Exploring Nice, France
Having visited Nice twice in the space of three months, I thought that now would be a great time to share my mini guide to the cosmopolitan capital! Situated in the glamorous French Riviera, Nice is a real treat for anyone looking for a mini break bursting with beautiful picturesque scenery, history, culture, and of course, good weather. The Mediterranean ambience and great quality of life is what makes Nice such a gem of a city in my eyes.
Moving from pint A to B around Nice is pretty straight forward, I rarely used public transport on both visits due to the fact that it's easy to get everywhere around the city by foot and a trusty map. If you're not much of an avid trekker, there are plenty of transport options such as trams, buses, taxis, rental bikes, and trains from Nice Ville station (for longer journeys).
The Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is a 15 minute drive from the city centre. I personally hate when airports are located extremely far from city centres so this is convenient, especially if you're running late to catching a flight! I would highly recommend the Nice Airport Express Buses 99/98, which are specially designed for those with luggage and will cost you 6€ (Aero ticket). These buses pass through . There are a number of other regular commuter buses that cost the usual bus fare of 1.50€ too. For taxis, they are a little steeper in price but readily available outside the airport too. Or you could always opt for an Uber.
WHERE TO STAY
Having stayed in both Old Town and New Town Nice, there are perks to staying in both areas! For my first stay I booked this Airbnb which was opposite Nice Port and a stone throwaway from key spots such as Place Masséna, Parc du Chateau, Place Garibaldi, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAMAC). It was also close to where we could catch the bus 100 bus straight to Monaco too. To get there we took the Airport Express Bus 99 which stops in front of MAMAC and we walked a couple of minutes through Place Garibaldi to reach it. If you would like to stay in the Old Town, you may be better off looking to book an Airbnb, as hotels are quite sparse in this area.
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On my second visit, we stayed at one of the many HappyCulture owned hotels in Nice, Villa Bougainville, which was situated downtown, just a minute walk from the Nice Ville station, 5 minute walk from the main tram stops and shopping district Avenue Jean Medecin, and 15 minute walk to the Promenade. It was easier to find this hotel as it was pretty much right next to the last stop of the Airport Express Bus 98. The general atmosphere of the New Town is busy and upbeat, and it is home to some of the most beautiful boulevards filled with stunning townhouses. This part of the city is well equipped with an astonishing amount of hotels in comparison to the Old Town.
THINGS TO DO & SEE
As Nice is known for its pleasantly accommodating year-round climate, there's never a shortage of things to see and do in the city.
Strolling the Promenade des Anglais
It goes without saying that the Promenade des Anglais which boarders the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels)is a must do & see. Did you really visit Nice if you didn't take a stroll along it? I think not!
On my first visit to this city, I was immediately envious of those living here–being able to take a stroll along the far stretched palm tree lined Promenade catching a panoramic view of the pretty blue sea glistening beneath the sun is something I wish i could see everyday. Be prepared for a lot of people rollerblading, biking, walking, and jogging – this is a lively place.
A highlight for me in particular was seeing groups of elderly people live their best lives sunbathing in 17 degree weather and playing games on the pebbled beach front. You almost forget about all your worries once you take everything around you in and breathe in the sea-scented atmosphere. It's by far one of my favourite parts of this city.
The promenade is also home to world-famous hotels such as Hotel Negresco (that is very hard to miss) and a variety of restaurants, bars and nightclubs that have a little something for everyone.
Exploring the Old Town (Vieux Nice)
You're bound to stumble into the Old Town which is situated between Quai des Etats Unis and Place Massena, and all for good reason as there's plenty in store for you here. Dotted with beautiful architecture, bustling markets, small boutiques, restaurants, cafes, bars, and boasting a superb night scene, travelling back into the 1700's and getting lost in the long winding maze of narrow alleyways in this part of town is all part of the experience!
Cours Saleya is the square that is home to the famous daily flower and food market, is undeniably a main attraction here. Located in the heart of the Old Town, here you'll find a vibrant display of beautiful flowers, fresh fruit, vegetables, pastries, exotic spices, soaps, collectibles, handcrafts, oils and many more.
As the Old Town is lined with a vast variety of cafes, cocktail bars and restaurants, it's the perfect spot for cramming in some breakfast, brunch or for a late dinner in the evening when restaurants begin to fill the Provençal squares for the night scene once markets are closed. [Cours Saleya, 06300, Nice, France]
Although it isn't open to the public, Matisse's House is a Riviera property worth admiring from the outside. Located on the east end of the Cours Saleya, the gold luxurious townhouse was home to the giant of modern art, French artist Henri Matisse. [1 Place Charles Felix, 06300, Nice]
Make sure to also head up to Parc du Chateau (Castle Hill) to experience the best panoramic views of the city and Baie des Anges. Majority of it consists of 'hill' than 'castle' as most of it has since crumbled away. You have the option to take an elevator, carriage ride, or hike up the stairs, but it’s a long walk, I'll tell you that. Monument Aux Morts
Nice Vieux Port is another place worth venturing off to, I was glad to have stayed in an Airbnb on my first visit to Nice that was located right in front of the beautiful port. Here you're treated to views of the boats coming in and out on the Mediterranean whilst the docking platforms are open for bustling flea markets every Saturday. The port is also the perfect place to sit back and relax, in one of the cafes, bars or restaurants that line the area, whilst taking in the scenery and Mediterranean atmosphere. [Quai des Docks, 06300 Nice, France]
is the picturesque main square of the city which pretty much lies bang in the middle of the historic quarter and downtown of Nice. The square lined and boarded by stunning Neoclassical buildings with red facades boasts a lively shopping and dining scene, with a park, playgrounds, fountains and street artists close by. This square is of course a must see no matter how short your trip to Nice is.
