If you’ve ever toured the Côte d’Azur, the chances are you will have at least passed through Nice, or maybe flown into Nice International Airport, on the way to your destination. Yet Nice is worth a lot more than just a fleeting glimpse through a car window.
With its Italian feel, old world charm, and year-round sunshine, Nice attracts both backpackers and the world’s celebs alike. Add a day to your itinerary to visit some of the city’s most interesting areas, or take a week and enjoy the sights, cuisine and buzzing nightlife of this most beautiful of cities.
The Avenue Jean Medecin, with its modern designer stores, is the city’s main shopping area. Since Nice introduced trams in 2008 the avenue has been transformed into a pedestrian-only area. Window shopping is the norm, and tourists and locals alike gather to enjoy the bustling atmosphere while strolling in the warm Mediterranean sunshine.
On your stroll down the Avenue you will come upon the Notre Dame Basilica on your right, recently transformed from a dull grey to a sparkling white after a long overdue facelift. Then, as you get nearer the Place Massena, upmarket fashion and accessory stores begin to proliferate, until you reach the square itself, where trams can be caught to every corner of the city.
While in the square, look out for another large pedestrianised area which is full of souvenir shops, coffee shops and snack bars. Now is a good time for a refreshment break, while you ponder whether to catch a tram to some of the city’s other areas, or join the famous Promenade des Anglais, a 7 km boulevard stretching along the Baie des Anges toward the port.
If you don’t fancy a 7 km stroll dodging the skateboarders, then look for signs in the square for Vieux Nice (Old Nice). The beginning of medieval Nice town, the area still has its narrow alleyways and 17th century charm – but be warned, it’s a tourist magnet during the day. Early morning is a good time to visit, when you can also take in the local daily market. That said, if you want to go local, it is a great place to stop off for a real local lunch, or return in the evening and enjoy some traditional Nice cuisine.
After lunch there is plenty to keep you busy. Walk to the top of Castle Hill for a fabulous view of the waterfront. The castle unfortunately is long gone. It was destroyed by the French in the early part of the 18th century, when Nice was still a part of Italy.
Finally, if you prefer to ride and take in more of the city, then the regular bus and tram services charge just €1, no matter how far the journey. And for those interested in the history, culture, and art of this famous city, entrance to the many public museums is completely free, although the plethora of private art collections do charge an entrance fee.