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Nice is a large city in France on the French Riviera. It's a popular destination for vacationers both young and old, with something to offer nearly everyone. It is well known for the beautiful view on the Promenade des Anglais, its famous waterfront, and is an ethnically diverse port city.
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Points of Interest in Nice
- Colline du Château. The castle hill overlooking the Baie des Anges and harbour offers a spectacular vantage point overlooking the city. Not much is left of its ruined castle besides crumbling walls. Still, climbing up the stairs to reach the platforms 90 metres above Nice is well worth the view. There is also a lift (ascenseur) which will take you three quarters of the way up. Be aware that the castle hill park closes at around sunset. Expect to be escorted outside if you stay longer.
Nice is also known for several museums, entry to most of which (as of July 2008) is free. Some of the most famous are in Cimiez, the older, upper part of the city which in a previous century was a favourite of Queen Victoria, including:
- Musée des Arts asiatiques, 405, Promenade des Anglais (Just across the street from the airport), ☎ +33 492 293700. Indian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and world art in great architecture on a lake free entrance.
- Parc Phoenix, 405 Promenade des Anglais, ☎ +33 4 92 29 77 00, fax: +33 492 29 7701, e-mail: email@example.com. daily, Apr-Sep, 09:30-19:30, Oct-Mar: 09:30-18:30. 2500 different plants in botanical garden and tropical glass house. Also various animals. €2.
- Musée Chagall. Includes stained glass windows by the artist. €7.50.
- Musée Matisse, 164, ave des Arenes de Cimiez (Buses 15, 22, 17, 20), ☎ +33 4 9381 0808, fax: +33 4 9353 0022, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. daily except Tu, 10:00-16:00. Charming collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures in 17th century Genoese villa free entrance.
- Musée d'Archeologie de Nice (Next to the Matisse museum), ☎ +33 4 9381 5957, fax: +31 4 9381 0800, e-mail: email@example.com. daily except Tu, 10:00 + 18:00. The ruins of the Gallo-Roman settlement in Cimiez, plus a museum with nice documentation on Gallo-Roman life (but mostly not in English). Activities for children. free entrance, €3 guided tours.
The old town (Vieux Nice) beneath the hill is a maze of streets and alleys, with many picturesque houses, boutiques and home to the daily flower and fruit market of the Cours Saleya.
Near the central bus terminal, there is also the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC) with four connected towers featuring modern and contemporary artists and their sculptures, paintings, and conceptual installations. Its open-air roof terraces offer one of the best panoramas of the city.
To the west, there is the Musee des Beaux-Arts housing an excellent collection of pastels and other works by Jules Cheret, among other artists.
Cliff Walk — If you go past the old port (probably 15 minute walk) heading east toward Monaco, there is a little pathway that leads from Coco Beach along the side of the cliff, the "Sentier Littoral" which you can follow around Cap de Nice half way to Villefranche, but be prepared for several hundred steps up to rejoin the road. It’s a very beautiful walk and you will find mostly local people using it.
Nice's origins can be found among the Gallo-Roman ruins of Cimiez, in the hills up the boulevard de Cimiez from downtown. Cimiez also contains a monastery and some museums, but nowadays, most of the city's inhabitants live closer to sea level. Nice was part of the Italian Duchy of Savoia and then the Kingdom of Sardinia until it was ceded to France in 1860. The ancient local language is Nissart, but of course, everyone speaks French. Don't assume everyone you encounter will speak English — an effort at French will always be appreciated.
If you go to Nice for bathing or general lounging on the beach, you may wish to think again. The beaches of Nice consist entirely of large flat stones (gallets). A few private beaches have added a layer of sand, but the free public beaches are a stony experience. Besides towels or mats, you should definitely bring sandals, since walking on the stones can be painful, and a cushion if you want to sit. Free showers are provided on all public beaches and there is a beach volleyball area that is netted off with white sand.
Although the beaches are mainly pebbles it is important to note that many visitors enjoy the beautiful light blue sea for a swim. If you can bear to walk for a few steps on the pebbles it is definitely an opportunity for swimming rather than playing in the water as the beach drops quickly and the tidal pull can be very strong, and not for beginners. Lying on the beach for a sun tan or relaxation is also manageable as long as you rearrange the rocks/pebbles to a comfy surface for sitting and lying. Private beaches offer various services from restaurants/bars to the rental of lounge chairs and towels.
