Nice is the Côte d'Azur's most cosmopolitan city. It's a heady mix of old and new, ethnic and domestic, sunshine and smog: strollers, skaters, beach-bums, and business people jostle for position along the beachfront, while tower blocks and bistros stand side-by-side along the city's traffic-thronged streets. It's noisy, smelly and insanely touristy throughout summer, but somehow Nice still manages to be irresistible, with a charming old city and a clutch of fantastic museums.
The modern city centre – the area north and west of place Masséna – includes the pedestrianised shopping streets rue de France and rue Masséna. The bus station is three blocks east of place Masséna. Av Jean Médecin runs south from the train station to place Masséna. Promenade des Anglais follows the curved beachfront from the city centre to the airport, 6km west. Vieux Nice (Old Nice) is delineated by bd Jean Jaurès, quai des États-Unis and, east, the hill known as Colline du Château, near the port.
Barclays Bank (2 rue Alphonse Karr) Has a change counter. Cyberpoint (Tel 04 93 92 70 63; 10 av Félix Faure; per hr €4; h10am-9pm Mon-Sat, later in summer, 3-9pm Sun) One of endless cybercafes in Nice. Lavomatique rue Pertinax (22 rue Pertinax; h7am- 8pm); rue du Pont Vieux (11 rue du Pont Vieux; h7am- 8pm) More laundrettes surround the station.
Main Tourist Office (Tel 08 92 70 74 07; 5 promenade des Anglais; h8am-8pm Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm Sun Jun-Sep, 9am-6pm Mon-Sat Oct-May) Right by the beach.
Train Station Tourist Office (Tel 08 92 35 35 35; av Thiers; h8am-8pm Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm Sun Jun-Sep, 8am-7pm Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm Sun Oct-May)
The most atmospheric part of Nice is the tangled old town, criss-crossed by alleyways and back-streets. At the eastern end of quai des États-Unis, steep steps and a cliffside lift (per person €1; h9am-8pm Jun-Aug, 9am- 7pm Apr, May & Sep, 10am-6pm Oct-Mar) climb to the Parc du Château, a beautiful hilltop park with great views over the old city and the beachfront.
The excellent Mamac (Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art; Tel 04 97 13 42 01; http://www.mamac-nice.org/; Promenade des Arts; admission free; h10am-6pm Tue- Sun) houses some fantastic avant-garde art from the 1960s to the present, including pop art from Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol’s 1965 Campbell’s Soup Can.
The small Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall (Marc Chagall Biblical Message Museum; Tel 04 93 53 87 20; http://www.musee-chagall.fr/, in French; 4 av Dr Ménard; permanent collection adult/student €6.50/4.50, temporary exhibitions additional €1.20; h10am- 5pm Wed-Mon Oct-Jun, to 6pm Jul-Sep) houses the largest public collection of the Russian- born artist’s seminal Old Testament paintings.
Heading northeast from the Chagall museum (about 2.5km from the city centre) brings you to the Musée Matisse (Tel 04 93 81 08 08; http://www.musee-matisse-nice.org/; 164 av des Arènes de Cimiez; admission free; h10am-6pm Wed-Mon), which contains a fantastic collection of exhibits and paintings spanning Matisse’s entire career, including his famous paper cut-outs Blue Nude IV and mixed-media Woman with Amphora.
Free sections of beach alternate with 15 sun lounge–lined plages concédées (private beaches; hlate Apr or early May-15 Sep), for which you have to pay by renting a chair (around €15 a day) or mattress (around €10).There are outdoor showers on every beach, and indoor toilets and showers opposite 50 promenade des Anglais.
Niçois nibbles include socca (a thin layer of chickpea flour and olive oil batter), salade niçoise, and farcis (stuffed vegetables). Restaurants in Vieux Nice are a mixed bag, so choose carefully.
Chez René Socca (Tel 04 93 92 05 73; 2 rue Miralhéti; dishes from €2; h9am-9pm Tue-Sun, to 10.30pm Jul & Aug, closed Nov) Forget about presentation; here, it’s all about taste. Grab a portion of socca or a plate of petits farçis and head across the street for a grand pointu (glass) of red, white or rosé.
Lou Pilha Leva (10-13 rue Collet; dishes from €3; h10am-10pm) With its outdoor wooden tables crammed under a tight awning, this is Nice’s version of a fast-food joint. Courgette fritters, sugar-beet pie, or a bowl of soupe au pistou (pesto soup) – chopchop!
Nissa Socca (Tel 04 93 80 18 35; 7 rue Ste-Réparate; mains from €8; hlunch & dinner Tue-Sat) This inexpensive old town joint is a good bet for niçoise cuisine, including socca and pissaladière (a thick crust topped with onions, garlic, anchovies and olives).
La Table Alziari (Tel 04 93 80 34 03; 4 rue François Zanin; mains €8-14, hnoon-2pm & 7.30-10pm Tue-Sat) Run by the grandson of the Alziari olive oil family, this citrus-coloured restaurant does local specialities such as morue à la niçoise (cod served with a tomato sauce), daube (stew) or grilled goats’ cheese.
Acchiardo (Tel 04 93 85 51 16; 38 rue Droite; mains €14-20; hlunch & dinner Mon-Fri) Locals flock to historic Acchiardo for the simple, tasty food – think lamb chops with green beans or steak with homemade French fries.
Pack the ultimate picnic hamper from cours Saleya’s fruit and vegetable market(h6am-1.30pm Tue-Sun) and pick up fresh seafood from the fish market (place St-François; h6am-1pm Tue-Sun).
Vieux Nice’s streets are stuffed with bars and cafes.
Raucous watering hole Chez Wayne’s (Tel 04 93 13 46 99; 15 rue de la Préfecture) has live bands every night, while the less rowdy De Klomp (Tel 04 93 92 42 85; 8 rue Mascoïnat;h5.30pm-2.30am Mon-Sat) has 18 draught and 50 bottled beers. Both close around midnight on weekdays and 3am on weekends.
Le Bar des Oiseaux (Tel 04 93 80 27 33; http://www.bardesoiseaux.com/, in French; 5 rue St-Vincent) Artistic types flock to this bohemian bar (and adjoining theatre) for live jazz, chanson française (French songs) and cabaret nights. It’s also open for lunch Monday to Friday, and dinner Thursday to Saturday.
Travelling on the Ligne d’Azur (Tel 08 10 06 10 07; http://www.lignesdazur.com/; 3 place Masséna; h7.45am- 6.30pm Mon-Fri & 8.30am-6pm Sat) network costs €1 per trip (except to the airport). Tickets can be purchased from the driver or from ticket machines at tram stops. A day pass costs €4.
Nice’s much-delayed tram launched in November 2007. Line 1 runs from 4.30am to 1.30am, stopping at the train station, old town.