5 Great Reasons to Visit Villefranche-sur-Mer
Shelley and Riccardo own nine (9) beautifully appointed rental apartments in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Both are Americans who have lived in Villefranche-sur-Mer for well over 20 years. It is easy to love the town for its location on the French Riviera. Initially, they arrived in this charming seaside town on the French Riviera to visit a friend. Then, returning for an extended stay, they left their corporate jobs and relocated from the US. Finally, in 2004, they launched a holiday apartment rental business, Riviera Experience, in Villefranche.
Why Visit Villefranche-sur-Mer
All guests of Riviera Experience have a reference copy of the “Welcome Guide” in the apartment they rent (we have included some excerpts below). We asked Shelley and Riccardo for their top five (5) reasons they think you should visit Villefranche-sur-Mer, and here is what they had to say.
#1 The Setting
Villefranche is in the heart of the French Riviera and is anchored on either side by two major cities – Nice and Monaco. One could not speak about Villefranche without exclaiming its physical beauty. Surrounding its large, natural bay are cliffs and steep hillsides brimming with olive and citrus trees, Mediterranean pines, bougainvillea, and flowering plants. This lush vegetation meets the water’s edge, where the shades of blue are as dazzling as a sapphire necklace.
Surrounding the bay of Villefranche are the most beautiful Caps in the Mediterranean: Cap Ferrat and Cap de Nice. These stunning limestone peninsulas — sprinkled with luxurious villas and lavish gardens — protect and embrace our bay.
#2 Charming Old Town
Villefranche hugs the coastline with its colourful buildings and feels like a small town. However, arriving in Villefranche by car takes a bit of skill. The streets haphazardly wind up and down the slope towards the waterfront and around the Citadelle.
While strolling through the maze-like streets of the Old Town, you will see beautiful balconies decorated with potted plants and laundry flapping in the sea breeze. Located below the Basse Corniche roadway, Villefranche’s old town (vielle ville) is pedestrian-friendly, where the small streets are more like alleyways bookended by pastel-coloured buildings. Old Town’s shops and restaurants will keep you busy and engaged. So will, simply observing life in a place that dates to 1295 is delightful.
#3 The History
Villefranche has maintained its authenticity as a traditional Niçoise fishing village and is an enclave where people still know their neighbours. Villefranche was established on the coast in 1295, and since its beginning, it has always been a village of working people: fishermen, farmers, and builders. Before 1295, Villefranche was called Mont Olivo and located high up on the cliffs overlooking the bay as pirates made the coast too dangerous for settlements. Tourism only arrived in the town in the 1970s. As a result, there is a delightful way of life unique to living in Old Town, yet only kilometres away on either side are dazzling cosmopolitan cities.
You can’t miss the citadel! This enormous stone structure, perched on the water’s edge, was primarily built in the 16th century, but the stone foundation dates to Roman times. This citadel, as well as Fort Alban on the hillside above and the ruins of the fort across the bay on Cap Ferrat, were all part of the defensive system of Villefranche.
#4 Beach Time
Anyone who has seen season 3 of “Emily in Paris” has already seen the beautiful stretch of sandy beach that residents and visitors enjoy in Villefranche. The beach itself is one kilometre long, crescent-shaped sandy beach and beautiful. Don’t tell anyone, but it is less crowded than some other beaches on the Côte d’Azur. In addition, during the peak season, there are a few lovely beach restaurants to choose from, and fresh-water showers and toilets are available.
#5 Great Walks
Saint Jean Cap Ferrat is visible to the east of Villefranche. It’s a reasonably easy walk to the Cap along the Plage des Marinières. Alternatively, you can take the train to Beaulieu and walk from there. Your destination is the pedestrian pathway that winds around almost the entire Cap. This pathway hugs the Mediterranean, passing a few public beaches. There are glimpses of private villas and the stunning 5* Grand Hôtel du Cap (a Four Seasons property). Time permitting, stop at Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild to see this exquisite mansion and its remarkable garden.
Villefranche Tourist Office
Jardin François Binon
Telephone: +3 (0)493017368
They have city maps and details about these walks and more.