Our first impression of Gare de Nice Ville was blissfully calmer compared to Marseille St Charles as we stepped outside. It’s a smaller station with less chaos except for our fellow arriving and departing passengers. Outside you’ll find plenty of shops and transport options to take you to your hotel or final destination.
We didn’t need a transfer to Hotel Saint Gothard, it was only a 3 minute walk across from the station. Conveniently located in the heart of Nice, this hotel offers an affordable tariff, it’s clean, decent, friendly staff (they let us checked in early, Merci!) and handy to everything. One block away is Avenue Jean Médecin, one of the city’s main north-south traffic arteries. Serviced by both bus and tram (Tramway de Nice), you can shop till you drop, this is a shoppers paradise. Famous international brands and boutique French shops, restaurants, cafes and all those easy recognisable fast food outlets, this busy street is a great place to wander.
Nice is perfect for discovering on foot as it is mainly flat. It’s a city bursting with charm and character at every turn. We strolled several times from our hotel to Nice Old Town passing some of the narrow streets and old houses ultimately ending up at the iconic seafront – the Promenade des Anglais. Stretching 7 kms from the airport on the west to the Quai des États-Unis (United States Quay) on the east, it’s the place to be seen. The panoramic stretch of the blue water of Côte d’Azur – Mediterranean is sublime. The sound of waves crashing on the pebbled shore is enchanting.
Idyllic and romantic, we loved this area especially in the late afternoon. Bustling with joggers, bike riders, street performers and walkers heading down to the front. Beach umbrellas, chairs, and gazebos add to that Mediterranean-magic. As the sun sets in the horizon, the surrounding buildings light up signalling the start of a great evening. Time to order a Pernod or even a Kir!
Promenade des Anglais is home to top hotels and restaurants, it stretches some way along the coastline. You can also find restaurants down on the beach that are accessible from the promenade. This area also serves as your key to the city, if you get lost just walk a few blocks down to the Promenade and you can get your bearings from one of the many iconic buildings.
Nice is home to many museums, from historic glimpses of old, modern and contemporary art, paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs. Must visit are, Musée Matisse – Museum, Musée Villa Masséna and The Musée National Marc Chagall to just name just a few.
Foodies and winos rejoice, Nice is overflowing with great offerings. You can start discovering French food at the Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya, a place that transforms during the day from a food, flower market, antiques and bric a brac to a bar and restaurant precinct at night. During the day, wind your taste buds through this amazing market. At night, enjoy all the cocktails and dining til the wee hours. If you prefer a more intimate meal, Nice has a number of Michelin-starred joints and for the adventurous there are specialist restaurants offering regional dishes as well as many bistros, bars, outdoor eateries and take aways, it’s your choice. Just make sure you know your conversion of your local currency to euro, as some places can end being pricey. We feasted on seafood, paired by some of the most delicious French wines we’ve ever drunk. Not to be missed is the Moules Marinière, a popular mussel dish often served with chips as moules frites.
Another way to appreciate the French Riviera with breathtaking panoramic view is to visit Castle Hill of Nice overlooking the Mediterranean. It was a Citadel used for military purposes between the 11th and 18th century. Destroyed in 1706 by command of Louis XIVBC, now all that is left of the castle are its ruins. Here, you’ll be presented with some of the French Riviera’s great vantage points. How to get there, by foot, an elevator or take a journey on the Petit Train.
Nice has captured our hearts and we can’t wait to visit again and say bonjour Nice!