Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera

Wednesday, 6 September 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, French Riviera
Reading Time:  6 minutes

© Ernmuhl/cc-by-sa-3.0

© Ernmuhl/cc-by-sa-3.0

Villefranche-sur-Mer is a resort town in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region on the French Riviera and is located south-west of the Principality of Monaco, which is just west of the French-Italian border.

Villefranche-sur-Mer is immediately to the east of the city of Nice, along Mont Boron, Mont Alban and Mont Vinaigrier, and 6.2 mi (10.0 km) south-west of Monaco. The bay (rade) of Villefranche is one of the deepest natural harbours of any port in the Mediterranean Sea and provides safe anchorage for large ships from easterly winds. Reaching depths of 320 ft (95 m) between the Cape of Nice and Cap Ferrat; it extends to the south to form a 1,700 ft (500 m) abyss known as the undersea Canyon of Villefranche at about one nautical mile off the coastline. The Bay is the place where the American 6th Fleet moors when cruising the Mediterranean Coast.

The city limits extend to the hills surrounding the bay climbing from sea level to an altitude of 1,893 ft (577 m), the highest point of Mont-Leuze, reflecting on land the features found offshore. The Basse Corniche runs through Vlllefranche with the Moyenne Corniche above and the Haute Corniche above that entering the farthest reach to the West of the Alpes-Maritimes.

Villefranche is now part of the Urban community of Nice Côte d’Azur and so can be considered a suburb of the Nice metropolitan area. The decrease in population in recent years and especially in the 1990s can be attributed to the cost of real estate and an increase of part-time residents, who typically are not counted in the census. But Villefranche’s aging population, like elsewhere in the eastern part of the Alpes-Maritimes, is not being replaced by younger people at the same rate as in the rest of the département.

© Patrice Semeria © Tom Corser - www.tomcorser.com/cc-by-sa-2.0-uk © Berthold Werner/cc-by-sa-3.0 Rue Obscure © Berthold Werner/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Broenberr/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Bybbisch94, Christian Gebhardt/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Ernmuhl/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Jpkolo Observatoire Oceanologique © Broenberr/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Observatoire Oceanologique © Broenberr/cc-by-sa-3.0
Among the places of interest are:

  • Église Saint-Michel (Saint Michael’s Church) in the heart of old town, was built in the 1750s in the baroque Italian-style where originally stood a more modest early fourteenth century church. It houses various works of art, notably a large Saint Michael painting above the marble main altar, a recumbent sculpture Christ (18th century) known as the “Christ of the Galleys” and a polychrome wooden statue of San Rocco. The organ built by the Grinda Brothers in 1790 is one of the oldest of the County of Nice still in operation. The building was included in the French Historic Sites Registry in 1990.
  • The Chapelle Saint-Pierre (Saint Peter’s Chapel) dates from the sixteenth century. Used as a storeroom for local fishermen’s nets and equipment for most of the 19th and early part of the 20th century, it was restored in 1957 with Jean Cocteau adding his now-famous murals depicting the life of the saint and of local fishermen. The building was included in the French Historic Sites Registry in 1995.
  • The Figures, Delta Book of Gabriel Méxène, 2015 (Eight engraved, gilded and painted stones) Collections of the citadel museums. The Delta Book, known as the “Dragon Book of Piedmont-Savoy”, contains 1400 Roman capital letters engraved by hand on Tavel marble.
  • The old harbour of la Darse dates back to the 17th century. Built originally for the galleys of the Duke of Savoy, it is now a marina with dockyard activities for yachts. It is also the site of the oceanographic observatory Observatoire Oceanologique de Villefranche of the Pierre and Marie Curie University of Paris and of the French National Centre for Scientific Research with 3 laboratories (oceanology, marine geoscience and cell biology) and 150 personnels attached to it. Buildings and structures surrounding the harbour are also included in the French Historic Sites Registry since 1991.
  • The Citadel built in 1557 now houses the Town Hall, a convention centre, three museums and an open-air theatre.
  • The Rue Obscure or “Dark Street” is a passageway under the harbour front houses which dates back to 1260.
  • The Villa Léopolda on the hills surrounding was once the residence of King Leopold II of Belgium and has been tagged as “the most expensive house in the world”..

The main activity remains tourism, with hotels and restaurants employing a sizeable portion of the population. Traditional activities, like fishing, have now given way to sea-related activities, such as sailing and deep sea diving. Some dockyard activity remains at the harbour of “la Darse” but most of it has now been moved to Antibes. Residential construction and maintenance, which provided a lot of employment in the mid 20th century, has now subsided considerably.

Read more on Villefranche-sur-Mer, Wikivoyage Villefranche-sur-Mer and Wikipedia Villefranche-sur-Mer (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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