The editorial team takes you to Villefranche-sur-Mer, a tourist resort on the French Riviera We help you explore, or rediscover, a town that sits between the land and the sea.
We arrive at Villefranche-sur-Mer train station. The town is serviced – twice an hour – by the line from Marseille to Ventimiglia. The journey from Monaco takes 14 minutes on the train, and costs less than two euros.
Leaving the station we find ourselves facing the ‘Rade de Villefranche’, a 4 km² body of water. Its calm, deep waters are ideal for learning how to dive, with local or Nice-based diving clubs. On July 1 and 2, the Rade will host the 9th French Open Water Freediving Championship!
Our path continues to the maritime station, the town’s tourist hub. From June to September, Villefranche offers sea excursions: out on the water to spot dolphins; or coastal trips to see Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat or Monaco from the sea.
If there is one thing Villefranche is known for, it is its waterfront restaurants and bars. They run alongside the harbour and enable visitors to have lunch right at the water’s edge.
We are starting our climb to the top of the town. Our first stop is in front of the Saint Elme Citadel, built in 1557 by order of Emmanuel-Philibert de Savoie to defend the town and protect the port. It now houses the town hall, an outdoor theatre, gardens and four open-access museums. Unfortunately, they are closed for work at the moment.
Our journey continues through the streets of the old town. Villefranche is one of thosse colourful towns that are typical of southern France, where white mingles with orange and coral red.
On one side of a small square is the church of St Michael, built in the 14th century, in the Baroque Savoyard style. It houses several works of art, including an 18th-century sculpture of Christ. The building was classified as a historic monument in 1990.
On the way back down we treat ourselves to an ice cream from one of the many ice cream vendors along the Rade. A useful investment, given the 575 metres of difference in altitude from the foot of the town to the top.
Since we’re on a break, let’s talk about urban planning; the Villefranche coastal strip is protected from all new construction thanks to the ‘loi littorale’ (coastal law) of January 3, 1986. It is a way of preserving the ecological balance of the shoreline, as well as the various nature spots and natural spaces.
Our journey ends on Villefranche’s beaches. This is the 700m long Marinières beach, which is a mix of sand and gravel. The well-equipped beach boasts snack bars, a first-aid post and anti-jellyfish nets. After soaking up the rays for a while, it’s time for us to leave.
LIRE AUSSI : PHOTOS. A day trip to Beaulieu-sur-Mer
Next destination: Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat!