Here is something that you can envy me for: we have a good friend who owns an apartment in Southern France, facing the Mediterranean Sea. The location is just perfect: minutes away from Monaco in one direction and Nice in the opposite direction. Through his kindness we have been able to explore the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur) many times over the years. From spring to winter, we have been there in every season and never got bored of going back.
One of our trips to Côte d’Azur was in winter. It was cold and windy, but we enjoyed the city just the same. Even though this region never experiences harshly cold and snowy weather, the temperatures may get pretty low in winter and chances of having cloudy days are big.
To our surprise, Nice looked really beautiful at this time of year, when all the crowds are gone. The city’s glamour seemed to go beyond the whims of the weather and its charm was not diminished one bit by the clouds.
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, an area that enjoys plenty of natural beauty and a mild Mediterranean climate. The city is also called Nice la Belle (Nice the Beautiful) by the locals. In the second half of the 18 century, Nice started drawing the attention of the English upper class. An increasing number of the aristocratic families in England began spending their winters there, hence the name of the city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (‘the Walkway of the English’).
The famous Promenade des Anglais stretches along the coast from the airport to the old town, facing the sparkling blue waters of the Baie des Anges (the Bay of Angels). Even in winter the café terraces across the Promenade are filled with people sipping their drinks and contemplating the beautiful bay. You can walk for miles on the Promenade, or bike, or rollerblade, while gazing at the city’s amazing architecture.
One of the most noticeable landmarks in Nice, the famous Hotel Negresco, is located right across the Promenade des Anglais. Its sumptuous Royal Lounge is definitely worth a visit. The lounge features an amazing glass ceiling with a crystal chandelier commissioned by Czar Nicholas II of Russia, as well as some fabulous art work by Dali, Moretti and sculptress Niki de Saint-Phalle. There is also a vast collection of rare antiques and historical paintings on display.
If you are visiting the Promenade, or the Vieille Ville (the Old Town), take time to walk up the Castle Hill for a breathtaking view of the city. ‘Castle Hill’ is actually a misleading name, as there is no castle there now. The château on top of this high hill has been gone since 1706. Instead, there is a beautiful park that offers fabulous views over the Baie des Anges, Old Nice and the Port. There is an old well which is now being used as an elevator shaft. When we were there the elevator was not working, so we walked up the 400 steps leading to the top, but the views were worth every step. Atop the hill you can stroll around the park and take great panoramic pictures of the entire area.
Besides the charm of the Old Town and its flea markets, the beautiful parks and the Promenade des Anglais, Nice is also a city of art and culture. After Paris, Nice has the most museums in France. From Musée Matisse and Musée Marc Chagall, to the Musée d’Art Moderne and the lovely Opéra de Nice, you can spend days and weeks just admiring art and enjoying music concerts.
Nice is easily accessible by plane, on a short flight from Paris. We usually book a round trip on EasyJet, a very reliable and inexpensive European Airline. If you plan to visit the entire French Riviera you should definitely rent a car. While there is public transportation that will take you from point to point, visiting the perched villages and other points of interest would be very difficult without a car.
Have you ever been to Nice? What do you think about it?