Villefranche is a simply stunning small harbor town between Monte Carlo and Nice. It’s a pleasant destination for a bike ride or a vigorous walk among the homes of the rich and famous who have chosen to settle here.
A small town with beautiful scenery and buildings that are rich in Mediterranean colors, Villefranche is a charming place to spend a day soaking in the sights and flavors of the Côte d’Azur. Highlights include the Citadel, an exploration of the harbor and several free galleries and exhibits.
Summer or winter, Villefranche is a stunning place. Its superb harbor is known to be one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. Overlooking the hills and luxurious residences, Villefranche is one of the most exclusive spots on the French Riviera, dating back to 130 BC.
With its colourful fishing boats and nets, the port is both a base for fishermen and tourists, attracting numerous cruise ships in the summer. You can wander along the fishing wharves, bordered by restaurants and their terraces. If you continue until the end you will arrive at the lengthy Villefranche beach, which is pleasant from the very first days of summer.
You certainly will want to explore the Old Town, an intricate labyrinth of steep paved streets and lanes with limited automotive traffic access. The Promenade des Marinieres stretches along the waterfront lining the north side of the bay. A massive walled citadel built in 1557 lays on the water’s edge. Today, the ancient fortress houses the Town Hall, a convention center, three museums and an open air theatre.
In the heart of old town, Église Saint-Michel was built in the 1750s in the baroque Italian style, and the church houses various works of art, notably a large Saint Michael painting above the marble main altar, an 18th century life-sized Christ sculpture and a polychrome wooden statue of San Rocco. The organ built by the Grinda Brothers in 1790 is one of the oldest in the area that still works.
Still in the Old Town, stop in at Chappelle St. Pierre, the 14th century chapel decorated during a 1957 restoration by celebrated artist Jean Cocteau. The first thing to remember in the chapel is that’s not paint on the walls. It’s chalk — mysteriously well-preserved chalk frescoes. This tiny chapel was Cocteau’s heartfelt tribute to his friends in Villefranche, connecting images of Jesus to the fisherman and other villagers.
One particularly touching mural provides insights into a way of life that no longer exists, when the village’s unique dress and dialect were still intact.
Villefranche offers numerous art collections, including the Art and History museum, the Goetz-Boumeester collection with works by Picasso and Picabia, and the Fondation-Musée Volti featuring contemporary sculptures.
Numerous cafes can be found in the Old Town when you need to take a break, and the restaurants along the fishing wharves specialize in mouthwatering Mediterranean cuisine.
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