Much nicer beaches exist in other towns close by, such as Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes and Cannes, which are far more sandy. Villefranche is a particularly preferred beach choice, especially if travelling with children, only twenty minutes away by the TAM 100 bus.
For views of Nice the best vantage point is the heights of Mont Boron (bus 14). From the derelict old Fort and the nearby villa of Sir Elton John there are fine views over the city to the mountains and east over Villefranche and Cap Ferat.
Go to Eze. It is a small village on the way to Monaco. The village is situated on a small mountain and there is a beautiful cactus garden with a spectacular view (a must see, €5 entrance fee). There is also Fragonard perfume factory which you can visit for free. To reach Eze by bus, take the 112 to Eze Village (not the 100 which stops at Eze Gare, a 90 minute steep walk away from Eze Village). If you missed an infrequent (up to 3 hours) 115 bus in Eze Village, there is a path that goes down the mountain from Eze Village to Eze Sur Mer (also Eze Gare). This is the Path of Nietzsche (named after the famous German philosopher Friedrich W. Nietzsche), with some fantastic views and a waterfall (if you know where to look). Walking downhill through this path takes about 40 minutes. Buses run from Menton-Monaco through Eze Gare back to Nice every 15 minutes or so and vice versa, making treking back up the hill unnecessary.
Also close by is the magnificent Villa ile de France, of the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild, straddling the magnificent peninsula of St Jean Cap Ferrat in the so-called Golden Triangle of Villefranche, Beaulieu and Cap Ferrat.
Hiking trails emanate from La Turbie high above Monaco and the Grande Corniche, which are double the height above sea level of Eze and offer the hardened walker truly spectacular vantage points over the Riviera.
A food called "Socca", a chickpea flat bread, is a local specialty (though not universally enjoyed), as is a tuna fish sandwich called "Pan Bagnat." Other specialties include Soupe de Poisson (Fish Soup, made with chili aioli, croutons, and grated cheese), Salade Niçoise (made with tuna), Tourtes aux Blettes (sweet tartes made with Savoy cabbage, raisins, nuts, and powdered sugar) and pissaladiere (a type of pizza topped with sauteed onion, olives, garlic and anchovies, and no tomatoes or cheese). As may be expected, seafood features prominently in Niçoise cuisine, and several restaurants specialise in sea-urchin and oysters.
Check out the daily market in the Vieux Nice for fresh, local produce. You can save a lot of money if you are willing to cook at least some of your meals yourself and if you also eat leftovers, cooking can actually save you time as well since eating at a restaurant will easily cost you one to two hours per meal. There are several decent size 'supermarchés' around the city as well as numerous boucheries, boulangeries and fruit and veg shops which are often competitive on price and superior on quality.
No visit to Nice would be complete without a trip to Fennochio's in the Place Rosetti to sample their (rightly) world famous ice-cream.
Cheap & cheerful food in Nice is hard to come by if you don't take your time to look for it, though a baguette with different fillings range from €4-6, which is very reasonable by Nice standards.
The best deals in the center can be found in the port area.
Old Nice and all along the sea front the prices cannot be described as budget.
However, lunch-time set menus are certainly good value, if not 'cheap' per se. €10-12 should get you two courses, often with coffee and wine, and like much of continental Europe lunches can drift happily into the afternoon.
- Restaurant Le Lodge, 14 Rue Halévy, If you're watching your budget but want to have a gourmet, healthy meal, this is the place to go for lunch. For €11 you get a main course, a drink such as wine, beer or soda and after the meal, a coffee. Try the trio of fish. For €13, add the dessert of the day. Hopefully it's cinnamon crème brûlée. Don't be put off by the one waitress to a full restaurant ratio, the chefs get the food to you quickly. The meal deals are more expensive during the night, starting at €19.
- Lou Pilha Leva, place Centrale, Old Nice. Local dishes including the best tasting Socca, which only costs €2.50. Locals (and the lots of French tourists) seem to love this place and it is often quite busy. Order your food at the counter and take it with you to sit at the benches outside. Try Daube pasta/polenta and soupe au pistou, and socca. Very nice atmosphere and very decent price. For example, big plate of daube pasta costs €7 as well as chicken and fries and a side salad. Worth a try, even though the baked food can be somewhat soaked in oil. Avoid red wine at this place, though, as they serve it chilled rather than warm.
- Casa Mia, Rue Pontin, Old Nice. Does amazing Italian in a very homely environment. The menus around €20-25 offer excellent value for the service and quality.
