Clinging to the mountainside, overlooking a bay, snuggled in between Nice and Monte Carlo is the charming French town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. The bay is one of the deepest natural harbors in the Mediterranean and provides safe anchorage for large ships and yachts. Mont-Leuze climbs 1750 feet from the bay giving everyone a view. Along the hillside run the three main roads (Corniches) linking Nice to Italy.
The area has been settled since prehistoric times. Local farmers were replaced by the Greeks, then Romans, who used the protected harbor as a resting place. It became winter home for Europe's wealthy in the early 1900s.
Villefranche is a fun town to stroll. Saint Michael's Church in the heart of old town dates from 1750 and its organ from 1790 is one of the oldest working organs in southern France. The Chapelle Saint-Pierre dates from the 16th century and is a Romanesque chapel dedicated to the patron saint of fisherman. It was restored and decorated by artist Jean Cocteau, who often visited this area. The Observatoire Oceanologique de Villefranche occupies the two story historical buildings along the waterfront that were constructed in 1769. The Rue Obscure or Dark Street is a passageway under the houses and buildings along the waterfront. It dates back to 1260. In the hills over Villefranche are homes of royalty, rock stars and celebrities. The Villa La Leopolda, although not visible from the harbor, sits on 18 acres that once belonged to the King of Belgium, Leopold II. It is the second most expensive house in the world with a value of 750 million dollars. It has been seen in the movies The Red Shoes (1948) and To Catch a Thief. (1955) Singer Tina Turner lives somewhat in seclusion at the very top of the mountain. A light yellow house belonging to Elton John can just be seen on the hill between the bay and Nice.
Villefranche is the gateway to everything French Riviera. The east side of the bay is Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, whose residents have included Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baroness de Rothschild, Charlie Chaplin, David Niven, Somerset Maugham, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Churchill, to name a few. Just beyond that you have the seaside village of Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Above it you have the enchanting hilltop village of Eze and to the east Monaco and Monte Carlo which are visited on our Villefranche Full Day Eze and Monte Carlo Sightseeing Excursion.
To the west you have charming Nice, the hilltop village of St. Paul de Vence, seaside Antibes, the perfume capital of Grasse and jewel of the Riviera, Cannes; check out our Villefranche to Cannes, St Paul de Vence and Antibes Excursion . An hour past Cannes you have the super chic St. Tropez, look into our Villefranche to Saint-Tropez Sightseeing Excursion.
The south of France was a magnet for many of the world's greatest artists, our Villefranche Art of Southern France Excursion is a great option for appreciating the work of these famous artists. Museums include the Chagall, Picasso, Matisse (home to his Rosaire Chapel), and Renoir's last home. The Maeght Foundation just outside of St. Paul includes works by the greatest modern artists of the last century including Miro, Chagall and Matisse.
The south of France is at the doorstep to Provence. One should not even consider leaving before sampling the local food and wine. Shore Excursioneer has unique and selected Cruise Excursions in Villefranche to help you see and sample all of the highlights during a day that is c'est magnifique!