"Nice - Cote d'Azur, South of France" Top 5 Page for this destination Nice by allaboutnice
Nice Travel Guide: 1,785 reviews and 3,832 photos
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera or Cote d'Azur on the South-east coast of France. It is the fifth largest city in France with the second busiest International airport. Nice has its own University and is the administrative centre for much of the Cote d'Azur and the department of the Alpes-Maritimes.
Nice is an ideal holiday resort for me because I am a city person at heart but I do like the sun and sitting on a beach too. Nice combines the city pleasures of shopping, parks, sculpture, museums, restaurants, cafes with the joys of a beach holiday and water sports too, not forgetting the three-mile rollerbladers, walkers, scootists and cyclists'paradise that is the Promenade des Anglais.
Nice is a great base for access to other towns and villages on the Riviera, with good links by coach (TAM), train and boat. Nice is also close to the southern French alps - where there are several ski resorts eg Isola 2000 that are quickly and easily accessible by public transport.
One reason I love Nice is because I can get there very easily from Liverpool. On a good day, thanks to easyJet's Liverpool - Nice route, I can walk out of my apartment in Liverpool and into my tiny studio in Nice in about four hours.
Nice is a busy prosperous city at any time of the year with or without tourists. The summer sun is just about guaranteed (the other reason I love Nice) Be warned however - although Nice is described as a year-round resort, and in the 19th century was regarded by the English as a winter resort, the weather can be disappointing particularly in Autumn and early Spring.
The best time to visit in my opinion is June and July - when you live in Liverpool, you crave warmth and sunshine! Many of the French take their annual holidays en masse in August and as the French mostly take their holidays in France, there is often a mass exodus to the South. Conversely August is also a month when many of the people of Nice, the Nicois, take their summer holiday, shut up shop and even restaurants and head to the North of France. In the winter, December can often be a dry and sunny month although somewhat colder than the summer.
I would always take a small umbrella to Nice, the rain does come but it's usually brief and it's not 'blowy' like it is in the UK, so your brolly will remain intact. Choose a cheery colour and it's an effective parasol in the summer.
Although Nice is a large city compared to say Cannes and Antibes, it is also compact and (mostly) flat in the city centre. This means that you definitely do not need a car. The driving and parking is very stressful and it also gets in the way of a 2-bottle lunch. If you are staying in the right part of Nice, everywhere is accessible by foot. If you don't want to walk then there is an excellent local bus service -'lignedazur' that is cheap and efficient and is now supplemented by the re-introduction of a tramway in Nice.
I would say that the best and most central part of Nice is the area from the Negresco Hotel on the Promenade des Anglais as the western most limits, the northern most limits the central train station and the eastern most limit the far side of the Port. If you go south, you will end up in the sea. Anywhere within this vague rectangle is central and walkable - you are never further than 20 minutes walk from anywhere (although the summer heat will slow you down a bit) It is a good idea to study a map carefully to check out the location of a hotel or apartment. An address on the Promenade des Anglais can still mean you are three long miles away from the city centre. The same goes for a description that says 'only 100 m from the beach' - the beach starts at the airport - a VERY long walk to the city centre and Old Town.
It is very easy to get from the airport to Nice city centre. For 1 euro the number 10 bus will take you all the way from Arenas (the offices opposite the airport) to the Port and the bus number 23 will take you from the airport T1 to the central Train station. For more details and other ways to get into Nice from the airport see my website www.allaboutNice.com.
Nice is a great city for even a small visit. When I was buying my studio, I came out for just the day. It is a great place for a weekend visit as there is so much to see and do over a small area without the bother of a car. There is so much to explore in Nice you could easily spend two weeks without leaving Nice (although this too would be a shame)
Most of the top attractions of Nice are outlined in the VT members' tips. If you get the chance to visit Nice even if only for a few days do try and do some of the following:
Explore the Old Town and famous daily flower and food Markets in the Cours Saleya (antiques/bric-a-brac on Mondays). The Old Town dates back to mediaeval times and is pretty much pedestrianised, though motorbikes (and some cars) will always try and get through. The buildings are close together and tall, so that even in the heat of the summer you will be in shade. To sit in the sun, head for the middle of the Old Town - it opens up into a sunny square - Place Rossetti, very touristy but good anyway, where St Reparate Cathedral is found. The Old Town is full of restaurants, churches, shops, artisans' shops, art galleries and the museum, the Palais Lascaris. The fish market is often mentioned in guide books, - mornings at Place St Francois but I do not think it is particularly attractive. At the northern end, the Old Town stops at Place Garibaldi - a wonderful square from the mid-18th century. The highlights for me here are walking under the open arcade looking at the shellfish being prepared at the Grand Cafe de Turin. Around the corner and just before you nip back into the Old Town there is the Civette Garibaldi - a popular place for an aperitif and a portion of Socca - a Nicois speciality, chick-pea pancake - cover it with salt and pepper and eat with your fingers.
