Headed to the French Riviera and planning a day trip from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer? You’ll find everything you need to know right here – including things to do, where to eat, how long to spend, and of course how to get from nearby Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer!
This picturesque pastel-hued fishing village is everything you’d expect a charming little French town to be.
Imagine tiny alleyways full of colorfully painted houses, breathtaking mountain views, and deep blue crystal clear water. Yup, that’s Villefranche Sur Mer in a nutshell! And I fell in love the second I stepped off the train (and you will too). You’ve gotta make the short trek from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer, the town’s practically begging you to!
It all feels like an actual postcard! And it’s easily one of the best kept secrets of the French Riviera. I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard of Nice, Cannes, Monaco, and St. Tropez, but what about Villefranche Sur Mer?! I admit I hadn’t heard much about it until I started doing research for our South of France itinerary!
Read Next → 15+ Epic Day Trips from Nice, France (best beaches, small towns, and even a striking turquoise canyon!)
While there’s tons of amazing spots in the French Riviera, our day trip from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer was one of my absolute favorites!
It’s got that lovely seaside resort vibe, but it’s not at all pretentious (unlike the neighboring glamorous towns of Nice and Cannes). There’s no glitzy resorts here; it’s kinda like stepping into a portal to France’s past! Expect to see locals up and wandering around, pastel-painted alleyways (with paint chipping off), cobblestoned streets, and potted flowers hanging from the wall.
A true taste of local life! Yes, there will be tourists (of course…), but it doesn’t feel as vacationy as other villages nearby – way more authentic and cozy!
Get ready for some small-town Mediterranean life!
Logistics for Day Tripping from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer
Where is Villefranche Sur Mer?
This tiny former fishing village is located in the French Riviera (in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur région) in the South of France. It’s got Nice to its left (west), and Eze/Monaco to its right (east), and is super close to both Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (the gorgeous mansion where the French aristocrats played) and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (another charming little town on the coast).
Since it’s tucked in a bay between the Cap Ferrat peninsula and the Cap de Nice, it’s got some stunning views.
Villefranche Sur Mer isn’t far from other popular towns in the French Riviera either, like Eze, Cannes, Menton, and St. Tropez (which all make for some great day trips from Nice, just FYI). It’s a bit further away from the villages of Provence, Cassis, Marseilles, and the ridiculously stunning Verdon Gorge (my absolute favorite).
How to Get from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer
It’s time for the logistics of getting from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer, and thankfully, it’s super easy!
Nice is only a few miles away from Villefranche Sur Mer (and super accessible), yet it feels like a world away! You could go from the hustle and bustle of Nice to the charming and quaint atmosphere of Villefranche Sur Mer in only a few minutes. Yes, a few minutes! Wild!
There’s a few options to get from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer:
Train from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer
Taking the train from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer has got to be the easiest and quickest way to reach this colorful little village. AND one of the cheapest!
The train takes less than 10 minutes (actually more like 7 or 8 minutes to be exact!), with tickets starting at only €2 or so. Told you it was crazy fast (and super inexpensive)! Well worth the short ride even if all you have is an hour or two to spend in town.
In Nice, you’ll wanna head to the Nice-Ville train station, and take the train towards Ventimiglia or Menton, and only stay on for two stops! Heading back towards Nice, look for the train towards Grasse. You’ll go directly from Nice-Ville to Villefranche Sur Mer (with no connections). Super easy!
The trains typically run every 10 to 20 minutes or so, but check the schedule beforehand. We found that the times provided on Google Maps were not accurate – at all. This could change of course (as Google’s always improving and evolving), but I’d have a backup plan if you don’t wanna be waiting at the train long.
The train is provided by the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), and from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer, you’ll be on a TER train (Transport Express Régional). You can use this website to see the train schedule, and buy tickets in advance if you’d like.
You could book your tickets in advance, but there’s no real need to. We visited in the high season (mid-July) and had no problems buying our tickets at the train station directly before hopping on a train.
And once you get to the Villefranche Sur Mer train station, you’re practically on the beach! You’ll need to walk a few minutes (uphill) to the Old Town, but it’s less than a 5 minute walk away. See, it’s easy, efficient, and super cost-effective!
Bus from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer
The bus is the cheapest way to get from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer at only €1.50, although it takes a bit longer.
