Villefranche-sur-Mer Things to Do Tips by NiceLife Top 5 Page for this destination
Villefranche-sur-Mer Things to Do: 42 reviews and 66 photos
Villefranche Bay - complete with cruiseships
The beach at Villefranche is the perfect antidote to Nice's stony beaches, and Cannes private beaches. A large sandy completely public bay , gritty sand is soft underfoot,with just perfect sheltered swimming waters, all 15 minutes by bus from the centre of Nice.
It can get a bit crowded with noisy families in peak season and at weekends, but there is plenty of room for all, and this is a good place for any "seaside" aspirations for your riviera visit.
Pay car parking is available at the far side of the beach always popular with drivers from over the Italian border, though the canny ones will park free along Avenue Louise Bordes (home among others to Nellcote - a villa rented by the Rolling Stones in the 1980's) a quiet back road that links Villefranche with Cap Ferrat at Pont St Jean
Occasionally one or two monster Mediterranean cruiseships dock in the deep waters and tenders ferry the passengers off to coaches bound for Monaco or Eze. They make little local impact except for interrupting the skyline that connects Cap Ferrat to the East and Cap de Nice to the West.
A reassuring sight during a visit to Villefranche is the long arm of the law - athletic young men on mountain bicycles modelling lycra shorts, shades and sporting a fine tan. The flying squad, not. The real security around here is the SPD private security and property surveillance company employed by every luxury villa.
Address: Villefranche sur mer
Villefranche Port Darse, view on to Cap Ferrat
Hidden away out of sight of the main village and the harbour is the tiny port, Villefranche Port Darse. I confess after two years of coming here I didn't know it existed until I read a rave restaurant review by Stephen Clarke, author of the recent "A Year in the Merde" (must read for thos who want to try to understand the French) of a little restaurant at the port called Le Cockpit , Having tracked it down, it was closed for the new year, however discovering the port was a real treat. Its lovely.
It can be reached by walking around the waterline of the Citadel. The length of the port is Oceanographic Institute of the Cote D'Azur, (Thinking back to my student days, I think I could have coped with three years of studying oceans on the Cote D'Azur. Its tough I know, but somebody has to do it) and a Marie Curie Research Foundation. There are also little spots to park a car, which is useful to know.
Another little gem is a hidden beach the other side of the Darse harbour wall - not visible from the town so only locals know it exists. And because of the Port regulations, there is a clean and well maintained free public toilet at Darse - a rarity in France and one which should win an award if such things existed.
Very very simple. Follow the curve of the bay of Villefranche away from the town until you reach the final end car parking area - you will see a flight of steps to your left, next to the parking payment machine.These take you up to av Louise Bordes, which brings you past the gates of the famous villa Nellcote ( Rolling Stones history 1980's Exile on Main Street) and many other private villas until you reach Pont St Jean, the point of entry to the west-facing length of Cap Ferrat.
From here, a short walk will bring you to the magnificent Ephrussi de Rosthchild Villa, the front gate of Paul Allen's Maryland, and a short distance from the charming Cap Ferrat zoo. The beach this side of Cap Ferrat is the Plage Passable, a modest but popular sandy beach with views back towards Villefranche. Crossing over to the east-facing side of Cap Ferrat is the little yachting harbour of St Jean, with restaurants and cafes
Eating in the shadow of Hotel Welcome
Villefranche is the perfect venue for lunch, and on Sundays an antiques market jostles with the diners tables, to form the perfect setting. Casual dining in the shadow of Hotel Welcome, or more expensive alfresco restaurants which line the bay.
Mediterranean colours are intense like the flavours. Pastel hues offset the richness of terracotta, verging towards dark red, contrasting with white blue or green shutters, resplendent with floral bouganvilea and geranium. Add azure blue skies streaked with white and you have a riot of colour.
The food shows strong italian influences, but so does the retinue of diners. Dark glasses essential, linger over chilled rose.
Paradise if it exists has no doubt a little corner like this. You can see why people come back again. And again and again.
No Nutbush City
Probably Villefranche's most famous resident is American rock singer Tina Turner, whose Villa is set high above Villefranche in a gated estate Le Castellet, Vinaigrier. The view from this high vantage point over Mont Boron and the Cap Ferrat is impressive and includes a view of Elton Johns villa overlooking Nice.
In case you might be thinking to drop by and discuss the merits of her latest album over the garden fence - don't. Le Castellet is a gruelling walk way up into the hills. The villa is unapproachable and invisible from the public highway and the property boundary is edged by thirty-foot high walls and screening - the first priority of the stars in selecting their Riviera home is privacy and security
Cocteau 's Chapelle St Pierre
Pretty little church with designs by Jean Cocteau, the unconventional French poet,artist and film director who was a leading light of Surrealism.
Cocteau was openly gay and struggled with with a lifelong addiction to opium. His uniquely creative output spanned from the nineteen twenties to his death in 1963, and included designs painted within the interior of this chapel in 1957.
Frescoes in his characteristic line style celebrate the life of St Peter, and also young women of Villefranche and gypsies.
According to commentators of the time, the attraction of Villefranche to gay scene of the nineteen twenties was the abundant presence of strong young sailors disembarked from the battleships anchored in the deepwater harbour of the bay. "Too much information" I hear you say. Fair enough.
Address: Harbour front
Volti sculptures lit by natural light
Inside the fortifications and housed in a series of indoor and outdoor rooms is a large collection of sculptures by Antoniucci Volti (1915-89). Volti grew up in Villefranche and he is described as a classical sculptor in the 20th Century. Predominantly interested in the female form, his bronzes of reclining fertile "mother" figures are remarkable. Admission is free. For France, also remarkable.
Directions: Citadelle d'Elme, Villefranche
Museum for shellfish to go
I always thought shellfish were for eating rather than studying. I mean, just how interesting can scallops be? Anyway I am sure they are very interesting - to other scallops. Next time I might go there. Then back to a restaurant to consume a plateful of their grandchildren.
B7ORN - anyone for tennis?
The restaurants along the front at Villefranche have a high celebrity factor and the restaurant parking will reveal who has just popped over from Monaco for Sunday lunch. Carpaccio's is their favourite
In this case the white Rolls Royce with white leather seats, sporting the personalised number plate B7ORN indicates the renowned tennis player Bjorn Borg, is in town. The Monaco set are frequent visitors on account that Monaco itself despite all that money, lacks the essential charm of nearby Villefranche.
View of Villefranche on arrival at Port Sante
The heady mix of French and Italian culture becomes ever stronger as you approach the borders. Hot Italienate hues of ochre, pink and orangle nestle against the cool misty blue green of the rising hills above the town. Contrasting walls and shutters excite the eye. The faded elegance of the Hotel Welcome. You are in Cocteau's Villefranche.
The visitors here are likely to be lunchtime refugees from highrise Monaco, popstars from Eze, Italian industrialists and trophy wives, eccentric Brits entangled in Anglo-French relationships, writers and artists, or local French sophisticates. In Villefranche there are residents, guests and visitors, nothing so vulgar as "tourists".
The waiters have designer-sculpted hair and are on first name terms with clientelle. There is no litter. The children are well-behaved. The local police wear shorts and shades, and drive stylish bicycles. Everyone is respectful of the place they love to visit.
Welcome to the charm of Villefranche.
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