After Paris, Nice is one of my favorite places in France. Its location on the pebbly shores of the Baie des Anges, makes Nice a very popular summer destination. But Nice can be as beautiful in winter as in summer.
A Brief History of Nice
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’).
How is Nice in Winter?
Here is something you can envy me for: I have a good friend who has an apartment in Nice. As a result, I visited Nice during all season: in spring, summer, fall and even in winter. Nice looked really beautiful in winter, 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.
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 in Nice 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.
How to Explore Nice in Winter
While Nice never experiences harshly cold and snowy weather, temperatures may get pretty low here in winter. Therefore, you should plan to spend more time inside then outside. There are many interesting things to do in Nice when the weather is cold.
Visit the Royal Lounge at Hotel Le Negresco
Le Negresco is one of the most noticeable landmarks in Nice, located right across the Promenade des Anglais. Built by Henry Negresco in the period of La Belle Époque, the hotel epitomizes the glamour of the lost generation of aristocrats. 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.
Walk Up to Castle Hill
Even if the temperatures are low, winter time may be very beautiful in Nice. If it’s a sunny day, walk up to Castle Hill for a breathtaking view of the city.
Back in the 17th century there was a castle up on this hill. The castle however has been gone since 1706. At the top of Castle Hill there is a beautiful park that offers fabulous views over the Baie des Anges, Old Nice and the Port.
There is an elevator that will take you to the top of the hill, but you can also climb up the 400 steps leading to the top. This may seem like a serious hike, but it’s well worth the effort. Besides, the weather being cold you won’t sweat much.
Other Things to Do in Nice in Winter
Old Town Nice can be really charming in winter, especially around Christmas time. You can visit some of the city’s flea markets, boutiques and art galleries.
There are also a few nice museums in Nice, like Musée Matisse, Musée Marc Chagall, and the Musée d’Art Moderne. If you are an opera fan, you can also watch a performance or take a tour of the Opéra de Nice.
Day Trips From Nice
Nice’s proximity to many tourist attractions on the French Riviera makes it an ideal base for day trips. The city is about 30 minutes away from Monaco and many of the perched villages on the French Riviera, like Eze Village. Winter is the best time to visit some of these places, which are swarming with tourists during the other seasons.
Some other day trips to take from Nice include visiting the famous villas on Cap Ferrat – Villa Ephrussi and Villa Kerylos.
How to Get to Nice
Nice is easily accessible by plane, on a short flight from Paris. There are a few low budget airlines (like EasyJet) that fly between Nice and other European cities. You can also reach Nice by car from Paris. A car will be of great help if you plan to explore other towns on the French Riviera.