Situated on the fabled Côte d’Azur in the South of France, Nice will greet you with old-word opulence tempered by a vibrant street life, endless coastline and plenty of sunshine.
Located at the foot of the Ligurian Alps, along a glittering turquoise stretch of the Mediterranean coast of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azure region, Nice is the administrative capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. Overlooking the Baie des Anges, Nice is always a popular destination and welcomes more than 4 million visitors a year. This ethnically diverse port city is known for its Mediterranean climate, location on the exclusive French Riveria, beach resort kind of vibe, the famed waterfront boardwalk, Promenade des Anglais and its light. The same elemental attractions that enticed European aristocrats to its shores in the 1700s, still draw crowds in the 21st century.
Long considered a source of inspiration for former residents including Matisse and Chagall, no one knows exactly what it is that gives the light in Nice its special character. Maybe it’s the 300 days of sunshine a year, the dazzle of the city’s nightlights, the sparkling shimmer of the water or the stars in the eyes of its 4 million annual tourists. Several key galleries and museums in Nice are dedicated to the works of notable artists who found inspiration in Nice and its light as a muse.
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How to get to Nice from the airport?
Nice Airport (NCE) is located approximately 7.6 km (4.7 miles) from the city center. The most convenient and reliable mode of transport from the airport to central Nice is the 15 minutes express bus ride to the main railway station, Gare Nice Ville SNCF. The cheapest transportation to the city center is to ride the local bus service to the main railway station – a journey of around 30 minutes. Taxis are also in plentiful supply at the airport. Check with your hotel, as to whether they provide a shuttle service for guests.
What about getting around the city?
Given concerns regarding the climate and environmental conservation, Nice has embraced more sustainable modes of public transportation. The city also has an integrated ticketing system for buses and trams throughout the metropolitan Nice Côte d'Azur area, valid for more than 130 routes. Explore at your own pace and off the beaten track with the Vélobleu bicycle hire scheme. The is more than 125 kilometers (77.67 miles) of cycleway with 175 stations throughout the region, with bikes available 24/7, 365 days a year. There is also a car-sharing service – Auto Bleue – providing non-stop access to electric vehicles. However, given its size, Nice has its fair share of traffic problems, but also provides 60 minutes of free parking at 10 carparks in the city. Nevertheless, the undisputed best way to experience Nice’s Vieux Town is à pied (on foot).
What else is good to know?
Given the civil unrest and strikes across France in recent times, there is a good chance that public transport may not be running when you arrive. The good news, is that it is possible to walk the 6 km to the center of the city, and it takes about one hour. If that’s not your scene, there are always plenty of taxis available at the airport. The local newspaper Nice Matin regularly reports status updates and provides advance warning of potential issues.
Nice is a heady mix of modern city and captivating Old Town, beaches and mountains, cafes and nightlife, art and culture. Beneath its polished exterior lies a fascinatingly diverse historic and ethnic heritage that combine to give Nice its unique character and light.
The most popular attractions of Nice are:
- Cimiez quarter
- Matisse Museum
- Vieux Nice
- Parc de la Colline du Château (Castle Hill)
- Promenade des Anglais
Art lovers: head north to the leafy Cimiez quarter, where you’ll find the red-ochre 17th century Genoese villa set in an olive grove that houses the Matisse Museum. It showcases a captivating collection of works by Henri Matisse that includes every medium imaginable – from oil paintings, sculptures and tapestries to the famous paper cut-outs. Across the park from the museum is the Monastère Note Dame de Cimiez cemetery – the final resting place of Henri Matisse.
Do a spot of urban exploring à pied along the narrow cobblestone alleyways lined with pastel-colored buildings in Vieux Nice. Discover quaint stores selling Provençal textiles and Niçoise soaps, meats and cheeses and set in a vibrant and buzzing atmosphere.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, whatever season you come to Nice, there is plenty to do. Life in Nice is lived in an outdoor playground with many opportunities to get out, on, and into the waters of the Mediterranean, into the air or into the mountains. For a bird’s eye view across the Nice cityscape, take on the winding staircase up to the wooded outcrop at the eastern edge of the Old Town, known as Parc de la Colline du Château (Castle Hill). The original site was once occupied by a supposedly impregnable citadel used for military purposes. If you’ve filled your step quota for the day, ride the elevator to the sweeping panoramic views that await.
An essential part of the experience of Nice is an evening stroll along the revered Promenade des Anglais, before stopping at any of the eateries and bars you encounter along the way to enjoy a refreshing drink while watching the sunset over the French Riviera.
Find out more about Nice's attractions in our travel guide.
Nice: A mix of new and old
Due to its strategic location and port, both of which contributed significantly to its maritime clout, Nice has changed hands a number of times over the years. This is reflected in the diversity of its character, its population, architectural landscape and culture. The labyrinthine, medieval alleys of Vieux Nice (Old Nice), the extravagant Neoclassical buildings, such as the famous Le Negresco hotel, fin-de-siècle buildings and the classical lines of the Italianate façades of modern Nice, are interwoven with vestiges dating back to Greek and Roman rule alongside confrontational modernist architecture. One example is the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum – home to a collection of avant-garde pieces by French and international artists.
Recommended dining in Nice
Nice is an epicurean utopia for gastronomes and full of Mediterranean delights. Fresh seafood and vegetables and olives punctuate the culinary landscape in Nice, and all come together to create the ultimate classic regional dish, Salade Niçoise. Restaurants in the city are awarded the “Cuisine Nissarde” certification, which indicates the restaurant works to promote the traditions of Nice’s culinary heritage by follow recipes and using quality products and raw ingredients.
Nice is a city where you can eat everything – from brasserie to fusion, from molecular to the highest fine dining haute cuisine experience to street food. Given its swanky image, it’s not surprising that Nice punches above its weight when it comes to Michelin starred eateries. However, if you’re in the mood for something a little more relaxed, there is an endless supply of brasseries at your service, and the house wines served as standard throughout the city’s eateries are nothing short of excellent, and produced in the hills that stand sentinel behind the city.
If you watch the sunset over the French Riviera - why not do it from the famous cocktail bar at the historic Le Negresco with the signature cocktail, Royal Negresco – champagne (of course), kirsch and raspberry juice. If you get peckish, the in-house brasserie, La Rotonde will welcome you through its doors into its kitsch carnival-like environment.
Find out more out food in Nice.
Shopping in Nice
When in Nice, a visit to the Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya is a must. Ranked as one of the country’s special markets by the French National Council for the Culinary Arts, the Cours Saleya Market of today is an approximately equal split between flowers and food. Mingle with locals as you savor the expansive and mouth-watering array of fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, cheeses, breads, herbs and spices – there is no market is a finer reflection of local life in Nice.