Nice’s picturesque neighbour is a charming haven of history, culture and relaxation
Hugging a hillside that sweeps down to wide, deep bay between Monaco and Nice on south-east France's beautiful Cote d'Azur, the pretty town of Villefranche-sur-Mer has long been a popular holiday resort thanks to its sunny Mediterranean climate, sandy beaches, excellent restaurants and picturesque setting.
Although inhabited since prehistoric times, Villefranche-sur-Mer's natural harbour, the deepest on any Mediterranean coast, proved useful both to the ancient Greeks and later the Romans who established settlements here. Between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries both France and the Roman Empire fought for control of the coastal region around Nice, the dispute finally settled by treaty in 1860 when France regained permanent ownership. By this time, Villefranche-sur-Mer was already establishing itself as an agreeable winter retreat for Europe's royalty and aristocracy.
Today tourism continues to sustain Villefranche-sur-Mer's economy; its harbour is the most visited by cruise ships of any in France. The town is sufficiently compact as to be enjoyably explored on foot and reveals architecture dating from the thirteenth century onwards, a number of quaint shops and excellent restaurants and, each weekend, an antiques market and food market. Villefranche-sur-Mer's beaches are perfect for relaxing upon and soaking up the sun, whilst diving and whale or dolphin-watching boat trips are available from the harbour.