Things to do in Villefranche

Sparkling clear water

Activities for Kids

  • Beach day in Villefranche. The sandy beach is very safe with coast guards on duty during the peak summer months
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving
  • Boat safari / water skiing. Boat hire
  • Public tennis courts close by.
  • Kiddies municipal play area in the gardens at l'Octroi
  • Roller blade along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. This is fun for adults and kids, kids can roller blade, adults can walk if they don't want to blade. Then try a gelato at Fenocchio http://www.fenocchio.fr/eng_qui.html in Old Nice or lunch in a beach restaurant

Kiddies municipal playground

Further Afield

Plage des Marinières on an April afternoon.

Public beaches

There are two beaches in Villefranche-sur-Mer, both public and both very clean and safe. Plage des Marinières is the main beach and most popular. It is a fabulous south facing, crescent shaped, sandy beach, 1km long with crystal clear water. It has deck chair rental, fresh water showers, toilets and lovely cafes. During the high season there is life guard supervision. It appeals to all age groups from toddlers to grandparents. Being sand, it is ideal for building sand castles, playing volley-ball, swimming, or chilling-out, reading and taking the sun. One of our favourite 'to do' things is to arrive down about 8 pm on a summer evening with pizza and a bottle of wine and as we absorb the day's heat from the granite wall, watch the sun set over Mont Alban.

Plage de la Darse

Plage de la Darse is a smaller and quieter pebble beach located behind the main jetty of the harbour of La Darse. It hasn't the facilities of the main beach but is calmer and less crowded in high season.

Typical Villefranche street on the Old Town.

Exploring Villefranche

Without doubt the best way to get to know the town is on foot. The old town is a maze of medieval streets now pedestrianized. It is fun to stroll along them following your nose, admiring the balconies bedecked with flowers, the wrought-iron work on entrances, the hand carved doors, the Provençal shutters and the carved stone water spouts. You will come across wonderful views, abundant gardens and yesteryears villas while absorbing the village atmosphere.

Local shop Le Mas des Orangers.

  • Visit the Citadel and its Volti museum
  • Walk around the 500 year old port of La Darse
  • Drop into Eglise Michel with its baroque ornamentation
  • Admire Jean Cocteau's frescos in Chapelle Saint-Pierre

Villefranche is noted for its cafes and restaurants. Around mid-day the quayside restaurants are buzzing as people love to meet here for lunch. There are a number of attractive boutiques including the world-famous Savonnerie (bath and soap shop) where exquisite hand-made soaps are made.

Great towns and sites to explore nearby

Villefranche is a perfect location from which to explore the Cote d'Azur. There are frequent bus and train services to Nice, Antibes, Cannes and to Monaco, Menton and Italy. This level of service makes it easy to do without a car.

Market in Nice.

Day trip to Old Nice

It takes about 10 minutes to get to the old town of Nice. It's lovely to stroll around this maze of medieval alleyways and piazzas absorbing the Mediterranean atmosphere. Cours Saleya, the Flower Market sells all kinds of fresh foods and is open until 1.00pm. Monday is the brocante (flea) market. The Old Town is noted for its selection of restaurants.
After exploring this area take an invigorating walk along the Promenade des Anglais. The shopping area is west of Place Messina where you will find the Galleries Lafayette and many other designer boutiques. Museums: Nice has the second largest number of museums after Paris, these include the Chagall, the Matisse and the Roman ruins.

Casino in Monte Carlo.

Day trip to Monaco

Monaco always features on people's lists for a visit, perhaps because of the royal family or the Casino at Monte Carlo or the Formula One Grand Prix but there are other things to see as well:

Villa Rothschild and gardens

Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa & Gardens

Villa Rothschild on the ridge of Cap Ferrat is very popular with guests. Created by Madame Ephrussi de Rothschild in the early twentieth century it consists of nine formal gardens, musical water fountains and a beautiful villa, adorned with many of the artefacts which she collected during her life. It has an excellent café. You can walk there and back in about 1.5 hours without allowing time for the gardens. If you wish you may take the 81 bus.

Beaulieu beach with Villa Kerylos on the point of the bay.

