Designed by French architect Aaron Messiah. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was constructed in the early 20th century for Baroness Beatriz de Rothschild. The palatial mansion was originally named Villa Île-de-France after a cruise liner that the Baroness had travelled on.
The Baroness oversaw the design and construction of the mansion and once it was complete she filled it with treasured arts, antiques, objets d’art, sculptures and furnishings. Much of which can still be seen today. On her death, the baroness donated the estate to the Academie des Beaux-Arts who opened it to the public.
Rose-coloured Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is set in seven acres of lush gardens and terraces perched above Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera with glittering views to the Mediterranean.
The villa has the feel of an Italian Palazzo (palace) and indeed its many styles reminisce of grand blueprints from the Venice and Florence schools of design.
The northern facade was inspired by Italian Renaissance and Gothic architecture. The courtyard features a Venitian well sculpted out of Verona marble, a crouching Venus fountain and foliage is decorated with bas-relief ornamentation taken from Catalan cloisters. The water fountain installation at the entrance is programmed for the water to move in time to the music.
The southern facade is better appreciated from afar. Its symmetrical design was also inspired by the schools of Venice and Florence, with a geometric framework of bays and pilasters constructed with red Verona and white Carrera marble, and closely resembling the style of the Venetian churches.
The interior of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is divided up into apartments and collections:
The State Apartments
The state apartments were kept as the formal entertaining area for Baroness Beatrix. The beautiful inner patio inspired by palazzos of Verona, with its pink Verona marble columns decorated with Trompe-l’œil was the place were Beatriz welcomed her guests.
The Grand Salon: The exquisite grand salon with its picturesque view to the Baie des Fourmis (Fourmis Bay) at Beaulieu-sur-Mer was designed in appreciation of 18th-century art with Louis XVI furnishing, wall panelling taken from the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris and a magnificent marouflage canvas on the part of the ceiling, painted by Venetian artist Giandomenico Tiepolo.
The Grand Salon was the setting for many a social gathering and the Baroness loved to play games. There are several gaming tables including Whist, Bridge, Poker and Chess.
The Small Salon: The more intimate Small Salon was the scene of after-dinner conversation. The walls are adorned with decorative hand-woven tapestries depicting scenes from Don Quixote and paintings from the studios of François Boucher and Jean-Fréderic Schall. The marouflage canvas on the ceiling of the Small Salon was inspired by Greek Mythology and the Fire Screen bears the monogram AM, which belonged to Marie-Antoinette and its probable that it originally belonged to her.
The First Floor Rooms
The Tapestry Room features an impressive 20-foot tapestry by the royal Gobelins manufactory, as well as two other tapestries by François Boucher.
The Meissen Porcelain Room unique displays porcelain from the 18th century Saxon manufactory, Meissen. It was the first-ever hard-paste Porcelain manufactory, and many pieces resemble original Chinese porcelain.
Monkeys were very fashionable in the 18th century and the Baroness kept two monkeys as pets. The Monkey Room was her quirky way of appreciating these little creatures. The walls feature panelling from private mansions in Paris and depict monkey musicians, acrobats and singers.
The Chinese Room is filled with chinoiserie – artefacts which were brought to France by the ambassadors of Siam (Thailand) during the 17th century and found their way to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
The Apartments of Beatriz
The private apartments of Baroness Beatriz comprise of a boudoir, bedroom, dressing room and bathroom.
The boudoir was the place were Beatriz enjoyed the company of her closest friends. Her bedroom strategically faced west to enjoy the marvellous sunsets over Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and features an exquisite Venetian bed covered with Chinese silk embroidery.
Her dressing room is divided into two displays:
The Chinoiseries Collection: presents clothing inspired by Chinese design. Tiny shoes can be seen in the glass cabinets and magnificent Mandarin robes in another.
The 18th Century Silk Collection presents a fine collection of gowns made from silk, taffeta, and satin.
The circular bathroom with its central dome features 18th-century panelling which cleverly conceals closes, a washbasin, dressing table and bidet. There would have been a central bathtub during the Baroness’ residency, but it no longer exists.
The Porcelain Collection
The Porcelain Room displays mainly porcelains from the Vincennes Manufactory, many of which are extremely rare; originally belonging to Beatrice’s father.
The formal dining room is also located in this part of the villa. Looking out over the beautiful Bay of Villefranche it was originally the bedroom of her ex-husband Maurice Ephrussi who, even after their separation, kept rooms here. All the porcelain on display in the dining room was created at the royal Sèvres manufactory.
Our favourite part of a day trip to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is wandering around the beautiful gardens. A collective of nine thematic gardens which cover seven hectares of land.
