Nice

Nice (pronounced like the English word "niece") is a large city in France on the French Riviera. It's a popular destination for vacationers both young and old, with something to offer nearly everyone. It is well known for the beautiful view on the Promenade des Anglais, its famous waterfront, and is an ethnically diverse port city.

Understand

Nice's origins can be found among the Gallo-Roman ruins of Cimiez, in the hills up the boulevard de Cimiez from downtown. Cimiez also contains a monastery and some museums, but nowadays, most of the city's inhabitants live closer to sea level. Nice was part of the Italian Duchy of Savoia and then the Kingdom of Sardinia until it was ceded to France in 1860. The ancient local language is Nissart, but of course, everyone speaks French. Don't assume everyone you encounter will speak English an effort at French will always be appreciated.

Get in

Nice

By plane

Nice Airport (IATA: NCE) is one of the busiest in France and has frequent daily flights to Paris, and direct to most major cities in Europe, including Moscow, as well as New York and Canada (seasonal), and a number of destinations in North Africa and the Middle East. The airport is located at the western end of Nice on a landfill. Arrival and departure in good weather often provides beautiful views of the French Riviera.

Most airlines use Terminal 1 (the older terminal) while Terminal 2 is used primarily by Air France (and partners) and Easyjet. There is a free shuttle bus between the terminals.

Airport to Nice

Some hotels offer shuttle buses from the airport, enquire with your hotel before or upon arrival.

If there is no transportation running, it's reassuring to know that it is quite possible to walk the six km to town or vice versa to airport, in a little over an hour, though the area around the airport is Nice's red light district, and the walkway's first kilometre is a cycleway. This may be a useful in the current social discontent in France, where manifestations (demonstrations) and grèves (strikes) frequently affect public transport. It is prudent to check the local newspaper (Nice Matin), where you will usually receive advance warning of potential problems.

By train

Domestic
International
Stations

By car

The A8 autoroute is the easiest way to access Nice either from the west (Cannes, Aix-en-Provence) or from Italy. From the West take exit 50 and follow the signs for the Promenade des Anglais which takes you into Nice and is a lovely drive along the coast. Coming from the east take exit 55 and follow the signs for 'Nice centre'.

Approaching the city from the East, the three 'Corniches' ('Basse', 'Moyenne' and 'Grande') offer a wonderful panoramic route from Menton to Nice. The 'Grande Corniche' is the highest one; it goes up to more than 500 metres on the sea level in La Turbie.

By bus

Long distance buses connect Nice with other major European cities. Eurolines, and the French LER "Lignes Express Regionaux" connect Nice with Marseille, Toulon and Aix-en-Provence at a reasonable price and acceptable three hour journey time via the motorways.

By boat

Harbour

Nice is right along the coast, so you should be able to find your way easily no matter if you run on diesel or let the wind help you. However, remember to contact the local port before arrival to reserve a place for your boat. Otherwise there will most likely not be room for you.

  Gare Maritime de Nice (ferry terminal), Port de Commerce, Terminal 1 (Quai Amiral Infernet),  +33 4 95 55 03 93. Direct ferry routes to: Bastia, Ajaccio, Calvi and L'Île-Rousse in Corsica. Advance booking is advised in all cases.

Nearby Monaco is a major cruise port.

Get around

By bus and tram

Each main town on the French Riviera has its own local bus network, for Nice it is Lignes d'Azur (Antibes has Envibus, Cannes has Bus Azur, and so on), and the 100 or more Lignes d'Azur routes are the main form of urban transport for locals going to work or school. Of more interest to tourists, an inter-urban network, the TAM (Transport Alpes-Maritimes) connects all the Eastern Riviera towns between Cannes and Menton and all the main villages like Èze and Vence. Its routes radiate from various bus stops near Vieille Ville (until the new bus station is completed in 2016). Bus fares are only €1.50, with a change to a non-return connecting service also permitted within 74 min, so it is worth mastering the bus system to get around.

