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Marche aux Fleurs, Nice (c) Hugues Lagarde

A short break in
Nice

Hotel Negresco, Nice  Nice waterfront .

Battle of Flowers, Nice (c) Isabelle Beauregard / OTCN

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The capital of the French Riviera has irrepressible energy and joie de vivre. It's bursting with life. True, the stony beach is one of the worst on the Riviera, and the famous beach-side Promenade des Anglais long ago became a busy divided highway, but Nice is dazzling. The waterfront remains beautiful. Shaded with palms, backed with glorious pre-War buildings, that broad, handsome promenade ('La Prom' in local parlance) is still one of the world's most extravagantly joyous creations.
   The majestic azure sweep of the bay ends abruptly with palm-tree gardens, a hill called the 'château' and, at its foot, the tiny Old Town - 'Le Vieux', as locals call it. The Old Town is a picturesque haven for strolling or lingering over a coffee, and the area has an astonishing concentration of good restaurants. Its daily flower market in Cours Saleya sets up a magnificent array of colour and fragrance between cafe tables. It's hardly surprising that the town has fascinated painters, whose presence in the mid-20th century made Nice a great city of art, with world-class museums, including two devoted to Chagall and Matisse.


 Get the feel

The sophisticated, ancient, worldly-wise "Queen of the Riviera" brings together high life and low life, squalor and style.
  The town centre's principal boulevard, Blvd Masséna, is wide, noisy and scruffy in parts. The town's older quarters nearer the sea are beautiful with their Italianate architecture.
  Among the dozens of restaurants, there are many swish, pricey places for putting on the style, but there are also plenty of decent, affordable eateries.
  Nice is probably the cheapest place to stay on the Riviera. Yet the sense of past glory is in the air – you can almost see those Russian and English aristocrats strolling on the Promenade.

 What, why, where

A large coastal town on a wide Mediterranean bay, backed by hills of the Provençal Alps, Nice has a long history and is today the second most important air gateway into France (after Paris). Its origins lie in a Ligurian settlement (from 1000BC), a Greek trading port (from 600BC), and a Roman town (from 200BC) - all of which have left ruins and artefacts.
  Part of Italy until 1860 (hence the name Riviera), during the 18th-19th centuries Nice became a popular winter resort among Europe's upper classes, especially English and Russian aristocrats.
  In the 1820s, wealthy English winter residents paid for the building of the seashore walkway which became known as the Promenade des Anglais - still one of the town's main attractions.
 
The 1920s saw a rapid growth of bohemian, arty tourism to the area, and the first summer visitors, but not until the 1960s did mass tourism begin, making Nice a busy all-year-round resort town and gateway to what has become one of the world's most popular holiday regions.

 Getting started

The main Nice tourist office is on the Promenade des Anglais. There's a secondary tourist office at the railway station, off av. Thiers (Winter: Mon-Sun 0800-1900. Summer: Mon-Sat 0800-2000, Sun 0800-1200).
www.nicetourisme.com

French Riviera Pass gives free access to most Nice sights and attractions. It costs 26 for 24 hours, 38 for 48 hours, 56 for 72 hours. For an extra 4 per day, you can include all transport in the Nice area. It can be bought online ahead of your visit.
en.nicetourisme.com/the-french-riviera-pass

 Compass points

Almost all visitors - whether coming from the airport or by road from the west - enter Nice on the main coastal highway which becomes the Promenade des Anglais.
   For visitors, four areas of town are of special interest: the seafront, including the beautiful beachfront Promenade, the port, and ‘Le Château’ hill; the historic and atmospheric Vieux Nice quarter, which is set back from the sea at the end of the promenade; the busy, attractive Centre Ville, or town centre, just five minutes walk from the sea, behind Place Masséna, including pedestrianised streets where many shops and restaurants can be found; and the Cimiez district, further away on the north side of the town centre, for its Classical ruins and museums.

