July this year we swapped the
gloomy winter in Sydney for a Mediterranean summer in Nice.
We spent roughly 48 hours in the city seeing and eating as much as we could before we moved on to our next destination. After 26.5 hours of travel time from Sydney to Nice, it was totally worth it!
Once we arrived, it was really easy to get from the airport to the city centre. We had Anton’s cousin come pick us up from one of the Kiss & Fly points at the airport and from there it was a short 15-20 minutes drive. If you plan on visiting Nice and are not getting picked up, there are express buses that cost €6, local buses for €1.5, as well as taxis and Uber. For a more in-depth explanation of transport, this blog post explains it really well.
WHO WE STAYED WITH
Airbnb – Attic Studio
on L’avenue Jean Medecin
Entire Studio apartment from AUD$44/night
We had 3 people this trip, so we found a nice little attic studio on L’avenue Jean Medecin through Airbnb that could accommodate for up to 4 people. We enjoyed popping our heads out of 1 of the 2 skylights to feel like we were on top of the world, having the convenience of our own little kitchenette and taking a 3min stroll to the nearby train station for access to other parts of the French Riviera (Monaco, Cannes and Eze). The shower wasn’t in a separate room but there was a curtain for privacy. One downside was that the bed was a bit hard and because of the slanted roof of the attic, there wasn’t much headspace (lucky we are quite tiny).
Note: If you have more than 2 people, we found that airbnb usually works out cheaper than trying to find multiple rooms in a hotel or finding a triple/family room. Plus, you usually get more space and don’t risk getting the group split up. We definitely recommend booking early, especially if you are visiting during the peak season of summer as apartments get booked out really quickly. We were really pleased with the apartment we booked, but we suspect if we had started looking earlier, we may have been able to find something even better value.
37 Promenade des Anglais
If you have a bit more money to splurge, you must check out the Hotel Negresco; the most iconic hotel in Nice. Constructed in 1912, this National Historic Monument boasts a beautiful royal lounge with a 309-crystal chandelier and stained glass windows. Feel like you have been transported back in time as you walk in through the main entrance, greeted by doormen dressed in 18th century attire. Admire the outstanding art collection housed by the hotel, eat at the 2 star Michelin restaurant Le Chantecler, relax at the hotel’s private beach and then have a good night’s rest in your luxurious bed with mink bedspreads. Located on the Promenade des Anglais, the hotel has been visited by the likes of Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Richard Burton, Liz Taylor, Michael Jackson and many others.
WHAT WE DID
You can find plenty of information on what to do in Nice on TripAdvisor. But, these were our favourites:
Visiting the Notre Dame cathedral
2 Rue d’Italie
Our apartment was near the Notre Dame cathedral, so it was really convenient for us to visit. We went inside and loved how peaceful it was. Unlike many churches around Europe, this church wasn’t too touristy. Built in 1860 in an attempt to make the city look more French, the Notre Dame is the largest church in Nice. Entry is free except if you are attending a concert or recital. For more information on concert and recital dates, check here (you will need to use google translate if you can’t read French).
Relaxing on the beach
Promenade des Anglais
We walked for a good 30 minutes from the Notre Dame Cathedral down to the beach so it was nice to rest our feet while enjoying the view. Also, because it was a really hot day it was nice to feel the cool sea breeze. Unlike most beaches around the world, the beach in Nice is not covered in sand, rather pebbles. Although having pebbles means you stay relatively clean (you won’t find pebbles in places where they shouldn’t be, like sand), make sure to bring a padded beach mat and some jelly shoes as it can get quite painful.
The beach stretches for about 7km, all the way from the airport to Castle Hill. Along the way, it is split into 15 private beaches and 20 public beaches. Note that the public areas have limited facilities but are perfect for if you just want to have a quick dip in the water and are not planning to stay there all day. Private beaches cost between 10-18 euros a day and includes a sunlounger + access to facilities. There are also many optional extras including hiring a parasol, hiring a towel and ordering food and drinks. Find a list of all the private beaches here.
Admiring the St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral
Avenue Nicolas II
When we approached this cathedral, for a moment, we felt like we were no longer in Nice. The onion domes can be seen from a distance and are quite an odd site in this French city. It is so beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Situated near the train station, this building is a bit far from other attractions in Nice, but if you happen to be near the train station, pop by for a quick visit. Note: Entry is free, but there is a donation box. You must wear appropriate clothing to go inside; cover legs and shoulder. We didn’t go inside since we didn’t realise there would be this rule, but the outside was so beautiful, we were already satisfied.
