Discover Nice - breath-taking views in the angel city

  • What would the city be without its famous 'Promenade des Anglais', or quite simply 'prom'? Visiting this 4 mile long coast road is a rite of passage when in Nice.
    © Corbis / age fotostock
    The 'Promenade des Anglais'

    What would the city be without its famous 'Promenade des Anglais', or quite simply 'prom'? Visiting this 4 mile long coast road is a rite of passage when in Nice.

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination France

Nice, the most Italian of the cities on the French Riviera, proudly asserts its Mediterranean ancestry. This rich little city, which enjoys a high standard of living, certainly knows how to attract tourists. Nice not only has a legendary seaside (quite romantic at the end of the afternoon, it must be said), but also a historic centre (Old Nice) where it is pleasant to go for a stroll in the small Medieval-style streets made lively by the festive spirit of the students who also frequent this neighbourhood.

Considered to be the French Florida because of the high number of elderly people who choose to live here and benefit from the sunny climate, Nice actually has lively and youthful aspects - especially in its Medieval historic centre. Located far from the sea, although you can still smell it on windy days, Old Nice is a maze of cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, and small artisan and designer shops. A city of glitz, glamour and wealth food fantatics and fine diners won't be short of places to eat out.

Nice: what to do?

Nice, which is the biggest city on the French Riviera and the fifth largest in France, asserts its highly cultural status through its numerous museums, which have offered free entry since July 2008.
The Departmental Museum of Asian arts, designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, is home to both Classical and contemporary works.

Along the Promenade des Anglais, you will find the Museum of Art and History, within Massena Palace. This Belle Époque-style building contains collections that recount the history of the city from the time of Bonaparte (1793-1815) up to the 1930s.
The Matisse Museum, which boasts stunning 17th century Genovese architecture, sits at the heart of the Cimiez Gardens and offers a collection of works by the painter who lived in Nice from 1917 until his death in 1954.

To enjoy a view of the Promenade des Anglais in its entirety, you can climb up to the Bellanda Tower (free access by the stairs, but with a fee to use the lift), which dominates the coast. Today there are no more than a few stones left of this tower, built in 1830 on Castle Hill. Once you arrive at the top, you will discover a flower-filled park and its artificial waterfall, as well as an extraordinary view of the sea and the red roofs of the old town.

Less cultural but very entertaining is the unavoidable visit to one of the casinos.

A wander around Old Nice is what most tourists travelling to the city first set out to do. Among the narrow cobblestone streets you'll discover small craft shops alongside several religious monuments such as the Chapel of Mercy, on Cours Saleya, which dates from 1740 and was built in honour of the Brotherhood of the Black Penitents. Further towards the centre, at the curve of a small, narrow street, sits the current Courthouse, which as of the 17th century was the seat of the Governors and Princes of Savoy passing through the city. Take a tour of Old Nice to admire its churches and monuments.

The Cours Saleya market is definitely worth visiting. Every morning (except for Monday, which is reserved for antique dealers), this ancient esplanade comes alive with the fruit and vegetables market and its famous flower market. At the corner of rue de la Poissonnerie and the Cours Saleya, look up to admire the House of Adam and Eve with bas-reliefs dating from 1584. It is, in fact, one of the last of the old painted houses, once numerous in the old city.

  • Glitz and glamour by the sea
  • Warm climate, even in winter
  • The city's Old Town
  • Massive crowds of tourists in summer
  • Long traffic jams
  • Petty crime is fairly common


Nice isn't at all far from the Italian border and getting there by train is fairly simple and inexpensive. A regional train links Nice and the major towns and cities along the French Riviera with Ventimiglia. While it does stop every couple of minutes, the panoramas along the coast are unforgetable.

To avoid

In Nice, one-way streets reign supreme; add to that the many pedestrian or limited circulation zones in the historic centre and you'll soon understand why it's best to forget the car and depend on getting around on foot instead. If you do choose to bring a car however, don't forget to pay for parking to avoid being fined: the police on the French Riviera are particularly zealous.

Nice: what to eat?

Niçoise salads are a must try, a mixture of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, egg and tuna - best enjoyed on a sunny terrace somewhere, overlooking the deep blue of the Mediterannean...

Nice: what to buy?

Lavender, herbs and honey are all typically French products to be found along the Blue Coast. Sweet tooths can bring back boxes and boxes of candied fruit, crystalised flowers and orangettes. Like anywhere else in France, cheese, and wine is always a safe bet. When buying clothing or any other trinkets, make sure they have really been made in France and not China!

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