- le Delhi Belhi, 22 Rue de la Barillerie, ☎ +33-4-93925187, fax: +33-4-93925187. 7:00PM to 11:30PM daily. Delhi Belhi is an award winning family owned and operated restaurant specializing in Indian cuisine. Open daily for dinner, a-la-carte or prix-fixe menu. Great curries and tandoori specialties. Delhi Belhi is the only Indian restaurant on the entire French riviera that has been included in the prestigious Gault-Millau guides since 2005. Fluent English also spoken here. Behind the popular cours Saleya flower market. This is a very popular restaurant so reservations are highly recommended (at least a few hours ahead). €15 to 20 per person (alcoholic drinks and wine are extra).
- Le Shalimar, 11 Rue Biscarra, +33-4-93139578. Has tasty Indian food. The lunch menus are a good deal.
- L'Occitanie, 54, bd Gambetta, +33-44-9382114111. In the Musician's Quarter, about 5 blocks from the Promenade des Anglais. A delightful, authentic brasserie/bistrot with delicious food. Reasonable prices, €15-30 per person. Gambetta is a main North/South Street. The area is quiet at night, and safe.
- Restaurant du Gésu, 1, Place Jésus, +33 4 9362 2646. In the heart of Vieux Nice, this is a friendly, vibrant, old-fashioned restaurant with as much Italian influence as Provencale. The beignets, and daube with gnocchi are particularly good. €15-€30.
- les hussards bleus, 68, Rue de France, at the corner of Rue St. Philippe, behind Neptune plage.
Guided by two brothers, originally from Paris. Guests: locals, lots of inside information, less traffic after 7PM.
Fish, meat, pizza, tagliatelle, omelettes, delicious salads
- Le Safari, ☎ +33 4 93 80 18 44, fax: +33 4 93 62 62 14. 1, cours Saleya. Long established in the old quarter, now caters more for tourists than the locals. This reflects in the price and language spoken by those dining next to you. Overpriced compared to other local similar establishments. For a 3 course meal with wine, expect to pay more than €60/head.
- L'Univers. Signature chef Christian Plumail's own restaurant in Boulevard Jean Jaures, very serious gourmet French. Expect to pay €100 per person. A rival to Nice's most expensive restaurant Chantecler in the Negresco.
- Le Tire Bouchon. Located in the center of Nice, Le Tire Bouchon is an attractive, desirable restaurant to enjoy a gourmet meal. The restaurant has a picturesque atmosphere which everyone is sure to enjoy.
With the hot Niçois summers, carrying a bottle of water is almost a must. Bear in mind the largest single complaint to the municipal authority tourist department is the offering in restaurants of branded water bottles whose seal has been broken - i.e. refilled with tap water - and charged as Perrier or Evian.
You can save a lot of money by buying alcoholic drinks and such in a normal supermarket instead of the vendors geared towards tourists. Carrefour has a huge selection and unlike the other supermarkets has a policy of buying in wine show "prize winners" distinguished by their gold, silver or bronze medal stickers.
Some popular places to go out for a drink include:
- Ma Nolan's. — Right in the heart of the 'Old Town' and next to the opera, Ma Nolan's has everything you would expect from an Irish pub and more. Live music every night, major sporting events on four screens, really good food and very friendly staff. This place is a must.
- Mc Mahon's. — Cool Irish Pub with pool table and fun theme nights. Just by the Tram stop 'Vieux Nice'.
- Thor Pub. — Big Scandinavian/Irish Pub with live music every night. On two floors with a large terrace this place is expensive but chill. Many of the larger hotels (such as the Holiday Inn) have 2-for-1 drink coupons which can be easily obtained even if you are not a guest.
- Blue Whales — Stays open until the wee hours of the morning.
- Wayne's. — An old school bar with live music and theme nights, a bit coyote ugly meets cheers. When the place is crowded, people dance on the tables. It's somewhat expensive to drink here (but Wayne's isn't alone with this characteristic), but definitely one of the most fun/party places in Nice. English-speaking tourists also seem to gravitate to this bar, but you'll also meet lots of French people or locals here.
- Checkpoint — A cozy bar on the ground level, and a great dance floor underground. Ladies night on Monday offers 0.50€ champagne (as of Feb 2013).
- Le Marches — Lounge style bar on two floors with cocktails and tapas.
- Master Home — A pub by Wayne's and King's Pub. More "French" than Wayne's and King's pubs and a little more classy. When you order alcoholic drinks, they bring you two or three dishes of nibbles. Even though the price is a little more expensive than the "English" pubs next door, it's still worth a visit and a fraction cheaper that the touristy bars/pubs. Try the rose (€3.20), the cheapest on the menu but delicious!
