Monday, 23 April 2018

48 Hours In Nice France

Dirty, hectic, impersonal, a sprawl. These are all things that Nice in France is not.  We decided to visit for my birthday in March. I had visions of a glamorous break, with wine, lots of wine and great food. Would the capital of the Côte d’Azur, and France's fifth largest city live up to my expectations? I hoped it would!

We took an EasyJet flight from Bristol airport to Nice. With the flight being around an hour and forty-five minutes, the cosy flight (read no leg room) was ok. It was fairly cool on board but I recommend booking extra legroom seats if you like space and don't like being cramped. 



We took an Uber to the hotel a short 20-minute drive away. You could also take an airport bus at 6 Euros each way which has space for luggage, or the local bus that costs 1.5 Euros. The Uber was 17 Euros, and worth considering for ease of use, door to door and especially if you have two or more people travelling with a number of bags. The taxi took us past the famous Promenade Des Anglais, the vast paved promenade that runs for 4km along the seafront. 

We stayed at the Hotel Grimaldi. The small boutique hotel 10 minutes walk from the Promenade Des Anglais was well priced at £70 a night including breakfast, but alas it was not perfect. I won't go into details here but I guess you pay your money and you take your chance as they say. There are plenty of well-priced hotels out of high season however, we were surprised how cheap accommodation was so you will be spoilt for choice. This post is about Nice, however, so let's get onto exploring this interesting city. 


That night we ate at a lovely little French bistro called Davina, which was next door to the hotel. The food was outstanding, we had a really fresh calamari with garlic aioli, French onion soup, a tasty Coq Au Vin and pasta with pesto. All washed down with half a litre of white wine, and all costing about £50. Bargain! 

After staggering the 10 steps to our hotel, we decided to have an early night ready to explore Nice the next day.

The next morning, fresh as daisies, we decided to take the 'Hop on Hop off' bus tour of the city.

We were given the French Riveria pass by the tourist board to try out during our stay and the tour was included so this was great news. Priced from 26 Euros for 24 hours it is certainly worth considering if you are going to do a number of museums and activities in the city and surrounding area.

To get to the pickup point we walked up to Place Massena. This is the main square in Nice and is full of life, a great place to people watch.


The Nice carnival was only the week previous, and there were a big Ferris wheel and a few attractions left for children. 


After we walked through the area we got to our bus stop for the 'Hop on Hop off' tour.  On this first use, all we had to do was sign and date the back of the French Riveria card and then present it. This was then scanned by the bus driver, as easy as that.  We were given some headphones and we both dashed to the top on the bus to get a good view. 



It was lovely to see the sights of Nice as the bus wound it's way up through this mesmerising city and down back onto the Promenade Des Anglais. With 14 stops and a commentary in English and French it's a great way to see the city, you just hop off when you want to get off and hop on when you went to see more from the comfort of the bus.

From the top of the bus, we saw the stunning 5-star hotel, Hotel Le Negresco, a beautiful art deco building on the promenade. I would have loved to have gone inside but unfortunately, we didn't on this trip. All the more reason to go back!


Nice is full of amazing architecture, and if you are an architecture lover like me then you are in for a real treat. A mix of French and Italian architecture, there is a large Old Town (Vieux Nice) with striking buildings and a lovely harbour area. You can see why the city is named Nice la Belle or Nice the beautiful.



We stopped off at two points on the bus tour - to visit the Marc Chagall museum and to see the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.


The Marc Chagall museum is included on the French Riveria card, and without a card admission, the price is 10 Euros. This permanent collection is the largest collection of his work in the world. Although undeniably striking, the religious connotations of his art, based on the Old Testament themes may not be for everyone.  If you wish to visit allow an hour or two for your stop.

When we left the museum we must have timed it right as we caught the bus driving down the road. Next stop - the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

I saw this building online but still I think my jaw literally dropped when I first gazed upon this unusual and ornate cathedral, something you don't expect to see in Nice. 


Beginning in the mid-19th century, Russian nobility visited Nice and the French Riviera, following the fashion established decades earlier by the English upper class and nobility. In 1864, immediately after the railway reached Nice, Tsar Alexander II visited by train and was attracted by the pleasant climate. Thus began an association between Russians and the French Riviera that continues to this day. The cathedral was opened in 1912, thanks to the generosity of Russia's Tsar Nicholas II. 

The French Riveria card gives you a free guided tour in English once a day but we were early so we decided to explore the cathedral ourselves. The inside contains a vast collection of religious icons, decorative woodwork, and detailed silver inlaid designs and is certainly worth seeing.

After we visited the cathedral we decided to stroll back to the hotel after stopping in a little bakery for a fresh pizza and ham and cheese baguette. Nice has a number of little bakeries, and with the smell of freshly baked goods wafting into the air, it's hard not to stop in one as the tempting smells lure you in.



That night we ate in the Hard Rock Cafe Nice, not an authentic French restaurant of course, but reassuringly good. We spotted it the day previously on the Promenade Des Anglais. The Hard Rock Cafe in Nice is quite small but perfectly formed and the food was tasty. I always have the Legendary Burger, a juicy beef burger topped with onion rings, bacon and all the trimmings, whilst Mr W usually has the fajitas. Delicious! 

The next day we decided to explore the old town called Vieux Nice.



Get here early in the day to explore the Cours Saleya. The Cours Saleya is Nice's vibrant flower market, a place where traders sell flowers, fruit, vegetables, soap and gifts. I have to admit, I couldn't resist the beautiful soaps and bought a couple of bars which cost 1.50 Euros each. If you like the soap the more you buy the cheaper it is, so I recommend stocking up for gifts to bring back. 



