8 Things To Do In Villefranche-Sur-Mer, France

Bonjour! Welcome to Villefranche-sur-Mer, one of the most colorful towns on Cote d’Azur that will fill you with positive vibes and energy. Whether you want to explore charming old town streets and historic sites or just relax on the beaches in a picturesque setting – you’ll find it all there. Chances are very high that Villefranche-sur-Mer will enchant you from the first steps! Sounds good? Keep reading and discover things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France.

Interesting fact. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a place where some scenes for popular movies and TV series were shot. Emily in Paris, The Bucket List, Ronin, To Catch a Thief, The Transporter, or Never Say Never Again just to name a few!

Travel tip. You can easily visit Villefranche-sur-Mer and nearby Saint Jean Cap Ferrat during the same-day trip.

Things To Do In Villefranche-Sur-Mer, France
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Villefranche-sur-Mer, France FAQ

Where is Villefranche-sur-Mer located?

Villefranche-sur-Mer is located on a peninsula in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France. It’s just a short drive from nearby popular places like Nice, Eze, or Menton. What’s more, Villefranche-sur-Mer can be a great base and a starting point for discovering the area.

Is Villefranche-sur-Mer worth visiting?

Yes, of course! Villefranche-sur-Mer is a small town on the French Riviera. It’s pretty, colorful, captivating, and it’s a real delight to explore. Even though you won’t find dozens of things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer, you shouldn’t skip this town while in the area – the ones that the town can offer will keep you entertained for hours! In our opinion, it’s a must-visit on Cote d’Azur!

What is Villefranche-sur-Mer known for?

Villefranche-sur-Mer is best known for being an idyllic and very colorful town on Cote d’Azur. Its old town’s colorful houses together with the blue Mediterranean waters and green hills behind create a picturesque and unforgettable image.

What’s the best time to visit Villefranche-sur-Mer?

French Riviera is an all-year-round destination with a pleasant Mediterranean climate. If you prefer smaller crowds and lower temperatures (15-20°C), visit Villefranche-sur-Mer in any month in the lower season. If high temperatures, around 30°C don’t bother you – visit from June to August. We think that spring and autumn are the best times to visit.

Do you need a car in Villefranche-sur-Mer?

No, Villefranche-sur-Mer is a small and compact town and you don’t need a car to explore it. Although you might need it to get to the town, depending on where you’ll be traveling from.

Things To Do In Villefranche-Sur-Mer Old Town
Discover Things To Do In Villefranche-Sur-Mer on Cote d'Azur

Things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town

Without a doubt, Villefranche-sur-Mer’s old town is the prettiest part of the town. It’s fairly small and there’s no better way of getting to know it than just getting lost in a maze of its streets and slowly exploring every corner. Cobblestone winding streets filled with quaint colorful houses adorned with flowers, secret passageways, historical landmarks, boutique and craft shops, restaurants, and cafes… Wherever you turn, you’ll find something interesting in Villefranche-sur-Mer old town.

Among Villefranche-sur-Mer old town streets you’ll find points of interest like Rue Obscure, Citadel, Saint-Michel Church, or Chapelle Saint-Pierre “Cocteau”.

Villefranche-sur-Mer Tourist Office is located a bit outside of the old town, about 350m from the Citadel, in Jardins François Binon.

Learn more iconDiscover: Accommodation options in Villefranche-sur-Mer

View over Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town from the Citadel
Colorful building in Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town
Exploring Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town
Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town Colorful Street
Adorable cat in Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town
Colorful street of Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town

Rue Obscure

Rue Obscure, the Dark Street, is a mysterious and a bit spooky part of Villefranche-sur-Mer’s old town which dates back to the 14th century. It’s a 130-meter-long, dimly lit underground street that goes under the houses. Back in its heyday, it was used as a defensive passageway allowing soldiers to easily maneuver across the town. It was also used by locals to store wine barrels and other goods as well as a shelter for donkeys or goats.

Originally Rue Obscure was a normal, uncovered street that was a victim of urbanization. Houses were gradually built over it and by the 18th century, it was completely covered and turned into a tunnel-like passageway. Rue Obscure is listed as a Historic Monument.

Rue Obscure in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Rue Obscure in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Saint-Michel Church

Saint-Michel Church (fr. Église Saint-Michel) is located in the heart of Villefranche-sur-Mer old town. This Baroque church dates back to the 18th century and was built on the site of a previous, 14th-century temple. It features a simple yet beautiful interior, with a life-size recumbent Christ carved from a single piece of fig tree wood and the organs listed as a Historic Monument. Saint-Michel Church is free to visit during opening hours.