The Lignes d'Azur and TAM routes overlap in and around Nice, so the ticket and tariff system is integrated to a common ticket zone, in which the local Lignes d'Azur tickets and passes are accepted on the longer distance TAM buses (only between Cagnes-sur-Mer to the west and Cap d'Ail short of Monaco to the east). The fare is identical on both networks - €1.50 for any distance - but with TAM, you must always tell the driver your intended destination, so he can judge whether you should purchase a TAM ticket or a Ligne d'Azur. Outside the common zone, Ligne d'Azur passes are not valid and you need to pay the €1.50 fare in cash.

The one exception to the €1.50 fare is the Airport Express bus, which has a €6 flat fare. This buys you a Lignes d'Azur all day pass into the bargain - handy if you're arriving, maybe not as beneficial if you're leaving.

The long awaited tram line opened in November 2007 and forms a U-shaped route from Las Planas to the northeast to Pont St Michel to the northwest. It links the main train station, bus station, downtown and the university, but it is basically a mass transit system designed to get workers and shoppers to the centre of Nice from the suburbs and is not of any particular value to tourists. It uses the same tickets as the buses, but you buy these from the machines at tram stops (unlike buses, where it is usual to pay the driver or show your pass on entering the bus). Another innovation is the hourly "commuter express" bus service direct to Monaco via the Autoroute, the 100 Express, though visitors may still prefer the slower and more scenic 100 route along the coast.

The SNCF rail service also links all the main coastal towns, so which is the best way to get around - bus or train? The journey from Nice to say Cannes by the 200 bus at €1.50 is considerably cheaper than the train, which is currently over €5. The buses are liable to dreadful overcrowding and have the prospect of standing for nearly 2h as it is slow with frequent stops and many traffic lights along the route. If you're short on cash and don't mind discomfort, take the bus. If you're short on time and prefer to sit, take the train.

When taking the bus, you must be aware of the somewhat odd way the bus schedules are laid out. They list the departure time at the first bus station, not the one you are currently at. At the right hand side of the bus schedule, you have a list of stations, and, next to some, you will find the time listed it will take the bus to get there (+20', for example). This means that you will have to do a lot of guessing. It is best to ask a native and leave some extra padding time if you plan to take a bus to any scheduled event that you really do not want to miss (airport, train, concerts, etc.).

You can find local bus and tram route maps and timetables on-line. Route maps are listed under 'Maps' and timetables as 'Timetables' in PDF format. Also, a new service ('Stop timetables') purports to display the times at your stop. From previous experience with the bus company, those should stand somewhere between educated guesses and outright fiction, due to unpredictable road traffic conditions (like one hour traffic jams around Villeneuve Loubet).

Apart from the airport express routes 98 and 99, buses rarely run after 20:00. The tram however operates from around 04:30 to after midnight. Five nightly bus routes (called Noctambus) serve the main parts of city, from 21:10 to 01:10, and TAM has also now introduced infrequent buses throughout the night on the 100 line. The night buses leave from the Station J.C. Bermond, near the bus station, and the day fares apply on these night routes. If you are planning a visit involving a late evening return, consider train services, which provide the most reliable form of late travel.

Note: The main city bus terminal was demolished in early 2011. A replacement is planned by 2015 or so, but for the present time, bus stops, starting points and routes have been relocated around the town centre (though little change to airport service). Visitors wanting to use the bus service in and around Nice should consult local sources and pdf (November 2012) for the latest routes, stations, stops and times.

The starting point for buses inthe direction Villefranche, Eze Village, Cap Ferrat, Monaco and Menton is Segurane/Garribaldi; westward buses towards the airport, Antibes and Cannes start at Albert 1er/Verdun close to the Meridien Hotel.

By train

Juan-Les-Pins near Nice

Nice has no metro and little need for one. The main train service is the national French railway SNCF, which boasts the high speed TGV (slow to Marseilles and then extremely fast on to Paris and the local TER stopping trains, which serve the main Riviera towns between Cannes and Ventimiglia across the border in Italy, including the daily commute to Monaco.

Less well-known is the little narrow-gauge railway Chemin de Fer de Provence, which runs from Nice through the Var valley and along the Route Napoleon, three hours to Digne in Upper Provence. In the summer months, the latter part of the journey switches to a real steam train, the Train des Pignes.

