Mar 21, 2023Cruises, Day Trips, Europe, France, Monaco0 comments

So your cruise has a stop in Villefranche? Congratulations, you are in for a treat!

Villefranche is one of those rare ports that not only offer a number of wonderful destinations for a memorable shore excursion but also easy and inexpensive public transportation to get there on your own.

There is really no need to spend buckets of money for an expensive tour offered by your cruise line when your port is Villefranche.

Eze with its botanical garden is an easy shore excursion from Villefranche

So, what are the best shore excursions you can do on your own from Villefranche? Read on and find out which shore excursions I recommend for a day in port (though of course you could visit the same places if you are staying longer in the area).

Villefranche and its Port

Villefranche is a small town in Southern France, about four miles east of Nice. With just around 5,000 inhabitants it is nonetheless the most visited cruise port in France with over 500,000 cruise passengers per year.

The reason? Villefranche has a naturally deep harbor that allows even large cruise ships access. Consequently, it serves as the main cruise port not just for nearby Nice but for the entire Cote d’Azur.

Villefranche is a Tender Port

Villefranche is generally a tender port for cruise ships. Instead of just walking off the ship onto the pier you will have to be shuttled there by small tender boats.

Depending on your cruise line/ship you may have to get your tender tickets ahead of time. Check on this ahead of time so you do not lose time on your port day.

Usually, cruise line tours have priority so if you are touring on your own you may not be on the very first tender in the morning.

In my experience, tendering tends (ha!) to run smoothly but does require some extra time for getting on and off the ship. Don’t forget to account for this when planning your day.

Tender ports may also be skipped in inclement weather as the tender process could be dangerous. However, if you are cruising in the Med in the spring/summer/early fall the weather will likely be fine so this is unlikely to happen to you here.

The Town of Villefranche

Villefranche is a cute little town and if you are looking to just take it easy (maybe a port-heavy itinerary with all the big hitters – Rome, Florence, Naples – has worn you out) you could do worse than spending your time here.

There are a number of things to do in Villefranche itself: Aside of the harbour, two churches, Église Saint-Michel and Chapelle Saint-Pierre, and the Rue Obscure are worth a visit.

However, if you want to venture further afield there are plenty of options. And if you get back to Villefranche from your shore excursion early, you can still explore the town or spend some time at the small beach right in town.

View of Villefranche from Cap Ferrat

Local Transportation from Villefranche

If you haven’t signed up for a tour or pre-booked a driver, your main options are bus and train. Luckily, both are easy to get to from the port.


To get to the train station of Villefranche-sur-Mer you just walk east from where you get ashore along the shore. When you get close to the beach you will see the train station up some steps (total walking time around 10 minutes).


To catch the bus in either direction you will have to walk uphill for at least a bit (depending on which bus you want to catch).

1. Villefranche Excursion: Monaco

Monaco is of course at the top of the list for many travellers. This small principality is known not only for its Grand Prix but also as the home of many millionaires and for the casino.

Port of Monaco with tree in foreground

How to get there

You can catch a train from Villefranche directly to Monaco-Ville. This will take around 15 minutes and cost approximately Euro 3.80 one way.

What to see and do in Monaco

Good to know

Don’t forget to bring your passport. Not only is Monaco its own country but you will absolutely need your passport if you want to check out the famous casino.

2. Villefranche Excursion: Villa Ephrussi and Cap Ferrat

This is my personal favorite for a day from Villefranche!

Villa et Jardins Ephrussi

How to get there

The easiest way to get to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is by taking Bus 15 (Euro 1.70 each way) from the upper part of town. You can get out right across from the Villa or stay on until the town of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

What to see and do

  • A beautiful mansion
  • Gorgeous gardens
  • Hike along a pretty coast with pine trees
  • The cute town of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
  • Plenty of places to take a short swim

Good to know

Make sure to wear sun screen/sun protection and don’t forget to take plenty of water!

3. Villefranche Excursion: The City of Nice

With over 340,000 residents Nice is a fairly large city but it has a very inviting vacation vibe! During my stay there I was pleasantly surprised by Nice – definitely one of my favorite cities anywhere.

Large street in Nice, France, with the pink domed Hotel Negresco

How to get there

The fastest and easiest way to get from Villefranche to Nice will be by train (7 minutes, Euro 2.50). However, if you take Bus 82 you can enjoy a beautiful view from high up on the hills during the drive.

