It's Nice to be Nice!
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.
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.
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 limb 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) 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 (4 av Dr Ménard) houses the largest public collection of the Russian- born artist’s seminal Old Testament paintings.
Free sections of beach alternate with 15 sun lounge–lined plages concédées (private beaches), for which you have to pay by renting a chair or mattress.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
(rue Miralhéti) 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) 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!
(7 rue Ste-Réparate) 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
(4 rue François Zanin) 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.
(38 rue Droite) Locals flock to historic Acchiardo for the simple, tasty food – think lamb chops with green beans or steak with homemade French fries.
Drinking and Dancing
Vieux Nice’s streets are stuffed with bars and cafes.
Raucous watering hole Chez Wayne’s (15 rue de la Préfecture) has live bands every night, while the less rowdy De Klomp (8 rue Mascoïnat) has 18 draught and 50 bottled beers.
Le Bar des Oiseaux (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.
This was an unexpected stop on my trip, as fellow busabouter had recommended it and I am so glad. I even extended my stay from two nights to a week!"