I can honestly say, hand on heart, that Nice is my favourite place I have ever visited.
I recently saw a photo online of a friend who is currently there and it was strange how one picture can make you feel all kinds of emotions – even thinking back on it now makes me want to book a flight ASAP. During my time working as an au pair in France, I visited Nice sooo many times (I lived about a 30 minute bus journey away and with tickets costing just €1.50, I was in Nice pretty much every week!)
I think one of the best bits about Nice is that there is just so much to do; go shopping, take in the sights, wander through the old town, take a dip in the sea, sunbathe on the beach, admire the yachts at the port. I could go on forever about how much I love the place but I’ll save you all the boredom and summarise a few of my favourite things to do in my favourite city ever!
‘Place Massena’ is a square which kind of feels like the centre of Nice and a hub from where everything else stems from. Prepare yourself for an explosion of colour from the pastel buildings to the ‘chess-board-esque’ floor; it feels a bit like walking into a fairytale! The ‘Avenue Jean Médicin’ with its many shops, ‘Promenade du Paillon’, Nice Old Town and the beach along the ‘Promenade des Anglais’ are all surrounding the square which makes it really feel like it’s in the centre of the action (I would recommend grabbing a smoothie from ‘SoGreen Juice Bar’ which is located here and sit on one of the outside tables – the perfect people watching spot and incredibly delicious drinks!)
Promenade du Paillon
If you’re looking for a little break and time out from all the shopping, then be sure to call via ‘Promenade du Paillon’. It’s a park located just next to Place Massena where there are cool little wooden chairs, benches and lots of water fountains which make for some wicked photos. I think they’re partly designed to cool yourself off during summer months but they also look lovely in front of the old town buildings too.
Avenue Jean Médecin
Shops, shops and more shops – it sounds like my idea of heaven! The Avenue Jean Médecin is basically a long street full of well known stores including H&M, Sephora and Zara which starts from the Place Massena and continues for ages! It’s fair to say that it’s not ‘unique to Nice’ (I’m sure you could even find many of those shops in your nearest city) but if you’re anything like me, any chance to go shopping is a chance I am deffo going to take. Wayyy too many weeks wages were spent there oops…
Vieux Ville – Old Town
Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to go shopping in big well known shops and malls but you also can’t forget to check out the smaller boutiques and cafés in the old town too. Even if you’re not looking to spend any money, getting lost in the multitude of small alleys and walkways while taking in the charm of the tall and ancient buildings is something which adds to the appeal of Nice. There is always a hive of activity and a very good atmosphere all around but ‘Place Rossetti’ seems to be the heart of the action. Here, you will find a few good cafes as well as Nice Cathedral (aka Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate). It’s a good place to head to but I think part of the fun of it is getting lost in the small passages and exploring what is on offer.
Also located in the old town is ‘Cours Saleya Market’. It’s a true feast for your senses with flowers, fruit, jams, cheeses and many other delicious treats all on offer. In the warmer months, I used to like seeing what I could pick up for my lunch there and eat it on the beach which is less than a 2 minute walk away – yum!
I’m sure if you’ve read any of my other blogposts, you would know how much of a sucker I am for a good viewpoint. The Tour Bellanda (a large tower close to the end of the ‘Promenade des Anglais’ next to the ‘I Love Nice’ sign) certainly ticks that box. There are a lot of steps to get to the top but it’s nothing too challenging and the views at the end make it all worthwhile. At the top of the tower, the most stunning panorama of Nice is on offer – it really puts the closeness of the beach to the main city into perspective and I could spend ages people watching from the top.
You can decide to call it a day here and walk back down but there is so much more to see if you climb a little bit further up the ‘Colline du Chateau’ (translated as ‘castle hill’ since an old fort used to be located there). There are many hiking trails, gardens and an impressive waterfall, still all offering those stunning views over the city. I would 100% recommend going there if you are in Nice!