 Getting around

The Promenade, Vieux Nice and town centre are easily manageable on foot. Cimiez is better reached by bus (nos. 15, 17, 20, 22 – ask for Les Arènes; or no. 25 – ask for Monastère).
  Nice has a sleek modern tram that follows a U-shaped route through the city, from Comte de Falicon to the Pont Michel, via the central Place Mass
éna. A second tram line will open in 2018. http://tramway.nice.fr.
  Bus and tram tickets cost 1.50€ and can be bought onboard. A carnet of 10 tickets costs 10€. 7-day passes (15€)
allowing unlimited travel are available from Ligne d'Azur, tabacs and newsagents. www.lignesdazur.com
  There's plenty of street parking, including along Promenade des Anglais (max. stay 2 hours), and a dozen car parks near the sea.
  Vélo Bleu bike hire scheme extends from Nice to Cagnes, with 175 pick-up/drop-off points. Register for a year, month, week (5
€) or day (1€). 30m hire is free, the next 30m is 1€, then 2€ for each half-hour.
www.velobleu.org

 Hotels in Nice

On the seafront a string of upmarket hotels ranges from classic Belle Epoque opulence to the heights of modern luxury.
  A block inland are good hotels with lower prices. In the pedestrianised area off Place Massena there are budget 1- or 2-star hotels. There are even cheaper places to stay around the railway station and in the heart of the town, away from the sea.

Hi Hôtel  Ave des Fleurs. Created by top French designer Matali Crasset, this is as much art as accommodation, with uncluttered interiors, sharp blocks of colour, and quirkily individual rooms.
www.hi-hotel.net/


Hotel Negresco 37 Promenade des Anglais. Grandly famous and luxurious pink-domed waterfront landmark. Stays on top of the game and is still has the best restaurant in Nice.
www.hotel-negresco-nice.com

Hôtel La Pérouse 11 Quai Rauba-Capéu, across the road from the Promenade, at the foot of the Château hill. Charming, stylish and pricey.
www.hotel-la-perouse.com

Palais de la Méditerranée Promenade des Anglais. Behind the elaborate white Art Deco façade of the Palais, the rebuilt interior is inspired by the original's 1930s elegance. It's now a luxurious Hyatt Regency hotel.
www.lepalaisdelamediterranee.com

 Eating and drinking in Nice

Eat Nice food: Many of the local specialities are snacks, starters or side dishes rather than main courses. Try Pissaladière (a big onion and anchovy tart on a thin base, like a pizza), Socca (a paper-thin crepe of chickpea flour served only with oil and pepper), Salade Niçoise (salad with olives, egg, potato, anchovies and tuna), Pan Bagnat (salad niçoise in a bun) and Ratatouille (a savoury, olive-oily stew of tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes).

Nice has six one-Michelin-starred restaurants, and the two-star Chantecler, in the Negresco hotel. The town centre has scores of good, affordable  restaurants. Places with a sea view may be pricey and often need to be booked well ahead. There are plenty of touristy but inexpensive bars and eating places in the pedestrianised area off Place Massena.

The everyday Riviera wine, served well chilled, is Rosé de Provence. The area produces fine wines too, notably local Nice wine Le Bellet.

 In the Know

Book well ahead to stay in the Old Town or by the sea, even in winter.
Talk Nice! The natives of Nice have their own patois, called Nissart, still very much in use.
What's on: Pick up a copy of Le Mois à Nice from tourist offices or hotels for all this month’s events listings.

 Must-see

 Promenade des Anglais 
The Nice waterfront is an awesome, inspiring sight, with palm and mimosa trees, pre-War villas and hotels, notably the pink-domed Hôtel Negresco, and best of all, the dazzling view across the sparkling blue Baie des Anges. From spring to autumn, every kind of tourist from all over the world strolls along the wide walkway - or skateboards, skates, jogs, walks the dog, or just relaxes on one of the sea-facing seats.
  Musée d’Art et d’Histoire Palais Masséna (near Hôtel Negresco) traces the history of Nice through painting, sculpture, jewellery, tapestries, as well as an important library of historical documents. Promenade des Anglais ends at Jardin Alber 1er but the promenade continues as Quai des États-Unis to the 'Chateau'.

 Le Vieux Nice 
 The Old Town
At the east end of the promenade, Le Vieux Nice (or Vieille Ville) is a delightful tangle of picturesque narrow lanes, many of them crowded with strollers pausing at the dozens of bars, restaurants and little shops selling souvenirs or traditional Provençal fabrics. There are interesting small baroque churches too. Focal point is Cours Saleya, a long ‘square’ edged with restaurant tables and filled for much of the day with a big flower market under coloured awnings (except Monday - antiques market instead).

 Le Château and Le Port 
 The "Chateau" and Port
Not a castle, Nice Château is a headland between the beach and the port. The medieval fort and other buildings which stood here were demolished in 1706 leaving little trace. Today the hilltop is a pleasant shaded park with fantastic views of sea and town. At the foot of the hill, the coast turns into the Old Port, a busy area with popular restaurants.

