The Parc du Mont Boron is a Mediterranean forest lying just east of Nice on the Côte d’Azur. This natural barrier protects the delightful town of Villefranche-sur-Mer from the encroachment of its nearby neighbour. This independence from the city has allowed Villefranche to maintain its well established air of exclusivity which helped convince a number of rich and famous people to set up homes here. Best known of these luxurious properties is Villa Leopolda which was built in the late 1920s by King Leopold II of Belgium. Some visitors may find that the villa looks familiar as it appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “To Catch a Thief”.
Whilst still considered an upmarket holiday resort Villefranche-sur-Mer has seen a major diversification of its tourism sector with the growing number of cruise ships which call here. Nowadays it is the French Riviera’s most visited cruise port which brings more than 500,000 passengers per year for day visits. Whilst some cruise ship passengers are happy to spend their day around Villefranche, others prefer to head out of town to visit the likes of Nice, Cannes and Monaco which are easily accessible by public transport or on official shore excursions.
Port of Villefranche
Whilst often referred to as Villefranche (Nice) on many cruise itineraries the charming tender port of Villefranche-sur-Mer lies 4km east of the Old Town of Nice (Vieux Nice). Thanks to its deep water harbour it can cater for large cruise ships which dock offshore and tender their passengers to Port de la Santé on the edge of the Old Town. This tiny port now welcomes more than 300 cruise ships every year making it France’s second busiest cruise port. Some smaller vessels dock at the Quai du Commerce in the heart of Nice.
Airport Transfers to Villefranche
The majority of cruise ship passengers who are beginning or ending their journey in Villefranche-sur-Mer will travel through Nice Côte d’Azur Airport which lies 14km south-west of the port by road. The most economical way to transfer from the airport to the port is by taking bus number 99 from outside the terminal to Gare de Nice-Ville railway station. Frequent trains to Gare de Villefranche-sur-Mer then take just 8 minutes. The train station is a 10 minute walk from the tender port.
Far more convenient is to pre-book a private transfer from Nice Airport to Villefranche-sur-Mer with Shuttledirect. Their prices are fixed at the time of booking and transfers are available directly to the port or to any hotels located along the French Riviera.
Getting Around in Villefranche
Cruise ship passengers who decide to spend their day around Villefranche-sur-Mer can easily walk from the tender port to the Old Town and see all the local attractions without the need for any form of transport.
Those intending to travel into Nice or visit Monaco can do so by train from the train station which is only 650m north of where the tender boats dock. Frequent buses also travel from Villefranche into the Old Town of Nice as well as to Monaco although they are less reliable than the train service. There’s a small tourist information desk at the tender port which provides up to date train and bus timetables.
Passengers heading out on official shore excursions usually congregate near the jetty where tender ships arrive before walking to their tour buses which depart from next to the Citadelle Saint-Elme.
Main Tourist Attractions
Whilst the main attraction of Villefranche is simply wandering its charming streets whilst taking frequent pit stops at attractive café bars there are a number of sights worth seeing. Standing very close to the tender pier is the Chapelle de Saint-Pierre des Pecheurs (1 Avenue Sadi Carnot) which is a Romanesque chapel dedicated to the patron saint of fishermen. Together with the 14th century Église Saint-Michel (11 Place de l’Église) it is one of Villefranche’s most beautiful religious buildings. After visiting the churches look out for the fascinating Rue Obscure which is a covered street built in the 13th century for military purposes.
A 5-minute walk to the south-west from the tender pier leads to the Citadelle Saint-Elme which is one of the town’s main attractions. Dating back to the 16th century this historical site is home to the town hall and four interesting museums including the Musée Volti which displays works by the locally born sculptor.
The old port of Villefranche known as La Darse is an attraction in itself. Lying just south of the citadel it is now an affluent marina which houses the Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche (181 Chemin du Lazaret).
Lying 3km around the bay from Villefranche on the Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat Peninsula is Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild which is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Now open to the public, this seaside villa houses a priceless collection of paintings, sculptures and antiques.
Shore Excursions Beyond Villefranche
Gare de Villefranche-sur-Mer (Avenue Georges Clemenceau) lies just 650m north of the tender port and can be reached on foot in 10-minutes. Its proximity means that cruise ship passengers can easily travel independently by train to destinations along the Côte d’Azur during their day in port.
Standing on the north-east coast of the Saint Jean-Cap-Ferrat Peninsula is the stylish resort of Beaulieu-sur-Mer which is home to the Ancient Greek style Villa Kerylos. It lies one train stop from Villefranche with a journey time of just 7 minutes. Buses run from Beaulieu-sur-Mer to the medieval village of Eze which is a popular destination for holidaymakers visiting the French Riviera. Further east is the Principality of Monaco which only takes 15 minutes by train. Its best known attractions include the Monte Carlo Casino, the Palace of the Prince of Monaco and its marina which welcomes many of the world’s super-yachts at some point during most calendar years.
In the opposite direction lies Nice which is just a 7 minute train ride. Its Old Town and Promenade des Anglais are the main attractions during a brief visit to the city. Further afield is the famous town of Cannes which is best known for hosting its annual film festival. Cruise ship passengers on a day trip can admire the resort’s belle époque architecture and take a wander through the old fisherman’s quarter of ‘Le Suquet’ before taking the 50 minutes train journey back to Villefranche.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the most established and respected airport transfer provider in Europe and northern Africa. Our friendly local drivers will ensure your safe, economical, and convenient passage to and from the cruise terminal, airport, or major train station of your choice with a minimum of fuss. Book your transfer with our easy to use online booking system and leave the rest up to us!