If you are up for the challenge you can go for a hike up the stairs to get to the top of Castle hill. We decided to take the free lift as we went in the middle of summer and it was way too hot! The view at the top is amazing and so #instaworthy. To find the lift, just walk down Promenade Des Anglais with the beach on your right until the road curves slightly, you will spot an opening in the hill on the opposite side of the road with the words Ascenseur Chateau on top. Check out my video of Nice to see how it looks like.
The Old Town (Vieille Ville) is filled with narrow streets and old buildings. This area is a hive of activity and is a great place to grab a drink or a bite; have some gelato or granita and snack on a Nicoise salad or socca. For those that love to wander, the Old Town is the perfect place to explore. There is an amazing outdoor food and flower market every morning on Cours Saleya that is worth checking out. If you are there on a Monday it becomes a flea market, we love antiques so it was really interesting for us.
HALF OR FULL DAY TRIPS
Nice is a great base for exploring the French Riviera. We took half day trips to both Monaco and St Paul de Vence and highly recommend you mark it into your itinerary. If we had more time in Nice, we would have loved to visit Cannes, Villefranche, Provence and Eze as well. Maybe someday we can go back and explore these towns.
€3.90 single, €7.20 return via train
The train from Nice Ville station to Monaco Monte-Carlo station takes roughly 20 minutes each way. For a cheaper option, you can also catch the bus #100 for €1.50 but it will take 30-45 minutes each way. We took a train to Monaco for a half day trip. Click here to see my post about Monaco.
€1.50 each way via bus
The bus #400 takes about an hour to get to the mountaintop village of St Paul de Vence. This was our favourite thing that we did during our entire visit to Nice. We felt like we had been transported back in time as we explored the narrow cobblestoned streets of this medieval village. Click here (Coming soon) to see my post about St Paul de Vence.
WHERE WE ATE
We found, in general, it was very hard to find affordable food in Nice. Also, because Nice is very touristy, it was really hard to differentiate which restaurants were authentic and which ones were tourist traps. The general rule of thumb, if they have people holding menus out front desperately trying to coerce you into going in, they probably aren’t that great.
We found most restaurants in Nice were quite expensive, but luckily they had menus at the entrance for us to look at it before making a decision. You can check TripAdvisor for recommendations. These are the places we ate at:
24 L’avenue Jean Medecin
Both mornings we spent in Nice we grabbed breakfast from Brioche Doree. There you can find cheap delicious sandwiches and pastries. We highly recommend the toasted goats cheese and sundried tomatoes sandwich, it was so yummy!
Local takeaway store in Old Town
Our first day in Nice, we had lunch at a local takeaway store in Old Town. It wasn’t anything fancy, in fact we don’t think it even had a name, but it was cheap and filling. We got some sandwiches and crepes. Both were surprisingly quite tasty. You can check it out in my video and see if you can find it if you are ever in the Old Town of Nice and looking for something quick and affordable.
8 Rue Halevy
After a long day in St Paul de Vence we were really hungry when we returned to Nice so we tried to find something to eat near the bus stop. We stumbled across this restaurant, it wasn’t great – the seafood paella was a small serving and didn’t taste great and the chicken & fries were really dry, but we do recommend the mussels and fries! Honestly, though, you are probably better off cooking your own than specifically coming here. I actually made a video about cooking your own mussels in white wine which was inspired by this restaurant and another one in Antwerp.
3 Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine
This was our favourite meal in Nice. Restaurant Alounak serves Mediterranean dishes and are especially popular for their vegetarian dishes. The owner speaks good english and was extremely welcoming and friendly. We recommend both the ratatouille (choose from chicken or vegetarian) and vegetarian tadjine because they were so flavoursome. The food was also very good value. You can check the menu here.
2 Place Rossetti or 6 Rue de la Poissonerie
This place has more flavours than you can imagine, 94 flavours in total! It’s worth a visit just to see what interesting flavours there are. We tried the Lavender, Cactus, Rose and Pina Colada flavours. Cactus was refreshing and Pina Colada was tasty. The Lavender and Rose ones were too floral for my liking, but was interesting.
WHEN WE VISITED
We visited in July 2016. As it was summer it was extremely hot and humid. It was one of the hottest cities we visited across our entire trip through Europe. There were a lot of tourists and it was quite busy, but there weren’t many queues and we didn’t have trouble finding a table in restaurants. We even managed to get seats on all buses and trains that we caught, which wasn’t always the case in other cities we’ve visited.
If you can, try to visit at a cooler time of year, as it can get quite uncomfortable being out and about in the sun for too long.
WHY 48 HOURS WASN’T ENOUGH
If we had more time we would have:
– The Marc Chagall museum
– The Matisse museum
– Socca (hot and crispy chickpea pancake) from the Cours Saleya market
– Nicoise salad