Villefranche-sur-Mer or just Villefranche is a picturesque town on the French Riviera featured on many cruise itineraries. The town itself is between Monte Carlo and Nice with Cannes only a little farther (19 miles) away. The quant waterfront is lined with cafes and restaurants and stretches from the marina, where the tenders tie up, around a natural harbor past a number of beautiful beaches. Its nearness to Monte Carlo and Nice is probably one of its biggest attractions for the cruise lines as it affords them a number of tour opportunities. But even if you book a tour don’t pass up spending some time at a cafe or restaurant on this remarkable waterfront.
Where Your Ship Docks
While Villefranche has one of the best protected harbors on the Riviera it has no major docking facilities and cannot accommodate cruise ships. This is a tender port where you land at the visitors center right in town. The visitor center offers maps, good advice on getting around and has good public facilities.
Villefranche is an easy town to walk around in with plenty of shopping opportunities and good restaurants, but the streets do climb steeply up from the waterfront. Less than a half mile around the waterfront is the train station where you can catch frequent trains to Monte Carlo, Nice or Cannes. They run about every twenty minutes and a trip to Monte Carlo takes only fifteen minutes and costs usually under €7.00. So before you sign up for that expensive tour consider some exploring on your own.
The French currency is the Euro and you should not expect them to accept Dollars or Pounds in Villefranche. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are ATM machines available as well.
The biggest attraction is the Riviera itself. Famous beaches, casinos, yachts at anchor and of course French cuisine. With Cannes and Nice to the west and Monaco only seven miles to the east a train trip is a fast and inexpensive way to see the glamour of the Riviera up close.
There are also a number of reasons to simply stay in Villefranche:
Just as you exit the visitor center to the left is Citadelle Saint-Elme a thirteenth century fortification which also now houses art exhibits
Chapelle de Saint-Pierre des Pecheurs – Beautiful chapel right on the harbour with an interior decorated by Jean Cocteau.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – A villa, museum and fantastic gardens located on the opposite side of the harbor. Admission is about €15 but well worth it.
Fort du Mont Alban – If you are into hiking, a walk up Mt Alban toward Nice is worth it as it stands over 600 feet above the harbor and the views are well worth the climp. The fort itself built in the 16th century is not open to the public but is still impressive from the outside.