Welcome to Villefranche-sur-Mer
Brood in the heart of one of the most beautiful roadstead of the world, Villefranche sur-mer welcomes you in his haven of peace. Created in 1295 by Charles II d’Anjou, it knew to keep its picturesque charm with the wire of the centuries: the hot colors of the mediteranean frontages, the small steeped streets with the paces of yesteryear, his citadel, the rare works of Cocteau, Volti ou Goetz are as many richnesses as you will discover in this village with the first impression of paradise!
Villefranche-sur-Mer is located about 4 miles (6km) east of the city of Nice, separated by Mont Boron, Mont Alban and Mont Vinaigrier, and 6 miles (10km) west of Monaco. The bay (rade) of Villefranche - between the Cape of Nice and Cap Ferrat is one of the deepest natural harbors of any port in the Mediterranean Sea and provides a safe anchorage for large ships. The city limits extend to the hills surrounding the bay climbing from sea level to an altitude of 1750 ft (520 m) at Mont-Leuze. The three "Corniches" or main roads linking Nice to Italy pass through Villefranche and offer spectacular vistas of the coast and surrounding hills.
Histoire de Beaulieu-sur-Mer
Man has settled the site of what is now Villefranche and surrounding Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat since prehistoric times. Celto-ligurian tribes roamed the area and established farming communities on the hills surrounding. The Greeks and later the Romans used the natural harbor as a stop over en route to the Greek settlements around the Western Mediterranean. After the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, the Romans built an extension of the Via Aurelia (Aurelian Way), which passed through the settlement of Montolivo.
By the fall of the Carolingian Empire, the area was part of Lotharingia and later part of the County of Provence. In 1295, Charles II, Duke of Anjou, then Count of Provence, enticed the inhabitants of Montolivo and surroundings to settle closer to the coastline in order to secure the area from pirates. By charter, he established Villefranche as a “free port” thus the name, granting tax privileges and port fee rights that lasted well into the 18th Century.
By 1388, East Provence became part of the Duchy of Savoy as a result of the disputed succession to the heirless Queen Joan I of Naples. For the next 400 years, the area known as the County of Nice was hotly disputed between the Holy Roman Empire to which Savoy was an ally and the French. In 1543, the Franco-Turkish armies sacked and occupied the city after the siege of Nice, prompting Duke Emmanuel Philibert to secure the site by building an impressive citadel and a fort on nearby Mont Alban. In the late 17th century, the area fell to the French but was returned to Savoy after the Peace of Utrecht.
During the 18th century, the city lost of its maritime importance to the new harbor being built in Nice but remained a military and naval base. In 1744, a Franco-Spanish army under the Prince of Conti overran Sardinian entrenchments in the heights above the town (then part of Piedmont).
In 1793, the French occupied once again Villefranche and the county of Nice remained part of the Napoleonic Empire until 1814. It was returned to the Kingdom of Sardinia by the Congress of Vienna. In 1860, as a consequence of the Risorgimento, it was given to France by treaty following a plebiscite. By the late 19th century it had become an important Russian Navy base and the Russians established an oceanographic laboratory in the old lazaret. The site was also the winter residence for royalties and wealthy visitors.
After World War I, the United States Navy called on a regular basis and Villefranche became the home port of the U.S. 6th Fleet from 1948 to 1966. Since the 1980’s Villefranche has become a noted cruise ships port of call, the first in importance in France.
Built on the terraced hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the Promenade des Marinieres stretches along the waterfront of a deep-water harbour that served as the base for the US 6th Fleet until 1967, and is still used sometimes as an harbour by the US Navy. On the water's edge is the massive wall and Citadel, a fortress built in 1557 by Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy. Today, the Citadel houses the Town Hall, a congress centre, three museums, and an open air theatre.
On the hills surrounding, the fort of Mont Alban offers an incomparable view of Cap Ferrat and the Eastern coastline as far as Italy. From the Plateau Saint-Michel, the view stretches westward to the Bay of Angels in Nice, Cap d'Antibes and the Esterel in the distance more than 25 miles (40 km) away. On a clear winter day, one may also observe the mountains of Corsica in the distance.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is twinned with:
Tourism Office of Villefranche-sur-Mer
Office Municipal de Tourisme
Jardin François Binon