12 best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer, South of France

Villefranche Sur Mer Promenade

Villefranche-sur-Mer is a charming town located on the charming French Riviera and a wonderful day trip from Nice.

If you’re planning a trip to this picturesque destination, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a whole host of things to do during your visit. 

Whether you want to take a deeper dive into the history and culture of the area, or simply want to chill out and relax on a white sand beach, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

From historic sites like the old town and fortress to more adventurous endeavours like parasailing, paddleboarding and segway tours, discover the best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer. 

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How to get to Villefranche-sur-Mer

Located on the iconic Côte d’Azur, Villefranche-sur-Mer is easily accessible from a number of key towns and cities, including popular Nice

By plane

The nearest international airport to Villefranche-sur-Mer is Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE).

This airport serves as the main gateway into Nice and many towns across the French Riviera.

From here, you can take a taxi or public transport to the town.

Nice Airport to Villefranche-sur-Mer by car: Approximately 30 minutes – book a transfer with GetTransfer.

Nice Airport to Villefranche-sur-Mer by train and bus: Approximately 40 minutes – book train tickets with Trainline.

By train

The town has a train station (Villefranche-sur-Mer) which connects it to many popular towns and cities across the region.

Just a seven minute train journey from the popular Côte d’Azur city of Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer is well-connected for travel to and from the coastal town.

If you’re planning on staying in the town, read my guide to the best hotels in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

12 best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer

1. Relax on one of the beaches

When in this idyllic French seaside town, you simply can’t miss the opportunity to relax on one of the beautiful beaches.

With crystal-clear waters and truly stunning views, Villefranche-sur-Mer is home to some of the best beaches on the French Riviera. 

Here are some of the best beaches you can visit:

Plage des Marinières

A beautiful sandy beach located in the heart of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Plage des Marinières is a popular spot for both tourists and locals.

This beach is perfect for sunbathing or going for a dip in the sea to cool off.

It’s well-equipped with sun loungers and parasols, and there are plenty of cafés and restaurants nearby to refuel during the day.

Plage de la Darse

Plage de la Darse is a small and secluded beach located in the old port of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

This is a great spot for anyone who wants to escape the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet.

The beach is surrounded by cliffs and has azure waters, making it a great spot for swimming and snorkelling.

Plage de la Petite Afrique

Plage de la Petite Afrique is a beautiful pebble beach located in a small cove.

It is a great spot for those who want to enjoy some peace and quiet, and a moment of calm.

Surrounded by cliffs with picture-perfect views of the Mediterranean Sea, this beach is a highlight of the coastal town.

Good to know: You can take a shore excursion to get a better view of the French Riviera.

Some of the top tours to book include:

2. Go paddleboarding on the crystal clear waters

Paddleboarding is one of the most popular water activities to do on the coast in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

It gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and see the coastline from a new perspective. 

There are several companies that offer paddleboarding rentals and guided tours along the coast. You can choose to paddleboard alone or with a group.

View of Villefranche Sur Mer

If you’re a paddleboarding newbie, you can take a lesson from a qualified instructor to learn the basics of paddleboarding.

As you paddle along the coast, you will see incredible views of the surrounding hills and cliffs.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot some marine life, such as dolphins and sea turtles. 

Book a paddleboarding tour in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Good to know: If you’re going on the water, make sure you wear a mineral, reef-safe SPF to ensure that the residue which may wash off isn’t harmful to marine life. 

3. Explore the old town

One of the best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer is to simply explore the old town.

As you wander through the charming streets of the old town, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Colourful buildings line the narrow, winding streets, along with quaint shops and local–owned cafés.

Take a stroll along Rue Obscure, a unique underground passageway that dates back to mediaeval times.

It was originally used to transport trading goods from the port to the castle, but now it’s become a popular spot for tourists to explore.

Be sure to visit the Chapelle Saint-Pierre – a beautiful chapel that was decorated by the famous artist Jean Cocteau in the 1950s.

The chapel is a true masterpiece, with stunning frescoes that depict the life of Saint Peter.

Pretty Villefranche Sur Mer

If you’re somewhat of a history buff, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Citadel.

This is a 16th-century fortress that was built to protect the town from pirates and other invaders.

The Citadel now houses the Town Hall and a museum, where you can learn more about the history of Villefranche-sur-Mer and the surrounding area on the Côte d’Azur.

Make sure you take the time to stop and sample some of the delightful local cuisine.

