Of all the towns and villages along the cote d’Azur, there are few that provide a postcard perfect place full of pastel orange and yellow ochre buildings that hug the oceanfront along a small harbor populated by sailboats and fishing boats, tranquil and peaceful winding steep pedestrian-only lanes, a smart collection of affordable shops and restaurants and cafes. One such place is Villefranche-sur-Mer, located along a semi-circular cove a few miles east of Nice.
With a population of nearly 8,000, this seaside village is physically constrained by the tall hills of the southern edge of the Alps that emerge here from the ocean. Thanks to the colorful building facades the architectural character is more that of an Italian fishing village than a resort on the French Riviera (It was once a part of Italy). The main activities for visitors is strolling along the oceanfront and pleasant and narrow village lanes, visiting the one main basilica, exploring the tiny Chapel Cocteau whose interior surfaces were painted by Cocteau, a contemporary of Picasso, Proust, and Piaf; a painter, poet, intellectual of the mid 1950’s, visit the Citadel castle which overlooks the village, as well as sailing and boating. The harbor is the main focus of action. Lined with restaurants and shops the atmosphere is fun and relaxed and the views to Cap Ferrat across the sailboat laden bay, a hilly peninsula where the richest of the rich reside, are nothing but spectacular.
With its tiny train station just a short walk away, a nearby coastal highway, and its affordable shops and restaurants, and quintessential small village atmosphere, Villefranche-sur-Mer makes a convenient and pleasant base for exploring this portion of the cote d’Azur. It’s also a good place to just chill out a bit, and relax, and that is just what I did during my 3 day visit.