Entrance to Saint-Michel Church in Villefranche-Sur-Mer.jpg
Bell tower of Saint-Michel Church in Villefranche-Sur-Mer

Saint-Pierre Chapel

Saint-Pierre Chapel (fr. Chapelle Saint-Pierre), also known as the Cocteau Chapel, is located at the foot of the old town, just a few steps from the Citadel. It was built in the half of the 16th century in Romanesque style and was the main place of prayer in town until Saint-Michel church was built. After it was deconsecrated it was used by fishermen to store fishing gear.

Nowadays, the chapel is most famous for the fact that it was restored and decorated by Jean Cocteau in the 1950s, both on the outside and inside. Decorations include five fresco panels in two parts: one profane and one sacred. Saint-Pierre Chapel was classified as a Historic Monument in 1996.

Entrance to Saint-Pierre Chapel costs €4 and is free for children under 15 years old (April 2024). For current prices and opening hours visit explorenicecotedazur.com website.

Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer (fr. La Citadelle de Villefranche-sur-Mer), also known as Saint Elme Citadel, is a mid-16th century fortress. It was built at a high point of the town and served as a defense from attacks from the sea. Since 1965 the Citadel has been owned by the city. Was demilitarized in 1967, and later restored in 1981. It was classified as a Historic Monument in 1968.

Nowadays it houses a Town Hall, several museums, a small garden, and an open-air theater. But what we think deserves the most attention are the wonderful views of the bay, town, and the surroundings.

Entrance to the Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer is free. For current opening hours visit lacitadellevsm.fr website. There you’ll also find more information about museums and current exhibitions.

Learn more iconBook now: Villefranche Guided Electric Bike Tour with Breakfast

Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer
Garden of Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer
Square in Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Villefranche-sur-Mer Beaches

We don’t think anyone needs to be convinced that Cote d’Azur is a real beach paradise. Along the Villefranche-sur-Mer coastline, you’ll find some great beaches, perfect for soaking up the sun and taking a refreshing dip in azure waters. What’s more, the town’s beaches are known for being relatively quiet and more sandy than pebbly.

In Villefranche-sur-Mer, the beach choice might not be as wide as in the other nearby towns, but available beaches lack nothing and don’t disappoint. Ok… The only thing that some people might miss is at least one private beach.

Here are popular Villefranche-sur-Mer beaches:

  • Plage des Marinieres – main town’s beach, located close to the old town. It’s sandy, long and fairly narrow, and definitely the most lively out of all. It features calm clear waters and scenic views over the bay and the town. There are toilets, and a paid parking lot right behind it.
  • Plage de l’Ange Gardien – tiny pebble beach just a few steps further from Plage des Marinieres. Good for snorkeling, with nice views over the town. There are no amenities except showers and a paid parking lot right behind it.
  • Plage de la Darse – a pebbly, small, and fairly secluded beach located on the other part of the town, behind the Port de la Darse. It’s a good choice for those who want to escape crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet. Also, it’s a great spot for snorkeling.

If hungry, you can easily walk to Quai de l’Amiral Courbet from any of these beaches. It’s a waterfront promenade in Villefranche-sur-Mer old town where you’ll find many restaurants and cafes serving fresh local and international dishes.

Remember to bring everything you might need with you and have an amazing time on one of Villefranche-sur-Mer beaches.

For more amazing beaches, including private ones, head to nearby Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.

Learn more iconBook now: 1-Hour Sightseeing Cruise to Villefranche Bay From Nice

Villefranche-sur-Mer Beaches - Plage des Marinieres
Villefranche-sur-Mer Beaches - Marinieres Beach
View over Plage des Marinieres in Villefranche-sur-Mer from town viewpoint
Villefranche-sur-Mer Beaches

Villefranche-sur-Mer Port

The town’s port, also known as Port de la Darse, is located about 1km from the Villefranche-sur-Mer old town directly below the Citadel. Back in time, it was used to dock Royal ships and now is a quiet spot perfect for peaceful walks among smaller and bigger boats.

Interesting fact. Villefranche-sur-Mer port is famous for being one of the deepest harbors on the French Riviera, meaning that chances for spotting large ships are high.

Villefranche-sur-Mer Port - View from the Citadel
Villefranche-sur-Mer Port

Viewpoints over Villefranche-Sur-Mer

For nice views over Villefranche-Sur-Mer, you can head to Boulevard Napoleon III, a busy but very picturesque road above the town that will make you want to stop every few steps. Views over the bay and the town from this place are truly spectacular! The road can be reached either by car (there are few parking spaces along it) or by a short walk from the town. For the exact location take a look at the map at the bottom of the post.

Your second option for great views over Villefranche-Sur-Mer and its surroundings is to head to Fort du Mont Alban, a 16th-century military stronghold located in Parc du Mont Boron in Nice. You can get there by car, by bus or you can choose to hike through a forest. Whatever you choose – views are well worth the effort! While there, don’t forget to explore the fort.