There’s roughly 20 stops along the way, and it takes about 20 minutes (more than double the time it takes from Nice to Villefranche-Sur-Mer by train).
One main draw of taking the bus (vs. the train) is the fact that if you get off at one of the higher bus stops (Leopold II, Madone Noire, or Schifanoia), you’ll be rewarded with an insane view of the beach and town below. Yes, you’ll need to walk down the steps from the highway, but I promise the views alone are worth the short walk.
There are two buses going from Nice to Villefranche-Sur-Mer, and which one you take kinda depends where you’re coming from in Nice (remember, Nice is pretty big!):
- Bus Line 100 (direction Monaco/Menton): if you’re coming from/near Nice Port
- Bus Line 15 (direction towards “Port de Saint-Jean”): if you’re coming from/near Promenade des Arts
The buses tend to come every 20 minutes or so, but check the schedule to be sure.
Driving from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer
If you’ve rented a car (hey, maybe you’re taking a bunch of day trips from Nice or setting off on a much-longer South of France/Provence road trip), you can of course drive from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer. However, it’s not the most convenient or even the least expensive (surprisingly!).
With perfect road conditions (no traffic or construction delays), it’ll take about 20 minutes to drive from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer. BUT with traffic it can take much longer (practically double!).
I honestly wouldn’t even think about driving to Villefranche Sur Mer unless you’re also planning on visiting a few other towns that are not easily accessible by train (say like, Eze, Verdon Gorge/Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the lavender fields of Valensole, or villages in Provence).
In terms of parking/driving, it can be difficult in the tiny and narrow streets. You’ll need to park in a paid parking lot, and that’ll probably cost more than a few train or bus tickets.
If all else fails (or you’re just sick and tired of the trains), you can always take an Uber or taxi from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer. They’ll both cost significantly more than the train/bus, so unless you’re spending the night in Villefranche Sur Mer and have a lot of luggage, there’s no real benefit to an Uber or taxi.
Hiking from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer
Whoa, what?! Yes, it can be done! If you’re looking for a morning walk, consider hiking from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer. The coastal path to Villefranche-Sur-Mer only takes about an hour or so, and you’ll definitely get your steps in for the day.
Do note there’s lots of stairs and some steep parts towards the end, so be prepared to break a sweat. I’d plan to walk one way and then take the train/bus back!
Bring lots of water, a sunhat, and high SPF sunscreen (the sun is super strong in these parts), especially in the heat of summer.
I wouldn’t recommend the hike after some rain, as the path gets super slippery when wet.
When to Visit Villefranche Sur Mer
Given how majestic the French Riviera is, is there really a bad time to visit Villefranche Sur Mer? In short, no – there’s over 300 days of sunshine a year here! But, there are some things to consider when deciding when to visit.
Spring/Fall (shoulder season): In my opinion, late-spring (May) and early-fall (September) are the perfect seasons to visit Villefranche Sur Mer. The weather will be mostly beautiful and sunny, temps not as high as summer (high 60s, low 70s), and there’ll be less crowds.
But there may be some rain in fall – storms and rainy days are not uncommon. October is by far the wettest month, followed by November and then September. While it typically won’t shower all day, expect short downpours, especially in fall. The perfect excuse to cozy up in a cute cafe and people watch.
If you’re planning to visit in Spring, plan ahead and check the dates for both the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix. These two popular events bring THOUSANDS upon thousands of additional visitors to the French Riviera, meaning even more day trippers from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer than normal.
Summer (high season): June through August see’s large crowds, higher hotel costs, and hot temps (but not unbearably so), especially in July and August. I’d skip a visit in August since this is when French and Italian people plan their weekend getaways to the coast.
While the village never gets crazy-crowded (like Nice and Cannes do), there’ll definitely be the most number of visitors in July and August. For reference, we visited Villefranche Sur Mer in the late-afternoon in mid-July, and were pleasantly surprised with how empty the Old Town was. There were plenty of people on the beaches though!
This all changes if there’s a cruise ship in port – a single ship can bring in thousands of tourists to the tiny town, making it feel ridiculously overcrowded and cramped. I’d look at the cruise ship schedule and if you’re flexible, plan your day trip to Villefranche Sur Mer when there’s no cruise ships. Most people on the ship head to Nice, but there’s bound to be a few too many who stay in Villefranche Sur Mer.
