As the train rattles its way around the corner from Nice, one of the most breathtakingly pretty views in France appears before you: Villefranche-sur-Mer. Yachts stretch out across the deep blue bay beneath a medieval village with a quite lovely long stretch of beach and a tiny harbour lined with restaurants. Villefranche is very easy to reach by train from Nice or Monaco; there's also the 100 towards Monaco or the 112 bus running towards Cap d'Ail. If driving, take the Basse Corniche road along the coast.
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Villefranche then you’re spoiled for choice; Quai de l’Amiral Courbet is the liveliest area both day and night with plenty of restaurants and great ambience. Port de la Darse is smaller but also has some good options such as La Trinquette, a friendly place serving delicious fresh seafood that has live music on Friday and Saturday nights - it’s small, so worth booking if you want to be sure of a table. The nooks and crannies of the old town have eateries galore - try Cote Jardin in Place de la Republique for an elegant lunch in a pretty flower-filled square.
Also see: Restaurants in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
History buffs will love Villefranche-Sur-Mer. Dominating the town is the old citadel, built in 1557 by the Dukes of Savoy to defend the town from attack by the sea It was restored in the 80’s and now houses a number of museums, regular art exhibitions, the town hall, an open air theatre and beautiful walled gardens. Entry is free but if you want to swot up then go on Fridays when you can join a guided tour for just 5€ that includes the old town. You’ll also find the 18th century church of Saint Michel and the small Chapelle Sainte Elisabeth, where there are often art exhibitions. Make sure to visit the aforementioned Rue Obscure, where villagers used to shelter during bombardments.
Also see: Sights in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Things to Do nearby
If for some odd reason you get tired of exploring, poking around boutiques, eating in fine restaurants and lazing about on the beach,there is an absolutely gorgeous coastal walk from just near Villefranche around the Cap Ferrat peninsula- it takes about 3.5 hours to do the whole thing. You can join several short and long range hiking trails near Villefranche, including the spectacular GR51- 'The Balcony of the Cote d'Azur', which you can join at Drap. Also, the Italian border is within very easy reach.
Also see: Things To Do in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
There are three lovely beaches in Villefranche, each with a different character. The kilometre long Plage des Marinières curves around the bay, and is completely open to the public. It's easily accessible from the train line and has parking and snack bars with tables. While the sand is slightly coarse, this beach has a view to die for and is a carefree and pleasant place to spend a day. Further down, you'll come to a quiet beach cove called Plage de l'Ange Gardien (Guardian Angel beach). There's also the quite beautiful Plage de la Darse, but this beach tends to stay quite empty because of the sometimes sharp rocks- you'll need footwear to enjoy a day here. See our comprehensive beach guide for more information.
Also see: Beaches in Nice, France
The closest golf course to Villefranche-sur-Mer is the elegant and historic Monte Carlo Golf Club in La Turbie, where the rather steep green fees are offset by an exquisite and rolling 18 hole course offering panoramic views over the coast and some challenging shots. For other more affordable options, see our Golfing Guide.
Also see: Golf Courses in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
This isn't a busy nightlife spot by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly is a glorious place to while away the evening with a glass of wine and a nice meal with friends. There's often music performances in summer during the long twilight.
Also see: Bars in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France