After years of coming to Nice during the summers to while away my school and university holidays in the sun – courtesy of a very good friend of mine whose papi lives in a little village in the surrounding hills and has been kind enough to welcome me into his summer family – this year, I have come alone for the first time, on my very first solo holiday. What better place to take some “me time” than in beautiful Nice; a city I have come to know almost better than my hometown – I wouldn’t have the courage to venture alone to a place knew nothing about. I did worry that I might get a little bored of my own company, but with sun, sea, great food and gallons of sun-kissed rosé on hand, there was no chance of that.
It turned out that I chose a rather perfect time to visit; at the end of April when most of the Easter holiday crowds had departed and the mass of summertime tourist had yet to arrived, but the city had already started to come alive as locals once again flocked to their favourite locals bars and restaurants to enjoy the first burst of spring sun and long evenings.
I landed at the airport in the early afternoon and after taking the navette into the centre, finding my way to the AirBnB and hauling my suitcase up three long flights of rather treacherous polished marble stairs, I quickly freshened up and headed straight for the seafront to gaze lovingly at the incredible view and gently lapping turquoise water, of course with a chilled glass of rosé in my hand.
Before dinner, I also had enough time to wander around the shops in Vieux Nice – a dangerous activity with a full wallet. Half an hour later, I had bought a bottle of grand cru rosé, three speciality olive oils and a selection of artisan chocolates, all of which were, of course, great investments (at least to my personal happiness), but I probably should have considered that I had flown with only hand luggage before purchasing enough liquids to sink a ship – looks like I’ll be checking in my suitcase on the way back!
Here’s my guide to where to eat, drink, shop and visit, to get the most out of a long weekend in Nice.
L’Acchiardo (Rue Droite)
Following the advice of both TripAdvisor (my trusted source) and my AirBnB host, I dined at L’Acchiardo. Famous amongst locals, this restaurants is as family-run as it gets and you truly feel a sense of family, community and friendliness here. Read my review here.
La Maison de Marie (Rue Massena)
For a touch of fine dining and taste of local specialities, including glorious seafood dishes, La Maison de Marie is the perfect choice. Read my review here.
La Femme du Boulanger (Rue du Commandant Raffali)
Great for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, this quaint restaurant is tucked away down a side street just a short walk from the main shopping stretch at Rue Jean-Medecin. Don’t miss its famous brunch, served everyday from 8:00am (9am on Sundays). The brunch spread with satisfy both your sweet and savoury tooth and is a treat for both the eyes and the stomach, featuring freshly baked breads, homemade jams, yoghurt, fruit, eggs, meats, salmon and cheeses. Read my review here.
Le Trimarin (Place Saint-François)
Le Trimarin may not look like anything special, with its gaudy plastic chairs and waxy plastic table cloths, but its savoury galettes and sweet crêpes are fantastic. Come here for breakfast (for simple eggs and bacon, choose the crêpe complete), a light bite (try the ratatouille galette), a more filling meal (the creamy mushroom or cheesy bacon and potato galettes make for a hearty meal), or an afternoon sweet treat (classic lemon and sugar or nutella, or a more elaborate poire Wiilliam).
Chez Maître Pierre (Rue Massena)
Head to this colourful bakery for the best croissants, brioche and breads in town – the morning pastries sell like hotcakes, so wake up early and grab a bag of croissants to eat on the beach.
Patisserie Lac (various locations in central Nice and the old town)
Try the tarte tatin – a reinvention of the classic French dessert, Patisserie Lac has transformed it into an elegant tart, comprising a crisp and perfectly formed pastry shell spread with a thin layer of sweet almond cream, upon which stands proudly a mound of soft, caramelised apple pieces that still hold their bite, and encircled by mini sablé rocks. And for chocolate lovers, you’ll love the désir – elegant layers of milk and dark creme praline, a nutty, caramel layer speckled with chunks of caramelised almond, and a base of light and nutty almond genoise. A thin sheet of dark chocolate tops the tower, adding a note of bitterness to balance with sweetness. Rich, decadent and onctuous, you probably should share, but you won’t!
La Boulangerie du Palais (Rue du Marché)
To try another Niçoise speciality, the tourte de blettes – a sweet tart made with Swiss chard (there is also a savoury version) – visit La Boulangerie du Palais which is said to make one of the best in Nice. It may sound strange, but is actually delicious; light, crumbly and fruity, and packed with raisins, pine nuts and chunks of soft pear.
Le Nougat De MontSegur (Route de Saint Paul Trois Châteaux)
Possibly the most charming shop in Nice, Le Nougat De MontSegur specialises in traditional french nougat. Giant rounds of handmade nougat, in a variety of flavours from fruity hazelnut and cranberry, strawberry and basil, and fig and apricot, to biscuity speculoos, and sweet caramel. Le Nougat De MontSegur also makes traditional calisson – a traditional French candy consisting of a smooth, pale yellow, homogeneous paste of candied fruit and ground almonds topped with a thin layer of royal icing. Step inside the shop and you’ll be encouraged to try everything, so don’t hold back – there’s something for everyone.
