Villefranche-sur-Mer, more commonly known as just Villefranche, is home to around 5,470 people and much like other areas in the eastern part of the Alpes-Maritimes, it’s ageing population isn’t being replaced by younger people. However, this far from compromises the fishing traditions of the neighbourly town.
A historical town on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Villefranche is an idyllic seaside town just a short distance east of Nice. The picturesque setting makes this town a highlight when exploring this part of the French Riviera. Whilst the majority of the old town is only accessible by steps, a walk up a gentle incline can lead you to the centre.
The medieval streets are a delight to wander around when compared to the hustle and bustle of life. Built on terraces up a steep hill that overlooks the neighbouring Cap Ferrat, the town gently overlooks the sea of the Mediterranean below and provides its visitors with days of exploring and wonder.
Starting at the harbour, this is a popular and busy part of the town playing host to many quintessential bars and restaurants along the waterfront and in the Place Amelie Polonnais, the small square just next to the harbour. Every Sunday sees the antique market here, full of locally made gifts and ornaments. From the harbour you can see the small Chapel Saint-Pierre, dating back to the sixteenth century, the chapel now houses famous murals of the life of the saint and local fishermen from Jean Cocteau.
Heading further into the town, just behind the harbour, you’ll be able to explore the quaint old town with attractive ancient houses lining the steep cobbled streets, climbing the hill through the town. The Rue Obscura clearly reminds you that you are in an ancient town, featuring medieval ramparts that have remained as they were hundreds of years ago.
The Church of Saint-Michel and the Citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer are also well worth a visit. The baroque style church can be found in the centre of the town and much further out, up a short path from the town centre, you can find the most historic monument – the 16th-century citadel. Close to the citadel, you will see the farmers market, every Saturday, in the main gardens of the town.
In the heart of the old town, you will find Rue Contesso and here you will also find the house. The walk along Rue Contesso takes you to the olive tree and benches where the locals meet up to chat before lunch or dinner. From this spot, there are but a few steps to buy all your gastronomic needs!
The baker, butcher and grocer are all nestled around the Place de la Paix, the small pedestrianised square just minutes from the house. Here you can also access the closest pharmacy and you will find the convenience of a newsagent too. On one corner, a local lady sells her fruit and flowers on a daily basis and is joined by a fresh fish stall each Friday.
From the Place de la Paix and the house, a little further up, you can meander to the seafront where you will also find the beach. Along the beach, there are several restaurants and shops serving wonderful French and international food to suit every appetite.
Away from the seafront, you will find a whole host of restaurants, shops and cafes around every corner. You have the ability to choose whether to ‘eat in’ enjoying all the fabulous local produce or to venture out and sample one of the many restaurants – choosing from those of high sophistication to those that are simple pizza establishments.
Whilst you will love exploring the old town of Villefranche, you also have the ability to go to the beach, hop on a train or bus and explore the neighbouring cities of Nice and Monaco. It’s having these dilemmas that make staying in Villefranche so pleasurable!