The Cours Saleya is also a place to have a drink and people watch in one of the many bars and restaurants lining the area. We stopped for a drink and jumped when, at 12 noon, a noise of a cannon going off surprised us. This tradition goes back to 1861 when a British man set it off to call his wife back to prepare lunch. This tradition was later made a law. Today this has been replaced by a loud firework resembling a cannon. If you are in the old town listen out for it every day.



The shops in Vieux Nice are so lovely. I had to stop at Maison Auer to admire the mouthwatering chocolates and chocolate covered almonds. One of the prettiest chocolate shops I have been, I have to admit I was so taken with the shop, that I forgot to take a photo!

As we meandered through the streets, we came upon a hill which looked intriguing. 



I just adored the ice cream coloured houses. It reminded me of a Disney version of what the Americans think France looks like. Of course, all of France isn't as beautiful as this. 



We got to the top of the hill and was rewarded with this chocolate box view. Breathtaking.



At the top of the hill is Chateau Cemetery. This large cemetery overlooks the whole of Nice and is really interesting, having both a Christian and Jewish area. The monument to the French Jews that died and the heroes of the resistance is so moving.  There are a number of stones around the monument, a Jewish custom to remember those they have lost.

A few more steps and we came across a waterfall, again another unexpected delight from this beautiful city. This waterfall on Castle Hill isn't big but the spray creates a stunning rainbow, and the area has amazing views.



A short walk from here is a Parc Du Chateau. Again with amazing views, a children's playground, a cafe and a number of shaded areas, it is certainly worth the walk to get here.

I mean look at this view below!



We left the park via the stone steps towards the Promenade Des Anglais, also known as the Bay Of Angels. The 4km sweep of bay has a lovely walking path, and in 2015, the city of Nice submitted the Promenade Des Anglais for UNESCO World Heritage status. This process can take up to 10 years to complete, but I am sure this will happen one day.


As we walked down the steps I couldn't help be in awe of this amazing city. As well as the Italian influenced architecture it has a vibrancy that only the best cities have, a mix of wide streets but also small ones you can get lost in, a character that is uniquely its own. All things that The Guardian newspaper says makes a city attractive.

The city is also extremely well placed on the South of France in the Cote D'Azur.  Within a short drive/train journey are Cannes, Monaco and Antibes.  We spent another couple of days in Nice and explored Monaco and Monte Carlo one day and more of this striking city the other.


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So did Nice live up to my expectations? Oh yes! The city has glamour, fantastic architecture, great museums and a style all of its own. It also has wine, lots of wine! Sorry, I took no photos of the wine, we were busy drinking it!

Tell me, would you visit Nice? What would appeal to you in this area?

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28 comments

  1. Looks so amazing I need to go visit this place as still not been and from what you have said and can see it sure is a place to go to.

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  2. What an amazing place Nice sounds like, I have been to a few different places in France, but as I remember I don't think Nice is one. It sounds like you had a lovely time exploring even if the hotel wasn't quite up to scratch.

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    1. It really is a lovely city Sarah, I can highly recommend a trip here.

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  3. I love how you were able to maximize your time there! It's awesome to be able to see more of France even if you were just there for 48 hours. It's all so beautiful and worth it.

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  4. That's a shame about your hotel but you're right you get what you pay for. Your first dinner sounds really tasty x

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  5. What a beautiful city to visit! I've never been to Nice, but I fell in love with Paris some years ago. I'd love to explore more of France.

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    1. The architecture is lovely, if you get a chance to go Elizabeth I don't think you would be disappointed.

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  6. Nice looks like a lovely place to visit. Gorgeous photos! #CityTripping

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  7. Nice looks stunning! I never really consider France as somewhere to visit, maybe as it's so close - but this is making me most definitely reconsider! #citytripping

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    1. It's a short flight and fabulous for a city break.

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  8. Great guide to the city’s hot spots and what to see! I went there many years ago and would love to fo back.
    #citytripping

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  9. I hadn't realized there was also a hop-on-hop-off bus in Nice! I do know that there are a few sights that a bit farther away like that Orthodox church, so the bus would definitely be worth it then! #CityTripping
    (www.caliglobetrotter.com)

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    1. Yes there is, you can buy tickets for it on its own or get a French Riviera Card and its included with that (you can also save money too if you are doing a few attractions)

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  10. We just watched a programme on Nice last night on TV and were saying how wonderful it would be to visit Nice during Summer. Gonna read your post to make sure we have everything covered if we do.

    Yeah Lifestyle

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    1. Yes, it was on Travel Man. I love that programme!

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  11. We adore the architecture and the markets! Would have loved to have seen the carnival in all its glory shame you just caught the tail end x

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  12. WOW Nice looks and sounds absolutely INCREDIBLE!! I haven't been before but I would certainly love to visit, especially after reading your account. I'd definitely uber it to the hotel too! xxx

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  13. Nice looks absolutely amazing. We are just back from France but it was a ski trip. I definitely want to go Nice in the future it’s one of the larger cities that we haven’t visited

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  14. Can you believe that I have never had the chance to go to France yet? But 48 hours in Nice does sound wonderful. The architecture is absolutely stunning and the market looks lovely.

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  15. Wow you did so much in 48 hours! I only had about a day in Nice when I visited, and I walked everywhere (thankfully the weather was beautiful). I think it would have been smart to get on the Hop on Hop Off bus like you did to see more!

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  16. I too visited Nice last year and absolutely loved it, love what you were able to get up to during your visit.

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  17. What a lovely post! The photos are wonderful! I'd love to visit someday and see the cemetery and waterfall. #citytripping

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  18. Fab post. Nice looks so pretty and a great place to explore. I love the waterfall and the harbour #citytripping

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  19. What a hectic time you and, but the view and food I’m sure made up for it ... it’s so idyllic and the food looks mouthwatering.

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