By car

You don't need a car to explore Nice itself, and if you do bring or hire one expect some frustration. The town centre is congested is covered by a complicated one-way system. Parking is very limited - all on-street parking anywhere central is on meters during the day, and even in spite of this it's very difficult to find a spot; you'll notice the Nicoise happily double-parking to nip to the shops. If you need a reliable parking place, your best bet is to buy a fixed-length ticket (abonnement) at one of the underground car parks, several of which offer 24-hour access. You can expect to pay €8-10 Euros a day for this kind of parking.

The best access is by car from the A8 autoroute. The airport is well-signed from the A8 and the A8 is well signed from the airport. Just make sure that you know which way you need to go when getting on the A8 and which terminal when leaving. Especially in the morning and evening rush hour, allow extra time to deal with accidents and traffic jams. The A8 has a ferocious bend right near the airport and accidents are frequent.

Even if it is going better, driving a car on the Riviera is for the brave: the region has one of the worst accident records in France and every local has a favourite story about a mad driver. However, all major car rental firms, as well as some less well known ones, are present. Most are located by terminal 2. If you have a choice, try to pick a car that is already well dinged so that no one notices the new dings and scratches that you will add. Never forget to lock the doors of the car at all times, so as not to tempt carjackers.

By taxi

If you can, avoid the notoriously expensive taxis, though sometimes you do not have a choice. It is not always easy to find a taxi when you need one. Most will not respond to being hailed, and only ply from a taxi rank, from where cabs take passengers in turn. Taxi-drivers have great solidarity with their fellow taxi-drivers and will not accept offers to jump a line of waiting passengers. Taxi ranks will be found outside the train station and deluxe hotels (for example outside Le Meridien at 1 Promenade des Anglais).

Taxis are registered and licensed but like anywhere, it's not unknown for one to take advantage of tourists. If possible, agree on the rate BEFORE entering the cab. If running on the meter, insist on the meter being on the whole time. Try to sit where you can see it so that you can immediately query the driver when/if it goes off "accidentally." Taxi fares within Nice should be less than €20, to Antibes €50, Monaco or Cannes approximately €70 and St Tropez €250. The airport run to Nice is a fixed tariff around €35, depending on time of day, but you may be hit for surcharges on luggage or the presence of a 4th passenger (designed to discourage cab-sharing).

By foot

Even though Nice is the 5th largest city in France, a high proportion of the tourist attractions are close together in the town centre, at most half an hour's walk from each other.

The main exception is the historical site and museum at Cimiez, which is more of a hike, but readily accessible by bus.

The only downside of "by foot" is the notorious volume of dejections canine (that's doggie-poo to you and me) and the lack of attention to the needs of those with reduced mobility - wheelchairs - as the dropping of kerbstones is entirely haphazard.

By inline skating / rollerblading

There is a place you can rent skates from called , Fun 'N Roll on 13, rue Cassini, (slightly northwest of the port/harbour/quay).

By bicycle

Public bicycles

Nice has installed a public bicycle rental system called "Vélo Bleu". Subscriptions rank from one euro per day to €25/year. The first 30 minutes are free and you will not need any more time to get around in the city. Vélo Bleu stations can be found all over the city. Their website provides a map of stations.

If you have your own bike, you will never have to go far to find a place where to park it, as there are a lot of ground anchors in the city. Just be sure to have a good lock (avoid the cable-locks which can be cut within seconds), to lock the frame (and not only the wheel) and that your wheels cannot be removed without a tool.

See

Colline du chateau
Museum of Asian Art

The greatest thing to see in Nice is the views along the Promenade des Anglais, which skirts the seacoast for over 5 km, then ends at Nice Airport. These are the views you will have seen in dozens of postcards and in paintings by the 20th-century artist, Henri Matisse, who spent so many years living in Nice, but whether you've seen pictures or not, you owe it to yourself to walk along some of this stretch if you have made it to Nice.

Nice is also known for several museums. Some of the most famous are in Cimiez, the older, upper part of the city which in a previous century was a favourite of Queen Victoria, including:

The old town (Vieux Nice) beneath the hill is a maze of streets and alleys, with many picturesque houses, boutiques and home to the daily flower and fruit market of the Cours Saleya. In addition, the local cathedral, the Baroque Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate, in the heart of Vieux Nice, is pretty. You'll want to walk through the Place Sainte-Réparate, anyway, while you're in the old city. If the doors are open, go in and look at the interior and paintings.