I Love Nice sign
You’re simply not a tourist if you haven’t got a snap next to this sign. Towards the end of the Promenade des Anglais (close to the port), you’ll see it, located in front of an amazing view all along the coast. Climb on the letters, strike a pose and snap away – the most stereotypical tourist pic ever but it just has to be done.
Promenade des Anglais & The Beach
One of the things I love most about Nice is the fact you have a busy and vibrant town combined with a crystal clear beachfront all in one. It’s no surprise that the ‘Côte d’Azur’ is called that (literally meaning coast of the azure) when you look at the bright blue sea at Nice. During the beginning of my stay when the weather was still warm (even in October!!), I would often swim in the water and you could literally see your feet on the ground – it was that clear! I was happily sunbathing and even getting a pretty impressive suntan towards the end of Autumn which just adds to why I love this part of the world so much. The beach is made up of pebbles which I actually prefer to sand (it just seems to get everywhere!) You can walk along the coast on the famous ‘Promenade des Anglais’ which is a long pavement lasting for around 7km. The promenade is made up of two strips – one for pedestrians (and about a million runners) and another for bikes. It’s also great for scooters which my little au pair child proved when he decided to peddle 2km down the promenade on a super busy Sunday only to be found an hour later by the police after we frantically ran around searching for him (it’s a long story and I would like to point out that I was not ‘on duty’ when he went missing) Frightening times but all turned out well in the end thank goodness!
A trip to the French Riviera isn’t complete without seeing the yachts – Nice’s display is at the very end of the the ‘Promenade des Anglais’. I would say that there are better places to see a mega selection of boats such as larger ports at Antibes or Monaco (get me, pretending I’m a specialist in yachts!) but Nice still puts on quite a show – especially ‘Quantum Blue’ which, at 104m, dominates the other boats in the port. It’s deffo worth seeing just to be in awe at how the other half live!!
If you’ve read any of my other blogposts, you would know that my time living in France converted me into quite the museum loving enthusiast. It may come as a surprise then that I only actually visited one museum in Nice – Musée Terra Amata which I went to with my aupair family during a day out to Nice. It’s not massive but there is still an informative display of archaelogical discoveries found when excavating the area in the 1950’s. It’s basically a museum dedicated to the history of mankind and prehistorical tools, animals and people which you can find around the far end of the port. I don’t really know why I didn’t go to more museums in Nice (I guess there was just so much other stuff to keep me occupied instead!) Popular museums include ‘Musée Matisse’, ‘Musée Marc Chagall’, ‘Villa Massena’ and ‘Musée International d’art Naïf Anatole Jakovsky’. You can buy a day ticket for €10 which lets you get into all of the museums in Nice over 24 hours or a 7 day ticket for €20.
Where to eat
After all that sightseeing, you’re sure to be feeling a bit peckish. Luckily, Nice is not short of good places to grab a bite to eat – so many in fact that I’ve already written a separate blogpost on some of the best spots to eat in Nice which you can read here.
Getting to Nice
From the Airport
Getting to Nice is so easy due to the International Airport which brings in hundreds of flights from all over the world. It is located at the end of the ‘Promenade des Anglais’ (but bare in mind that you can’t just walk down the promenade to get into central Nice which is what I had assumed at first – well I mean, you couldddd, but even without suitcases and tired travel legs, it would be a bit of a trek) Of course, you could always get a taxi or Uber but I think the best way to get from the airport into central Nice is by taking a bus (there is also a tram link but I don’t think it goes directly into the centre – it’s something I didn’t really look into too much because I found a great bus which did the job perfect for me) The airport advertises two bus services ‘the #99 and #98 bus’ but, in all honesty, I think they’re a bit of a scam. Well not a scam as suchhhh but more of a way to rip off tired, luggage laden tourists wanting to quickly and easily get into the city centre. Tickets cost €6 for just a 15 minute journey and they have to be pre-bought from the ticket office at the airport. My family and I got this bus when they came to visit for the weekend, purely because it looked easy and I hadn’t researched any other options. After feeling mightily ripped off, I looked around for other options when my sister came out to visit. There are actually many other alternatives which are much cheaper and almost just as easy; the bus #52 goes from the bus stop just outside of Terminal One (Nice Airport has two terminals but you can easily get between each of them using a free shuttle bus which comes every 15 minutes) It costs a fraction of the price of the airport buses at just €1.50 and to get into the heart of the city, I would suggest getting off at the stop ‘Albert 1er/Phocéens’. It served as a reminder to me to make sure I did my research in order to save a little bit extra cash (the money I’d saved went towards a juice and piece of cake I bought when we arrived – yum!)
