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South France Villas Blog

Friday 23 May 2014

10 Top Things to See and Do in Nice

Top 10 things to do in Nice this summer
Ideally situated close to the French border with Italy and the principality of Monaco, Nice is France’s 5
th largest city and is a fantastic base for exploring the Côte d’Azur. However, if you are flying in for a city break, you won’t be disappointed spending all your time in Nice. A cultural crossroads, Nice is an exciting place to visit to soak up the sun, lie on the beach, taste some local gastronomic specialities, take a boat trip and visit some of the famous museums, like the Picasso in Antibes. 

Nice Beaches - South France Villas
The Coast at Nice

1. Food and Gastronomy­ - What are the local specialities in Nice?

There are many local gastronomic specialities to be found in Nice, and the best way to sample them has to be in the Old Town. Here you will find "Pissaladière" – a pizza-like pastry with a sweet onion and anchovy topping. "Les Petits Farcis Niçois" – baked peppers, courgettes, and courgette flowers stuffed with mince and rice, and of course the world famous "Salade Niçoise".
The wide variety of restaurants in Nice ensures there is something for every taste and budget. Here are a few ideas for local places to eat out: 

For a Michelin experience, the majestic Restaurant Le Chantecler, located within Hotel Negresco, 37 Promenade des Anglais, is home to the two star-awarded chef Jean-Denis Rieubland. Prices €27 - €322.
For a relaxed lunch on the beach why not try Blue Beach on Promenade des Anglais, with fish, seafood and steak all on the menu, you can take one of the sun loungers after lunch for a chilled afternoon €18-€50.
A particularly family-friendly restaurant, recommended in the 2014 Petit Futé publication, is Sarao Restaurant and Bar, located at 7 Promenade des Anglais. With highchairs and kids menus and an in-expensive lunchtime set menu, this trendy restaurant-bar is near the Jardin Albert I, the perfect place to let the kids have a run around after lunch.

2. What are the best markets in Nice?
A trip to Nice would not be complete without a couple of hours spent experiencing the fragrant and colourful fruit, vegetable and flower market on the Cours Saleya. Also not to be missed is “The Marché Artisanal Nocturne”, an evening craft market that brings the Cours Saleya to life during the holiday season from mid-May to mid-September. During the refreshing summer evenings, admire the jewellery, pottery and paintings lovingly created by Nice artists. It is held every evening in summer from 6pm to midnight. For fragrance lovers, a trip to the famous perfume capital Grasse is only a short drive away.

Nice Markets - South France Villas
Nice Market on the Cours Saleya
3. What are the best beaches in Nice?
The beach in Nice starts near the airport and follows the curve of the Bay of Angels for around 5 kilometres all the way to the port just beyond the Chateau Hill. The beach is composed of smooth pebbles and so a good beach mat and "jelly shoes" are advisable. You can make the most of your stay by using one of the 15 private beaches. They are expensive (€12-€25 per day) but you will benefit from a comfortable sun lounger, parasol and table, as well as showers, toilets and a waiter service. The private beaches also have a restaurant area, and so you won't have far to go should you wish to stay for lunch.  If you are looking for soft white sand you will to need to head west to Antibes. A good compromise is the gritty soft shale beach at Villefranche, a pretty village just east of Nice.
All the private beaches are so different, here are some examples; The Castel Plage is trendy and gay-friendly, the Blue Beach has a great little pool for toddlers and Beau Rivage is the biggest private beach on the Côte d'Azur.
There are very limited services on the public areas, a few open showers and portaloos. However there are three public beaches that have good facilities for a small fee, for example the Plage Publique de Beau Rivage. For a few euros there are clean toilets, showers, changing rooms and security lockers, making a visit to the public beach much more pleasant.

