I always had this mental image of Nice baking in sunshine, its squares filled with painters and the terraces full of local Provençal delicacies… When landing at Nice airport in February, on my way to check out some of the prettiest villages in Liguria, I figured that reality could be rather different…
But you know what? It actually wasn’t! The timid winter sun made for pleasant strolling around the old town and with fewer people about, it turned out to be a perfect time to visit the city!
Join me as I discover some of the best things to do during a weekend in Nice!
The colourful markets
If browsing around flea markets, searching for that perfect little vintage gift is your thing, then make sure to pay a visit to Cours Saleya on a Monday when the square in the heart of the old town is taken over by old furniture, jewellery, books and all sorts of trinkets.
But don’t despair if you’re not in Nice on a Monday. Any other day of the week the same square gets transformed into a flower market on one side and a fruit and vegetable market on the other. The perfect spot to assemble a picnic!
Near the Place Saint-François, there’s also a small fish market.
The streets of Vieux Nice
Pastel-coloured houses, lots of restaurants, delis and small shops to taste the local delicacies on terrace-filled squares: things don’t get any more Provençal than this! It’s a real pleasure to aimlessly wander about the age-old streets and alleys of Vieux Nice to stumble upon an aristocratic palace, the cathedral or one of the many markets mentioned earlier on.
Make sure you taste a “pissalidière”, a sort of pizza with anchovies, olives and red onion. Or go for a “socca”, a thin and crusty chickpea pancake.
This is undoubtedly the busiest part of Nice and it can be rather crowded at times, so try to come early morning or late evening when the day trippers have gone.
Nice has so many different faces! You’ve got the typical Provençal look of the old town on the one hand and then you’ve got the modern and upper-class look of the Cimiez district. You can easily spend a day here. Did you know for example that you could find remains of a Roman settlement in Nice?
Have a stroll in the “Parc des Arènes” where, weather-permiting, people come to play a game of “petanque”. Don’t forget to visit the Monastère de Cimiez and its gardens for nice views over the area.
The main attractions in the area are dedicated to two of the most famous French artists: Chagall and Matisse. Both have their own museum.
Colline du Château
If there’s a hill or bell tower to be climbed, you can be damn sure I’ll be on it! Well, ok, the “Colline du Chateau” with its 92m can hardly be called a hill, but it’s still a nice stroll up and offers one of the best lookouts over the Promenade and the surroundings. It’s also the place where the ruins of the former castle of Nice can be spotted and there’s even a waterfall! If you’re feeling less energetic, there’s a cable car to bring you to the top.
Promenade des Anglais
Ask 100 people to name one landmark in Nice and I’m sure the majority will come up with this one. To be honest, I fail to see why. Sure, it’s nice to stroll along the palm-tree lined promenade on a sunny day, but to me, it doesn’t compare with the charm of Vieux Nice or the vibe of some other parts of the city. But by all means, go and have a look for yourself. Have an ice-cream or a drink in one of the many beach bars, have a dip in the Mediterranean Sea and perhaps spare a thought for the victims of the terrible terrorist attack that happened here in July 2016…
6. Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
The MAMAC is one of the largest modern art museums in southern France and situated a few minutes away from the Old Town. I was lucky to be there on the European Heritage Days when the museum was free, but if it’s not, it’s still worth paying the 10€! The architecture itself is worth a visit and you get some great views from the undulated pathway on the upper terrace towards Vieux Nice. The galleries are very spacious and there is a permanent collection as well as a few temporary ones.
I didn’t regret coming here in winter. Nice turned out to be a perfect city break and a city I’d definitely go back to! What about you? Have you been?