Place Garibaldi is the newest square in Nice, boarded by gorgeous baroque style buildings and centred with statue of Garibaldi in the centre of it. It's a great spot to chill on a bench with an ice cream or side of coffee in nearby cafe to watch the world go by slowly. I was lucky enough to be around for the monthly antiques market at Place Garibaldi square during my birthday trip in December, as it only runs on the third Saturday of every month. Here you'll find antique sellers gathered together to sell an assortment of cool bric-a-brac.
Museum of Contemporary Art, (MAMAC)
The MAMAC featuring modern and contemporary art is one of the museums I've enjoyed visiting in Nice. I'll admit that it doesn't have the best reviews when you check out what people have to say on Trip Advisor, with most complaining that it's too empty, but I like it! Just a stone throw away from Place Garibaldi and a few mins away from the Nice Port, the museum hosts a variety of thought provoking exhibitions. Many from the European and American avant-garde movement featuring work from artists such as Yves Klein, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, dating back to the late 1950s. Once you get to the last floor of exhibitions, be sure to head up to the roof terrace, which invites you to a breathtaking 360 view of the city! Admission is 10 EUR for a ticket that’s good for 24 hrs (used to be 48hrs).
Musée Matisse sits up on the hill of Cimiez in a Genoese villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, and is must-see for any art lover. Here you will find the a permanent collection of French artist Henri Matisse's diverse works of art.
A spot of shopping
You'll be spoilt for choice on where to spend your time and money when it comes to shopping in Nice. The ranges of goods in shops, and how many you will find shows how much shopping is intertwined in the culture of Nice. You can make your way to Rue de France which is propped parallel to the Promenade des Anglais filled with a long line of different boutiques and outlets. Not forgetting Cours Saleya for the flower market, and local produce or the many alleyways bursting with cute souvenirs and gifts. Or how about long shopping street Avenue Jean Medecin, which is home to the urban style Nice Étoile shopping centre and the famous Galeries Lafayette for a spot of luxury shopping? All in all, there is a shop to enter and explore everywhere you may so turn, especially in Old Nice!
Nice makes the perfect starting baseline point to further explore the rest of the Côte d'Azur coastline. If you have the time, a day trip to either Monaco, Cannes, Antibes or St Tropez is a must! More details on Monaco and Cannes especially coming soon!
GRAB SOME GRUB. PLACES TO EAT
Here are a list of dining spots you can try out whilst in Nice:
L'Ybane / Very nice Lebanese food restaurant in a cosy atmosphere. Try out their Imperial menu! [1 rue de la Liberte, 06000 Nice, France]
La Massaia / Great real Italian pizza and pasta!. [11 rue Halevy, 06000 Nice, France]
Le Rosalina / Simple Italian food for dinner and drinks with a vibrant atmosphere. [16 Rue Lascaris, 06300 Nice, France]
For the best in cream in town it's definitely a draw between Fenocchio [2 Pl. Rossetti, 06300 Nice, France] and Gelateria Azzurro [1 Rue Sainte-Reparate, 06300 Nice, France] for me.
Mama Delices / Good mediataerean greek food with a modern twist. [10 Rue Massenet, 06000 Nice, France]
Movida / Enjoy lovely dishes, cocktails and tapas on the relaxing seafront terrace. [41 quai des Etats Unis, 06300 Nice, France]
If you're looking to visit Monaco for the day, I would advise taking the bus 100 near the Port rather than the train from Nice Ville Station. The extra 10 minutes to your journey by bus are totally worth it as you get to gaze out the window and take in the breath taking views of the city.
It's worth buying the 10€ ticket museum ticket which gives you unlimited access to all participating museums across Nice for 24 hours. You can purchase this ticket any of these museums you decide to visit first. However entry for children under 18, locals, and students of any age (with a valid ID) is free. Most museums are closed Tuesday, but you can still find a few that open on this day.
Start your days early, markets such as the Cour Saleya run from morning to early afternoon, so you don't want to miss out. There's plenty to do throughout the day!
Be sure to have a form of pocket Wifi with you, if your mobile data will cost you too much. Many hotels are able to offer this as service at a small fee if needed. Luckily for me, I'm with Three network and can use my usual unlimited data, calls and texts as I would back home without the extra charges (feel at home).