- Pompeï — Stays open late, live music most nights (usually rock), good dancing on the weekends, indoor smoking room, next to Wayne's and the other Irish pubs - everyone flocks here after they close.
- Jonathan's — If you're looking to meet locals, go to Jonathan's. Small hole-in-the-wall place full of younger people (mostly students) with great drink specials most nights. Not very well known by tourists.
Wine in restaurants is often ferociously expensive, do as the locals and order it by the "pichet" - usually a 50 centilitre jug. If however you fancy quality appellation French wine to drink back at base, Les Caves Caprioglio at 16 Rue de la Prefecture in Vieux Nice has a fabulous cellar of the wines you usually only read about in the fine wines books but rarely see. To see French wine making, the Chateau's Bellet and Cremat in the Var are nearest to Nice and will do tours by arrangement. (Reachable via the tiny narrow-gauge train from the Chemin de Fer de Provence).
Most stores and restaurants in Nice will accept the major credit cards, as well as debit cards from major banks (anything carrying the EC or Maestro or VISA logos). If this fails you can always get money from any of the numerous ATMs.
All shops are now allowed to open every Sunday and, as of November 2010, at least the following had started to open every Sunday: H&M, Zara, Fnac, Bershka, Celio, Virgin Megastore, and Spar. Some locations of Galleries Lafayette are now open several Sundays each month but not all of them, the same goes for Nice Etoile Shopping Centre.
Postcards (as many other things) vary greatly in price. Do some comparison shopping as the price range is between 20 cents and €1 for a normal postcard. Typically they will set you back 25 cents each (correct at June-2009).
Nice's main shopping street av. Jean Medecin is home to two giant music/entertainment stores, Virgin Megastore and the French FNAC. FNAC definitely has the edge as their many listening stations allow you to 'try before you buy' almost every CD in the house, whilst Virgin push only a few promotional selections. Both run near identical pricing policy on new albums. FNAC is closer to HMV, offering most forms of entertainment including books, games, CDs, DVDs and much more - the 4 floor store on Av. Jean Medecin is well worth exploring!
Designer label garments are, as everywhere, notoriously expensive but general fashion goods are really cheap compared to most other European countries, and Galleries Lafayette offers a lot under one roof. If that's not enough for you, they also have a huge superstore at Cap 3000 just next to St Laurent de Var past the airport (Lignes d Azur 52 and TAM bus 200, 400 and 500, stop La Passerelle). This is also home to Galleries Lafayette Gourmand, a food superstore to rival London's Harrods and Selfridges. The wine selection is brilliant, especially aisles full of Rose de Provence, and there are a half dozen in-store lunch-time places.
Cheap bargain fashions are best sought at Ventimiglia's huge open street market each Friday, accessible by train from Nice Gare Ville to Ventimiglia a few kilometres over the Italian border. Just avoid the tempting fake luxury brands sold by the many street sellers. The war against counterfeiting is taken very seriously by the French border police and big fines are targeted at "innocent" tourists.
The central Nice Etoiles is available for anyone pining for a visit to a shopping mall, including three floors of a Dutch brand not seen by British people for twenty years that is still big in France - C&A. More nostalgia can also be found in av Jean Medecins' "Damart" - yes, the people that gave you "Thermolactyl underwear" to keep you warm in winter are also big here. About as sensible as the local "Bronzage" tanning parlours.
A cautionary note: The "duty free" shops at Nice airport terminals are the absolute worst value you will ever find and should be avoided at all costs: prices are way over those of even the high street. Food, drink and cigarettes dreadfully overpriced, and there are no bargains "before you fly". If you haven't yet kicked the habit, cigarettes in particular are best bought in Italy over the border, where taxes on smoking have not reached health promoting punitive levels.
- Flower market (Marché aux Fleurs), Cours Saleya. The market it held every day, from 6 am to 5.30 pm except Mondays, Sunday afternoons and public holidays.
- Marché aux Fruits et Legumes. Tu-Su 06:00-13:00. Food market.
- Antique market. M 07:30-18:00.
- Confisserie Florian, 14, Quai Papacino, ☎ +33 493 554 350. M-Sa 09:00-12:00, 14:00-18:30. This gourmet shop has specific jams, sweet fruits and petals, which are traditional from that area. The candied clementine and the rose jam are their fine specialities.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Nice on Wikivoyage.