Near the central bus terminal, there is also the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC) with four connected towers featuring modern and contemporary artists and their sculptures, paintings, and conceptual installations. Its open-air roof terraces offer one of the best panoramas of the city.

To the west, there is the Musee des Beaux-Arts housing an excellent collection of pastels and other works by Jules Cheret, among other artists.

WW1 monument

Do

Beaches

If you go to Nice for bathing or general lounging on the beach, you may wish to think again. The beaches of Nice consist entirely of large flat stones (gallets). A few private beaches have added a layer of sand, but the free public beaches are a stony experience. Besides towels or mats, you should definitely bring sandals, since walking on the stones can be painful, and a cushion if you want to sit. Free showers are provided on all public beaches and there is a beach volleyball area that is netted off with white sand.

Although the beaches are mainly pebbles it is important to note that many visitors enjoy the beautiful light blue sea for a swim. If you can bear to walk for a few steps on the pebbles it is definitely an opportunity for swimming rather than playing in the water as the beach drops quickly and the tidal pull can be very strong, and not for beginners. Lying on the beach for a sun tan or relaxation is also manageable as long as you rearrange the rocks/pebbles to a comfy surface for sitting and lying. Private beaches offer various services from restaurants/bars to the rental of lounge chairs and towels.

Much nicer beaches exist in other towns close by, such as Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes and Cannes, which are far more sandy. Villefranche is a particularly preferred beach choice, especially if travelling with children, only twenty minutes away by the TAM 100 bus.

However, for walks by the seaside with great views, the Promenade des Anglais is arguably unparalleled.

Beautiful landscapes

For views of Nice the best vantage point is the heights of Mont Boron (bus 14). From the derelict old Fort and the nearby villa of Sir Elton John there are fine views over the city to the mountains and east over Villefranche and Cap Ferat.

Go to Eze. It is a small village on the way to Monaco. The village is situated on a small mountain and there is a beautiful cactus garden with a spectacular view (a must see, €5 entrance fee). There is also Fragonard perfume factory which you can visit for free. To reach Eze by bus, take the 112 to Eze Village (not the 100 which stops at Eze Gare, a 90 minute steep walk away from Eze Village). If you missed an infrequent (up to 3 hours) 115 bus in Eze Village, there is a path that goes down the mountain from Eze Village to Eze Sur Mer (also Eze Gare). This is the Path of Nietzsche (named after the famous German philosopher Friedrich W. Nietzsche), with some fantastic views and a waterfall (if you know where to look). Walking downhill through this path takes about 40 minutes. Buses run from Menton-Monaco through Eze Gare back to Nice every 15 minutes or so and vice versa, making treking back up the hill unnecessary.

Also close by is the magnificent Villa ile de France, of the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild, straddling the magnificent peninsula of St Jean Cap Ferrat in the so-called Golden Triangle of Villefranche, Beaulieu and Cap Ferrat.

Hiking trails emanate from La Turbie high above Monaco and the Grande Corniche, which are double the height above sea level of Eze and offer the hardened walker truly spectacular vantage points over the Riviera.

Live performances

Learn

There are many schools offering courses in French. Perhaps the most reputable are Alliance Française and EF.

Work

Generally the Riviera is a place people come to spend money rather than earn it. Unemployment levels are high, casual work hard to come by, and as everywhere, service industry jobs tend to go to those with low wage expectations.

Sophia Antipolis is a huge office/science/tech park 20 minutes outside of Nice, which is the base for many French and multinational companies.

For those with the right qualifications and experience the luxury, super yachts of Antibes International Yacht Club have spawned a major industry in crew and boat services which attracts many young English speakers. Connections are equally important as the boats often post signs to deter casual enquiries - "no day-workers required"

Financial service companies abound in Monaco which is readily commutable from Nice.

If you are seeking a career aboard one of the many superyachts in Nice a good place to register and start looking is Crew Central

Buy

Flower and food market in old quarter

Most stores and restaurants in Nice will accept the major credit cards, as well as debit cards from major banks (anything carrying the EC or Maestro or VISA logos). If this fails you can always get money from any of the numerous ATMs.

