The colorful town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is often referred to as the pearl of the French Riviera. And it’s not hard to see why! With its beautiful colored houses, terracotta rooftops and crystal clear turquoise water, Villefranche-sur-Mer truly is a postcard perfect place.
It may not be the biggest town but it is the perfect one to stay a couple of nights and explore other places close by.
With this travel guide on Villefranche-sur-Mer you’ll be all set to explore this wonderful area on the Côte d’Azur. I’m sharing every single detail from where to stay, which places to visit, the best beaches and restaurants and the best time to visit.
Get ready to explore one of the most beautiful towns on the French Riviera!
- Villefranche-sur-Mer Travel Guide – 6 Top Things To Do & See
- How to reach Villefranche-sur-Mer
- When is the best time to visit Villefranche-sur-Mer
- Where to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer
- Best restaurants in Villefranche-sur-Mer
- Top things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer Travel Guide – 6 Top Things To Do & See
Think cobblestoned streets, pastel colored shutters complementing the colorful houses, sailing boats bobbing in the harbor and the relaxed atmosphere of the Mediterranean Sea. When looking out your hotel window you’ll see yachts coming in and stately villa’s perched on top of the green hills.
Enjoy the calm in the early morning, relax on the beach in the afternoon while taking a refreshing dip in the turquoise water and spend your evenings enjoying a Provençal meal while watching the sunset along the waterfront.
This is what a few days of holiday pretty much feel like in the town of Villefranche -sur-Mer. And without further ado I will now hand you all the information you’ll need to plan the perfect holiday to one of the most colorful towns in the French Riviera.
How to reach Villefranche-sur-Mer
The town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is located in the heart of the French Riviera and only 15 minutes driving from the city centre of Nice. That being said, there are several ways that you can quickly make your way to this pearl on the Côte d’Azur. Once you’re in Villefranche-sur-Mer the best way to get around is on foot.
🚗 Travel to Villefranche-sur-Mer by car
I’m a big believer that the best way to travel is by having your own car cause of all the freedom it comes with. Especially if you want to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer and use it as a base to explore other places in the area then this is the way to go!
If you’re traveling to France by plane you should opt to land in Nice where you can then pick up your rental car and in less than 30 minutes you’ll find yourself in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
🚘 Renting a car? I recommend getting a car from SunnyCars as they work with local car rental companies. When booking through Sunny Cars, the price already includes all insurance. Book your rental car here.
Parking your car in Villefranche-sur-Mer – There are two main parking lots in Villefranche-sur-Mer. If you arrive in the morning you should opt for Parking Wilson which is right next to the harbor and town. If you’re only arriving in the afternoon or evening this parking lot will probably be full, then simply drive along the waterfront towards Parking Plage Villefranche-sur-Mer. From here it’s about 15 minutes walking back to the town but the entire way you’ll have stunning views of the bay.
🚂 Travel to Villefranche-sur-Mer by train
If you decided to book a hotel in Nice and only visit Villefranche-sur-Mer as a day trip you can quickly get there by train. The train station in Villefranche-sur-Mer is located right next to the main town and by the beach so you won’t have to walk far! There are about 45 trains per day during the summer period and it only takes a couple of minutes and €2 to reach Villefranche-sur-Mer from Nice by train.
🚌 Travel to Villefranche-sur-Mer by bus
Every day 30 minutes there’s a bus traveling to Villefranche-sur-Mer from Nice and the driving time is about 19 minutes. The bus leaves in Nice from the Promenade des Arts and arrives at Risso to La Barmassa in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
When is the best time to visit Villefranche-sur-Mer
The French Riviera has the best weather in entire France and here you can pretty much expect sunshine 300 days per year. So visiting Villefranche-sur-Mer definitely doesn’t have to happen during the busy summer months.
I would suggest visiting between the start of May and the end of September to get the warmest weather and the chance at taking a dip in the Mediterranean Sea.
Where to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer
The absolute best place to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer is the beautiful Welcome Hotel. Situated at the boardwalk of the historic town all rooms come with a balcony offering incredible views of the bay.
They offer in-room breakfast, which you can enjoy from your private terrace, while looking at the sun glistening on the turquoise water.
There’s no restaurant but I highly recommend starting your evening in their signature bar or terrace with a rosé and their charcuterie board. Trust me, the pesto and truffle cheese were to die for!
Best restaurants in Villefranche-sur-Mer
- Le Trastevere – For a wide variety in choices and a good price/quality ratio. I tried their steak tartare with truffle and it was absolutely delicious! Their french fries are freshly made and finger lickingly good!
- Mayssa Beach – Enjoy Provençal cuisine on the only rooftop terrace in Villefranche-sur-Mer while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
- La Mère Germaine – You’re go to place if you’re a lover of fresh sea food and you don’t mind splurging cause the prices ain’t cheap here.
Make sure to make a reservation from before for all restaurants in Villefranche-sur-Mer, especially if you’re visiting on the weekend and you want a table by the waterfront.
Top things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer
1. Wander through the streets of the historic town
The best thing you can do when visiting Villefranche-sur-mer is simply stroll through its small and colorful streets. Admire the picturesque corners, the plant pots hanging from the walls and the cats sleeping through the hottest time of the day.
