•Alpes-Maritimes (06230) • Population: 8,080 • Altitude: 20 m
This is a busy town in a busy part of the Côte d'Azur. A couple of features that make it attractive to visitors are the seaside, with long sandy beachs, terrace cafés and restaurants, and the very nice old town, vieille ville.
From the main road above, you can look down across the red tile roofs of the old town, with the distinctive church and bell tower in the center. Like the medieval villages of the "back country", the narrow cobblestone and bricked streets slope steeply down (in this case towards the sea) or traverse along the slope, with vaulted passages beneath the houses. There's quite a medieval feeling here, with just the many little restaurants to remind you you're in tourist country. There are also quiet little squares, like the Place Félix Poullan beside the church, and the Place de l'Eglise just below, with a bench circling a beautiful big tree.
The most extreme example we've seen anywhere of a vaulted passage is the Rue Obscura, a street about a block in from the seafront that's completely covered for about half its length [photo-6]. Lighted only by white, wire-gridded lamps in the roof, the "obscure" street reminds you of the days when the town's population sheltered here from bombardments. Cross streets open out onto the sunny upper village or the even brighter seafront below.
Among the glitterati of the region, Anna Mae Bullock (better known as Tina Turner) has a palatial villa here, at the peak of the Colline du Vinaigrier. She's in residence about one weekend per month, which is pretty frequent considering her schedule.
History of Villefranche-sur-Mer
First record, 12th century: Castrum de Montolivo; 1295: Villa franca
Prehistoric--Roman: Iron-age and Gallo-Roman pottery shards and other artifacts were found at Mont Leuze, overlooking the current seaside location. The ancient Montolivio was also on the hill set back from the sea.
Medieval: The port was created in 1295 by Charles d'Anjou. The Rade de Villefranche (the protected deep-water bay) is the best on this part of the coast, and was the most important port until port of Nice was opened in the 18th century.
Located in the corner of a lovely little park, beside the main N7 road.
Tel : 04 93 01 73 68; Fax: 04 93 76 63 65
Every Sun - Brocante
Every Apr - Petit salon de l'Octroi, 9h-19h, Jardins Binon de l'Octroi
Every May - Petit salon de l'Octroi, Jardins Binon de l'Octroi; 9h-19h; (2005, 12th annual)
Every June - Fete de la Musique
End June - Fête des Pêcheurs
15 Aug - Illuminations de la Rade (lighting the bay)
End Sept - Fête Patronale
Villefranche-sur-Mer is on the main Nice-Monaco-Menton-Ventimiglia line, with frequent service [rail map]. The rail line curves around the edge of the bay, running just above the beach to the east of town [photo-3].
The Nice-Monaco-Menton bus line has frequent service.
• Latitude, Longitude: 43.714175, 7.310058
IGN (1/25,000) #3742 OT "Nice-Menton"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #26 "Pay d'Azur"
Parc de la Justice Hiking
The Parc Départemental de la Justice is on the Plateau de la Justice (about 550 m altitude) between the coast at Villefranche-sur-Mer/Beaulieu-sur-Mer and La Trinité to the north. It's 2-3 km north of Villefranche-sur-Mer or Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
The southwest corner of the hiking area is on the Moyenne Corniche (the D2564 road) at a junction called Col des Quatre Chemins. A small road goes northeast from that junction, about 2.5 km, to the parking area La Plana, where there are picnic spots and a sports-walking course.
A 7-8 km loop hike around the high plateau can be started at the southwest corner (on the D2564) or in the park area at the La Plana parking.
The Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat Hike is a 3-1/h hour hike along the coast around the Cap Ferrat peninsula, just to the east of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
The GR51 Balcony of the Cote d'Azur trail passes through Drap, about 5 km north of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Comments contributed by Robert from Canada
We were in VilleFranche "Pierre & Vacances" March 6th to April 4th 1998.
They have a wonderful resort very reasonable i.e 2 weeks for approx
5,000 FF; 2 1/2 apartments fully furnished, maid service included;
from November to April 4th. This is for 2 weeks and a bonus of 2 weeks
In the old village of VilleFranche we had the most delightful meal at a tiny restaurant called the "L'Echalote" rue de l'Eglise, if you happen to be in the area, please try them out...