 Musée des Beaux Arts 
 (Fine Arts Museum) 
At the seafront's western end, the prestigious Musée des Beaux-Arts (or Musée Jules Cheret) contains extensive collections of Italian and French paintings and sculpture of the 17th-19th centuries, with a large number representing the late 19th-century movements, such as works by Degas, Sisley and Raoul Dufy, who was especially inspired by Nice and the Riviera.
www.musee-beaux-arts-nice.org/

 Musée d'Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain 
 (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) 
Several museums are located along the Paillon promenade which divides the old town from the new, including the famously avant-garde Musée d'Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain. Better known simply as MAMAC, it displays European and American late 20th-century artists, with the definitive collection of the “Nice school” of 60s modern artists who lived and worked in the town, and a gallery reserved for Yves Klein (1928-62).
www.mamac-nice.org

 Les Arènes, and Musée Matisse
 (The Arena, and Matisse Museum)
Pronounced Cimié, the hill district of Cimiez on the north side of the town centre was the centre of the Roman town. The main reason to come here is the Roman ruins and museum at the Parc des Antiquités, or ‘Les Arènes’, an archaeological site laid out as a pleasant little park. The oval-shaped arena itself, still within the ruins of its original Roman walls, is now a venue for open-air performances and shows. Other 1st-3rd-century ruins at the site include Roman baths.
  Beside the park, the Musée Archeologique displays numerous objects found at Nice.

  Also beside the archaeological park, Musée Henri Matisse occupies a modern underground building and 17th-century mansion. The museum deals with the development of Matisse’s work from line drawings to colourful gouaches to cut-outs to a model of his chapel at nearby Vence.
  Matisse (1869-1954) and Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) are both buried in nearby Cimiez cemetery.

www.musee-matisse-nice.org/


 Musée Marc Chagall 
 Chagall Museum
At the foot of Cimiez hill, the Musée Marc Chagall (with the strange alternative name, Musée du Message Biblique) is a phenomenal collection of Chagall’s enigmatic work, including stained glass, mosaic, artbooks as well as his big, richly coloured, dreamlike canvases on Biblical and Jewish themes.

musees-nationaux-alpesmaritimes.fr/chagall/

 Buy it

Look out for perfumes, including Eau de Nice mimosa scented toilet water, Nice olives and olive oil.

 Events and Festivals

Nice Carnival
11-25 Feb 2017

There are big, festive events throughout the Nice year, but there's nothing to beat the huge, mad annual extravaganza of the Nice Carnival. Dating back at least 700 years, it’s a feast of parades, costumes, music, masks and mock battles.
  Highlight is the Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of Flowers), which is not a battle but a cavalcade of bands, fancy-dress, and huge, flower-decorated floats from which pretty girls throw mimosa to the crowds.
  The Carnival theme for 2017 is <<Roi de l'Energie>>, or King of Energy.
 
If you're not in Nice at Carnival time, there's another Battle of the Flowers during the summer. 
www.nicecarnaval.com/

 Getting to Nice

Driving to Nice - Nice is on Autoroute A8, which runs from Aix-en-Provence (where it connects with the Rhône Valley and Languedoc autoroutes) to Italy. On more scenic coastal D-roads, expect constant traffic jams in summer. From the north, D6085 (Route Napoléon) crosses the Provence Alps to Nice from Lyon.
Google map of road approaches to Nice

Train to Nice - The rail route to Nice along the Mediterranean coast is famously beautiful. Journey time from Paris is 5h30, with overnight sleeper alternatives if preferred.

Flights to Nice - Nice is the main gateway for the French Riviera and Provence. There are numerous flights every day to Nice from the
UK and dozens of French and European airports. I flew from London to Nice with Easyjet (2 hours).
www.easyjet.com
.

 Nice Basics

Where is it?
  On the French Riviera.
International phone dialling code:
 
00 33 (+ drop initial 0 from local number)
Time zone:
 
GMT/BST + 1 hour.
Money:
 
Euro
(€).



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nice
Revised and updated January 2017. All rights reserved worldwide.
Text © Focus Guides and Andrew Sanger.
Pictures
© Nice Office du Tourisme (mouse over for further details), used with permission.
Permission to use: This guide may be freely PRINTED ONLY for personal non-commercial use. Unless a LICENCE has been obtained it may not, in whole or in part, be COPIED nor used for any COMMERCIAL purpose.
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