When Nice was designated as the “winter resort town of the Riviera” by UNESCO, it cemented its reputation as the ideal vacation. The distinction honors the city’s global appeal and opulent aura by citing the “outstanding universal significance of the architectural, landscape, and urban heritage of Nice.”
Since the 18th century, the city’s seductive tranquility and surroundings have been a well-kept secret among seasoned tourists. Back then, English lords built opulent palaces with exotic gardens to accommodate their yearly sojourns because of the area’s mild winters and proximity to the French and Mediterranean seas. By 1860, those pioneering snowbirds had even built La Promenade des Anglais, or the English Promenade, which is now a renowned tourist destination.
However, Nice’s accessibility to modern travelers is its genuine secret. Visitors can navigate the French Riviera in style or on a shoestring budget, from Vieux Nice (the ancient town) up to Cimiez Hill (the former district of Queen Victoria).
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What to do and where to stay in Nice
The breathtaking descent into Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, which protrudes into the sapphire Ligurian Sea, ignites excitement for Nice. From there, you can reach central Nice in under 15 minutes by cab or quick tram. There are several places to stay on and nearby Avenue Jean Medecin, including Hotel Boscolo Nice, which welcomes visitors into its artistic lobby lit by a huge skylight. The hotel’s two Italian-inspired restaurants, underground spa, and rooms are all roomy and stylish. Plan a visit to the hotel’s airy rooftop lounge, where you may relax by the plunge pool throughout the day and sip cocktails in the peaceful evenings with DJ music.
Many of Nice’s top attractions are within easy walking distance of the Hotel Boscolo on Boulevard Victor Hugo or may be reached via the Vélo Bleu bikeshare program. Enter Vieux Nice to take in the history of the city, then go down Avenue Medecin in the direction of the Fontaine du Soleil and the enormous monument of Apollo. The west end of the renowned Cours Saleya daily market, which features fresh flowers and seasonal produce, is marked by the neoclassical Nice Opera House from 1885. To sample this truly divine regional food, which is a savory crepe made from chickpea flour, go to the Theresa Socca booth.
It’s an unusual turn to visit the distinctly contemporary Charles Nègre Photography Museum, which is situated next to the market in Place Pierre Gautier, given the abundance of historic sites in the old town. A variety of transient picture displays are likely to be housed in nearby structures. Even better, €15 gets you entrance to this museum as well as ten more in the area, including the Matisse Museum, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the Archaeology Museum of Nice/Cimiez, which is housed on a former Roman archaeological site. The magnificent Marc Chagall Museum in Nice is not included in the museum pass, but it is still well worth a visit.
Pass through the arches to stroll along the Quai des États-Unis, often known as the United States Wharf in recognition of America’s cooperation with France during World War I. This street dotted with cafes runs next to the well-known Promenade, where you may access the beach or simply enjoy the view from Plage Beau Rivage or other waterfront eateries. Wander eastward towards the massive #ILoveNICE selfie location before continuing to the small Port Lympia to see the brightly painted wooden fishing boats moored next to million-dollar super yachts.
native Nissarde food
Fans of the Niçoise salad may appreciate learning more about the region’s distinctive Cuisine Nissarde, a distinct culinary tradition that reflects the region’s Ligurian (Northern Italian) heritage. Nissarde cookery frequently uses eggs, olives, mushrooms, and deep-sea fish like tuna and sardines. Nissarde cuisine is based on seasonal ingredients, which deliver fresh salads and fruits in the summer and root vegetables and stews in the winter.
Eight of the twenty-plus restaurants listed by the Nice Cote d’Azur tourism agency as historic “Cuisine Nissarde” enterprises are located in or close to Vieux Nice. Family-run One of the first restaurants on Rue Droite, Chez Acchiardo has been operating since 1927 in its stone-walled corner site. Here, you may enjoy some of the best regional specialties, such trouchia, a delectable frittata topped with baby Swiss chard, and daube, a hearty beef stew prepared with red wine and Mediterranean herbs.
Merda de can, a dish of green gnocchi topped with pistou—pesto prepared the Ligurian way without pine nuts—may be found on every Nissarde menu. A wonderful Niçoise salad, prepared traditionally with anchovies, pickled vegetables, and artichokes, served over greens with fresh tuna, tomato, olives, and boiled eggs, is also offered by Lou Balico in shared amounts. You can also get pissaladière, a substantial flatbread akin to focaccia topped with caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives, on any Nissarde menu.
Towards the Cote d’Azur
The 120-mile-long French Riviera spans from the ocean to the Alps, so it’s well worth taking a local trip to see minor villages like Vence, a former Roman settlement that was transformed into a medieval village and is located approximately 45 minutes northwest of Nice. The Chateau le Cagnard, a former hilltop castle that is now a luxurious hotel with 29 distinctive guestrooms, several with picture-perfect balconies, is where you may stay in that area. CheZ’elles, which serves superb Armenian food that’s frequently mistaken for traditional Greek fare, is a great place to eat outside in the town square.
Don’t skip a visit to the Rosary Chapel, often known as the Matisse Chapel since, in his final years, Henri Matisse personally designed and embellished the cheery, small room. The calm of the Renoir House and Museum at Cagnes-sur-Mer, just outside of Vence, reveals why so many artists were drawn to this charming, temperate region of France.
From Nice, go east to Eze by car or train to see the magnificent Exotic Garden of Eze, a botanical garden set high on a hill inside a medieval fortress and filled with plants from all over the world. Wander through the winding lanes of the fortress to discover one-of-a-kind stores and eateries, and stop at the opulent Hotel Chateau de La Chèvre d’Or for an Aperol spritz while watching the water. Join a fragrance-making class at Eze’s Galimard Maison de Parfums for a deliciously unique keepsake. You can create your own smell to take home, and the studio will keep your recipe on file for future orders.
The panoramic (and decidedly modern) Les Terasses d’Eze is a great place to eat or stay the night, or you may return to Nice, perhaps through the port city of Villefranche-sur-Mer. At outdoor restaurants like Le Cosmo, fresh-caught seafood dishes with French influences are served in abundance in this historic fishing community.
The Chapel St. Pierre, a modest building with a striking Romanesque façade from the 16th century, is visible from the restaurant’s location on a plaza facing it. Its interior is even more remarkable because Jean Cocteau, who occasionally stayed at the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche, embellished every square inch with his original mid-century artwork. Cocteau found comfort and inspiration in the Cote d’Azur’s mundane surroundings there. It appears that the French Riviera’s atmospheric qualities were just as alluring to him as they had been for centuries of holidaymakers before him and for modern tourists anxious to find their own time in the Nice sun.
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