Pack Your Bags | Nice, France
There’s something about the French Riviera that feels really safe and calm to me. I know, I know, the place is gorgeous and overflowing with sunny cafes and bougainvillea. Who wouldn’t feel that way about the Southern coast of France? Well, yes, these things are all true- but for me, there is also a nice element of nostalgia that comes with visiting Nice. For some reason, most of the trips that I went on when I was younger came through here at some point, and then when I studied abroad, I ended up here at three different points. I’ve traveled back to Nice with work over the years, and the memories that I have with so many people that I love in various parts around the city make it feel like a bizarrely placed home away from home for me.
To be honest, I haven’t always had the best grasp of what to do and where to go here. It’s taken a few trips back as an adult (with better taste) to find where the really great spots are in this little seaside town. The mix of so many cultures here makes it a less intuitive spot to find some of the quintessential French feeling places—which makes sense, as Nice was part of Italy up until the start of the 20th century. You’ve got a lot of French, a lot of Italians, and a lot of Russians all living here, and then tourists from all over coming to stay on holidays. It’s a melting pot among many other places on the Mediterranean that feel distinctly more “Italian” or “French” or “Spanish.” Nice has so many beautiful qualities that you can easily take at face value—the beach, the hills, the sunny promenades. Let’s just say that it kinda takes a little bit longer to find the good restaurants and hotels here.
Here are the places I like when I’m in Nice.
LE GRAND CAFÉ DE FRANCE | On the popular pedestrian street, Rue de France, there’s a shortage of classics brasseries. Luckily, Le Grand Café de France is there, and it’s got a classic terrace full of crisp white tablecloth and woven bistro chairs to make you feel at home. Go for breakfast (opt for le petit dejeuner classique for €8,90 and get a coffee, fresh orange juice and croissant) and you’ll be able to sit and people watch as you sip coffee and brush croissant flakes from your shirt. If you’re coming with a child, they even have an adorable high chair version of the classic bistro chairs ready and waiting for them.)
7 Rue de France, 06000 Nice | +33 4 93 53 97 38
LOU PILHA LEVA | Socca is a traditional dish from the area, and it’s really worth trying. Think of it like a thin crepe made from chickpea flour. It’s gluten-free, salty, cheap and delicious. You can get them at a few places in the Old Nice, but this is my favourite little shop filled with history and little tables and benches outside to eat on. They have some other local specialities like fried eggplant and stuffed vegetables there, so if you’re feeling adventurous (and hungry), go for the assortment.
10 Rue du Collet, 06300 Nice | +33 4 93 13 99 08
COPPER BRANCH | If you’re needing something light and fresh, Copper Branch offers plant-based food that is pretty tasty and in an easy atmosphere. Try one of their bowls (I liked the Azteque) for a massive pile-up of deliciously fresh veggies that will make you feel great… and less guilty when you walk down to get gelato from GROM on the way back to your hotel.
26 Rue Massena, 06000 Nice
Snacks and Treats
GELATERIA FINOCCHIO | On a hot day, an Ice cream whilst strolling along the Promenade des Anglais is hard to beat. If you’re near the Old Town, you can stop at this local institution for a cone of any flavour you might imagine. Or even flavours you might not be able to imagine, inspired from local flavours and treats. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try a scoop of lavender, olive, orange blossom. thyme or jasmine.
2 Pl. Rossetti, 06300 Nice | +33 4 93 80 72 52
LA CIVETTE DU COURS | If you’re by the flower market, you’ll notice that people flock to the small cafes during the afternoon to socialise and relax. There are a smattering of options, but La Civette is a safe bet for a simple afternoon drink or ice cream. (The coffee, chocolate & coconut ice creams have all been tasted and approved.)
