Villefranche (Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice), France*Location: Europe
Villefranche, France is an endlessly exciting port of call on a Disney Cruise Line European Cruise vacation. With Mont Boron to the west and Cap Ferrat to the east, Villefranche is a glittering retreat on the French Riviera that immerses you in the romance of the region. Visitors thrill at the opportunities to sightsee, shop and tour grand landmarks and palaces dating back several centuries.
Things to See and Do
Families who arrive in Villefranche with the intent to discover it together find that their curiosity is rewarded with innumerable delights. The 16th-century Citadel is a perennial favorite destination, as is the centuries-old Rue Obscura vaulted passage that allows for a memorable stroll underneath the city.
There are, of course, many sites of historical significance and grandeur above ground. Two baroque 14th-century churches stand in all their splendor and former glory in Villefranche: Chapelle Saint-Pierre (Saint Peter's Chapel) and église Saint-Michel (Saint Michael's Church) . Both are well worth a visit to understand the rich history and architecture of the region.
Villefranche's proximity to such hotspots as Cannes and Nice also afford tourists further thrills.
Try your hand at exhilarating games of chance in nearby Monte Carlo's Grand Casino, or perhaps treat yourself to savory fine cuisine at the Café de Paris. From there, you can travel along the scenic Lower Corniche as you approach the country of Monaco. The entire nation encompasses less than a square mile and holds barely 32,000 inhabitants. Take a jaunt over to the circuit where the Monaco Grand Prix is famously held. There, too, you can catch a ride aboard a train that shuttles you merrily along the coast.
Still more experiences of distinction await tourists eager to seek them out along the Promenade des Anglais that leads you straight to the Cours Saleya market in Nice, where flowers, crepes and souvenirs are in plenty supply. Further along the coast is Cannes—a renowned playground for the rich and famous, and of course, host to one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.
Local Culture and Flavor
Year after year, tourists find themselves smitten with the beauty of the almost perfectly preserved medieval city that is Villefranche. When you arrive, you will see that the port is uniquely surrounded by an imposing wall and is perched high on a cliff, overlooking the sea. This ancient fortress encompasses the Town Hall, a convention center, an open air theater and 3 museums.
Wander the cobblestone streets of Villefranche and discover gems like a traditional perfume factory, where factory experts can help you craft your own unique fragrance using time-honored techniques.
There's even something for the sporty gentleman: The pier at Villefranche has convertible automobiles available for rent. Take a luxury European brand vehicle for a spin along the winding seaside road.
Past and Present
The singular beauty of Villefranche is not a new discovery, as its harbor has been enjoyed and used for trade as far back in time as the days of the ancient Roman and Greek empires.
The port came under wider use in 1295, when Charles II—then the Count of Provence—declared Villefranche a free port complete with tax privileges. Unfortunately, it was sacked by invading Franco-Turkish armies 3 centuries later in 1543, prompting the construction of its now famed citadel.
The following centuries would see occupation by a string of conquerors, from the Franco-Spanish army to the Russians and finally the French once more. Though it remained an important commercial harbor throughout these times, it only came into its own as a popular tourist destination in the 1980s, when cruise lines found it to be an ideal port providing much pleasure to sea travelers.
One visit to Villefranche is enough to convey just why tourists, aristocrats and celebrities find their way to this fair French city year after year.
* This port requires tendering.