It was a cold, rainy winter day in the Netherlands when I looked out of the window one morning and said to myself “I wish to spend a weekend where the sky does not look like…this”. And ended up booking a flight to Nice in about five minutes.
This was in February and for many visitors, summer is more of a preferred season as you can imagine. Yet weather was simply perfect during my stay! Imagine sun, looots of sun…
I had 3 full days with no pre-plan, but in such a small place you will not have trouble finding your way around. Nice is a very small city and airport is not really at the end of the world. You can easily reach the city center by using The Nice Express Airport Bus. Ticket is only €6 and you can use the same ticket for tram or another bus within a one hour period. Or you could walk a bit once you get off from the airport and take the local bus #23, which will cost only €1,5. If you prefer to take a taxi, I highly suggest Uber rather than taking an airport taxi. Otherwise you will probably be overcharged, a lot…
As I had an early morning flight on the way to Nice, I decided to take it easy and go for an energizing breakfast. Luckily my hotel was right in the very heart of the old town, Vieille Ville, so it did not take me long before finding a nice cafe where I could do some human observing while enjoying my food.
My first stop was the beautiful flower, fruit and fish market, famous Cours Saleya. It is open every day except Mondays! But no worries, because a flea/antique market takes place instead then. Even just walking around the market is a great experience, as you find yourself drowning into a feast of colors and smell of fresh fruits. Everything you see is highly tempting so make sure to have some cash before you come around.
You can do as I did and get yourself some juicy strawberries and hit the road to Castle Hill. Or even buy some aperitif from the market and have a picnic at the top of the hill! You can either walk up or take an elevator depending on your mood and strength. But I suggest you to take the stairs as it gives you a chance to enjoy the astonishing city view from different levels. You will know when you reach the top because the view will be the same as each and every single stock photo you had seen before. On the way back, again you will have two options. You can either go towards Nice port, or go down from the same way and head for Promenade des Anglais. I went for the latter to maximixe my reunion with the sun. Nothing better than soaking up sunshine as you hold a cold drink in your hand.
The only plan I had in mind was to try good food and wine as much as possible, which is luckily not a problem at all in Nice. Just keep in mind to avoid ALL touristy places in order not to give up on the quality of food for a ridiculous price. I enjoyed an astonishing lunch at Le Bistrot de d’Antoine, which has my full recommendation. Food is amazing and reservation is a must. Peixes, Comptoir du Marché, La Maison de Marie, Bar des Oiseaux and Le Safari are also good alternatives that will definitely not disappoint you.
When it comes to nightlife, Nice offers you another great variety of options. You can either dance your heart out, or do some bistro hopping like the local do. Rue de Bonaparte is worth a long visit to fulfill your soul with aperos and French wine. If you are a cocktail person, Le Comptoir Central Electrique is at your service. And regardless of your core party spirit, pay a visit to El Merkado to enjoy some cozy time. If you have an obsession with Irish pubs, Ma Nolan’s Vieux is the right address, especially when they have live music. Last but not least, Le Méridien and Boscolo Exedra offer you substantial rooftop bar experience and sunsets, so keep that in mind.
I managed to get up (surprisingly) early on my second day which gave me a chance to enjoy a long breakfast at Boulangerie Jeannot. You have plenty of options and no matter what you choose, it will be super delicious. I had maybe way too much carbs so had to come up with a plan to burn them up a bit. Thus I hop on a bus and hit the road to Eze, a museum-village which is a must see! You will enjoy great views along the way so make sure to find yourself a window seat. Eze is pretty small and it does not take so much time before you learn it by heart. You can either spend few hours to enjoy the view at the top of the botanical garden, or hop on the bus again to proceed with your journey.
I did kind of a mixture. First enjoyed the view, and a scenic lunch before I hit the road to Monaco by taking a bus. The bus ride offers you great views, and you pay less than €3 for that, what a wonderful world!
Monaco is way too posh and expensive for my taste, so I did not want to kill hours there and kept it brief. I visited Casino de Monte-Carlo briefly. There is an area which you can visit for free. The entrance fee is €10 yet you are not allowed to take pictures inside. As I was not really a big fan, did not bother going really, really in. Right next to the casino you will find famous Cafe de Paris, which is a nice spot to act posh and watch super expensive cars that leave the casino and chunks of people watching them going.
Even though bus connection is a bit limited between Nice, Eze and Monaco triangle; it is very easy to go directly back to Nice by train. After such a long day, it was time to indulge endless amount of food again. This time I teamed up with a Bulgarian/Canadian partner in crime and went to Chez Freddy. If you happen to go and get a full menu, beware, portions are huge! Not that we complained or anything, but just so you know.
I spared my last day for a final tour around Vieille Ville and to discover Promenade des Anglais as much as I could. Despite its popularity as a summer destination, Nice is also full of history, lots of it, pretty churches and great museums. But even strolling around the narrow and colorful streets of old town is an experience by itself. Speaking of experiences, if you consider yourself a true ice-cream lover, you should definitely go to Fenocchio! I can hear you asking “Why?”. Because you can have a lavendar, tomato-basil and cactus flavoured ice-cream. And it will taste like HEAVEN!
During the 18th century, English aristocrats preferred to spend their winter days in Nice (which is the reason why I planned my trip for February, aristocracy is in my blood…). They did enjoy the panaromic view of the coast but they enjoyed walkable sideways more than that, and after a series of events today’s walkway was constructed. Now it is large enough to fill in big crowds, offers bike rentals for those who like to speed things up, and full of cafes where you can enjoy all day long apero joy.
During my whole stay, I also enjoyed Nice carnival, which is one of the most major carnivals of the world. That being said, be ready to party during the day or night; depending on the program. The earliest record that was found about the carnival dates back to 13th century, so being part of the party means being part of the history…
I can imagine how busy Nice would get during high season. So I was happy to be able to discover it without being beaten by selfie sticks. So either for a long weekend or a longer trip, Nice, the pearl of Cote D’azur, worths at least a visit in your lifetime.
Book recommendation of this trip: I came across to Curious Histories of Nice, France in a lovely bookshop around the old town, which was among the few English book options they had. It is neither a tour guide nor a historical book. Yet it will entertain you throughout you r trip with great recommendations included. You will also learn a lot about history of this beautiful city in such a fun way.