💡 TIP – If you don’t mind something a little more spooky you should take a walk through the Rue Obscure. Located along the first rampart, it used to be uncovered and constituted the continuity of the defensive roundabout. It allowed the circulation of the soldiers and facilitated the maneuvers. It is 130m long. Four doors allowed access to the city, one of which is always visible: the Portal Robert.
2. Relax at the beach
The French Riviera is known for its beautiful beaches and Villefranche-sur-Mer has the perfect white sandy beach one called Plage des Marinieres. The long bay curves around and to top it off gives you excellent views over the colorful houses of the main town wherever you lay down.
During the summer months it can get pretty busy and the sand can get insanely hot. My advice? Try to score a spot close to the water. That way you’ll have the best view and the soles of your feet will be very grateful for your smart decision making.
3. Visit the regal Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Visiting the stunning Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild should definitely be on your to do list during your holiday in Villefrance-sur-Mer. Also called Villa Île-de-France and located on the small peninsula of St Jean du Cap Ferrat and only 10 minutes driving from Villefranche.
Designed by the French architect Aaron Messiah, it was built between 1907 and 1912 by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild. Upon her death in 1934, the Baroness donated the property and its collections to the Académie des Beaux-Arts division of the Institut de France.
The villa is surrounded by 9 gardens, each of which has its own theme. There’s a Spanish garden, a Japanese garden, a rose garden and so on.
FUN DETAIL – The garden was conceived in the form of a ship, to be viewed from the loggia of the house, which was like the bridge of a vessel, with the sea visible on all sides. It was inspired by one of her voyages she made on the liner Île de France, and the villa was given that name. The thirty gardeners who maintained the garden were dressed as sailors, with berets with red pom-poms.
Price – €16 per person and you can get a free audio guide upon entering the villa.
Opening hours – The villa is open for visiting every day from 10am to 6pm and during the months July and august until 7pm.
Parking – There’s a parking lot at the entrance of the villa. If you don’t have a car you can also take the 45 minute walk to the villa from Villefranche-sur-Mer.
4. Spend the day at Paloma Beach on St Jean Cap Ferrat
Spending the day lounging at Paloma Beach on St Jean Cap Ferrat has always been a bucket list item for me. And when I saw the place looking all glitz and glam on ‘Emily in Paris‘ my curiosity got sparked even more.
While planning our holiday I called up Paloma Beach Club to reserve 2 beach chairs but they told me they were fully booked for 6 weeks straight. In the end this turned out to be a good thing. Why? Well Paloma Beach is actually a public beach so you can simply drop down your towel and lay down.
Oh and I had a look at the Beach Club and it didn’t look glam at all. The lounge chairs were packed super close to each other to get the most buck out of a little space. And I’m sorry, if I have to pay €50 per chair I don’t want to be elbow to elbow with a complete stranger.
Parking – You can park alongside the road right above the beach or park at the parking lot in town. Both are paid parking.
🚌 BUS – You can take bus 15 which runs every 30 minutes from La Barmassa. It will drop you off in the harbor and from there it’s 10 minutes walking to Paloma Beach.
5. Take a day trip to the medieval town of Eze
The small hilltop town of Eze is located in the South of France and is only 10 minutes driving from Villefranche-sur-Mer. The village is famous for its spectacular views, impressive architecture, and stunning geographical location above the French Riviera.
Compared to the other towns on the Côte d’Azur Eze is a little less colorful but that doesn’t take away any of its beauty. The village has been built as a fortified stronghold during the Medieval period, and the beautiful architecture reflects that.
Typical for Eze are its stone houses covered in all shades of green and small lanterns dangling from the walls.
Walking the narrow streets of this town is like being transported back to the Middle Ages. But you don’t need much time to explore Eze since the town is very small.
💡 TIP – Plan your visit in the early morning to avoid the big crowds of day tourists.
PARKING – There’s only 1 small parking lot so I can’t emphasize enough to start your day early here!
🚌 BUS – If you’re not traveling by car you can take bus 82 at La Corne d’Or which will take you to the hilltop village of Eze. The bus runs every hour and it takes about 12 minutes to get there.
6. Spend the afternoon in Menton
The colorful town of Menton serves as the perfect day trip from Villefranche-sur-Mer and about 45 minutes driving. Menton is actually located very close to the border of France with Italy. It comes as no surprise that this seaside town perfectly portrays the atmosphere and the best of both worlds.
Menton can sometimes even feel more Italian than French. but its shuttered houses and terracotta roofs are what Riviera dreams are made of.
Take your time strolling through the old city cause make no mistake, Menton is pretty huge. Luckily the old town is on the smaller side which makes it the perfect day trip from Villefranche-sur-Mer or Nice.
Despite the fact that it’s so close to overabundance of Monaco, Menton has retained its original flair and way more affordable prices.
💡 TIP – One of the best views over Menton is from the rocks at the end of the Quai Impératrice Eugénie
🚗 PARKING – Park your car underground at Parking Old Town – Sablettes.
🚂 TRAIN – The train from Villefranche-sur-Mer to Menton runs every 30 minutes and also takes about 30 minutes to arrive. From there its a 20 minute walk to reach the historic old town of Menton.
🚌 BUS – Bus Lignes d’Azur leaves every 20 minutes from La Barmassa and drops you of at Casino Menton. The bus ride takes 1 hour and from there it’s 15 minutes walking to the historic old town of Menton.