Located east of Nice, and south-west of Monaco, Villefranche-sur-Mer is another French Riviera pearl and one of the major Western Mediterranean cruise ports. Due to its favorable geographical position, and the proximity of the most popular destinations in Côte d'Azur such as Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Cannes, and Grasse, Villefranche-sur-Mer has become one of the most visited cruise ports in France.
Tucked in the Bay of Villefranche, the town has one of the deepest natural harbors in the Mediterranean Sea which enables safe anchorage of the large cruise ships. The cruise ships cannot dock: instead, they drop the anchor in the bay and tender boats are provided to take the cruise ship passengers ashore. The tender boat ride lasts around 10-15 minutes, and upon docking at the Port de la Santé the passengers need to pass through a small terminal building equipped with facilities such as a tourist information desk, restrooms, an ATM.
If you are joining the shore excursions, the tour operators normally wait for you outside the terminal building, and the buses are located approximately a hundred meters away from the meeting place.
The town of Villefranche is located right behind the terminal, so if you decide to stay, there are several things you can do. The first things you’ll notice are numerous street sellers and local cafes serving French coffee and delicious pastry – a great way to start your day!
The town is a typical French Riviera town with centuries-old fishing tradition and a lot of colorful houses scattered across the hill overlooking the bay. There is a beautiful beach within a 10-minute walking distance from the port – Plage Villefranche-sur-Mer, that you can reach if you turn right from the terminal building and follow the seafront promenade overlooking the bay and marina.
As most of the cruise passengers coming to Villefranche-sur-Mer choose to take the shore excursions to Nice, Monaco, or visit other popular cities on Côte d'Azur, the town of Villefranche is never too crowded and is quite a relaxing place to spend the day in. If you want to explore some historical sights, you can start with Chapelle Saint-Pierre, located right across from the terminal building. Nestled at the foot of the old town, the chapel originally dates from the 16the century and is dedicated to St. Peter, the patron saint of the town and protector of fishermen. The chapel is known for the works of Jean Cocteau, who completely restored the chapel and decorated it in the Romanesque style in the 20th century.
Other places of interest are the Citadel (a 5-minute walking distance from the terminal) dating from the 16th century that nowadays houses a Town Hall, convention center, and exhibition area, and St. Michael’s church, built in the 18th century, located in the heart of the old town. You can choose to stroll through the gardens of the Citadel and admire the views of the bay, take a dip in the warm Mediterranean Sea, or explore the old, narrow streets of the old town.
The town is gorgeous and has something to offer for everyone’s taste!
Read more about cruise ports in France at Adventour Begins