I took a small boat out from Dark Pelican and we have the most amazing time with the family swimming and just watching the schenery. My wife was happy and so were the kids. Next time we'll go out for the day.
We were on a cruise 2 years ago and went to Eze. Our original plan was to take the train to Eze. It only goes so far and then you have to walk or find some other way of getting up to Eze ( the old fort ). We decided it did't look all that far to walk it from the train station in Villefranche. We were wrong!!. Uphill all the way. But I must say we saw some of the most breathtaking sites and experienced a very memorable day. Our son, who was 13 at the time still talks about the day we walked to Eze. Once you are there it is neat to see the old town and the views were beautiful. We opted for the bus to go back down and took it to Nice. There we were entertained by performers dancing and walked to the fort.
As well as the many narrow streets there is the more open harbour area. Here are a number of hotels and restarants from which you have a view of the harbour. As this is one of the deepest harbours on this coast there are many large yachts and cruise liners.
Again, the main attraction is exploring the maize of narrow streets, stairs, squares and covered streets. The covered streets in Villefranche are famous, and were used as shelters during the war. The most famous and most hidden is La Rue Obscure. With a few openings for light, this street is covered by the upper stories of the houses.
The next town east of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Sain-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is only 15 minutes away by car. It is located on a beautiful peninsula, Cap Ferrat, with scenic views of the Mediterranean and the mountains behind. Since the 19th century, the strategic location and relative isolation of Cap Ferrat has attracted some of Europe's wealthiest elite. Names associated to this day include Rothschild and King Leopold II of Belgium. Luxury aside, the village of Saint-Jean was once a small fishing village with an important port. While fishermen still exist today, much of the port and the town now cater to the luxury tourist industry. When visiting Villefranche-sur-Mer, consider hopping over to Sain-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
The old town of Villefranche is the area huddled around the port. Its ancient pastel-coloured buildings, narrow hilly streets and archways are typical of Provence. Many of the pedestrianised zones are lined with shops selling souvenirs and artisanal products, while the quayside has numerous restaurants. A stroll through these alleys is part of the itinerary in Villefranche. Most interesting is seeing a passage called la rue Obscure, which is a covered street that runs underneath the buildings. The locals once took shelter in this very street whenever the town was under attack.
On one side is Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cap de Nice, and on the other is Cap Ferrat, with the Alps and the Mediterranean as opposite backdrops, the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer is considered one of the most scenic on the French Riviera. It is also the deepest natural harbour in all of the Mediterranean. These two traits have made this harbour a favourite among cruise ships and private yachts. Historically, it has hosted naval fleets as well. Seen in the attached photo is one of the large cruise ships that frequently stop here.
A tiny port serves the village of Villefranche and supplements the large harbour. Along the port are numerous delicious restaurants, graced by fantastic views. This area is the heart of town where most visitors end up taking a stroll.
In 1543, when Villefranche-sur-Mer was part of the Duchy of Savoy, its enemies, the Franco-Turkish alliance attacked and sacked the town, which had one of the most important natural harbours in the area. In 1557, the Duke of Savoy decided to reinforce the harbour's defences by building a citadel. La Citadelle St-Elme de Villefranche-sur-Mer, as it is officially called, has survived largely intact since then, and has stood as a reminder of a once turbulent history of the peaceful town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. Nowadays, la Citadelle houses numerous municipal functions, such as the Police and the Town Hall, as well as a museum and a theatre.
Every Sunday, Villefranche-sur-Mer hosts a lively flee market. Sellers of Antiques and other collectibles gather all day on place Amélie Pollonnais. If you are planning a day trip to Villefranche, then consider making it on a Sunday to enjoy a stroll through the flee market.
Although it was built in the 14th century, l'Église Saint-Michel was given its Baroque makeover in 1757. It is the largest church in the village of Villefranche-sur-Mer and it towers above the surrounding buildings. The ochre, mustard and white tones of its façade are the common colours for churches and buildings along the French Riviera.
One of the most interesting chapels on the Côte d'Azur, la Chapelle Saint-Pierre dates from the 14th century. The colourful chapel is located by the port of Villefranche-sur-Mer, but although the exterior is stunning, what makes it interesting is the fact that the interior was decorated in 1957 by the famous artist Jean Cocteau. It is one of his most famous works and is quite intriguing.
The beach at Villefranche is the perfect antidote to Nice's stony beaches, and Cannes private beaches. A large sandy completely public bay , gritty sand is soft underfoot,with just perfect sheltered swimming waters, all 15 minutes by bus from the centre of Nice.
It can get a bit crowded with noisy families in peak season and at weekends, but there is plenty of room for all, and this is a good place for any "seaside" aspirations for your riviera visit.
Pay car parking is available at the far side of the beach always popular with drivers from over the Italian border, though the canny ones will park free along Avenue Louise Bordes (home among others to Nellcote - a villa rented by the Rolling Stones in the 1980's) a quiet back road that links Villefranche with Cap Ferrat at Pont St Jean
Occasionally one or two monster Mediterranean cruiseships dock in the deep waters and tenders ferry the passengers off to coaches bound for Monaco or Eze. They make little local impact except for interrupting the skyline that connects Cap Ferrat to the East and Cap de Nice to the West.
A reassuring sight during a visit to Villefranche is the long arm of the law - athletic young men on mountain bicycles modelling lycra shorts, shades and sporting a fine tan. The flying squad, not. The real security around here is the SPD private security and property surveillance company employed by every luxury villa.
Hidden away out of sight of the main village and the harbour is the tiny port, Villefranche Port Darse. I confess after two years of coming here I didn't know it existed until I read a rave restaurant review by Stephen Clarke, author of the recent "A Year in the Merde" (must read for thos who want to try to understand the French) of a little restaurant at the port called Le Cockpit , Having tracked it down, it was closed for the new year, however discovering the port was a real treat. Its lovely.
It can be reached by walking around the waterline of the Citadel. The length of the port is Oceanographic Institute of the Cote D'Azur, (Thinking back to my student days, I think I could have coped with three years of studying oceans on the Cote D'Azur. Its tough I know, but somebody has to do it) and a Marie Curie Research Foundation. There are also little spots to park a car, which is useful to know.
Another little gem is a hidden beach the other side of the Darse harbour wall - not visible from the town so only locals know it exists. And because of the Port regulations, there is a clean and well maintained free public toilet at Darse - a rarity in France and one which should win an award if such things existed.
Very very simple. Follow the curve of the bay of Villefranche away from the town until you reach the final end car parking area - you will see a flight of steps to your left, next to the parking payment machine.These take you up to av Louise Bordes, which brings you past the gates of the famous villa Nellcote ( Rolling Stones history 1980's Exile on Main Street) and many other private villas until you reach Pont St Jean, the point of entry to the west-facing length of Cap Ferrat.
From here, a short walk will bring you to the magnificent Ephrussi de Rosthchild Villa, the front gate of Paul Allen's Maryland, and a short distance from the charming Cap Ferrat zoo. The beach this side of Cap Ferrat is the Plage Passable, a modest but popular sandy beach with views back towards Villefranche. Crossing over to the east-facing side of Cap Ferrat is the little yachting harbour of St Jean, with restaurants and cafes