Elegance on the Côte d’Azur.
When you arrive at Villefranche-sur-Mer, you’ll be forgiven if you think you’ve stepped into your own dream.
The horseshoe-shaped cove is beautiful, colourful buildings, clear blue water, boats bobbing in the bay and all the style you’d expect from the French Riviera. Ahhhh the “joie de vivre”.
So, we returned
We visited Villefranche-sur-Mer in 2012, and the fact that I didn’t want to leave, was a sure sign we would return.
We’ve spoilt ourselves and stayed in a harbour-front hotel, so we could fully immerse in the Côte d’Azur splendour. And I could gaze out in the bay and keep an eye on the yachts.
A reference guide
If you love Provence as much as we do, you'll want to start planning your visit now. I so enjoy using the DK Eyewitness books, as they are extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our Provencal road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.
Full of charm
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a reasonably small town and is nestled in a bay between Nice and Monaco. It’s easy to see why it is popular with visitors, as it is so picturesque and charming day and night.
We were staying in Villefranche-sur-Mer for a few days, as we used it as a base to explore the surrounding region. Although, for one day we took it at a relaxed pace and went to discover what Villefranche-sur-Mer had to offer.
Out and about
As usual, I’m drawn to the water, and we head to the small harbour for a stroll. The water is so clear I’m tempted to dip my toes in (perhaps not quite yet).
We watched the local fisherman moor up with his catch and set up his stall on the harbour front. He does this every day and what you see is what you get ‘catch of the day’.
To the beach
Wandering further around the bay we head towards the main beach ‘Plage des Marinières’. It stretches for around 1km and quite a draw for catching the rays, even at 10am.
Ok, so I had to do it, I went for a paddle in the sea. It was so lovely & refreshing; however, I think it took me longer to get the sand out of my toes, than the brief dip itself.
After my brief splash in the sea, we head towards the citadel and Villefranche-sur-Mer’s other harbour, La Darse.
Walking back along the quay we stop at the eye-catching Chapelle Saint-Pierre.
The chapel dates from the 16th-century, due to its proximity right by the harbour, the church used to be used by local fisherman to store their nets.
The chapel was restored around 1957, and Jean Cocteau painted colourful nautical murals on the inside walls of this tiny chapel, which were quite amazing.
Continuing around the water’s edge encircling the citadel walls, we head to Port de la Darse. The stroll around the bay is lovely, the views are incredible. You could see the fish in the crystal-clear water.
La Darse harbour is lower key than its sister around the bay, but equally really pleasant and has some lovely little eateries.
Go with the flow
We spent some time around here as the atmosphere was so relaxing. However, time waits for no man, so we headed back towards the town. Strolling up passing the castle, through the floral gardens.
Something to make your travels easier?
Which way to turn
The old town in Villefranche-sur-Mer is an intriguing maze of old narrow lanes and alleys, it’s fantastic. With restaurants overflowing into the evening sunshine and boutiques drawing you in.
As you climb up through the streets the lanes crisscross in front of you, and high above washing is hanging out to dry, and window boxes are brimming with flowers. It’s such an incredible place.
However, the most fascinating part of the town is the Rue Obscure or the ‘Dark Street’, which dates from 1260 and runs underneath the buildings along the harbour front.
It felt very eerie even when we wandered through in the daytime. I can’t imagine what ne’re-do-wells would have got up to along here, hundreds of years ago.
Out of my league
Villefranche-sur-Mer, as you can imagine, is popular with the wealthy, although, instead of rubbing shoulders with us, they moor out in the bay.
Where we stayed
Our accommodation for the four nights we were in Villefranche-sur-Mer, was at the Welcome Hotel, where we stayed in 2012. The location is stunning with beautiful views across the bay. A perfect place to enjoy a nightcap.
Parking in Villefranche-sur-Mer is not the easiest, this hotel offers valet parking. It is a little on the expensive side; however, your car is secure.
Where we dined
Our favourite restaurant from the four nights that we were in Villefranche-sur-Mer was at Les Garçons. Sitting under the evening stars enjoying the freshly prepared dishes, was wonderful. They had a delightful range of local produce, which they switched around on their menu.
Inspired to visit Villefranche-sur-Mer?
Stroll around the picturesque bay and take a dip in the crystal blue water. Or jump in your car and explore the surrounding towns along the Côte d'Azur?
Why not stay at the Welcome Hotel for that little bit of luxury?
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