From delicious fresh seafood to delectable traditional Niçoise dishes, you’ll find plenty of mouth-watering options to choose from. 

If you’re in the mood for something scrumptiously sweet, be sure to try the local specialty, socca. It’s a savoury pancake made from chickpea flour.

Good to know: If you aren’t keen on walking round the old town, why not hire some electric scooters to help you along the way?

Not only is it a quicker way to explore the old town, but it adds an extra layer of excitement to the activity. 

4. Electric Bike Tour from Nice to Villefranche

If you’re seeking a fun and eco-friendly way to explore the French Riviera, consider taking an electric bike tour from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer.

This scenic route takes you along the beautiful coastline, past quaint villages and through lush greenery.

These bikes are easy to ride and require minimal effort, making them perfect for all ages, fitness levels and abilities.

Once you’re comfortable on your bike, you’ll set off towards Villefranche, with your guide leading the way.

Villefranche Sur Mer Front

As you ride along the coast, you’ll pass by alluring beaches, historic landmarks, and picturesque fishing villages.

Your guide will share interesting facts and stories about the area – giving you a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the French Riviera – and will be able to answer any questions you may have.

One of the highlights of the tour is the beautiful view of Villefranche-sur-Mer from the top of Mont Boron.

This hilltop vantage point offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea and the charming town below. 

5. See the Citadelle Saint Elme

Address: La Citadelle, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

If you want to explore the rich history of the town, a visit to the Citadelle Saint Elme is a must-do.

Commissioned by Emmanuel-Philibert of Savoy in 1557 to defend the city, the citadel is a sight to behold.

Listed as a French historical monument, visiting the Citadelle Saint Elme should definitely be on your itinerary. 

Citadelle Saint Elme

As you enter the citadel, you’ll be greeted by a captivating view of the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Here, you’ll be able to admire the panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding hills.

You can explore the various rooms and exhibitions that showcase the history of the town and the citadel itself.

The museum has a collection of weapons, paintings, and sculptures that give you a glimpse into the past.

Good to know: Over recent years, the citadel has seen major restoration works taking place to preserve this piece of Niçois history. 

6. Climb to Fort du Mont Alban

Address: Chemin du fort de Mont-Alban, 06000 Nice, France

Prices: 

  • Adults: €6.10
  • Concessions (students, job seekers, disabled people and seniors): Reduced cost
  • Children under 18, journalists, teachers and guides: Rree

Opening times: Vary depending on season.

If you’re looking to do a bit of exercise while being gifted unparalleled views of Villefranche-sur-Mer, then climbing up to Fort du Mont Alban is the activity for you. 

This 16th-century fortress sits atop a hill overlooking the historic town and offers undisturbed views of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding Côte d’Azur landscape.

Hilltop view of Villefranche Sur Mer

To get to the fort, you’ll need to climb up a steep path that winds through a dense forest.

The climb can be challenging, but the views are well worth the effort. Along the way, you’ll be treated to some of the best views of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

The fort itself is also worth exploring, with its well-preserved walls, towers, and cannons.

You can also visit the small museum inside the fort, which tells the story of the fort’s history and its importance in defending the area.

Good to know: Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, as the climb can be steep and more strenuous than you’d think.

But if you’re up for the challenge, this is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

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7. Stroll through the Rue Obscure

If you’re looking for a unique experience in Villefranche-sur-Mer, take a stroll through the underground street, Rue Obscure.

Dating back to the 13th century, this walkway was used by locals to store their goods and escape from enemies during times of war.

As you walk through the dimly lit tunnel, it’s like winding back the clock. The street is only about 130 metres long, but it’s packed full of history and charm.

Rue Obscure Villefranche-sur-Mer

Along the way, you’ll see various openings in the walls that were used for ventilation and light.

Some of these openings have been turned into small shops selling souvenirs and local products. So have a browse and pick up a unique memento of your visit.

At the end of the Rue Obscure, you’ll emerge into the daylight and find yourself in a small square with a charming fountain.

Here, you can take a moment to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere before continuing your exploration of the best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Good to know: The walls of the Rue Obscure are made of stone and the ceiling is low, so be prepared to duck your head in some places. 

8. Go parasailing

For adrenaline junkies, parasailing is one of the best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

You’ll soar above the Mediterranean Sea and enjoy wonderful views of the French Riviera coastline.

You can choose to fly solo or with a friend, as some parasails can accommodate two people.