The Chateau. Called the Castle hill or 'Colline du Chateau' because at the top of this rather small hill, there used to be a Castle but this has long since gone, a few ruins remain. When you are at the top, you have a wonderful panoramic view of the Old Town separated from modern Nice by the course of the river Paillon - you won't see this river, it is routed under the Bus station, Massena Gardens and Albert 1er Gardens, where it crosses under the Prom and enters the sea. From the viewing platform of the Chateau the shiny tiled dome of Cathedral St Reparate is easy to spot in the Old Town.
You also have a fine view of the sweep of beaches for three miles all the way to the airport. Look the eastwards and you have marvelous views of the Port of Nice and the hill beyond, Mont Boron.
I like to walk down the east side of the Chateau to the Port through 'quartier Segaurane' -the antique quarter of Nice.
The Port of Nice is pretty and I think it is often overlooked on a visit to Nice as you need to go around the small castle hill to discover the Port. I imagine some visitors might think that Nice 'stops' at the Castle Hill. The Port has a quiet charm. It is not big and flashy like the Port at Antibes, although there are a handful of quite impressive yachts. There is an air of quiet industry here. The Port has three sides. The west side at the bottom of the Castle Hill has several restaurants and a car park. You can book ferry trips to Corsica from here, day-trips to St Tropez, Monaco and San Remo and also arrange scuba diving from here. The north edge of the port is very attractively laid out with neoclassical symmetry of columned arcaded shops. There is a wonderful shop here called Saint James where you can buy quality traditional French striped tops. There are several restaurants here plus an imposing church in the middle - the Notre Dame. On the far east side (the quietest side) of the Port, there are more restaurants, eg the Barque Blue - which I love - see my restaurant reviews. Beautiful for sitting outside as the sun sets behind the Castle Hill. Also, not to be missed in Nice are The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Chagall and the Matisse Museums. I would also try the Grand Tour open-top tour- see my review. The little tourist train can be fun too but not as useful as the Grand Tour which covers more miles and hills. Shopping. No bargains here for me, with the euro vs. GB pound at the moment so I limit myself to sales time - Jan and July. The best shops are around rue Paradis - see my shopping tips. You can also try Nice Etoile - a mall half way up Ave Jean Medecin, good for rainy days and wonderfully air-conditioned in the heat of the summer. Also, several buses will take you to Cap 3000, a shopping complex to the west of the airport. The main department store is Galerie Lafayette on Ave Jean Medecin. For normal shopping, especially if you are renting an apartment and need basics, go to the Carrefour hypermarket on boulevard Delfino, about 10 minutes walk north of the Port. It has everything you need at the lowest prices for food, wine, beer, hardware, household goods, everything. Go at lunchtime and avoid the worst of the queues.
Food. There are hundreds of wonderful (and some not so wonderful) places to eat in Nice. I would start by checking out the VT tips or just wander around Nice and choose a place you like the look of according to your budget. There is a huge choice of restaurants from top-priced famous names like 'La Petite Maison' to tiny 'fast-food' counters in the Old Town with one table outside. There are also hundreds of bakeries and patisseries selling everything you might need for a simple picnic, including wine. Lastly, slap on the sun cream and lie on the beach in the sun and swim in the sea. If you can brook the expense, treat yourself to a day on a private beach - there are fifteen to choose from along the Promenade des Anglais. My favourite is Castel Plage - more details on my website: www.allaboutNice.com. I hope you have a wonderful time in Nice. My next trip - Dec '09.
- Pros:an accessible, compact, beautiful city full of life and culture all year round
- Cons:the dog-poo and graffiti (although this has improved a bit) Nice now need to tackle the parking and noisy motorbikes
- In a nutshell:a real city, busy, vibrant and the sunshine is an added bonus
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