A Day Out in Nice
5 things to do in the French Riviera’s bustling capital
When I had to go to Nice recently for a two-day work trip, I couldn’t resist going one day earlier to give myself time to explore the city. Nestled halfway between star-studded Cannes and the Italian border, Nice acts as the international gateway to some of the more high-end resorts along the coast. Holiday-makers tend to fly into Nice airport before hiring a helicopter (the Riviera’s equivalent to a taxi) to Cannes, St Tropez or Monaco – but personally, I’m keen to discover what Nice has to offer beyond its proximity to these luxury resorts.
With just a few hours to play with, I decide the best option is not to draw up a tight schedule of sightseeing (which will surely only result in disappointment when I can’t fit everything in), but to meander my why around the city at a leisurely pace, discovering things as I go. And here is what I discovered…
A VIP experience on a Private beach
Ok, so I knew time would be limited but how could I visit a Mediterranean city and not take a dip in its sparkling blue waters? Nice has a gorgeous stretch of coastline with the pebbly beaches mostly divided into private areas – although you can find plenty of free, public space too if you prefer to economise. I chose to splash out and pay $20 for a spot on the Beau Rivage, which earned me a cushioned sun lounger at the water’s edge, plus a fresh, fluffy white towel and waiter service. After a quick dip in the beautiful sea (a bit chillier than it looked!), I sprawled out on my lounger and ordered a salad for lunch. While the bowl was generous, the price tag was very ‘Riviera’, at €15.
Explore Modern Art
From wondering around the city’s main square – Massena Square, bordered by Baroque palaces and paved with chess-board slabs, you will notice that the Nice is quite hot on modern art. You’ll find abstract sculptures all over the place: hidden in parks, alongside roads and, of course, in some of the city’s famous art museums. Take a look around the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemprain for a heady dose of New Realism and Pop Art.
Providing it’s not Monday, you will find a wonderfully colourful and fragrant flower market at Cours Saleya the famous promenade in the South West part of Vieux Nice. Soak up the hustle and bustle of this beautiful market before heading to an adjacent square where you will find food stalls selling hot snacks, olives, bread and fresh fruit vegetables.
People watch in Cafes
On your travels around the city, don’t neglect to sit and watch the world go by. People watching can tell you so much about a place and its inhabitants: you’ll catch people unguarded, getting on with their own daily lives in this busy city. There are plenty of cafes to choose from in every square in Nice – nearly all of them with outdoor seating. In Massena Square there’s always something going on, from live music and singers to street performers and acts.
Take a walk to the port
If you don’t mind walking for a few miles from the city centre, head east along the famous Victorian promenade to the old town, up a fair few steps and through some pine woods (not forgetting to stop and admire the panoramic views of the city), and you’ll find yourself at Port de Nice, where you can gawp at all the dazzling super yachts. This side of town feels more peaceful, and you can sit on the harbour wall watching the hustle and bustle of boats being fixed and prepared for voyage.