Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of our favorite villages along the Cote d’Azur. It’s just on the other side of Mont Boron from Nice, making it easily accessible by foot, bus or train. There are plenty of things to do in Villefranche for the entire family. The picturesque Old Town is well kept and a great spot to wander, shop or grab a bite to eat.
One of the highlights of the village is the bay and beach of Villefranche, one of the deepest natural harbors of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a great spot for kids to swim. I suggest equipping them with a mask and snorkel to experience the local sealife. Due to the depth, the United States Navy made Villefranche the home port of the U.S. 6th Fleet from 1948 to 1966. Interestingly, the U.S. fleet was recently back in Villefranche to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their departure.
Things to do in Villefranche
The Beach – As already mentioned, the beach is great for swimming and other aquatic activities. For instance, you’ll find a ton of paddle boarders out on the water. It’s perfect for kids as there is a gradual slope from the shore, so kids can easily play in the shallow, calm waters. Another neat feature is the composition of the beach. It’s made of tiny pebbles, not sand, so it’s more comfortable than the rockier bottom at Nice beach.
Old Town – The Old Town is a great place to wander, getting lost for a few minutes along the narrow streets. While in Old Town visit the Rue Obscure or “Dark Street” – a passageway under the harbor front houses dating back to 1260. It’s kinda spooky.
Saint Elme Citadel – Visit the stone fortress from the 16th century. It houses the Town Hall, conference center, 4 museums, an open-air theater and gardens and is free to enter. The gardens are a pleasure to roam, especially in the warmer months. You’ll find Le Musée Volti, Le Musée Goetz-Boumeester and La Collection Roux, all also free to enter. While the kids were a bit bored with the museums, it’s interesting to see some of the old maritime memorabilia.
St Michel Church – Walk through the 18th century baroque-style church in the center of Old Town. The church contains a recumbent Christ, an anonymous work by a galley slave and the organs by the Grinda Brothers from 1790, which are listed as a historic monument.
Port – You can’t miss the small port while in Villefranche. The harbor is home to many fishing and charter boats just waiting to head out to sea.
St Pierre Chapel – Next to the port, this Roman-style Chapel is dedicated to St Peter, the Patron Saint of fishermen. The church has been entirely restored and decorated by Jean Cocteau. The wonderful frescoes of Saint Peter are worth a quick visit. The price is 3€ adults and free for kids kids. The chapel is closed on Tuesdays and during lunchtime.
Markets – From May to October, on days the cruise ships come in, you’ll find Amélie’s market. This craft market features artisan products including clothing, jewelry and crafts. The Provençal Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings year round features fruits, vegetables, flowers, clothing and jewelry.
Shops, boutiques and restaurants – Scattered throughout the village are plenty of places to shop and eat. During the winter season, many restaurants and shops close down but you’ll still find a few places open to spend your money. This is particularly true if you head out to the waterfront and dine with a view. We’ve eaten at both the La Cave Nature and Barrio Libre. The food is good and the menu of the day is reasonably priced.
How to Get from Nice to Villefranche:
Take bus 100 or 81 from Nice to Villefranche. The cost is just 1.50€ per person or 1€ if you have the 10 pass. You could also take the train for only a couple of euros per person. Walking along the water is another great option, offering lovely views of the sea during your entire journey. You could also hike up to Mont Boron and down into Villefranche to get a bit more exercise.
Situated between Nice and St Jean Cap Ferrat, this former winter residence for royals and wealthy visitors is a great spot to spend the afternoon. Due to the location and size of Villefranche, you could easily just spend a few hours here, then continue on to Monaco or jump on the train to walk up to Eze Village. During the warmer months, the kids and their friends always request a visit to the Villefranche beach. It’s close to Nice and the perfect spot for them to cool off.
What are things to do in Villefranche can you recommend?