Movida (Quai des Etats-Unis)
Located on the promenade overlooking the sea, Movida is a great place to hang out. It’s a popular spot with the cool kids of Nice and always packed with groups of friends enjoying a cocktail and a few plates of tapas.
La Part des Anges (Rue Gubernatis)
This wine shop and bar is one of the best places in Nice to discover new wines, with expert recommendations. It has an enormous collection of wines, Champagnes and spirits, from every corner of Europe, including world-renowned wines to young and local varieties. The bisrtot is open everyday at midday, apart from Sunday, where you can nibble of specially selected charcuterie, cheeses, olives, fish, rilettes, homemade fois gras and more.
Les Distilleries Idéales (Rue de la Préfecture)
Popular with locals from all generations, Les Distilleries Idéales is an inviting bistro with a great selection of wines and spirits, friendly staff and great music. It’s a great spot to enjoy a few pre-dinner nibbles – try the cheese and charcuterie boards – or to sip on post-dinner cocktails until the early hours. It’s also a great place to open up the laptop and get some work done over a glass of wine for an hour to two during the quieter afternoon period.
Côté Vin (Rue Saint-François de Paule)
A cave à vin run by knowledgeable and friendly staff who was help you find a wine to suit any occasion or dish.
Maison Auer (Rue Saint-François de Paule)
Maison Auer is a family run chocolaterie and confiserie, first opened in the 1820s. It specialises in traditional fruits confits – you’ll find ever kind of fruit, including whole pears, chunks of pineapple and citrus peels. Another speciality of the maison are the chocolate almonds – roasted whole almonds encased in rich dark chocolate and coated in bitter-sweet cocoa. The house-made filled chocolates are also not to be missed. From nutty pralines to fruity ganaches, all of the flavours are natural. The dark chocolate mint chocolate tastes of fresh, herbal mint leaves, rather than strong peppermint, and the honey milk chocolate is also fantastic, with a true flavour of fragrant honey. Grab a giant rocher too – a creamy praline ball coated in a thick layer of chocolate speckled with crunchy almonds.
A L’Olivier (Rue Saint-François de Paule)
More than 100 varieties of olive trees are cultivated in France, and the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France – in which Nice is located – is famed for its quality olive oils, thanks to its climate and soil. Taste a selection of exquisite, top-end olive oils at A L’Olivier, in Nice’s old town. The specialist boasts tens of varieties of extra-virgin olive oils, including an unusual, but spectacular black olive oil, as well as a huge variety of flavoured oils. There are herb-infused oils – such as thyme, basil, dill or herbes de Provence – perfect drizzled over a fish dish or salad, to more punchy flavours – such as chilli, sun-dried tomato and truffle – which can be used to liven up a meat dish, or finish a pasta dish. Grab a few recipe cards on your way out, which give suggestions on how to use the various oils.
Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) (Cours Saleya)
Open daily, the flower market in Nice’s old town is one of the liveliest areas of Nice, where you’ll find both local buying their daily fruit & veg, to tourists nibbling on free samples and buying local specialities.
Château de L’Anglais
Climb the steps up to the Chateau de L’Anglais, from which you can enjoy a spectacular panorama across Nice’s coast and beyond. The chateau sits on the edge of the Parc Forestier du Mont-Boron – a retreat from the bustling centre, relax in the shade of the towering trees.
A pleasant stroll along the seafront from Vieux Nice to the port is a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon. Port Lympia is one of the more important harbours on the French Riviera; one of the main harbours from which boats sail across the Mediterranean Sea. You’ll also find several lovely restaurants here, serving fresh seafood and sharing platters.
Nice’s Churches and Cathedrals
Nice and the surrounding villages are home to tens of beautiful churches and cathedrals, nine of which are in the old town. The Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate, in Old Nice, is the oldest and most ornate churches in the city, built in the 1200s. Since being rebuilt and made into a cathedral, it has been the Catholic heart of Nice for more than 400 years. The Eglise Sainte-Rita is a favourite amongst locals; it’s easy to miss it’s unassuming entrance, but the interiors are a beautiful glow of pink marble and crystal chandeliers. The Cimez Convent is a beautiful Franciscan monastery, set in stunning surroundings, and is where Henri Matisse is buried. Also venture to Saint-Paul de Vence to visit the Eglise Collegiale, perched upon the hillside with views over the countryside and sea. It’s an easy journey on the 400 bus from the centre and here, you can also soak up plenty of culture. Saint-Paul is one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera and famous for its many contemporary art museums and galleries. Also stop for a glass of wine at Café de la Place, where you can try your hand at the Provençal pastime of pétanque (a game similar to boules).
A national museum devoted to the work of one of France’s most celebrated painters, Henri Matisse, Nice’s Matisse Museum houses one of the largest collections of his paintings, from early works to his last.