The beautiful city in the French Riviera is known for its atmosphere of luxury. However, Nice also has so much more to offer: neighborhoods with character, cultural experiences and interesting destinations for excursions. Join Mondo on a tour of the famous boardwalk Promenade des Anglais, charming Old Town and atmospheric harbor.
Promenade des Anglais
Iconic Promenade des Anglais in the center of Nice is the most famous boardwalk in France and known around the world. Although the promenade may seem too “touristy” to some, it is an essential part of any urban holiday in Riviera.
The area is the least crowded in the morning, when locals use the promenade to cycle to work and jog while enjoying the sea view. In the daytime, the boardwalk is bustling, as it is a popular venue for taking a walk or having a drink. Outside the winter months, many visitors want to take a dip in the Mediterranean, either on a private or public beach. You need to watch your step on the pebbled beach, but the clear water is nice and relaxing.
Serge Toutlouyan has been living in Nice for the past 15 years and visits the boardwalk often: “I love the promenade. It’s a great place to experience French culture, and the area also has Italian influences, for example. I come here after work to relax and enjoy an evening swim.”
The several-kilometer-long promenade got its name from the English aristocrats who financed its construction in the 1820s. The buildings to spot along the promenade include Hôtel Negresco and Palais de la Méditerranée, which represent Art Deco architecture.
Old Town, Vieux Nice
One of the most enjoyable attractions in Nice is the Old Town, where you can easily spend a few hours strolling the alleys. The blocks and streets are centuries old, but the area is enlivened by restaurants, cafés, bakeries, art galleries and boutiques. The Old Town houses several impressive Baroque buildings, the most famous of which is the decorative Palais Lascaris, built in the 17th century, currently serving as a museum.
The heart of the Old Town is the big outdoor market, Cours Saleya. This traditional marketplace for selling flowers and food is open daily, except on Mondays, on which the area is used as brocante, an antique flea market. The stalls and friendly merchants at Cours Saleya have been attracting locals and tourists since the 19th century. If you want to buy food as souvenirs, buy olives or other products from local farms. The market is also a great place to taste socca, a chickpea flatbread originally from the south of France.
At the edge of the Old Town, you can climb a winding staircase to Colline du Château, Castle Hill. The steep climb will be rewarded when you enter the lush park hosting the ruins of a medieval castle. At the top of the hill, you get a wonderful view of the city’s rooftops and the glistening sea, toward the highlands of Provence. If you want to experience the scenery at Colline du Château without the climb, you can get there by an elevator – free of charge.
Atmospheric blocks of Le Port
One of the most charming and authentic places in Nice is Le Port, the harbor area. The area between Pointe de RaubaCapeu, Port Lympia (Old Port) and Garibaldi Square is a bit run down in places, which is precisely what makes it interesting. There are vines climbing pastel walls and buildings featuring Venetian-style windows and balconies.
Yachts are bobbing on the water, and the port is surrounded by the terraces of restaurants. The area gets busy in the evenings, with mopeds speeding by and waiters serving wonderfully cool drinks to customers. The quality of the places serving food at the harbor is OK, but you can find better things to eat by venturing further into the area.
If you are in need of a snack, head toward Boulanger Pâtissier du Port on Rue Fodéré. It serves high-quality bread and pastries baked on site and often attracts enough customers to form a queue. The square of Place du Pin is lined with cafés that are perfect for sitting down and watching the locals pass by.
Nice offers plenty of stylish things to buy. At Le Port, there are also antique and vintage shops.
Les Copains on Rue Lascaris is a good spot for lunch. The bistro has a nice terrace, where you can enjoy classic Nice dishes, such as salad and pasta. Indoors, there are larger tables and the air is cooler, thanks to the thick stone walls.
If you are looking for a place for dinner, head toward Rue Cassini: La Pêche à la Vigne combines French cuisine with Italian influences, and all the wines served at the restaurant are natural wines. The atmosphere is relaxed and the service friendly – the owner of the bistro may even come by to chat and make sure your glass is full. The dishes served at the restaurant are meant to be shared, and the menu also includes tasty vegetarian options.
While the other areas in Nice are perfect for shopping fashionable items, Le Port caters more to those preferring antiques and vintage. The cozy antique flea market Puces de Nice offers lamps, dishes, household items and various small objects. At Le Port, vintage brand Mon Oeil has as many as two shops worth visiting.
Text and photos: Andrew Taylor
This story was first published in Mondo's issue 03/22.