Nice at Côte d’Azur (the French Riviera) is a many-sided destination. There are many conferences and happenings round the year in the city and you can spend a city holiday, enjoy the beach life or explore the beautiful French Riviera around. It is also only half an hour to Monaco!
This time the blog is in English. You can also find some more information about Antibes and the French Riviera in my earlier post (in Finnish).
*affiliate / co-operation links included
1. Winter and spring time in Nice
In the winter time you don’t really realize that Nice is such a big city with about 350 000 habitants (or close to a million in the metropolitan area), as there is plenty of space in the city and its hotels, shops and restaurants. As the climate is mild even in the winter and there is plenty of sunshine round the year, Nice is a nice destination even in the winter. In the early February the temperature was around +13-14 C in the daytime. However, some days earlier it had been raining a lot (and even snowing somewhere nearby!) and the wind can be chilly, so you need to take a warm jacket with you!
When getting closer to summer time, the temperature can be around + 16-17 C (or even higher) on a sunny day in April, while the night temperature is lower (even under 10 degrees C). Sometimes it can be rainy, too!
2. Nice old town and the flower market
Nice old town, « Vieille-Ville » is charming with its narrow alleys and colorful houses. It has a lovely location near the beach, the castle hill and the city center. It is not very big so you can wander through the old alleys and get inspired by the charm and the colours of the old houses, cozy cafes and tiny shops.
On Cours Saleya there is a lively flower market every morning except on Mondays, when they have an antique market. In addition to beautiful flowers you can find fresh fruits and vegetables, authentic products from nearby and a lot more. Really worth a visit!
One of my favourite shops in the old town is an old-style, sweetly decorated little shop selling freshly home-made French macarons, sweet little confections. Macarons are a good idea for a homecoming gift, as ”everybody” loves them, and they are really French and yummy!
3. The castle hill
The ruins of an old castle are located on the small hill near the old town and the harbour. You can see the hill from the city, and you find the stairs and the lift up when you walk along the beach past the old town. After climbing some hundreds of stairs up, you will be greeted with the sight of beautiful waterfalls and green paths with an adorable view over the city. When you walk to the other side, you can see the harbor and a charming village on the hillside.
It’s free of charge to visit the hill. The site closes at 6 p.m. in the winter time and 8 p.m. in the summer time. It is also a good spot for chasing sunsets!
4. The Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais is the famous beach boulevard in Nice. You can stroll down the promenade a long way from the harbor and the castle hill by the seaside. There are several restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels along the way. The promenade is very wide so it shouldn’t feel too crowded.
There are blue chairs along the coast to sit down and enjoy the beautiful sea view for free. If you feel it’s too much walking, you can rent a blue city bike and drive all day for a few euros. From Nice you can drive to the direction Antibes using the bicycle lane, otherwise you will need to ride between the cars, which is not recommended. There are several stops in the city where you can return the bike.
5. What and where to eat
In Nice you can find many nice, Italian style restaurants. We liked La Taverne Massena at the heart of the pedestrian district. It serves local and Italian meals and has a nice atmosphere and very quick and friendly service.
Casa Nissa near Place Masséna offers also music at least a few times a week in addition to food and drinks. We happened to be there during a jazz night, when 5 elderly gentlemen played jazz to entertain the guests. Nice!
You cannot visit France without tasting the real French croissants! They are delicious – crispy and soft in the same time – and can serve as a breakfast, a lunch or a snack. Only in France they taste as good as they do! And don’t forget the French baquettes and macarons! Yum-yum!
In Nice there are plenty of nice, small boutiques. Some of them are really luxurious and expensive – even with the -70 % reductions they advertise in the winter time. Here you can find the latest French mode and international brands.
There are also big shopping centers around. One of them is Polygone Riviera in Cagnes-sur-Mer with over 100 boutiques and nearly 30 restaurants. If you take a train to Cagnes-sur-Merr, you can take the bus 57 to Polygone Riviera from the station or walk there (about half an hour). The SNCF app is helpful to find your way and you can also pay your tickets with the app.
7. A charming old town, Antibes
Antibes is a charming old town about twenty kilometers from Nice. It is very easy to take a train from the Nice main railway station to Antibes. The trip takes less than half an hour and it costs less then 5 euros per person. The SNCF app is very handy again.
Antibes is said to have the largest yachting harbor in the Mediterranean. Port Vauban has many big, beautiful yachts next to each other and a massive fortress behind them. Fort Carré can be seen in the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again”.
The narrow alleys with cute, colourful old houses and a French atmosphere are charming. In the summer time there are many tourists, like everywhere in the French Riviera, but off the peak season the life gets quieter. Cõte d’Azur has its charm whatever the season.
The market place in the old town sells fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and other local offering during the daytime. It opens for nightlife during the evening with the locals selling their products and restaurants spreading their chairs, tables and music under the roof of the market place.
There are many small restaurants in the city. A colleague recommended us the nice Cafe des Chineurs, which is located on the main road from the market place to the seaside. Our favourite was also the Italian gelato from an ice cream bar in the old town, Gelateria Amarena.
The closest beach is next to the old city. It is small and can be crowded, but there are more beaches on the route to Juan Les Pins.
* Here you can find hotels in Antibes. There are also nice Airbnb apartments for rent. Check, for instance, the cozy alternatives from our super host Henri. * If you use this code for setting up the account with Airbnb and for your first booking (anywhere by Airbnb), you will get a 35 € reduction on your stay.
Read more about Antibes in my earlier blogpost (in Finnish).
8. Eze village and the views
The picturesque Eze village is located less than half an hour ride from Nice (less than 20 km). It is a nice spot for an excursion with its beautiful views down the hills and over the coastline. The best views are from the top, where there is a botanical garden with many different cactuses and other plantation from the region. There is also a tiny cascade to refresh a hot day.
The small narrow alleys and beautifully restored stone houses of the Eze village are charming and the numerous small arts and crafts boutiques are hard to resist. You can also find beautiful up-to five-star *hotels in the old village.
9. The beaches
The beach in Nice is just close to the city and spreads a long way along the coast line. The beach is covered by small, round stones smoothed by the waves. The water is beautifully colored turquoise and even in February there were some brave ones swimming in the sea.
The beach near Antibes old town is sandy and sheltered by the old walls. There are also many other beaches around, as the coast line stretches over hundreds of kilometers. Be careful with jellyfish, though!
Read more about Antibes and the French Riviera in my earlier post (in Finnish).