What to see and do

  • The Promenade des Anglais with the Hotel Negresco
  • Vieille Ville (the Old Town)
  • Various Art Museums
  • Castle Hill Park with a beautiful view over the city
  • Port Lympia with many impressive yachts

Good to know

If you want to see Nice from the top of Castle Hill you can save yourself the hike up – there is a free elevator that will get you up there without effort!

4. Villefranche Excursion: Èze

Èze is a popular destination for tourists – it is an extremely cute and quaint village. If you are looking for a romantic destination – look no further.

However, personally, I find there isn’t actually that much to do in Èze so half a day should be plenty. You could easily combine a visit in Èze with another destination.

Be aware though that Èze can get very crowded during busy times so it might be best to go there first thing in the morning.

Narrow alley with old houses and bright purple flowers growing on wall

How to get there

You can take the bus 602 from Villefranche to Èze (15 minutes, Euro 1.70). Do not take the train or Bus 607 unless you are up for quite a hike. Both will take you to Èze Cote Mer which is the part of town down at the seaside. The more popular old town of Eze is on the hill (and the hike up is quite challenging).

What to see and do

  • Admire the romantic alleys and buildings
  • Visit the Jardin Exotique (Botanical Garden with special emphasis on succulents)
  • Shop at one of the local perfume factories
  • If you are up for a hike you can take the Chemin de Nietzsche to get from the old village down to Èze Cote Mer (you can get a train back to Villefranche there)

Good to know

Make sure you go to Èze-Village and not Èze Cote Mer unless you want to hike up a steep hill.

5. Villefranche Excursion: Cannes

Cannes – nothing screams movie glamour and famous actors more than this small town to the west of Nice. Crowded during the Cannes Film Festival, it is a lot sleepier during the rest of the year.

The town is definitely upscale – like a French Beverly Hills – but the real highlights are the Iles des Lérins, two islands you can explore by boat.

Bright blue Mediterranean Sea with white yachts of different sizes

How to get there

The train from Villefranche to Cannes takes around 48 minutes and will cost about Euro 9.0 one way. It runs frequently during the day.

What to see and do

  • The posh stores along Rue d’Antibes
  • La Croisette with the Palais Festival where the Cannes Film Festival takes place (in 2024 the Film Festival will be from May 14 to 25)
  • Le Suquet, the old part of town
  • The islands Saint-Honorat and Sainte-Marguerite

Good to know

If you are planning to visit the Isles des Lérins while on a cruise stop in Villefranche I recommend you do this first when you get to Cannes to minimize the chance of missing your ship.

6. Villefranche Excursion: Antibes

With Port Vauban Antibes has the largest yachting harbour in Europe. No wonder that many millionaires have vacation homes in this quaint town with its many beaches.

Antibes is a bit further from Nice (and Villefranche) but is worth a visit.

View of Fort Carré in Antibes with Med to the right

How to get there

The train from Villefranche to Antibes takes around 35 minutes and will cost about Euro 6.90. It runs frequently during the day.

What to see and do

  • The Picasso Museum
  • The Old Town of Antibes
  • The Harbour with many impressive yachts
  • Beaches of various sizes
  • Hike around Cap d’Antibes and enjoy a peek at the homes and boats of millionaires

Good to know

If you plan to hike around Cap d’Antibes I recommend you take Bus 2 or 14 from the train station to Eden Roc or Port de la Salis respectively. I did not and it is quite a long walk to the start of the hike.

Harbor in Monaco with highrises and boats

My Top Tips for Excursions from Villefranche (ask me how I know)

    • Make sure to wear sun protection and take water with you – the Mediterranean sun can be hot
    • Do not get on a train without the proper ticket – even if the ticket machines are broken. You will pay a fine no matter what!
    • Wear practical shoes if you plan on walking any distance, especially on the Chemin de Nietzsche in Èze
    • Don’t forget your passport if visiting Monaco
    • Villefranche is a tender port – get a tender ticket if needed and include some extra time in your plans
    • Make sure to validate your train ticket

Hi, I am Kitty and I love to travel! Welcome to my blog, where I share all I have learned on my trips - good and bad - to help you have a better, cheaper, and more perfect vacation!


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