and artists for decades. The ornate, modern and simply stunning paintings that adorn the walls of this villa are what make it of particular interest, after their author, famed French poet Jean Cocteau, spent over a decade working on them. Their mythical subjects give the house an out-of-time feel, which is only enhanced by the heavy, soporific atmosphere of its location in Cap Ferrat. It’s an astonishing place and an often overlooked gem to visit if you’re headed to the South of France.

Traditional villas along Cap Ferrat

- © Cezary Wojtkowski / Shutterstock

The man behind the villa

A man of many trades, Jean Cocteau is nothing if not a kaleidoscopic artist, finding different outlets to work on and having an indelible impact on early 20th century culture. In her 1934 autobiography, A Backward Glance, author Edith Warton described him as a man “to whom every great line of poetry was a sunrise, every sunset the foundation of the Heavenly City”. From a young age, Jean Cocteau was already a writer, poet, and quickly became a novelist, filmmaker, painter, playwright, critic and visual designer. His work was a leading contributor to the surrealist, Dadaist and avant-garde movements which made Cocteau one of the most influential figures of 20th century art. 

In the midst of shooting the film adaptation of his novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929) in the late 1940s, Cocteau meets French socialite Francine Weisweiller who invites him to come stay a few days at her villa in Cap Ferrat. The two became very close friends and for the decade that followed, Jean decided to decorate the villa, most notably its walls. 

The infamous mural frescoes

Taking inspiration from Matisse and Picasso, both contemporaries of Cocteau, he set out to tattoo the walls of the house with his magical creativity and spellbinding artistry. The project stemmed from the artist being bored and suddenly deciding to draw Apollo above the fireplace in the living room. It’s only fitting that the first of the mural illustrations would be of Apollo, god of the Sun and light and music and poetry. The two sun priests sketched on either side of the mantel piece complete this first mural and bring the glistening warmth of the French Riviera, ever present outside, into the home.

In Francine’s bedroom you’ll see Cocteau’s rendering of the story of Diana and Actaeon, of the moment the goddess found the young hunter spying on her and her escort of nymphs as they bathed. To punish him, Diana, the huntress goddess and patroness of the Moon turned him into a stag. Eventually, Actaeon’s own hounds track him down and kill him.

The villa is absolutely covered in details from Cocteau’s artistic adventures, making every corner of the home special, as if no space was too small to be blessed by his magical touch. From watchful shepherds above bed frames, to a unicorn looming over a sleepy fisherman bathed in moonlight, to a sleeping genie guarding the staircase, and even a wardrobe adorned with faces in the Bacchus inspired room. The villa seems to be bursting with infinite artistry and coated with Jean Cocteau’s enduring spirit even today. By the end of his life, Cocteau had truly transformed the space into a veritable temple of Greek mythology, where dream spaces collided with the artist’s vision for beauty and visual design.

Visiting the villa

The villa reopens to visitors in October 2023, after several months of restoration and renovations. The villa remains a private property and tours should be booked well in advance. To do so, visitors can contact Eric Marteau at visits@santosospir.com or call +33 (0)4 93 76 00 16 to reserve their date and time of visit. Visits cost €15 per person. You can find out more about visiting this unique gem on their website

The house is located on 14, Avenue Jean Cocteau in Cap Ferrat and the easiest way to reach it is to drive. From Nice, it’s a quick 30 minute drive and we recommend taking the scenic route towards Villefranche via the M6098 to see those stunning coastal scenes. 

Finding a hotel nearby

Hotels in Cap Ferrat are a rarity, but an obvious choice is the iconic Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat. This breathtaking luxury palace hotel has everything you’d want from a grand hotel in the south of France: lush gardens, incomparable ocean views, an exquisite restaurant and every amenity you could possibly think of. It’s well worth a splurge to make the most of your time in Cap Ferrat.

Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel Nice
booking.com

Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel

A luxurious palace hotel located in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France.
From
£550 /night
Book
by Val HANCOCK
Need a hand? take a look at our guide
Nice
Nice
Latest news
Les Landes
Biscarrosse
Les Ménuires
Top hotels at the foot of the slopes in Les Menuires
Les Landes
Getaway to the seaside resort of Vieux Boucau
Les Ménuires
Top free summer activities in Les Menuires
Les Landes
Top 10 country-style hotels in the Landes countryside
Read more articles
Best cities