On the French Riviera, somewhere between Cannes and Monaco, lies the historical and sunny seaside town of Nice. It has one of the most mispronounced names in Europe (it’s more like “nis”, not “nice” as in “cats make nice pets”) and is home to an airport so close to the waters of the Mediterranean that you will be forgiven for thinking your pilot is actually attempting to land in the sea.
The French town is known for celebrity visitors, festivals and a holiday atmosphere, as its pebbly beaches and seafront cafés lure tourists in need of a cocktail and sunlight. It’s a beautiful spot to visit (even in winter) with none of the inner-city urban busyness and noise but all of the charm and personality you’d expect from France’s fifth largest town.
So, what can you do in Nice?
Nice’s ‘old town’ is a beautiful maze of winding streets, gorgeous architecture, shops and restaurants. You can have a meal at a street-side café, pick up gifts for those back home, or wander through the Cours Saleya market in a street running parallel to the promenade and investigate the local produce and flowers on offer.
You don’t need an itinerary (or even a map) – spot the Palais de Justice or just locate an ice cream store and drift off in search of more winding side-streets.
Nice’s prime lookout spot can be reached by climbing up from the streets of old town, or by grabbing a spot on the miniature Nice tourist train, which will do all the ascending for you (it is quite a climb if you’re not a fan of steps).
Castle Hill is no longer home to an actual castle (just the ruins) but it offers stunning views of Nice’s old town on one side and the port on the other, as well as beautiful gardens and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s also popular with dog walkers, so be prepared to squeal as tiny fluffy canines cross your path.
The main beach front road is popular for both a peaceful walk and those looking for some sunshine (warning: the beach itself is a more a collection of tiny rocks than comfy sand).
The Promenade des Anglais stretches from old town out in the direction of the airport, offering a communal space for everyone from skateboarders to those looking for the perfect sunset shot. If you head slightly inward from the beach, you’ll find parks, a museum and the famous Hotel Negresco.
When it comes to the question of sustenance, Nice provides plenty. Between the restaurants in old town, central Nice and those along the Promenade, one only has to wander about to find anything from a freshly baked baguette to gourmet ice cream or lovely pasta.
One of my favourite discoveries on the food front was Emilie’s Cookies – a gorgeous bakery and coffee shop that makes delicious peanut butter biscuits and has the most entertaining milkshake menu I’ve even seen (seriously, some of the flavours include ‘Milk Shrek’, ‘Milk Chuck Norris’ and ‘Milk Jagger’). They have two stores in Nice (one in the town center and the other in the old town) and we visited for everything from an actual meal (breakfast) to takeaway Nutella hot chocolate.
Yes, another country is just a short bus ride away. My fascination with Monaco centers more on the Formula 1 circuit than the legacy of Princess Grace, but the city state caters for all.
From the Casino de Monte-Carlo to yacht-spotting in the harbour and the royal palace, Monaco is easily explored on foot and offers stunning views from seaside hills as well as historical architecture, museums and the 19th century Saint Nicolas Cathedral.
Have you been to Nice or Monaco? What did you love the most?