Beach Restaurants Nice - South France Villas
The Blue Beach - Private Beach and Restaurant
4. What is Promenade des Anglais?
The well-known Promenade des Anglais, takes its name from the English holiday makers who have flocked to Nice over the centuries enjoying their strolls along the promenade. It is the place to be seen, whether it be on roller-skates (you can hire them from a shop close to the Old Town), on a bike, or simply hand-in-hand with a loved one. Adjacent to the promenade is the 6-lane road which separates the shops, hotels and restaurants from the beach.
5. What cultural experiences can be found in Nice?
The Côte d’Azur has always been popular with artists flocking from overseas. There are galleries dedicated to both Chagall and Matisse in the city as well as the Picasso Museum in nearby Antibes. The modern art museum, located halfway between the old and new town, MAMAC exhibits more contemporary works of art. Only 15 minutes’ drive away is Saint Paul de Vence where the village is like an open-air art gallery.

6. Can I take a boat trip in Nice?
There are many opportunities to take a boat trip in Nice. Among the most popular type of excursions are tours to take in celebrity homes and nature watching. If you have more time to spend, you can take a boat from Cannes to the Lerin Islands: Ile de Sainte Marguerite (where the famous Man in the Iron Mask was incarcerated), and Ile Saint-Honorat (where monks brew the alcoholic lemon liqueur “Limoncello”). Also, from Nice you could take the high-speed ferry to Calvi and Bastia in Corsica.

7. What is there to do in Monaco and beyond?
Given the tiny size of the principality of Monaco, it would be a shame not to visit whilst staying in the area. Going east from Nice it is only 30 minutes’ drive away; the best sights can be done in a day. The main attractions include the prince’s palace, the tomb of Princess Grace in the cathedral and admiring the collection of “mega yachts” to be found in the port. If you have cash to spend, trying your luck in the casino is an experience in itself. Or you could simply enjoy a coffee outside the Café de Paris opposite whilst watching the “super cars” pull up outside. Just another 30 minutes’ eastwards brings you to the closest Italian town of Ventimiglia.

8. How about Cannes and beyond?
40 minutes’ drive south-west of Nice is the world-famous town of Cannes. During May the town is absolutely inundated with visitors for the International Film Festival, making getting around pretty difficult. Even when the Cannes Film Festival has long since rolled up the red carpet, you can imagine the glitz and glamour at the site of the annual event; the Palais des Festivals et des Congres. Be sure to stop at the convention centre, which hosts many events throughout the year. Here you can see the handprints of celebrities embedded in the flagstones outside the building. Also west of Nice you will find the trendy resorts of Mandelieu-le-Napoule and Antibes with sandy beaches, restaurants and cute boutiques.

9. Theatre and Opera
What better excuse do you need to get dressed up than a night at the opera? If you book in advance, tickets can be bought for a bargain price. The Nice Opera House can be found next to the Cours Saleya market place in the Old Town – handily located with an underground car park adjacent and many restaurants close by. Theatre lovers can indulge their passion at the Theatre National de Nice on Promenade des Arts.

Gardens in Nice - South France Villas
The Jardin Botanique
 10. Gardens and stuff for kids
Phoenix Park, on the east end of Promenade des Anglais is home to one of the largest greenhouses in Europe. The greenhouse accommodates seven different tropical climates, the most spectacular and colourful scenery being yielded by the lush fern forest and by the exquisite collection of orchids. The artificial lake (which has an island) offers a splendid view buzzing with colour and life. The exotic fauna also comprises species of tropical insects and birds. Visitors should also take time to admire the Mediterranean waterfalls of the park. Other notable parks include the Jardin Botanique, Jardin Albert 1er and Parc du Chateau, located on a hill overlooking Nice. If you are holidaying with children, a day at nearby Marineland, close to Antibes, will provide fun and excitement. It is a waterpark, aquarium and adventure playground. 

Why not take a look at some of the holiday villas you can rent in the Nice area:

Villa rentals in Nice with private pool.
Overlooking Nice Villa Minou AM037A with Air-Con, Wi-Fi and a Private Salt Water Pool. Sleeps 8-9 people.

Rent a Villa with Pool in Cap Martin
Between Monaco and Nice, with Views to Die For Villa Cap Martin AM039A Sleeps 8-10 People.