24 Hours in Nice

Where the Mediterranean ocean meets the sophistication of Europe, we discover Nice is perfect for those hoping to lose themselves in the luxury and extravagance of the South of France.

Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall were amongst the many famed artists to have spent time basking in the culture, sunshine and liveliness of the Cote D’Azure. Today, the boardwalk of Nice traces the path of those artists’ past, where the azure ocean that delivered them such inspiration now washes up to vibrant blue beach umbrellas, and the bustle of skilful rollerbladers interrupts the calm.

Though 24 hours will only reveal a sliver of the riches and history that have converged to deliver modern-day Nice, a day immersed in this city will present a myriad of choices, from where to eat and shop to where to drink and relax.

Breakfast

In this cosmopolitan city, you won’t have to stray more than a few steps from your accommodation before you’re accosted with the smells of freshly ground coffee and recently baked, buttery croissants. With no shortage of cafes and coffee outlets, Nice offers something to suit every type of early riser, from the explorative to the caffeine-hungry.

Renowned for its expansive selection of fresh coffees and teas, Brulerie des Cafes Indien on Rue Pairoliere is a hidden gem specialising in exotic blends. With croissants, baked goods and a continental breakfast also on offer, this boutique café will wake you up with delicious bites and a sumptuous variety of coffees, teas and decadent chocolat chaud.

For those looking for something a little heartier, a brunch at DS delices will leave you thoroughly sated. With a choice of baked goods, combination crêpes and savoury meals, DS delices will stimulate and titillate your taste buds in a peaceful and refreshing outdoor setting.

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Beaches

With your early morning appetite fuelled, the mild Mediterranean climate will tempt you towards the coast. The black-pebbled beaches of Nice strike a spectacular contrast with the milky blue ocean and the Cote D’Azure is scattered with inviting waterholes. While there are public beaches that offer secure lockers, showers and changing rooms for a couple of Euros, some visitors prefer a little more exclusivity, and will opt for a more intimate slice of paradise.

Boasting sun lounges laid out on stylish decking, picturesque blue and white parasols and private tables inbetween recliners, Nice’s private beaches cost anywhere from 10 to 20 Euros a day. Here, personal waiters are on hand to serve you at your beachside perch, adding a touch of luxury as you soak up the rays.

Florida Beach, located at the centre of the promenade, is known for its stylish vibe and private wellness centre. Alternatively, Castel Plage is tucked into the northeast corner and is coveted for its private setting. Bordered on one side by a public beach and on the other by a rock formation, Castel Plage is a serene, sheltered waterhole.

Finally, for those seeking an elegant, picturesque gateway into the ocean, the crisp white umbrellas and deep blue sunbeds of Plage Beau Rivage afford a sociable place to recline and enjoy the ocean view. This beach is split into two sections: L’Espace Tendance is a classy lounge bar with music; whilst L’Espace Zen grants a taste of tranquillity in a refined, relaxing setting.

See the sights

Having taken in Nice’s impressive coastline, make some time to enjoy one of the city’s seemingly endless selection of tours. Whether you want to work up a sweat on a cycling tour, or unwind on a luxury yacht, there’s something to suit all tastes. Regardless of your preferred mode of transport, however, there are some sights you simply shouldn’t miss during your trip to the Cote D’Azur.

A block from the promenade is the unique, historical neighbourhood of Vieux Nice or ‘Old Nice’. From historical architecture to boutiques trading clothes, wine, soaps and jewellery, visitors will find the narrow winding streets rich in authentic treats and vintage sights.

Tucked behind the city’s façade, you can immerse yourself in the Cours Saleya, a daily flower market jam-packed with colour, local bustle, fresh produce and cafes. With flowerpots, dining tables and fruit stalls lining the footpath, the Cours Saleya is the perfect excuse to explore, indulge and connect with the French way of life.

If you begin to grow weary from the bustle, take a left at the end of the flower market where a stairway will deliver you into the meandering streets of La Colline du Chateau. Here, the sound of running water will afford instant tranquility as you absorb stunning views of the old castle, La chateau, and its man made waterfall.