Winter (low season): November through March is Villefranche Sur Mer’s low season, and you’ll find less crowds, cheaper accommodation, and milder temps. Expect it to be very quiet and quite peaceful!
While it never gets truly cold (the high temps hover around 60°F), if you wanna take advantage of the beaches in Villefranche Sur Mer, I’d skip a winter visit. The coldest month of the year is January, with average lows of 42°F and highs of 55°F, although sunny days are not uncommon! There’ll be some rain in December, although by January and February it’ll be mostly dry and sunny!
Getting Around Villefranche Sur Mer
Once you’ve made your way from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer, you can easily get around on your own two feet! The Old Town and beaches are super close to the train station, and only 15 minutes or so from the bus stop, so there’s no reason for other methods of transport.
Driving to Villefranche Sur Mer? I’d plan to park your car once and leave it in the paid lot for the day.
How Long to Spend in Villefranche Sur Mer
If you’re looking to relax in town and spend a day on the beaches in Villefranche Sur Mer, you could easily spend all day here. While the town is small, there’s enough to fill up the better portion of a day. Spending your day relaxing at sidewalk bistros, cooling off for dips in the sea, and drinking wine sounds like the ultimate French fantasy. There’s no reason to rush around here!
On the flip side, if all you’ve got is a few hours, you could easily explore the town and see the beach for a bit. We actually visited Villefranche Sur Mer after visiting both Menton and Monaco that day, and while I wish we had slightly longer to spend in Villefranche Sur Mer itself, we made the most with the time we had!
Wanna live that authentic life for a little longer? Consider basing yourself in Villefranche Sur Mer instead of super busy Nice. After visiting Villefranche Sur Mer from Nice for the afternoon (and falling in love with this little town), we kinda wished we stayed here for at least a night! Next time for us! It’s so super charming, you’ll see!
While there aren’t a ton of hotels directly in town, here’s a few I recommend:
- Welcome Hotel: Probably the most popular hotel in Villefranche Sur Mer, and for good reason. It’s right on the beach and smack in the center of the old town, some rooms with balconies overlooking Cap Ferrat. Location doesn’t get better than that! AND there’s air-conditioning, which isn’t found everywhere in the French Riviera (and an absolute must in the hot summer months).
- Hotel de la Darse: Quaint rooms overlooking the Villefranche-sur-Mer Bay, a spacious terrace, a leafy green garden, and large floor-to-ceiling windows offering plenty of natural light. What more could you want?! Oh, and the location is phenomenal!
- Hotel La Flor: Kinda basic with Provencal style rooms, with balcony views across the Mediterranean. And there’s a bar here!
- Hôtel La Regence: Located right in the center of town, and only a 10 minute walk to the beaches and port. I’d opt for a room with a view of the sea or lovely gardens.
Things to do in Villefranche Sur Mer
Okay, so there aren’t a ton of things to do in Villefranche Sur Mer. But that’s the beauty of this tiny village! You can completely relax and just wander without feeling guilty that you’re accidentally missing out on a whole bunch of things. No FOMO over here, thankfully!
Wander the Old Town
Strolling along this quaint French storybook town is easily the best thing to do in VIllefranche-Sur-Mer. The Old Town (le vieux village) is easy to explore on foot, and I swear, I could have spent hours just photographing the cute town.
We quite literally got lost wandering through the old town’s charming narrow streets and alleyways – it’s hard to keep track of where you’re going when all the buildings are painted in pastel colors. I felt like I was walking through a town full of rainbow sherbet; all the homes and buildings are painted in gorgeous shades of pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows, and I was completely obsessed. Do you see these photos?! How gorgeous! They even have shutters in complementary colors!
And there’s so much history here! The buildings date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, and you can really feel the history in the architecture and historic churches. Don’t miss Rue Obscure, up next on this list of things to do in Villefranche-Sur-Mer.
Looking for the most unique thing to do in Villefranche Sur Mer? Wander down Rue Obscure (Dark Street)! What is it exactly? An ancient 13th-century passageway under the houses of the Old Town with a distinctly medieval feel (with its old stone walls) and so much original architecture. Yes – a secret passageway quite literally under Old Town.
