Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 4, 2015


In the previous post, we explored the French Provencal town of Vence. We rather started in the middle of things. Let’s backtrack to our base of operations in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a village adjacent to Nice on the Mediterranean.

The village of about 5,500 permanent residents crowds down the steep slopes to the edge of the water.

Villefranche Brad Nixon 6858 (640x453)

It’s a port…

Villefranche panorama Brad Nixon (640x281)

… where one sees some modest watercraft.

Villefranche Brad Nixon 6880 (640x416)

That little skiff may be on a day trip out of Monte Carlo six miles away.

For the rest of us, Villefranche is an excellent center from which to explore Nice and the surrounding area (including Vence).

It’s interesting and appealing in its own right, with charming streets, shops, restaurants and swimming, for those of us who don’t have a yacht handy.

We arrived in Villefranche by train (has its own station), but it’s also easy to reach by bus and car — or yacht, if you’re so equipped. We toured Nice (just a few miles away) and the area from there via excellent bus connections. Getting around within the town is primarily done on foot, due to the extremely steep and narrow streets.

Villefranche Marcy Vincent 1279 (472x640)

Walking around the town is an endlessly enjoyable exercise, discovering hidden ways, tiny gardens, views that suddenly open between two buildings, and streets that become stairways.

Villefranche Brad Nixon 6897 (480x640)

Walk west along the Quai Amiral Courbet beside the harbor and investigate the Citadel, a fortification on the edge of the harbor dating from 1557, which also houses the town hall and three museums.

Villefranche Brad Nixon 7051 (640x480)

In the evening, the streets and squares come alive with people, strolling musicians, and restaurants in the narrow streets fill up with diners.

Villefranche Brad Nixon 6849 (640x480)

At the edge of the port is the small 16th-Century Chapelle Saint-Pierre.

Villefranche Brad Nixon 6855 (480x640)

It has an interesting exterior, but the real attraction is inside, decorated, like the exterior, by Jean Cocteau. I didn’t attempt to photograph it, but blogger Catholic Eye Candy gives you a glimpse, HERE. Don’t overlook this inspired combination of classical and modern aesthetics when you’re there.

The town is, in short, spectacularly — almost unbelievably — picturesque, and has been the setting for numerous films.

Villefranche Marcy Vincent 1281 (472x640)

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the masterpieces of 20th Century music was recorded at a nearby villa: “Exile on Main Street,” by the Rolling Stones.

Now that we’ve settled in and looked around, found the boulangerie for excellent bread, bought fruit and vegetables and pasta for dinner, we’re ready to retire for the day. Tomorrow we’ll set off for the next excursion from our base: a walk around nearby Cap Ferrat.

This is the second in a series of posts about visiting southern France. Click the navigation below to see previous and succeeding posts.

© Brad Nixon 2015, 2017. Some photos © Marcy Vincent 2017, used by kind permission.


  1. I wish I could go back there right now — for an extended stay.


  2. Thank you for so beautifully bringing this lovely little coastal village to life for those of us who live so far away from la belle France. I’m with The Counselor on this one!

    Just one question: how did you take that photo of the village from what looks like about half a mile offshore? You said that yacht was not yours, and that you arrived by train. 🙂


    • A reasonable question. No, we weren’t invited onto any of those yachts, nor did we rent a “chaloupe,” one French word for a rowboat. Villefranche sits at the “top” of the harbor that juts north into the coastline. The eastern side of the harbor, opposite Villefranche, is formed by Cap-Ferrat. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the quai at the foot of Villefranche, past a swimming area, to begin the southward trip down the west side of the cape. There are pleasant paved trails, benches under trees, and the lovely view across the water at Villefranche and the steep face of the coast climbing up above. One can simply keep walking and circumnavigate Cap-Ferrat. In the next post, we’ll cover part of that distance, although not all of it. Thanks for reading attentively.


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