For some similar serenity and historical culture, Nice is home to a number of museums, galleries and cathedrals. Be sure to inspect the Matisse Museum, which is home to an array of the artist’s work, from his traditional works to the creations of his later life. Mirroring the scenes you’ve just come from, the Museum’s artworks are displayed alongside artifacts from Matisse’s life, adding a personal touch to the historical display.

A definite must for anyone travelling to Nice, the Musee National Marc Chagall presents raw colours, thoughtful obscurities and deep emotion in a collection of works by the Belarusian artist. The rousing collection is hidden behind a modern, subtle and understated façade. Precise architecture and groomed gardens, entombing the stirring art, makes the Musee National Marc Chagall a pleasant destination for a half-day trip.

To de-clutter the mind and clean the soul, Castle Hill at Montee du Chateau affords a 360-degree view spanning the Mediterranean horizon, Nice’s city and the surrounding Alps. Accessed via a staircase (over 100 stairs) or a lift, the historical site is completed with a waterfall backdrop against a grassy, leafy garden.

Finally, Nice Port – a destination often overlooked by tourists but one you’d be sorry to miss – boasts an impressive assortment of yachts and a spectacular view of the Corsica Ferries coming in and out of port. Situated around the corner from of Vieux Nice and the promenade, the Nice Port pools all the colours, luxury and opulence associated with the French Riviera, alongside some of the city’s trendiest bars and nightclubs.

Dining

As night falls, the streets of Nice will leave you spoilt for choice with a vast array of world-class eateries flaunting decadent French cuisine. Boasting high ratings and dazzling reviews, Le Sejour Café on Rue Grimaldi offers a variety of Mediterranean dinners, cozy ambiance and personal, endearing service. From salmon tartare to foie gras, the menu can be suited to any taste and will have you coming back the night after, and the night after that. For a more creative experience in food excellence, Oliviera on rue du Collet is acclaimed to offer spectacular dining alongside a showcase of homemade olive oils, crafted by the restaurant owner himself.

If you’re taken by tapas, Le Vingt4 on rue Alphonse Kar, offers exquisite bites, an extensive wine list and a sleek, understated atmosphere. For a more intimate setting, L’Esprit Gourmand on Rue Beaumont is a cozy womb of a wine bar. Evident in its ever-changing menu and family owned philosophy, the team at L’Esprit Gourmand possess a true passion for food.

Alternatively, for a stylish, authentically French dining experience, La Roustide on Rue Beaumont incorporates truffles into just about every meal and is rapidly building a name for itself for its innovative and extravagant French cuisine.

Finally, hidden behind the hotel façade, Restaurant le Patio affords relaxed dining in an elegant, courtyard setting. The French meals are beautifully presented, combining bold, simple flavours, and are devoured on tables situated between lemon trees, under the stars.

En route to dinner or as the night wears on, L’Effervescence in Vieux Nice is an eclectic champagne bar that offers delectable bites alongside selective, flowing champagne. If you’re not in the mood for bubbles, Cave de la Tour, family run since 1947, is a smooth alternative. Specifically designed around one philosophy –  the appreciation of wine – Cave de la Tour boasts an extensive selection of vintage wines, strictly of the French variety.

The promenade, Old Nice and the Nice Port all afford bustling bars, quite cafes and elegant dining for a night out. In exploring the city at night, a combination of French, wider European and Mediterranean cuisines will compete for your attention.

Of course, no trip to Nice is complete without thoroughly satiating your sweet tooth. French pastries and cleansing teas are the perfect antidote to a rich, flavoursome dinner. Highly acclaimed for its service and delicacies, Pastry Plaisirs is a favourite for locals and tourists alike. Situated on Rue Delille, Pastry Plaisirs is popular destination for those seeking exotic teas, superb coffee and an array of sweet and savoury delights.

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Fast Facts

Located on the south east coast of France, Nice is the second largest French city on the Mediterranean coast. The mild climate and proximity to the sea has, for decades, attracted those in search of relaxation as well as those seeking inspiration, with Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and Niki de Saint Phalle amongst the many creatives to have been influenced by the picturesque Nicean surroundings.

With around four million tourists descending on the city each year, Nice has the second largest hotel capacity in France, its airport only outranked by Paris. With a hot summer and mild winter, Nice enjoys comfortable temperatures year-round, and, with only moderate rainfall, tourists can enjoy the best of Nice whether choosing to travel in spring, summer, autumn or winter.