Learn more iconBook now: 2-Hour Scenic Drive by 3-Wheel Vehicle

Viewpoint over Villefranche-Sur-Mer from Boulevard Napoleon III
View from Boulevard Napoleon III
View from Fort du Mont Alban

How to get to Villefranche-sur-Mer, France?

Villefranche-sur-Mer is located about 5km from Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, 10km from Nice or Eze, 15km from Monaco, and 30km from Menton. The most convenient way to get to the town is by car or train.

Learn more iconFor great car rental deals visit Rentalcars website.

Where to park in Villefranche-sur-Mer?

There aren’t many parking lots in Villefranche-sur-Mer, but with those available, you shouldn’t have problems finding space for your car. Remember to arrive early, especially during the high season. We recommend leaving a car in the Parking des Marinières, located behind the town’s main beach and about 700m from the old town. When we visited, in the low season, it was free but for sure it’s paid during the summer months.

To Villefranche-sur-Mer by train

You can easily get by train to Villefranche-sur-Mer from many nearby places like Nice, Cannes, Menton, Cagnes-sur-Mer, or Grasse. The town’s train station is located above Plage des Marinieres, only about 500m from the old town. To learn more about train connections that interest you visit sncf.com or rome2rio.com website.

Learn more iconFor great train ticket deals visit Trainline website.

To Villefranche-sur-Mer by bus

You can also quite easily reach Villefranche-sur-Mer by bus. For example, a trip from Nice will take about 5min (€1-3), 35min from Monaco (€3), and 1h from Menton (€3). To learn more about bus connections that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.

Camping Villefranche-sur-Mer

If you’re traveling by camper, places like Camping de La Laune or Camping La Ferme Riola might interest you. They are located near Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Exploring Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town Colorful Streets
Exploring Villefranche-sur-Mer Old Town Colorful Street and buildings
Relaxing on Villefranche-sur-Mer Beach

Things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France – Summing up

Now you know what Villefranche-sur-Mer and its surroundings are all about and why you should add it to your Cote d’Azur bucket list. It’s such a colorful, charming, and positive place, isn’t it? No matter if you’re looking for natural beauty, sandy beaches, a charming old town, culture, or history… Villefranche-sur-Mer has it all and we’re sure that every traveler will find something perfect for himself. Enjoy your time!

Our video from Villefranche-sur-Mer

Our opinion about Villefranche-sur-Mer

For us, a visit to Villefranche-sur-Mer was a day trip from nearby Cannes where we lived for a few weeks. We visited it in late October and back then it was still full of tourists and… beachmakers as the weather was really nice on that day. During one day we explored Villefranche-sur-Mer old town, spent some time on the beach, and explored Fort du Mont Alban – all of that took us about 8 hours.

A few months later, in late July, we were driving above Villefranche-sur-Mer and stopped at Boulevard Napoleon III to admire the views and see how big the crowds were on the beaches. Quite busy, but we’ve seen worse!

Overall, we really loved Villefranche-sur-Mer and until today it’s one of our favorite places on Cote d’Azur to which we’ll gladly come back. What we liked most about it was definitely exploring its colorful old town that has such an amazing, positive vibe. Wandering in Fort du Mont Alban was also very nice – it’s an amazing place for a moment of peace and quiet. 

Learn more iconBook now: French Riviera Full Day Private Tour

Happy Little Traveler team in Villefrance-sur-Mer, France

Restaurants, accommodations, and map

Check out various recommended places below.

Where to eat in Villefranche-sur-Mer?

Here are your best, high-rated options in Villefranche-sur-Mer:

Where to sleep in Villefranche-sur-Mer?

Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Welcome Hotel

Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer offers a charming and comfortable stay overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Situated in a prime location, this boutique hotel provides easy access to the picturesque Old Town, the stunning beaches, and the port. With its friendly service, inviting atmosphere, and breathtaking views, Welcome Hotel ensures a memorable experience on the French Riviera.

Hotel De La Darse in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Hotel De La Darse

Hotel De La Darse offers a tranquil retreat with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. Located near the historic harbor, this charming hotel provides easy access to the beach and the vibrant waterfront promenade. With its comfortable rooms, warm hospitality, and picturesque setting it's an ideal choice for travelers seeking a relaxing getaway on the French Riviera.

SEA VIEW Design + Balcony 203 in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Sea View Design + Balcony

"Sea View Design + Balcony" offers stylish accommodation with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. This charming apartment features modern design elements and a private balcony where guests can relax and enjoy the sea breeze. With its prime location and beautiful amenities, this place provides the perfect base for exploring the picturesque town and nearby attractions.

Accommodations photos source: booking.com

Villefranche-sur-Mer, France - Map of places

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