Deep topaz waters of the Cote d’Azur set the scene for the charming coastal town of Nice, a true gem of the French Riviera. With an enticing mix of old and new, activity and relaxation, Nice makes for the ideal seaside getaway. Breathe in the fresh Mediterranean air and drench yourself in sunshine as you stroll the waterfront promenade, to enjoy in all its splendor.If you only have a couple days to spare, I have your perfect guide to make the most of your time. Now throw on a bikini and pop a bottle of rosé. Nice is calling your name. Will you answer?
1. Stroll down the Promenade des Anglais
Literally, Walkway of the English or La Prom by the locals. This palm-fringed strip stretches five miles along the crystal blue coastline of the Baie des Anges or Bay of Angels. Join locals jogging, cycling, rollerblading or strolling alongside the beach. You can rent skates, scooters and bikes from Roller Station or amp it up with an electric Segway from Mobilboard Nice.
Built into the side of a cliff at the base of Colline du Château, you will find Monument aux Morts, a sobering tribute to honor 3,600 French casualties during World War I. An urn holds the dog tags of the soldiers in remembrance of their service, with the left side representing war and the right for peace. Come back at night to see it lit up!
2. View the city from Colline du Château
Climb to the highest point in Nice, Colline du Château or Castle Hill, for a sweeping 360 degee view of city and the epic mountains of the Mercantour National Park in the distance. While a few crumbling ruins are all that remain of the namesake castle on the hill, there is a charming park that’s perfect for picnicking, a waterfall, and the Belanda Tower. The stairs can be found at the far East end of Nice beach. It’s a 213 step climb, so wear comfy shoes, or its 1.50 euros to take a lift to the top.
3. Wander the alleys of Vieux Nice
Get lost in the narrow, cobbled lanes of Vieux Nice or Old Town. Generously lined with charming boutiques, quaint cafés, and galleries. The pedestrians-only Place Rossetti is the heart of the city, with a grand fountain, vibrant buildings, and the beautiful Sainte-Réparate cathedral.
Smell the mimosa and lavender and take in the vibrant hues of the Flower Market at Cours Saleya. In addition to blooms, you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, jellies, jams, olive oil and candies. Mondays are reserved for an antiques market and in the summer evenings arts and crafts. And there is a yummy but ever-so-smelly fish market at place St-François every morning. Rue de la Boucherie and rue Pairolière are great places to shop for delicacies.In order to keep up the aesthetic appeal of Old Town, it is rumored to be illegal to hang laundry over the balconies!
4. Hit the beaches!
While the beaches of Nice are a far cry from the white sands we crave, the warm, blue Mediterranean sea makes up for it. Whether you hire a sun lounger and umbrella for a day or brave it on the pebbles, a day by the water in Nice is an absolutely must! You pay €10-20 for comfy padded chair and umbrella where cabana boys serve food and cocktails right to you, so sit back and relax! Cannes Beach is a popular alternative to the main public area for locals and tourists alike. It features a sandy beach, just a 30 minute, 6 euro train ride from downtown.
5. Shop til you drop along Avenue Jean Médecin
Indulge in retail therapy, with a stroll down Avenue Jean Médecin for the best in boutiques and designer labels. Place Masséna is home to couture fashion houses, jewelers and specialty shops for wine, cheese, At night, the Place comes alive with street performers and artists, and the fountains light up.
6. Indulge in a lazy Mediterranean lunch along Port de Nice
Nice boasts a unique mix of French flavors only available in this region: traditional Provençal and Niçoise foods with a heavy Italian influence. Fresh coastal seafood platter from the Mediterranean Sea. Other local favorites include Salade Niçoise, Le Pan Bagnat, Pissaladière, La Daube Niçoise, Ratatouille, and Soupe au pistou, mussels and olives! Nice pizza rivals that of the Italians as the pizzerias are often owned by Italian immigrants. Any meal you choose is paired perfectly with a house vin rouge (red wine) or vin blanc (white whine) or of course a refreshing Rose served in a carafe.
A quintessential street food of Nice, socca is a giant thin, crusty chickpea crêpe with a soft interior. It’s baked over coals in a wood oven on a large round steel plate. A delectable indulgence to treat yourself to while in Nice!
7. Stop & smell the French perfumes
During the Renaissance period, Southern France became the fragrance capital of the world as an entire industry was born from the heavy usage of perfume by royalty. Many of the greatest names in the perfume industry, Chanel, Christian Dior or Estée Lauder are French. In recent years, in cheaper perfumes, the natural fragrances extracted from flowers and plants have been replaced by mass-produced chemically produced scents, but not so at Fragonard!Fragonard Perfumery is tucked away in medieval Eze Village, halfway between Nice and Monaco. Get a look behind the scenes with a guided tour of the laboratory and production process. A variety of cosmetics, perfumes, eaux de perfumes, eaux de toilette, hand soaps and face soaps are offered at factory prices, with products to please every man or woman.
8. Cathedrale Sainte-Réparate de Nice
Cathedrale Sainte-Réparate de Nice was built between 1650 and 1699 in Place Rossetti. Like much of the architecture in Old Town, it reflects the Baroque style of architecture that was injected into the area during Roman occupation. The most striking feature, its colorful tiled cupola, is not easily seen from the street, but can be viewed admired from atop Castle Hill. Its ten chapels are dedicated to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, the Crucifixion, Saint Rose of Lima, Saints Alexander and Bartholomew, the Holy Sacrament, Saint Rosalia and the Virgin, Saint Joseph, Saint Reparata, the Four Crowned Martyrs and Saint John the Baptist.
9. Party the night away in Monaco
Squeezed into just 2.8 sq km, Monaco is the world’s second-smallest country, surrounded by France and Italy. As the sun sets across the bay Bay, rub elbows with the rich and famous in Monaco, home to the most millionaires per capita in the world.
Try your luck at the slots of the Grand Monte Carlo Casino. You’ll need your passport to enter (as Monégasque citizens are prohibited from gambling) and money for the entry fee. Be sure to dress in glitz and glam and you will fit right in! For a more laidback atmosphere, Sun Casino has affordable minimum bets and a casual dress code.
In light of the recent tragedies in Nice and around the globe, is the world at large afraid to travel abroad? I urge you to replace fear of the unknown with curiosity. Choose flights over fright.