The topaz blue waters of the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer as seen from above with the beach in the foreground. To the right is the town itself, and Villefranche-sur-Mer is full of small sailing boats.

Charming Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

In En-Route, Europe, France, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by Janis6 Comments

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 topaz blue waters of the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer as seen from above with the beach in the foreground.  To the right is the town itself, and Villefranche-sur-Mer is full of small sailing boats.
The bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
The horseshoe-shaped cove that Villefranche is nestled in, is stunning. Pastel coloured 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”.

Quick Links

We returned to Villefranche sur Mer

We visited Villefranche sur Mer in 2012, and the fact that I didn’t want to leave, was a sure sign we would return.
The view of our accommodation, the Welcome Hotel, from the jetty in Villefranche-sur-Mer

The Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer

We’ve spoilt ourselves and stayed in the harbour-front Welcome 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.

Villefranche makes a perfect long weekend break, Nice airport is just a short hop around the bay.

The bustling quayside of Villefranche-sur-Mer in the evening full of motor launched docked in the bay next to the restaurants

The quayside of Villefranche-sur-Mer

We were staying in Villefranche sur Mer for a few days, as we used it as a base to explore the surrounding region. However, for one day we took it at a relaxed pace and went to discover what Villefranche-sur-Mer had to offer.
Looking down through the narrow lanes of Villefranche-sur-Mer between the brightly coloured buildings to the blue waters of the bay

The view to the bay in Villefranche-sur-Mer


The quayside of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Make a restaurant reservation in Villefranche-sur-Mer

If there is a restaurant you like the look of, ensure you make a reservation. You wouldn’t want to be disappointed.

Out and about in Villefranche-sur-Mer

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).
The view of the bay in front of Villefranche-sur-Mer lined from the beach

The beautiful bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer

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’.
A fisherman's boat moored up on the quayside of Villefranche-sur-Mer with a stall in front of it selling the catch of the day.

The fish stall on the quayside of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villefranche-sur-Mer beach

Wandering further around the bay of Villefranche sur Mer, 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.
People enjoying the beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer

Plage des Marinières

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.
Janis with her toes in the Mediterranean sea as it laps up to the beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Toe-dipping in the med in Villefrance-sur-Mer, France

Tempted to?

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About turn

After my brief splash in the sea, we head towards the citadel and Villefranche’s other harbour, La Darse.
The exterior view of the fisherman's church, Chapelle Saint-Pierre, in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Chapelle Saint-Pierre

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.

Good to know

Gary and I did go into the Chapelle Saint-Pierre; however, no photography was allowed (they were quite insistent), it costs €3.

La Darse at Villefranche-sur-Mer

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.
The view to the La Darse harbour in Villefranche-sur-Mer from the path that runs alongside the citadel wall.

Around the Citadel wall to La Darse harbour

La Darse harbour is lower key than its sister around the bay, but equally really pleasant and has some lovely little eateries.
Boats moored up in La Darse harbour, set against the hills behind Villefranche-sur-Mer

Boats in La Darse harbour at Villefranche-sur-Mer

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.
Looking across the water from La Darse harbour in Villefranche-sur-Mer to the Citadel with it high stone walls set into the coastline.

The Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Boats at anchor in the bay at Villefranche-sur-Mer from the Citadel walls adorned with bright fuchsia coloured flowers

The view from the castle of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Have You?

Visited any beautiful towns or villages along the Côte d'Azur, that you’d love to share? Drop us a comment and I’ll add them to my wish-list?

Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town

The old town in Villefranche 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.
A pedestrian lane in Villefranche-sur-Mer lined with building painted in the bright colours, against the backdrop of the hills that surround the town.
The coloured lanes of Villefranche-sur-Mer
A narrow lane between bright coloured tall buildings in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

The quiet lanes of Villefranche-sur-Mer

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.
Steps up a narrow lane in Villefranche-sur-Mer at night

The lanes at night

Steps leading up to a courtyard in Villefranche-sur-Mer at night

Where does it lead?

Rue Obscure in Villefranche-sur-Mer

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.
The dimly lit passageway of Rue Obscure in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Rue Obscure

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.
A look along Rue Obscure to the bright, natural, light at the end
The dark passage
The Rue Obscure in Villefranche-sur-Mer lit 24/7
A hidden lane
A view from a stone archway to the quayside, and the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer beyond

Leading from the Rue Obscure

It was like a smugglers paradise, I thought we were going to come across a lair for rum-runners.

Why not?

Start creating your own French adventure and discover the beautiful bays & harbours for yourself. Search for your flights in one easy place with Over 400 airlines are scanned for your favoured routes and chosen dates.

Or alternatively, catch a Brittany Ferry and tour through France under your own steam.

Out of my league

Villefranche sur Mer, as you can imagine, is popular with the wealthy; however, instead of rubbing shoulders with us, they moor out in the bay.
Dropping anchor in the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Where to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer

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.
Two glasses of rosé wine in front of the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer at night.

Sunrise view, the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer

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.
Two glasses of rosé wine in front of the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer at night.

Image Caption

Where to eat in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Our favourite restaurant from the four nights that we were in Villefranche 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.

Other restaurants and bistro's that we can recommend are;

Cote Jardin - We had a fabulous lunch here - a fusion with Asian spices 
La Grignotiere Restaurant - A family run favourite of ours
L'Aparte - Great atmosphere & food
La Mere Germaine - excellent location, good food, and a great place to people watch

The daily menu, on a chalk board, of the Cote Jardin restaurant in Villefranche-sur-Mer

The Cote Jardin menu board

Would you like a little more?

We have created a little YouTube video of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

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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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  1. I’ve never had the opportunity to travel outside of Paris, but I’d love to explore more, and this looks like such a charming place. As always your magnificent photos really make the place come to life. #farawayfiles

    1. Thanks Hilary

      France is a wonderful country, I love all the differences you see & taste from region to region. Villefranche-sur-Mer is lovely, when you stroll around the bay you feel like you’ve stepped into someone else’s world.

  2. I have wanted to go here for so long! I first discovered it at the end of a Cary Grant film, An Affair to Remember. It’s so beautiful and looks way less crowded and touristy than neighboring Nice. Pinned! #FarawayFiles

    1. I do remember seeing it in An Affair to Remember, that’s a great film.

      Villefranche-sur-Mer is quite a special place & very picturesque, although it does get crowded as well at times, but on a smaller scale than Nice. It’s lovely wandering around in the evening sunshine admiring the yachts in the bay.

  3. I love this area of France and I feel the same way – I always want to return! Your photos are gorgeous, too. 🙂 #farawayfiles

    1. Thanks very much, yes it is a beautiful region of France, I love all the hilltop villages along the Corniche.

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