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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in Europe:
The Mediterranean
Sights to see & things to do

Cannes, Nice, & Villefranche, France

The Côte d’Azur

With pastel and brick houses clinging to steep slopes rising from the sea, Villefranche is a portrait of the quintessential Mediterranean village. Fishing boats in the harbor complete a perfectly charming scene. Stretching along 125 miles of scenic Mediterranean coast, the French Riviera has long been treasured by artists as well as the rich and famous.


Ships anchor and tender passengers ashore to the small pier where a member of the local tourist board staffs the terminal building. Villefranche is a jumping off point for the exploring the Côte d’Azur and automobiles are available for rent for those passing through on the way to Nice, Monaco, or to explore Eze and the countryside. The train offers comfortable transportation to Monaco and Nice and Cannes. Taxis are at hand for independent tours and charge an hourly rate.

Before you leave for seemingly more interesting or chic locales, look around Villefranche. Immediately adjacent to the pier, take a stroll through the Citadel's footpaths and admire the gardens tucked into every nook and cranny. Walking is the only way to see Villefranche with its cobblestone streets and balconied buildings covered in lush flowering plants & bougainvillea. Climb the steep steps into the old town area and wandered through the narrow lanes to St. Michael's Church. Head back toward the waterfront through the Rue Obscure, a covered tunnel-like alleyway—once a refuge from pirates, but, according to the locals, after World War II it was the spot where US sailors met their "fiancées." On Sundays an antique market sets up in the town square overlooking the 14th century Chapelle Saint-Pierre where Jean Cocteau’s frescoes dominate the small vaulted chapel.

Cannes is a bustling commercial center, easily reached from Villefranche by train. Come here to walk on the seafront boulevards, site of the famous hotels spotlighted by the International Film Festival, or to browse through the collection of 19th-century paintings and sculptures and the gallery of ancient Mediterranean relics in the Musée de la Castre.

Once known as the seaside playground of the Victorian aristocracy, Nice is the capital of the Riviera and one of the region’s most ancient cities.  Strolling past the cafés and historic buildings that line the seaside Promenade des Anglais is a favorite activity, as are visiting Nice’s many museums and art galleries.  Long the home to artists and sculptors, Nice is a museum lover’s paradise. The Musée de Beaux-Arts has an extensive collection of works by 19th century French artists; Matisse lived and worked in Nice and donated many of the works displayed in Musée Matisse; and Musée National Message Biblique Marc-Chagall, located on the hillside above the city, is dedicated to Chagall’s treatment of biblical themes through his work in a variety of mediums. Built at the direction of Tsar Nicholas II, the interior of the impressive Cathédral Orthodoxe Russe St-Nicholas á Nice is richly ornamented with icons.

Shore excursions to the medieval walled city of St-Paul-de-Vence might include a stop in Grasse, birthplace of French perfume. Eze, another medieval village noted for its restored buildings and stunning views, is the destination of another tour popular among cruise passengers.


If you’re fortunate enough to be in Villefranche on Sunday, the antique market is the place to find treasures. Small shops sell the usual tee-shirts and souvenirs. In the terminal building French spirits and imported cigars are available. After all that climbing, instead of shopping, take a break for café au lait or a glass of local wine at a sidewalk café.

Cannes offers great shopping, including outlets of top Paris brands such as Hérmes and Saint Laurent. Look for designer boutiques on La Croisette and more down-to-earth shopping on rue d’Antibes a few blocks inland.

Look for boutiques in the maze of streets comprising Nice’s Old Town.


Beaches on the Côte d’Azur are clean and most are free, although for a fee non-guests can use some resort beach properties. Take care to swim within designated areas and be forewarned—topless sunbathing is totally acceptable along the entire French Riviera.

In Villefranche, head east from the pier for a popular beach within walking distance.

The trendy beaches of Cannes and Nice are places for seeing and being seen rather than swimming.

Back to Mediterranean Ports of Call

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