Parasailing

As you float high above the water, you’ll feel the wind in your hair and the warm sun on your face.

You might even be able to spot some marine life, such as dolphins or sea turtles, swimming below you.

Good to know: Parasailing is a popular activity in Villefranche-sur-Mer, so be sure to book in advance to secure your spot.

It’s also important to note that parasailing is weather-dependent, so be prepared for your activity to be rescheduled if conditions aren’t suitable.

9. Enjoy a segway tour from Nice to Villefranche

If you’re looking for a fun and unique way to explore Villefranche-sur-Mer, consider taking a Segway tour from Nice to Villefranche.

This exciting tour will take you on a journey through the beautiful French Riviera.

Take in the picturesque scenery while enjoying a thrilling ride on a Segway.

During the tour, you’ll be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who will take you to some of the best sights in the area.

Villefranche Sur Mer Promenade

You’ll start in Nice and make your way along the coast, stopping at various points of interest along the way. 

One of the highlights of the tour is the stop at Villefranche-sur-Mer, where you’ll see beautiful beaches, colourful houses, and stunning architecture.

You’ll have the opportunity to explore the town and take in its many sights, sounds and tastes.

Good to know: Before setting off on your tour, you’ll have a training session where you’ll learn how to safely operate the segway – so newbies, don’t worry!

10. Visit the Chapel of Saint Pierre

Address: 4 Quai de l’Amiral Courbet, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday, 09:30 – 18:00

Prices: €4 for adults.

This small chapel is perched on top of a hill overlooking the bay of Villefranche and offers gorgeous views of the surrounding area.

A sacred place, visitors travel from near and far to see  the Chapel of Saint Pierre. 

Built in the 16th century, the Chapel of Saint Pierre is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture.

Chapel of Saint Pierre

The interior of the chapel is adorned with intricate frescoes and paintings, and the altar is particularly impressive.

One of the most interesting features of the chapel is the collection of ex-votos, or offerings, that have been left by sailors over the years.

These range from simple plaques to elaborate models of ships and are a testament to the importance of the sea in the history of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Good to know: The chapel is not wheelchair accessible, so bear this in mind when planning your visit. 

11. Shop the market on Wednesday & Saturday mornings

For fresh produce, artisanal products and unique souvenirs, one of the best things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer is to visit the market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

The market is located in the heart of the town, on the Place Amélie Pollonais, just a few steps away from the beach.

As you stroll through the abundant market, you’ll be greeted by the vibrant colours and aromas of the local produce.

From juicy fruits and vegetables to fragrant herbs and spices, the market offers a wide variety of fresh and organic products that are sourced from local farmers.

In addition to the fresh produce, the market also offers a range of artisanal products such as cheese, olives, honey, and cured meats.

These products are made by local artisans who use traditional methods to create high-quality products that are unique to the region.

If you’re looking for souvenirs to take back home, the market has plenty of options to choose from.

You can find pretty handmade jewellery, delicate pottery, impressive paintings, and other crafts that are made by local artists.

These souvenirs are not only beautiful but also unique and authentic.

Good to know: Make sure to bring cash with you as most vendors do not accept credit cards.

Also don’t forget to haggle a little bit, as it is common practice in the market.

12. Head to nearby St Jean Cap Ferrat

St Jean Cap Ferrat is a beautiful peninsula just a short drive from Villefranche-sur-Mer.

A top attraction here is the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a stunning mansion built in the early 1900s.

You’ll find extensive beautiful gardens, art collections, and stunning architecture to admire. 

Another must-see attraction in St Jean Cap Ferrat is the Saint-Hospice Chapel.

A historic chapel dating back to the 16th century, there are incredible views of the coastline from the attraction.

It’s a great place to take a peaceful walk and soak up the beauty of the area.

If you’re looking for a more active way to enjoy St Jean Cap Ferrat, a hike along the coastal path allows you to get some exercise while exploring.

This scenic trail offers magnificent views of the sea and takes you past some of the area’s most beautiful villas and gardens.

Good to know: To get to St Jean Cap Ferrat from Villefranche-sur-Mer on foot, it’s around a 45 minute walk. If you drive, you can be there in just 10 minutes. 


Planning a trip to the French Riviera? Discover the most amazing day trips from Nice, the best things to do in Nice, or read my guide to the top things to do in nearby Antibes.

Or for accommodation inspiration, discover the most beautiful places to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer or the best hotels in Nice.

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Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.

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Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.