From Sophia Antipolis Gare Routière
During my stay in France, I was living in Valbonne which is about a 30 minute drive from Nice (going there became a part of my weekly routine!) At least once a week, I’d drop my au pair children off to school and take the #10 Envibus from ‘Val d’Azur’ to ‘Sophia Antipolis Gare Routière’ (I’ve done that line so many times that I’m sure I can still recite all of the bus stops 3 months later!) From Sophia Gare Routière, I’d take the ‘Ligne 230 Nice-Sophia Xpress’ which is a coach going between Sophia Antipolis Bus Station and Nice every 30 minutes. It’s kitted out nicely inside with comfy seats, wifi and phone chargers but the best bit is that it costs just €1.50 per journey (I travelled on it so frequently that I bought a ticket for 10 journeys which brought each ride down to €1 – perfect!) The final destination is Nice Cathedral which is close to the old town but I found that getting off at ‘Albert 1er/Phocéens’ was the best bet for getting you into the heart of the action.
From Cannes, Antibes, Villeneuve Loubet, Cagnes-sur-Mer…
Most of the time, the Nice-Sophia Xpress worked perfectly for me but the only problem was that it doesn’t run at weekends. If I wanted to head out then, I would take the Envibus #10 to ‘Biot SNCF’ (Biot Train Station) and then catch the ‘Lignes d’Azur #200’ which goes between Nice and Cannes. Again, tickets cost only €1.50 each way and the bus goes through popular destinations including Cannes, Antibes, Cagnes-sur-Mer and Nice. They come about every 15 minutes so getting to Nice by bus really isn’t much of a struggle at all! I would say that getting off at the final destination ‘Albert 1er’ is the best option.
Where to stay
Because I was living so close to Nice, I was normally able to visit easily for a day trip which meant I didn’t have to look for any accommodation in the city. However, my parents came out to visit for a weekend for my birthday and my sister also made a trip out to see me so I spent a couple weekends staying in the city. There are so many hotels and airbnbs on offer to cater for any budget but I chose two relatively cheap but modern hotels which were a perfect base to go off and explore what the city has to offer. I’ve written a separate blogpost on where I stayed with my parents which you can read here. I haven’t written one on where I stayed with my sister purely because her one night stay in Nice before coming to stay at my home in Valbonne meant that we didn’t get chance to spend a great deal of time there – I’ll discuss a few bits about it briefly here instead.
It was the hotel name which was what attracted us into staying here – ‘Hotel Nap by HappyCulture’. My sister won’t mind me saying this but napping is a massive part of her life. She always jokes that everyone has to leave her in peace during her ‘daily naptime’ between 4pm-7pm and believes she won’t function without it (I can agree that a napless Lucy is not one you want to come across!) For this reason, it just seemed like fate that we were to stay in ‘Hotel Nap’ so we booked it straight away.
The total price for one night for two people was £51.74 which included a buffet breakfast – you really can’t go wrong with that. We stayed in a bunk bed room which was pretty small but clean and a good base to dump our stuff and wander around the city. It was a good budget hotel but I think the main selling point was the location. It’s situated in the centre of ‘Avenue Jean Médecin’ and just a 10 second walk brought you onto the popular shopping street with its abundance of shops, restaurants and sights.
If there is one place you have to visit on the Côte d’Azur, Nice is it (pretty handy considering it’s home to the main international airport!) I hope I’ve managed to share what Nice has to offer without going off on too much of a tangent about how much I love it there (I could talk about that place for hours!!) Nice – I’ll be back soon!