Why Come to Villefranche sur Mer?
The Bay of Villefranche, reputed as one of the five most beautiful bays in the world, is embraced by the Cap of Nice to its west and Cap Ferrat to the east. The village of Villefranche sur Mer, perched on the bay, is located just over the hill from Nice (5 minutes away) and 10 minutes away from Monaco. The charming Old Town of Villefranche cascades down the hillside to the sea, and the bay’s sandy one-kilometer long beach offers great recreation throughout the year.
All of our holiday rental apartments are located in Villefranche, within easy walking distance to everything in town. In all of our vacation rental apartments, you will enjoy living a great, relaxing lifestyle in one of the most beautiful villages and coastlines of the world with lots to see and do, while absorbing the wonderful environment and healthy culture this area has to offer.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of the most charming — if not the most charming — authentic French and Niçoise fishing village on the French Riviera, in the heart of the Cote d’Azur. With Monaco on one side and Nice on the other, it is hard to believe that it can retain its charm and authenticity of a little village where people still know each other. A French girlfriend of mine, born and raised Cannes, commented that Villefranche is the only true medieval village right on the sea. And it is there for a reason – the deep, protected bay. It has been here for 700 years. Prior to that it was up high, on the cliffs that plunge down to the bay, as it was too dangerous to live on the shore – pirates! All of our rental apartments, except for the Romantic Riviera Villa, are located in the beautiful historic Old Town of Villefranche sur Mer, four of which are on the waterfront of Villefranche. The Villa apartment is just a 7-10 minute walk to the Old Town, and overlooks the Old Town and the entire bay and Cap Ferrat (its views are stunning).
We know many families who have lived in the village for many generations, some going back hundreds of years (tracing their family trees to the 1600s). Many still live in the Old Town, and some of their children and grandchildren still live and work in the village. I love the lunchtime hour in the summer months, with people’s windows open, when you can smell delicious meals being prepared for the midday meal and the chatter of everyone who has come home for lunch. One of our neighbor’s is one of the local fishermen, and he and his sons still fish every day and sell their catch in the local market. Another neighbor, just a few doors away, of Italian origin (as are many Villefranchois families), have been in Villefranche since 1900 and are the proprietors of our world-renowned soap boutique, and have two twin boys who have grown up in the village and are now working at the family shop. I love to watch and hear the neighbors hang out their windows and greet each other, have a little chat or watch the day pass by. There is family after family like this in Villefranche — all with lovely character and charm. It is a delightful way of life, unique to Old Town living. In addition to the locals, there are a number of foreigners that own apartments in the Old Town.
Although it’s such an authentic village, Villefranche is also surrounded by a fascinating, international scene. It attracts a very interesting cosmopolitan group of visitors and residents, including students who attend the renowned French language school, Institut Français.
From the map you can see how close and well positioned Villefranche is to everything along the Riviera: the beautiful Port and Old Town of Nice is just a few kilometers away (and a lovely walk), while Monaco and the Italian border aren’t much farther (easy by bus or train). Going just a little farther brings you to historic Antibes, chic Juan les Pins, and glamorous Cannes (all easy, 30-minute train rides from Villefranche). The famous art village of St. Paul de Vence and the perfume houses of Grasse are also just a short train and or bus ride away. Even movie-star studded St. Tropez is close by, just 30 nautical miles away and you can take a ferry or train-and-ferry to get there. You won’t need a car to enjoy all these places as our bus and train public transport is excellent and inexpensive — and often faster and easier than driving.
Villefranche is located in the French department of the Alpes Maritimes. It is quite a mountainous area encompassing over 140 beautiful medieval villages. It is such an historically significant area that it has been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site. We have not yet heard if we made it!
What’s there to do here?
There is so much to do here it is hard to know where to start. Maybe you want to just relax, enjoy the beaches, sit in a café or one of the many wonderful restaurants and take in the beautiful scenery and entertaining scene. Or maybe you want to enjoy the French lifestyle, cuisine, delicious produce and wine, shop in the local markets, live the village lifestyle — and get healthier and trimmer while eating and drinking to your heart’s content.
Or maybe you want to do some sightseeing and take in some of the magnificent walks and sites the area has to offer. Or maybe you want to go to Nice and enjoy this beautiful city, do some shopping or take in some of its fabulous restaurants (Nice has become a real food mecca in France). Or maybe you want to explore the towns of Cannes and Antibes, each having great sites, wonderful restaurants and great shopping. Or maybe you want to visit Italy for the day and do a bit of shopping and have a real Italian experience — just 30 minutes away.
You will not tire of all the opportunities there are to enjoy yourself and get away from it all. There is more to do and see here than you can possibly do on a one- or two-week holiday. We have many guests that come every year for several months at a time and they are still finding new things to see and do while enjoying revisiting a number of their favorite places. And, you can do everything on foot and with public transport. No problem having a holiday here and easily getting in your 10,000 steps, if not many more!
What’s the layout of Villefranche sur Mer?
Villefranche is situated on a hillside that rises from the Bay of Villefranche (reputed to be one of the five most beautiful bays in the world, by the way). The village of Villefranche is built on this hillside. There are three levels of the village: the Old Town; the “Octoi” or the Basse Corniche level; and the “Col of Villefranche” or Moyenne Corniche level.
The Old Town is located along the waterfront and rises up the hillside. In the Old Town, you have most of the restaurants, cafes, shops, grocery stores, fruit stores, butcher, newspaper stand and some of the boulangeries (and the best one for bread) and pharmacies. At one end of the Old Town is the train station. On the other end is the ancient marina called La Darse, that is still an active pleasure boat marina today. To get there you either walk around the water’s edge path at the base of the beautiful and impressive citadel or you walk through the citadel’s very impressive moat and you arrive to the charming marina and little sub-culture of the Darse. This marina has been building and repairing boats for over 600 years. Its dry dock is an historic monument. It is impressive to see how they work it as it is used constantly, with little to no mechanization. And check out the beautiful arched workshops that have been building and repairing boats for hundreds of years. There are several restaurants in the Darse area.
Going up the hill, the Old Town merges into the next level of town called Octoi (or the Basse Corniche level) near the post office. The distance is about 100 meters or a 3-minute and lovely walk. This is the most commercial level of town and where the coast road runs through town. Here you will find banks, pharmacies, boulangeries, a couple of cafes, a grocery store, fruit store, newspaper stand, coiffeurs (hair salons), and other shops. Villefranche has a lovely fresh market on Wednesdays and Saturdays at this level. This is also where you catch the bus to go to Nice (about a 10-minute bus ride away) or Monaco (about a 20-minute bus ride away).
The third level of town, the Col of Villefranche, is quite a bit up the hillside, yet still walkable (about a 10-15 minute walk either on stairs or the road). There is a grocery store, butcher, boulangerie, café, and pharmacy. This is also where one of the other corniche roads runs, called the Moyenne Corniche.