This is all about to change as les parents are moving to France in the near future, so we’ve grabbed the opportunity to discover more of Nice with both hands. Why not wander around a little longer?
Nice is one of easyJet‘s new destinations departing from Amsterdam, with daily flights. A very smart move as many Dutchies own a second home on the French Mediterranean coast. And let’s not forget that Nice was one of the first destinations where the (foremost British) aristocracy enjoyed their holidays in summer mansions or luxury hotels of which the Negresco (37, Promenade des Anglais) is still one of these Belle Epoque (Golden Era) remains. The main seaside promenade is not named La Promenade des Anglais for nothing.
This is how we spent 48 hours in Nissa La Bella (Nice The Beautiful in Niçard -the local dialect):
Art and architecture
If you dig a little deeper in Nice’s history, you’ll find out that it has an important connection with art. The city has inspired (and still inspires) more than a few artists, such as Niki de St Phalle, Marc Chagall, Arman, and of course Henri Matisse, who is buried in the backyard of his own Musée Matisse (164, av. des Arènes de Cimiez).
Our hotel –Hôtel Windsor (11, rue Dalpozzo)- refers to artistry as well, with rooms designed by artists. The tropical garden is also a true eyecatcher and makes you feel you have landed in a piece of jungle, but with design chairs.
For art lovers there is much more on display at the MAMAC – the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Place Yves Klein). The collections it beholds are interesting -a mix of neorealism and pop-art- and so is the architecture of the building; with a tetrapod arch connecting the harbor and the old city and two terraces which are considered panorama points for an overview of the city.
We had a quick tour of the museum, where the very friendly curator let us have a preview of the Keith Sonnier exhibition, which was still in build-up progress.
Sometimes the art in Nice is unnoticed. They are quite fond of the trompe l’oeil murals used to mask the lack of windows on the side of buildings. One of the facades has cost the municipality a mere 300.000 euros!
Speaking of buildings, Nice boasts an interesting mix of architecture. You’ll see the typical, colorfully sherbet-hued houses, Belle Epoque pallazzo’s in the bourgeois Cimiez district and modern architecture such as La Tête au Carré (The Square Head) -the brainchild of a sculptor (Sacha Sosno) and an architect (Yves Bayard)- which is actually the first monumental habitable sculpture in the world. The impressive building houses the city’s library.
Into the green
What makes a city is also the amount of ‘greenery’ it offers, and Nice doesn’t lack that either. The best spot to get an overview of Nice’s architectural variety, and overall panoramic sight is the Castle Hill (Parc de la Colline du Château – Rue des Ponchettes, Rue de Foresta, Montée Montfort). It can be accessed by foot from OId Nice and Place Garibaldi, in an Art-Deco lift or by steps (‘escalier Lesage’) at the end of Quai des États-Unis. We had the luxury to be driven up the former citadel, entirely dismantled by the soldiers of the French King Louis XIV in 1706. The site is surrounded by a parc and you’ll even discover a waterfall. It’s the perfect place for Sunday strollers, avid joggers or to host a picknick.
If you’re looking for another striking view of the city and more green, you’ll have to visit the amazing Cimiez Arenas and Gardens surrounding the Franciscan Monastery (164, Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez). A tranquil wonderland boasting a rosarium, pergolas, flower beds, a terrace garden and an olive grove where the Musée Matisse (a renovated Genovese villa) is settled.
While the above mentioned areas are either adjacent to the Old Nice (Castle Hill) or in the northeast district, the Promenade du Paillon finds itself in the city center: it covers 12 hectares and 1.2 kilometres right through the heart of Nice. Do not consider it a tourist attraction but a public garden where the locals take some time to relax and let their children play, as there is a playground with original wooden animal-shaped games. Further along the promenade you’ll encounter the Place Massena and the 3000m2 “water mirror” attraction with randomly spraying fountains.
The ‘Niçois’ palate
Nice used to be part of Italy until its reannexation by France in 1860 so there is an obvious Italian influence when it comes to the food: ravioli, gnochhi, polenta, gelato…
The local Niçois cuisine knows its own specialties and can be described as a mingle of Italian and French with a focus on fresh vegetables and seafood.
You’re probably all familiar with the culinary legacy of the salade Niçoise, to be found on French bistro menus all over the world, but beware to get it served correctly as the original recipe only contains raw ingredients and canned tuna! Other typical Niçois specialties are:
Socca – a crispy chickpea pancake, popular streetfood and gluten-free
Pan Bagnat – salade Niçoise on a sour-dough sandwich
Pissaladière – a salty pizza-tart topped with anchovies, caramelized onions and olives
Petit farcis – hollowed out tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant and zucchini stuffed with minced meat (veal or sausage filling), garlic and breadcrumbs
La Daube Niçoise – a beef stew with red wine, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, diced bacon, garlic, celery, parsley, and herbs, spiced with cayenne pepper
Tourte au blettes – a savory/sweet tart of Swiss chard, eggs, cream, raisins and sugar
Tapenade – spread of pureed olives, anchovies, capers and olive oil
To eat and to shop
The best area for eating out is near the port, specifically in and around the Rue Bonaparte, also refered to as the Petit Marais Niçois. A whole range of restaurants and eateries have landed here, as well as a few niche boutiques. The city center is more focused on the high street brands, though you’ll find some luxury vintage shops there as well. Here’s our little Nice adress book:
L’Atelier du Port – Local specialties with a modern twist – 45, Rue Bonaparte corner Rue Bavastro
JAN – South-African owner Jan Hendrik serves haute cuisine with the Mediterranean touch –12, Rue Lascaris
L’Escalinada – Niçois specialties in the Old Nice- 22, Rue Pairolière
Le Canon – Local produce on your plate in a hipster bistro setting – 23, rue Meyerbeer
Déli Bo – Best brunch and pastry in town – 5, Rue Bonaparte
Fenocchio – 102 flavours of ice cream, and DO try the unusual ones – 2, Place Rosetti
Maison Quirino – Ravioli specialist and other home made fresh pastas- 10, Rue Bavastro & 209 Avenue de la Californie
Mademoiselle – Vintage Hermès or Chanel? – 41, Rue de France
Caprice – Outrageous 60’s and 70’s outfits and a great range of accessories – 12, Rue Droite
Mon Bazar – Interior decoration from rugs to pottery– 14 rue Lascaris
Aperitiv – A must stop shop entirely dedicated to ‘l’ apéro’. Think an all-in-one grocery, cheese shop, butcher and liquor store –4 rue Cassini
Mon Oeil – A stylist and her husband made a detour through Paris and HongKong to come back to their native Nice – 32, Rue Bonaparte
Maison Vignes – Find your new handcrafted IT-bag at this luxury leather goods shop – 13, Rue Bavastro
A l’Olivier – Olive oils and more – 7 Rue Saint-François de Paule (Marché aux Fleurs)
Cabane – Concept store in the Old Town, selling a selection of designer items, decorative objects, furniture, brand clothes, household linen, jewellery and more – 19, rue de la Préfecture
L’Oiseau D’Été – Biological teas, local/regional products – 8, rue Dalpozzo
easyJet takes you to Nice 7 days a week. A single ticket starts at €23,96.
From the airport it is best to take a taxi or the Airport City Centre shuttle which takes you to the city centre, or bus line 23.
In and around Nice you can go by foot, Vélo Bleu or tramway/bus. If you have time and the need to explore more of the coastal area we suggest to rent a car at the aiport. Search for car rental options and deals on the easyJet website.