To say that Le Chef and I love Nice is an understatement. Nice is us. We lived here as a couple and celebrated our civil wedding ceremony in the Vieux Nice. Nice deserves at least 3 days (or 3 years, truly) but because Le Chef’s family lives in Toulon, now we often only get to spend 24 hours. We land in Nice after a red eye flight blurry from the lack of sleep but the sight of the coastline as we land is enough to revive us. We will catch up on sleep when we get to Mamie’s house. First, we explore the city we love so dearly.
10:30am - Nice International Airport
Land at Nice International airport. The Airport is conveniently located only 15 minutes from the city center- we don’t delay, there are things we want to do before lunch! Taxis cost about 25 Euros and they are the quickest way to get to Nice; fortunately a tram line is being put in that will bring you right to the city center. De suite, direction Vieux Nice. Always our first stop! It immediately gives us the sense of Nice. It is like putting our fingers on the pulse of the city.
11am- Cours Saleya, Le Vieux Nice
This is the famous market area in the old town of Nice. The vibrant sorbet-colored buildings and the bustle of this busy (though touristy) market is enough to jolt the jet lag right out of you. We buy watermelon slices at a stall and delight in the cool, juicy fruit as we wander through, taking it all in. The deep colors of the tomatoes. The pyramids of Marseille soaps. The woven straw market bags. The sachets of lavender. Que du bonheur!
12pm - Promenade des Anglais / Colline du Chateau
The sound of the cannon from the Chateau (every day at noon) tells me that it is time to make our way towards lunch. We head out of the market with my newly acquired straw market bag in tow and stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, towards the Chateau. This is the hilltop that separates the old town from the Port and offers the best views of the city. The panorama of the waterfront is unparalleled. The steps leading up to the Chateau are a workout, but I much prefer taking them than the elevator so that I can take photos along the way.
1pm - Le Bistrot du Port
Only a 10 minute walk from La Colline du Chateau is our absolute favorite restaurant in Nice, Le Bistrot du Port. José Orsini and his wife, Stephanie, have held this restaurant for 19 years and specialize in seafood and local fare made with fresh ingredients. When we lived in the neighborhood we would honestly eat there once a week. We grab a table overlooking the port (reserve on the outside terrace) and settle in with a coupe de champagne. We trust José so much that we don’t even look at the menu anymore. Our favorites are the scrambled eggs with shaved truffles to start or else the lobster or the octopus salad.
As a main dish, the Dorade en croute de Sel (to be shared with the table) is one of the most delicious dishes I have ever tasted. We like to take our time over lunch and we engage in one of my favorite sports, people watching, at the same time ☺
3pm - Le Shopping
All around the port area, the old town and place Massena is great for shopping. Walking from Le Bistrot du Port, we head towards Place Garibaldi then back into the Vieux Nice. Here you can buy handmade leather sandals, artwork, jewelry or beautiful summer dresses. If we are craving more sweets, we stop by LAC for some handmade chocolates, or macarons. After the Vieux Nice, we walk up towards Place Massena (all in very close proximity) for more high end shopping at Galleries Lafayette or Rue du Paradis. I never go to Nice without stopping in at Jean-Charles on Rue Massena for shoes. They carry a beautiful collection of Prada, D&G or Tods Shoes and often have huge sales. Keep your eyes peeled.
5:30 pm - L’Apéro
Le Chef and I both worked at Le Meridien Nice, so we know that they have the best rooftop terrace in town. When you are in the hotel lobby, take the elevator up to La Terrace. Settle in to a couch next to the railing for L'Apéro with a glass of Rosé and soak in views that will make you feel as if you are on the top deck of a cruise ship on the Mediterranean.
7:30 pm - Le Dîner
There are so many options here. La Merenda is the first choice for the authentic Niçois specialties but you can’t telephone for reservations so we try our luck by stopping by. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, we either go for a wood fire Pizza or else fresh shellfish at the Café de Turin. Café de Turin has been serving seafood since 1908 and is exactly the kind of low key, but fabulous restaurant that Le Chef and I love. They do one thing and they do it well! Since we lived in the neighbourhood the Place Garibaldi has been completely renovated so it is even more of a treat to sit on the terrace with a chilled bottle of Sancerre, slurping back oysters and watching the evening go by.
As for Pizza there are multiple options. I have so many memories of eating at La Voglia on the Cours Saleya that I am often drawn back to it. They have a wood fire oven and a relatively inexpensive menu which is varied and consistent. Go early (7pm or 7:30) as it fills up quickly! If they could deliver Rigatoni à la Voglia to DC… or the seafood linguine…yum…
Hotels in Nice
If you are looking for 4 or 5 star hotels I have worked at both Le Palais de la Mediterranée and Le Meridien Nice and I highly recommend either of them. There are lots of good hotels and Airbnbs in Nice, I would just keep an eye on location. We like to be near the Place Massena, Jardins Albert 1er, Le Port or the Old Town (noisier though)
Le Lendemain (the next day)
8:30am - Promenade des Anglais
Un petit footing. This is how they call a jog in France. I have done a couple 10k races on the Promenade des Anglais and it remains one of my favorite places to jog or go for a leisurely walk. You can run for nearly 10k on flat terrain with sea views! Of course I stop to get a few pictures of the famous blue chairs.
9:30am - Petit Déjeuner
Un petit café. Stop at any of the restaurants along the Promenade (on the city side) for a café and a croissant and you will not be disappointed. I look for those that advertise a “formule petit déjeuner” which means you will get a coffee, a juice and a breadbasket including viennoiseries (croissants and pain au chocolat).
10 am - La Plage
There is only one thing left that I really want to do in Nice. Go to the beach! Le Chef and I celebrated our civil ceremony wedding lunch at Ruhl Plage so we always love going back. Reserve a beach chair in the front row if you can. Buy a stack of magazines from the kiosk on Le Promenade des Anglais and prepare yourself for a few hours of French Riviera Bliss. When the clock hits 12 noon, ask the beach server to bring you a bottle of Rosé in an ice bucket propped up next to your beach lounger. Luxuriate. This is the French Riviera. I order a Salade Niçoise which is brought to my lounge chair on a tray. When the sun changes position on the beach, the server re-adjusts the angle of my umbrella so that I have the perfect shade to sun ratio. Beach days are not cheap, but they are absolutely worth it. The Ruhl Beach charges 22 Euros for the beach chair and 6 euros for the parasol. Towel rental is also extra if you need it.
P.S. If it is off season and going to the beach is not in the cards I would absolutely go to the museums. The Chagall Museum and the Matisse Museum are exceptional. If you have the time, ride the big red bus. It gives you a great overview of the city.