A magnificent fishing village overlooking a natural inlet, Villefranche-sur-Mer is a 14th-century hamlet characterised by narrow streets, stairways and arcades that served as a refuge during the bombardments.
This small town in the Alpes-Maritimes stretches around an amphitheatre of cliffs along the Bay of Villefranche, nestled between the towns of Cap-Ferrat and the unmissable Nice, one of France’s largest cities.
Villefranche-sur-Mer attracts numerous tourists every year, in search of the sweetness of the South of France and its mild and pleasant climate. With its colourful fishermen’s boats bobbing on the pier and splendid views of Cap Ferrat, it is one of the most enchanting villages on the French Riviera.
The old village quarter is a maze of narrow streets winding from the shore to the heights of the town. The houses are picturesque, old and colourful. Passing through the heart of the old town on a scorching summer’s day will be a pleasant refreshing moment.
Venture unhurriedly through this tangle of stairs, narrow streets and pedestrian paths to immerse yourself in the most authentic village life. Along the way, admire the church of Saint-Michel, the chapel of Saint-Pierre des Sinners, the citadel of Saint-Elme and the Rue Obscure, dating back to 1260.
The Bay of Villefranche is one of the deepest in the western Mediterranean. It is 2.5 km long and 1.5 km wide. Located between Nice and Cap Ferrat, it reaches a depth of 50 metres in the centre of the bay, and 1,000 metres further south, with the presence of a real underwater canyon.
Sheltered from the winds thanks to its location, it has a very mild microclimate: ideal for walking all year round.
A former military arsenal of the Duchy of Savoy, its buildings have been on the list of historical monuments since 1991. The port of La Darse was built in the 18th century to combat the raids of corsairs and pirates.
Once a port of call for ancient ships, the harbour has been particularly well preserved since its construction in 1720. The harbour complex retains an extraordinary architectural beauty and is steeped in history, as it was once used for the protection and housing of soldiers.
In fact, we recommend a visit to the old buildings such as the old forge, the chandlery, the dry dock, the vaults of the old warehouses, the hospital for the galleys’ crew, and the gangway, which offers an absolutely superb view of the harbour.
Today, the Darse is the marina of Villefranche-sur-Mer and welcomes you with its colours and liveliness.
This 130-metre-long covered street is located in the heart of the town centre. It is a historical passage dating back to 1260, when the first city walls were built. One therefore has to go back to the 13th century to date its original appearance: in fact, it was initially uncovered and used for guard duty.
Then the guard path was completely covered between the 16th and 18th centuries, allowing the circulation of the military and facilitating their manoeuvres.
Classified as a historical monument, this road was painted in a work by Jean Cocteau. You can see a replica at the entrance to the street, at the very spot where the artist stood with his easel.
From this corner of the city you can have a breathtaking view of the harbour. It is the starting point for popular walks for tourists visiting the region and is very popular during the summer.
You can walk or cycle along it, admiring the city’s sumptuous scenery.
The citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer, built on behalf of the Duke of Savoy, is an unmissable and majestic site.
In 1543, Barbarossa’s 110 galleys landed in Villefranche, plundering, burning and devastating everything they came across. The first example of a bastion fortification, the Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer was built from 1554 onwards, designed by Gian Maria Olgiatti, an Italian engineer in the service of Charles V, to prevent further attacks from the sea.
Passed from the Savoy to France in 1860, the Citadel was used as a military camp for the 24th Alpine Hunters Battalion. In 1965, the municipal council bought the Citadel, turning part of it into a town hall and part into a cultural centre.
Among the Citadel’s museums, we find the Volti Museum. In a magical setting, we discover in particular large female sculptures, a speciality of the artist. The Citadel’s museums will seduce lovers of history and culture, delighting in discovering imposing and majestic works that blend in perfectly with the décor.
The Goetz-Boumeester museum occupies an entire floor of the former Bâtiment du Casernement. It exhibits some 50 works by Boumeester and about as many by Henri Goetz, as well as a few works in memory of the great contemporary artists the couple met or frequented, such as Picasso, Picabia, Miró and Hartung.
Also inside the citadel is the Roux Collection, unique for its quality, originality and faithfulness to the documents from which it is inspired. In total, you will admire several hundred figurines that will transport you through the lives of women and men of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Finally, you can also visit the Hall of the 24th BCA. Located in the Citadel Quarters from 1876 to 1939, the 24th BCA, heir to Napoleon III’s infantry battalion, was the last military corps to occupy the citadel. This room collects soldiers’ mementos such as insignia, flags, photos, engravings and many historical objects.
This chapel is dedicated to St Peter, patron saint of fishermen. A place of worship in the beginning, it was soon abandoned after the construction of the St. Michael parish church. After being deconsecrated, fishermen used it to store their fishing gear.
Jean Cocteau, who loved Villefranche madly, decided in 1956 to restore it (with the fishermen’s consent) and decorate it with moments from the life of St Peter the Apostle.
Villefranche-sur-Mer, apart from being a beautiful fishing village, is also a popular seaside resort on the Côte d’Azur, at the gateway to Cap Ferrat.
Its marina and beautiful beaches contribute to the success of this summer holiday destination.
This beautiful pebble beach stretches for over 700 metres. Equipped with all services and always supervised by lifeguards, it offers a characteristic setting for spending a relaxing day: you can even have lunch or dinner with your feet in the water in one of the many restaurants available.
It is also possible to rent sunbeds and umbrellas to enjoy the sun in comfort.
It is located west of Villefranche-sur-Mer. In a sheltered position at the foot of the ancient ramparts, the beach offers a breathtaking view of the harbour.
In addition, a convenient footbridge provides easy access to the pebble promenade facing the sea.
About sixty metres long, the beach extends onto the beach of Marinières. A small cove nearby is also accessible to animals, suitable for those travelling with their dogs.
Slightly off-centre from the village, this enchanting beach awaits you at the entrance to Cap Ferrat.
It seduces tourists with its authentic atmosphere, colourful houses and private marina.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Thanks to its mild climate and its sheltered bay with very calm sea, Villefranche-sur-Mer is very popular with tourists, especially in summer.
It can therefore be very difficult to find available accommodation during the high season to sleep in Villefranche-sur-Mer: we advise you to book as early as possible. This way you will be able to find the hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer that best suits your needs.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is located right next to the city of Nice. Consequently, if you choose to travel by plane, the nearest arrival point is definitely Nice airport. After hiring a car directly on site, you can drive 14 km to the city.
Alternatively, from Nice Airport, you can take tram line 2 from airport terminal 1 or 2 to the Port Lympia stop. Here you will find the connection to line 15, direction Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat: you will have to get off at the Octroi stop, in the centre of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
If you are arriving by car from Ventimiglia, you will have to allow 38 kilometres, 45 minutes’ drive on the A10/E74/E80 and A8 motorways towards Nice and take exit 58 Roquebrune. Then you will have to follow the D2564 towards La Turbie, then the Route de la Turbie/M45 towards Eze: continue on the M6007 towards Villefranche-sur-Mer.
What's the weather at Villefranche-sur-Mer? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Villefranche-sur-Mer for the next few days.
Located on a slope of the Cap Ferrat peninsula, Villefranche-sur-Mer lies between Nice and Menton.