Just to the east of Nice lies the coastal town of Villefranche-sur-Mer; with its Medieval town centre, little cobblestone lanes and 16th century citadel there is plenty to discover by foot.
The old town is a fascinating rabbit warren of streets, alleyways and staircases - once you venture beyond the many shops you’ll find the 18th century church of Saint Michel and the much smaller Chapelle Sainte Elisabeth where there are often art exhibitions. Look out for the well-named Rue Obscure, an old medieval street with vaulted stone ceilings that feels like the dungeons of an old castle!
History & Culture in Villefranche-sur-Mer
The port was the most important in the area until the 18th century when Nice took over that mantle, but cruise ships still dock in the bay and the harbour is the focal point of the town. Lined with restaurants and overlooked by the citadel, it has a great view of the beach that curves round the bay and it backed by the labyrinth of tiny streets that make up the old town.
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. 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.
Sights & Attractions in Villefranche-sur-Mer
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.
Beaches in Villefranche-sur-Mer
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.
Events in Villefranche-sur-Mer
Things to Do in Villefranche-sur-Mer
If for some odd reason you get tired of exploring, poking around boutiques, eating in fine restuarants 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.
Dining in Villefranche-sur-Mer
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.
Hotels in Villefranche-sur-Mer
With more than a few nice hotels in the area, it makes a nice change to the larger city of Nice but within easy distance should you want to explore.