When the gate to the citadel opens mid-May decorated with flowers and welcomes you to the well known flower exhibition of "Salon floral", Villefranche-Sur-Mers becomes one of the most photogenic places. But it's not just kept to behind the walls of the well-kept fortress from the 1500s but also to the houses of the locals and the mayor's office. Along with the city's yellow and terracotta-colored houses with balconies of all sizes and shapes, intricate alleys, stairs, parks and waterfront promenade, it is certainly well decorated for spring and the new tourist season.
Many travel guides, referring to the Cote d'Azur, select images in large format from Villefranche-Sur-Mer in their presentations. Michelin travel guide has even described the city as "one of the most beautiful in the entire Mediterranean."
The small (about 9000 inhabitants) medieval city by the bay, which because of its depth was a natural anchorage for the French Navy in the last century, now offers the idyllic fishing village just five kilometers east of the city of Nice for tourists to enjoy.
Fishing boats dock at the harbor promenade next to the restaurants. Early bird citizens, chefs and the plain curious gathered around the small boat on the quay, where the day's catch is presented. Fresh dorade, sea bream, squid, etc. and there is a rush to the counter before the morning sun gets too hot.
In the summer, often lively traffic of small boats continuously bring passengers from cruise ships to the port terminal. Some continue by bus or train to Nice or Monaco, which is just 15 and a 30-minute drive away.
Others choose to stay in Villefranche-Sur-Mer to enjoy a day on the fine sandy beach, stroll along the seafront promenade with its restaurants and cafes, or explore the Old Town's charming chaos of well-kept houses built into - and on top - each other through centuries.
The city also has several distinctive landmarks in historical and cultural character. Just behind havnepromenade restaurants through to the "underground" "Rue Obscure", built in 1295 and was part of defense works to protect citizens and military personnel during the bombing in connection with, and other raids from the sea.
But the 130-meter long, covered, dark and cool street was also served in the Middle Ages as a practical purpose in everyday life. For example, shelter for goats and donkeys as well as storage space for olive oil, wine, etc. Rue Obscure is today authentic with its arches and stairs up to the city on one side and viewpoint out to the Mediterranean through the portal Robert (named after Count Robert the first of Provence in the 1400s) on the other side. In 1932, Rue Obscure achieved the status of a "Historical Monument".
Less than 100 meters away, next to the port terminal is another hidden little gem. The fishing chapel "La Chapelle Saint Pierre" is decorated both exterior and interior by the famous French artist Jean Cocteau, who lived in the city for a while. In 1957, he completed his masterpiece in the chapel as a tribute to the Mediterranean. It costs a few euros in the hallway, but it's worth comes from ceiling to floor on all the inside walls which are truly unique.
From the door in La Chapelle Saint Pierre look diagonally up to the left of La Citadelle, which is the focal point for a series of events. During the summer months, it is used for various events, for example, concerts and an outdoor cinema. There are also noteworthy museums in the complex. Particularly, the impressive Volti Museum in the fortresses casemates, which includes works by the artist. Among other his voluminous women sculptures.
Good transport options
Flowers Exhibition "Salon Floral" is normally around the middle of May It is open from 09:30 to 19:30 and offers FREE admission. The is plenty of parking if travelling by car. By train, the town has two stations from Nice. And if you are looking for a cheaper travel option, the bus runs all day and costs 1.5 Euro
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