1 Cours Saleya, 06300 Nice | +33 4 93 80 80 59
MAISON MARGAUX | Head to this newly opened brasserie in the heart of Nice’s beloved Place Magenta. You can go any time of the day as it’s open from breakfast until late, but it Maison Margaux really shines on a warm night when the tables are crowded as people eat dinner and the atmosphere is lively. Expect classic French brasserie fare with a few modern additions, like, you know a mozzarella bar and freak shakes on the dessert menu.
2 Place Magenta, 06000 Nice
LA ROTONDE, HOTEL NEGRESCO | Sat inside the Negresco Hotel, La Rotonde is the more casual sibling eatery to the Michelin-starred Chantecler at the hotel. But if you’re looking for a pretty place to eat dinner (especially when the weather may not be the best for sitting outdoors), head here. The food is fabulous and the decor is definitely unlike you’ll have ever experienced before: you’ll be sat amongst all the trimmings from a Belle Epoque carousel. Find my full review here.
37 Prom. des Anglais, 06000 Nice | +33 4 93 16 64 00
VIEUX NICE | Explore the oldest part of Nice where sunlight streams down alleys along the narrow streets and people meander in and out of shops. You’ll find socca stands, fish markets, and, in the daytime, there’s a lovely flower market that runs along it, just off the promenade by the sea.
TAKE A HIKE | Oh, and that hill? The big one at the end of the city? It's called Colline Du Chateau—which means the "Castle Hill," though the Roman castle for which it was named has been long removed. Today it is simply a great (not-too-difficult) walk up to the top that rewards you with a sweeping view of the Riviera, cool sea breezes, & a giant park full of locals.
PLACE MESSENA | This is a great stop- either with or without kids. If you’ve got little ones, they can play and splash in the endless fountain area. There are benches and grassy patches around, so you should be able to find a place to sit. (I’d bring a change of clothes or a towel, as the sea air makes kids quite chilly when they are finished playing!) If you get tired of sitting int he park, you can also wander around the endless shops surrounding Place Messena.
HIT THE BEACH | If you come all the way to Nice and don’t spend a good chunk of time on the Mediterranean… you’re missing the point. You can sit along side the Promenade in the blue chairs that line the way, but the real treat is to wander down onto the beach. Now, the beach is rocky, so it’s not the easiest to relax on. If you’re wanting to go to the public beach, I’d head to Flying Tiger and buy a yoga mat or two to lay on to buffer the pain. However, I’d really recommend heading to one of the private beach clubs, like Hotel Amour, just by the Hotel Negresco. You can go and buy a drink (a bottle of water cost me €5) and stay for as long as you like. I perched up on one of their sofas and enjoyed the afternoon sun. It’s a great (and easier!) way to enjoy a day at the beach. Plus, you don’t have to figure out what to do with random yoga mats at the end of your trip that way.
ARÔME HOTEL | This is a great, small boutique hotel in a fabulous location just off the beach. You’ll be close to the beach, great shopping and loads of cafes and places to eat. The train station is walkable from here (about 15/20 minutes) or you could do a short taxi. The owner, Fabio, is very involved and the whole experience is high-touch. The rooms are really lovely and you’ll love the feeling here.
65 Rue de la Buffa, 06000 Nice | +33 4 93 88 99 46
L’ALCOVE HOTEL | If you’re on a budget, but still aren’t up for slumming, this is a great option. Rooms are clean and tidy with a little Scandi-vibe (read: IKEA). The staff is really friendly, and the location is just a couple blocks from the beach. It’s a no-frills but happy place to stay in Nice.
12 Rue Andrioli, 06000 Nice | +33 4 26 48 71 95
BEST WESTERN HOTEL NEW YORK NICE | This is a great location off the main shopping street, Avenue Jean Medecin, and very close to the rail station. The rooms can be hit or miss, but overall- it’s a decent budget option for Nice that will get you near to Old Town and the lively outdoor Place Messena.
44 Avenue du Marechal Foch, 06000 Nice | +33 4 93 85 14 31
*images original to Aspiring Kennedy