Half day in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France Review
I visited Villefranche sur mer because I heard it was a chilled area that wasn’t too touristy, whilst being very accessible from Nice. This was all true, but the place was perhaps a bit too chilled for me and half a day was more than enough to see everything that was actually open in this small town.
The first place we visited was the tourism centre near the bus stop where I grabbed a useful map of the area before we made our way to La Citadelle, Villefranche’s 16th century citadel holding several free museums.
I peeked into Musée Volti to see the figures created by the artist Antoniucci Volti. He…seemed to have a bit of a thing with women.
Combined with all the moody lighting, quiet rooms and dark corridors the figures sometimes looked pretty creepy. All in all it was a disconcerting experience.
Next was the equally empty Musée Goetz-Boumeester which featured works by Henri Goetz and Christine Boumeester, who were famous for their abstract and surrealist works and apparently hung out with Picasso at least once.
Good art is meant to elicit a reaction out of you, so technically the paintings were awesome because I was very much confused; abstract works have never been my thing. I didn’t stay long.
The last museum we visited was the Collection Roux which depicted several ceramic figurines showing scenes from the medieval and renaissance time period. It was very cute with plenty of little details and the whole area appeared to cater towards children.
A common theme throughout the Citadel was that there were barely anyone around. The staff seemed pretty surprised to see us and there was plenty of freedom to explore the large area. It was so empty it felt like we were trespassing on private grounds and for a hot second the greenery, sea and turrets gave me a castle in the sky vibes from the Miyazaki movie.
We then visited the pretty old town which was more or less empty, aside from a few builders who were working on the historical buildings and occasionally dropping debris from a height onto the streets below without warning. I would have said something if I was 100% certain I wouldn’t have a brick dropped on my head before I could. Pro tip – bring a helmet.
Perhaps life is a bit too easy-going in the south of France.
Thankfully it wasn’t a one way street and there were plenty of side streets and alleyways to delve into with one street leading to Villefranche’s famous Rue Obscure; a covered brick street/tunnel from medieval times dimly lit from lamps. This stretch of walkway was built for soldiers to use in the 13th century and was eventually built upon over time and hidden away. The path is supposed to be over 130m long but a good portion of it was blocked off for construction work the day I visited. It was a very atmospheric but ultimately too short experience.
Next we entered Saint Michel church, an 18th century Baroque Italianate church built on the site of a 14th century church.
Our restaurant of choice was closed, as were many other venues that day, leading us to accidentally and finally find some local people in the pretty port area.
The seafront restaurants appeared to be the only ones actually open in town and we managed to sit down to a seafood lunch.
We’d given Villefranche a solid half day for exploration and after a fun brief chat with a man who told us that the world is overpopulated and a pandemic is a great for weaning it (in retrospect this is very awkward post Covid times), we went off to the next town.
So what did I think about Villefranche? It is as advertised: pretty, chilled, small and very quiet. A half day is more than enough when it isn’t tourist season, just watch out for builders dropping debris.
Address: La Citadelle 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer France
Opening hours: 8:00-18:00
Address: Escalier del Pountin, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Address: 11 Place de l’Église, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Opening hours: 10:00 – 12:00, 15:00 – 17:00.