The gardens are classified as one of the Notable Gardens of France by the French Ministry of Culture and one of the most stunning Cap-Ferrat gardens to visit during your stay on the French Riviera.
The main garden is known as the French Garden. It’s shaped like a ship’s deck and features waterfalls, ponds, musical fountains and a Temple of Love – at the brow of the ship. This was to remind Baroness Beatriz of her time aboard the Villa Île-de-France.
The Spanish Garden is a beautiful covered patio crossed by a water channel. Reminiscent of the Andaluz patios from the days of the Moorish occupation. Foliage covers the ochre walls and the air is perfumed with honeysuckle, datura and arum lilies.
The Florentine Garden is what remains of the original Italian Garden planted by Beatriz. The garden features a sweeping horseshoe staircase with a beautiful neoclassical angel.
The wildly beautiful Provencal Garden features olive and pine trees, lavender and agapanthus, which wind around the garden’s pathways.
The Japanese Garden – also known as Cho-Seki-Tei (garden where one can calmly listen to the pleasant sound of the waves at twilight) is a beautiful zen space where water is dominant. There are wooden pavilions, bridges, latins and basins; and a beautiful pond with koi carp.
The Exotic Garden, formerly known as the Mexican Garden is abundant with cacti, agave, barbary figs, aloe and other typical plants of Mexico. The garden was nearly destroyed in the frost of 1985 but is now back to its full glory.
Roses were the baronesses favourite plant, and The Rose Garden, which sits at the head of the rocky outcrop is filled with hundreds of rose varieties. The air is pervaded with their fragrance, and the best time to visit the Rose Garden is from May to July when the flowers are in full bloom.
The Stone Garden features a diverse combination of bas-reliefs from the Renaissance and Middle Ages, gargoyles, stone grotesques and gnomes, intertwined with beautiful flora. The shady garden features camphor laurel, a dwarf fig tree and California bay tree.
The Garden de Sévres is a space dedicated to the ceramics of Sévres, one of the principal porcelain manufacturies of Europe.
Getting married at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
The villa and gardens are available to hire for weddings and formal parties. Nestled on the Côte d’Azur, it’s an iconic French romance setting, with spectacular views and the opportunity to host your wedding or party in the beautiful gardens.
Villa Ephrussi work with an international wedding and party planning team who will organise your dream wedding on the Cap-Ferrat. The villa can host up to 230 seated guests for dinner and 300 seated guests for dinner outside.
The cost of a wedding at Villa Ephrussi is tailor-made to your requirements. Contact their wedding planning partners for further information.
The Tea Room
The restaurant at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, also known as the Team Room occupies what used to be the baronesses own dining room. It serves local French and Mediterranean cuisine. The terrace area is a special place to enjoy a light lunch or afternoon tea, overlooking the Bay of Villefranche.
The restaurant is open from 11.00 am to 5.30 pm, and until 6.30 pm during July and August. Check the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschildwebsite for winter opening times.
Concerts at Villa Ephrussi
During the winter/spring season the villa opens during the evenings to host a series of music concerts. From Christmas choirs, a classical music repertoire, to Latin American beats. The concerts at Villa Ephrussi are accompanied by dinner in The Tea Room. Check out the Musical Nights agenda for 2019-2020.
Aside from concerts, Villa Ephrussi has an agenda of events including a rose and plant festival, brunch, and summer late openings with drinks and food on the terrace.
How much does it cost to visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild?
The full price to visit the villa with an audio guide costs 15 € per person, with discounts for seniors, under 25s, and families. Children under the age of 7 get free entrance.
You can purchase tickets for Villa Ephrussi on their website, at the ticket office on arrival and also in FNAC, Carrefour and other selected stores. Check their website for details.
You can take away a memento of your visit at the Villa Ephrussi gift store. Where you’ll find books on the history of the villa, postcards, ornaments, jewellery and much more.
How to get to Villa Ephrussi from Nice
We highly recommend a visit to the villa during your stay in Nice. It’s easy to get arrive to from Nice and makes for a laid-back cultural visit. It’s never normally crowded, even during the peak summer months and the gardens themselves are worth the visit alone.
The easiest way to get to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild from Nice is to catch the number 81 bus from Nice to Cap Ferat/Rothschild.
There is also a train to Beaulieu Sur Mer, which takes around 11 minutes. You can then walk up to the villa (25 minutes) or catch the bus to La Rade and walk up to the house.
A taxi will take you there directly in around 14 minutes. Or if you’re feeling energetic you could walk from Nice to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in around 90 minutes. Why not!