Greek Villa Kérylos

Greek Villa Kérylos at Beaulieu / Mer. This villa is an authentic reconstruction of a Greek palace from 200 BC, complete with furniture and decoration from the period. It is located in a glorious setting on the edge of the sea. You can walk from the apartment to Beaulieu, about a half hour or you can take the 81 or 100 bus.

Eze Village

Eze Village

Medieval village of Eze. Provence is famous for its medieval perched villages and a typical example of one these is Eze. It has been described as an "eagle's nest" because of its location at 427 metres overlooking the Mediterranean. Its quaint medieval alleyways with shops, art galleries, hotels and restaurants attract a large number of tourists. As a result Eze has become a "museum village".

A walk around cap ferat


Italian Riviera towns

  • San Remo, 1 +/- hour. A traditional Italian resort town with a long shingle beach. On Tuesdays it has a impressive market which we think has better quality clothing than Ventimiglia. Car or train changing in Ventimiglia
  • Bodighera, 1 +/- hour. Another traditional Italian resort town with a long shingle beach.and an equally long promenade. Attractive 19th century villas on higher ground inland from the seafront. Car or train changing in Ventimiglia

A Walker's Paradise

We can recommend at least 5 different walks of different varieties - all fabulous and completely different and geared for all levels of fitness. First we recommend a visit to the tourist office at I'Octroi for recommendations on walks and pick up a free copy of 'Rando Pays Cotier'.

Villa David Niven at Cap Ferat

Cap Ferrat, reputed to be the most desirable addresses on the Cote d'Azur, offers two wonderful walks. A 2 hour walk starts at Beaulieu beach following a coastal path along the east of the peninsula passing David Niven's villa to Port St Jean. Here you climb to a ridge-top path passing Villa Rothschild and return to Villefranche along Plage des Marinières.

Villa Kerylos at Beaulieu

An alternative 3 hour walk starts in Port St. Jean and follows the coastal path on the east of the peninsula taking you along the "lunar landscape" of rocks as you round the tip past the lighthouse. The route returns along a western path via the beach at Villefranche

From Eze Village to Eze sur Mer. This is a downhill walk on a rough track with wonderful views of the coastline. Return to Villefranche on the 100 Bus.

Walk to Cours Saleya (old town market) in Nice along the Basse Corniche which leads you around the Port of Nice (this is quite pretty most of the way, although along a noisy road.

Walk from La Turbie. This is a walk which takes you along a route with magnificent of the coast from Monaco to Villefranche . It is a 3 hour walk starting in La Turbie (bus 116 from Nice to La Turbie).

A summary of 8 walks along the Cote d'Azur can be downloaded for printing here.

Markets

Paella stall at Villefranche Market

Markets in Villefranche

Fresh produce market every Saturday 8.00 am to 1.00 pm beside the l'Octroi bus stop - full of fresh produce, freshly baked breads and excellent stalls of cheeses and olives.

Bric a Brac / Brocante (flea) market every Sunday (all day) beside the l'Octroi bus stop.

Bric a Brac market of smaller items is held on Sundays at Amélie Pollonais Square beside the Welcome Hotel.

Fresh produce at Villefranche Market

Markets in Nice

Cours Saleya (also known as the Flower market) located in the Old Town, sells all kinds of fresh foods. The food stalls close at 1.00pm and do not open on Mondays.

Monday is the brocante (flea) market.

Art & Museums

Sculpture by local artist Volti

The Musee Volti, in honour of local sculptor and artist Antoniucci Volti (1915-1989), is located in the citadel. Some of his sculptures decorate the town.

Musee Matisse is located in Nice, at No. 164, av. des Arènes de Cimiez, in a 17th century villa. A collection of works by Matisse from diverse stages of his career provides an enjoyable opportunity for the tourist and is unmissable for Matisse fans.

Musee Picasso in Antibes is housed in Musée Grimaldi. Picasso lived and worked here for several months in 1946; as a thank-you to the proprietor Picasso donated the work he completed there to the museum, stipulating that it should remain there permanently. The museum has no web site.

Saint Paul de Vence has numerous small galleries, and a modern art museum called Fondation Maeght.