If you’re considering a holiday on the Côte d’Azur, you may well be thinking of Nice as one of your possible destinations. If so, it’s worth remembering that Nice is a big city (the 5th largest in France), with everything that entails, including traffic. And although the views of the beautiful Baie des Anges are spectacular, it’s a pebble beach – which may not suit some people. But I really love the old town of Nice, with its bustling narrow alleyways bursting with small shops and restaurants and the daily market on Cours Saleya. So if you’re travelling around, it’s worth planning on spending a couple of nights in Nice.
So what should you do if you’re in Nice? Well you might start with a stroll along the world-famous Promenade des Anglais which extends for seven kilometers from the airport in the west of the city, to the castle headland in the east. It takes its name from the English people who paid for it to be built. It can get packed in summer, but it’s a definite Nice experience.
Head for the old town and simply wander around, drinking in the lively atmosphere. There are lovely little boutiques selling everything from artisan food to handicrafts and numerous restaurants and cafes. Visit Sainte Réparate cathedral in Place Rossetti. Wander around the market on Cours Saleya – an elongated square that, until midday, is filled with stalls of flowers and food, and which later transforms into a huge restaurant under the open sky.
Nice has long attracted artists, and if you’re a fan of modern art, it’s worth heading to the Matisse museum which is in a quiet suburb away from the hustle and bustle of the city on Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez. It would probably be best to leave your car in the car park and take the bus there – I found it fairly simple to negotiate my way there on public transport.
I’ve always wanted to visit Nice for its spectacular February carnival, but haven’t managed it yet. There are numerous events with spectacular parades, and although you have to pay for a seat in the stands with the best views that are erected for the carnival, there is free standing room a bit further away.
Nice has numerous hotels, both large and small, including the iconic Negresco which has been welcoming celebrities since 1913. It’s worth visiting this Nice landmark – maybe for a cocktail in the bar. The last time I was in Nice I stayed in Hotel la Pérouse on quai Rauba Capeu – which is in a great location on a hill at the eastern end of the Promenade des Anglais and a very short stroll from the old town. There are fabulous views of the Baie des Anges and I splashed out on a room with a lovely terrace (not just a balcony) facing the sea. I tucked into my delicious breakfast with an audience of seagulls perching on the terrace railing. It’s not a cheap option, but I’d definitely recommend it. One bonus is that you can just drive up and park outside the hotel and they park the car for you, rather than you having to find public parking nearby.