Visiting Villefranche-sur-Mer on a cruise is a wonderful way to experience a taste of the glamorous lifestyle of the French Riviera.
Most large cruise ships drop anchor in the natural harbour of Villefranche, flanked by undulating hills with million euro mansions.
To disembark the cruise ship you’ll be required to take a tender boat that whisks you across the bay into the port. During the short crossing you’re likely to get an up close view of stunning mega yachts and dozens of bobbing fishing boats.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a beautiful harbour town with colourful multi-story townhouses along the port containing cafes, seafood restaurants and hotels. Heading inland the streets bend their way into the hills hugging pretty properties adorned in tropical purple flowers.
Walking through these streets may feel familiar as Villefranche has been used in films like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, James Bond (Never Say Never Again) and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. If you enjoy a slow paced day in port, the local cafe culture and wine bars may be all you need to while away the hours with stunning views over the bay when you dine al fresco.
If you’re able to pull yourself away, you could also stroll around the street market or breeze through the local clothes shops and perfume stores.
Around 4 miles west of Villefranche-sur-Mer by road is the city of Nice, a gateway to the jewels of the Riviera with its international airport and train station. Queen Victoria was drawn to Nice and the Riviera for winter sun, and today Nice is home to celebrities like Sir Elton John.
Walking along the Promenade des Anglais you can enjoy window shopping and bar hopping, or splash out at Galeries Lafayette, a large department store containing luxury brands like Gucci and Valentino.
If you enjoy city hopping and rubbing shoulders with the stars, Cannes, St. Tropez, Menton and Monte Carlo (Monaco) are other popular resorts near Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Eze from Villefranche-sur-Mer
The medieval village of Eze is undoubtedly one of France’s prettiest places to visit with an abundance of charming art galleries and cafes tucked inside its narrow cobbled streets.
Eze also boasts one of the best views of Villefranche-sur-Mer from a beautiful hilltop garden.
Grasse is known for its perfumeries, one of the most established being Chanel where its famous No. 5 perfume is produced using locally grown flowers. Cruise ship tours frequently stop in Grasse so you can visit a perfumery and see how soaps and toiletries are made, before testing samples and making purchases (if you wish) from the gift shop.
Monaco from Villefranche-sur-Mer
Visiting Monaco from Villefranche-sur-Mer is possible by local bus which takes around half an hour, or the train with a typical journey time of around 15 minutes. The glamorous resort of Monte Carlo is a playground for the rich and famous, and most visitors are drawn to its famous casino. If you’d like to go inside, be aware of the casino dress code.
Another wonderful shore excursion in the South of France is to Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Over the years the historical village has attracted artists like Chagall and Picasso, and once you feast your eyes on the panoramic views stretching from the sea to the snow capped alps it’s easy to see why.
Related: 15 photos of Saint Paul de Vence
Whether you decide to stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer or explore further afield, this port of call may turn out to be a highlight of your Mediterranean Cruise, it certainly is one of my favourite places in Europe.