This hidden medieval street totally caught me off guard! I had no clue this was here until a friendly couple asked if I had checked out the secret alleyways yet! Boy was I intrigued, so off I went! And whoa – talk about dark and spooky. At one point it got so dark I felt the need to use the flashlight on my phone. I was wandering off alone as my husband was super tired (understandably, we had already visited Menton and Monaco that very same day!), and totally felt the eerie vibes.
People still live and/or use the houses along the dark passageways – I couldn’t believe it. Picture opening up your front door to almost complete darkness, every single day! It would make the perfect wine cellar though!
Check out the Local Markets in Villefranche Sur Mer
Every French village has a market day (or two or three), and Villefranche Sur Mer is no exception. Surprisingly, they’re some of the most varied on the entire Côte d’Azur, despite being one of the smaller villages in the area.
- Provençal Market: Held every Wednesday and Saturday on the Promenade de l’Octroi (Jardin François Binon) from 8am to 1pm. Here you’ll find tons of fresh produce (so many veggies and fruits), fresh French cheeses (make sure to sample a few), handcrafted ceramics, olive oils, fresh flowers, and tapenades.
- Flea Market/Antique Bazaar: While nothing can compare to the antique markets of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the market in Villefranche Sur Mer is still super fun. This one happens every Sunday from morning to evening. And there’s SO much, it’s kinda overwhelming!
Stroll the Waterfront Promenade
The seaside promenade in Villefranche-Sur-Mer is one of the best you’ll find in the French Riviera. Sit down for a relaxing lunch with a view of the bay, and make sure you order some fresh seafood! I heard great things about Mayssa Beach, and I’m so bummed we didn’t get to try the truffle scallops crudo and profiteroles with ice cream overlooking the bay!
If you’re looking for something less expensive and more casual, check out Lou Bantry or Espuma instead.
Once you’re done, go for a walk along the beach – the promenade leads right to the most popular beach in the area, Plage des Marinières.
Beaches in Villefranche Sur Mer
This is a historic beach town, of course I’m gonna recommend spending some time at the beach! I mean, the Bay of Villefranche is actually considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world! So don’t miss it!
The beaches are actually a mix of small pebbles and soft sand, which isn’t actually all that common in the French Riviera (surprisingly!). You’ll mostly find just rocky beaches along the coastline. So take advantage of the fine sand here!
All the beaches in Villefranche-sur-Mer are public, meaning they’re all free and open to everyone. No private beaches here, like you’ll find in nearby Nice and Cannes. I’d aim to visit the beach in the morning before the sun gets too high in the sky (making shade hard to come by) and before the crowds take over.
The most popular of the beaches in Villefranche Sur Mer is Plage des Marinières, right next to town. There’s showers and bathrooms here, and you can rent lounge chairs and parasols. The water is a million shades of turquoise, and it’s so clear you can see the tiny pebbles below.
It’s such a beautiful place to just lay out and relax, and of course enjoy the water! Once you dip your toes in the crystal clear water you’ll never wanna leave! Perfect on a hot summer day.
Explore Citadelle Saint-Elme
From the port, you can walk up to the Citadelle Saint-Elme, a 16th century fortress with views for days of the charming seaside village and turquoise bay below. What was once a historic fortress is now home to a Town Hall, four art galleries and museums, plus a shady garden. Lots to do here!
And if you can stay for sunset, 100% do. I can’t even imagine how gorgeous the cotton candy skies against the perfectly pastel buildings must be!
Climb up to Eglise Saint-Michel
Every European city/town/village has an old church, and of course Villefrance Sur Mer is no different! While it’s smaller than other beautiful churches in the French Riviera, it’s well worth a visit. And I love how it matches the town so perfectly – it’s the cheeriest shade of yellow!
This baroque church, dedicated to Saint Michel, is not only beautifully decorated with lots of paintings and carvings (both the interior and exterior), but the VIEW! It sits atop a hill in the Old Town (meaning, yes, you’ll need to make the short climb up), and the church overlooks Villefranche-sur Mer. Tranquil and lovely!
With one day in Villefranche Sur Mer, here’s how I’d structure my day:
- Morning: beach time at Plage des Marinières
- Early afternoon: long lazy lunch on the promenade overlooking the bay or in the Old Town square
- Late afternoon: explore the picturesque Old Town with all it’s colorful homes, walk through Rue Obscure, and grab some ice cream
Hope this helps you plan the perfect day trip from Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer! Any questions?! Ask away down below in the comments!