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About Villefranche-sur-mer

French Riviera, France

Villefranche-sur-Mer lies just a couple of kilometres to the East of the centre of Nice in a sheltered bay created by Cap Ferratand Cap de Nice, the bay being one of the deepest moorings and natural harbourson the Riviera and throughout the Mediterranean, having a depth of up to 90 feet and being suitable for the largest cruise vessels to anchor up safely. About two kilometres further offshore is the Villefranche canyon which has a depth of over 500m. The town is one of the few on the Riviera which actually has a diminishing population, having dropped from over 8,000 twenty years ago, to just over 5,000 today. This is partly due to the fact that the population of the town is ageing, but property prices have reached such a level that the town is not an affordable place for the younger generation.

A short history of Villefranche-sur-mer

It is impossible to specifically date when the first inhabitants lived in the area, but certainly Celto-Ligurian tribes farmed the regions prior to Roman occupation, the port providing a natural safe harbour. It was in 1295 that the town first obtained the name it uses today after Charles II, the Duke of Anjou, wanted the colonies to move closer to the Mediterranean itself in the fight against pirates, and encouraged greater numbers to settle in this specific area by declaring it a tax free town, or ‘Ville Franche’, with port rights which were also free - a system which lasted until the 18th century. Like many towns in the region, Villefranche-sur-Mer came under French rule in 1860. By the end of that century the town had become an important Russian naval base, though today it is simply home to visiting cruise vessels, the bay and port being visited by more than any other port on the Riviera.

tourist attractions in Villefranche-sur-mer

The town has both the old harbour and port, together with a newer marina. One of the oldest remaining buildings is the 16th century Chapelle Saint-Pierre which was carefully and extensively restored at the end of the 1950’sand which incorporates the famous Jean Cocteau murals which depict the life of Saint Pierre and the fishing community.There is about 1km of beach at the head of the bay which is bounded by a stunning promenade which eventually leads to the old town, under which is the ‘Rue Obscure’ which dates back to the 13th century. Diving, sailing and waterskiing are the main watersports catered for in the town, though for those who like to explore, there is the ‘Little Train’ which does guided tours round the town and Cap Ferrat, as well as boat excursions which go as far as Monaco and Cannes.

festivals and events in Villefranche-sur-mer

With such a small population the town does not concentrate on major festivities as some of the larger towns on the Riviera do. However, this does not mean the town is devoid of all culture and entertainment. The Citadel and Chapelle Sainte Elisabeth are both home to several exhibitions throughout the year. Place AméliePolonnais and the open air theatre are also much used venues in the months of June and July for music, plays and dances, including the annual Villefranche-sur-Mer ball. July is also the month for the main festival in the town which includes candlelit boats adorned with flowers, followed by a firework display.

gastronomy in Villefranche-sur-mer

As Villeneuve-sur-Mer is not the largest of towns, thereis not the greatest selection of restaurants to choose from, but those which are in the town are excellent. The type of cuisine ranges from the expected seafood and fish, to the more modern and creative French style. The town however does not fall short where markets for local produce are concerned as there is a Provencal market every Saturday between 8am and 1pm at le Place de l’Octroi, a fresh food market every Wednesday on the Promenade de l’Octroi and a fish market from 7.30 am until midday in Place Charles d’Anjou.

recommended restaurants in Villefranche-sur-mer
La Mère Germaine 9 quai Courbet F - 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer
Phone: +33 4 93 01 71 39
Versailles 7 bd Princesse Grace de Monaco F - 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer
Phone: +33 4 93 76 52 52
La Fille du Pêcheur 3 Quai de l'Almiral Coubert F - 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer
Phone: +33 4 93 01 90 09
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villa rentals in the Villefranche-sur-mer area
The Frogs House

Looking for an unforgettable experience in a typical French village, 15km from Nice and the French Riviera ? Come to enjoy our 7 cosy bedrooms with views to the sea and over the surrounding hills.

  • Villa Belmonte "Villa Belmont" is a brand new luxury villa in the beautiful old village of Biot in the South of France.
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