All shops are now allowed to open every Sunday and, as of November 2010, at least the following had started to open every Sunday: H&M, Zara, Fnac, Bershka, Celio, Virgin Megastore, and Spar. Some locations of Galleries Lafayette are now open several Sundays each month but not all of them, the same goes for Nice Etoile Shopping Centre.

Postcards (as many other things) vary greatly in price. Do some comparison shopping as the price range is between 20 cents and €1 for a normal postcard. Typically they will set you back 25 cents each (correct at June-2009).

Nice's main shopping street av. Jean Medecin is home to two giant music/entertainment stores, Virgin Megastore and the French FNAC. FNAC definitely has the edge as their many listening stations allow you to 'try before you buy' almost every CD in the house, whilst Virgin push only a few promotional selections. Both run near identical pricing policy on new albums. FNAC is closer to HMV, offering most forms of entertainment including books, games, CDs, DVDs and much more - the 4 floor store on Av. Jean Medecin is well worth exploring!

Designer label garments are, as everywhere, notoriously expensive but general fashion goods are really cheap compared to most other European countries, and Galleries Lafayette offers a lot under one roof. If that's not enough for you, they also have a huge superstore at Cap 3000 just next to St Laurent de Var past the airport (Lignes d Azur 52 and TAM bus 200, 400 and 500, stop La Passerelle). This is also home to Galleries Lafayette Gourmand, a food superstore to rival London's Harrods and Selfridges. The wine selection is brilliant, especially aisles full of Rose de Provence, and there are a half dozen in-store lunch-time places.

Cheap bargain fashions are best sought at Ventimiglia's huge open street market each Friday, accessible by train from Nice Gare Ville to Ventimiglia a few kilometres over the Italian border. Just avoid the tempting fake luxury brands sold by the many street sellers. The war against counterfeiting is taken very seriously by the French border police and big fines are targeted at "innocent" tourists.

The central Nice Etoiles is available for anyone pining for a visit to a shopping mall, including three floors of a Dutch brand not seen by British people for twenty years that is still big in France - C&A. More nostalgia can also be found in av Jean Medecins' "Damart" - yes, the people that gave you "Thermolactyl underwear" to keep you warm in winter are also big here. About as sensible as the local "Bronzage" tanning parlours.

A cautionary note: The "duty free" shops at Nice airport terminals are the absolute worst value you will ever find and should be avoided at all costs: prices are way over those of even the high street. Food, drink and cigarettes dreadfully overpriced, and there are no bargains "before you fly". If you haven't yet kicked the habit, cigarettes in particular are best bought in Italy over the border, where taxes on smoking have not reached health promoting punitive levels.

Eat

A food called "Socca", a chickpea flat bread, is a local specialty (though not universally enjoyed), as is a tuna fish sandwich called "Pan Bagnat." Other specialties include Soupe de Poisson (Fish Soup, made with chili aioli, croutons, and grated cheese), Salade Niçoise (made with tuna), Tourtes aux Blettes (sweet tartes made with Savoy cabbage, raisins, nuts, and powdered sugar) and pissaladiere (a type of pizza topped with sauteed onion, olives, garlic and anchovies, and no tomatoes or cheese). As may be expected, seafood features prominently in Niçoise cuisine, and several restaurants specialise in sea-urchin and oysters.

Check out the daily market in the Vieux Nice for fresh, local produce. You can save a lot of money if you are willing to cook at least some of your meals yourself and if you also eat leftovers, cooking can actually save you time as well since eating at a restaurant will easily cost you one to two hours per meal. There are several decent size 'supermarchés' around the city as well as numerous boucheries, boulangeries and fruit and veg shops which are often competitive on price and superior on quality.

No visit to Nice would be complete without a trip to Fennochio's in the Place Rosetti to sample their (rightly) world famous ice-cream.

Budget

Cheap & cheerful food in Nice is hard to come by if you don't take your time to look for it, though a baguette with different fillings range from €4-6, which is very reasonable by Nice standards.

The best deals in the center can be found in the port area.

Old Nice and all along the sea front the prices cannot be described as budget.

However, lunch-time set menus are certainly good value, if not 'cheap' per se. €10-12 should get you two courses, often with coffee and wine, and like much of continental Europe lunches can drift happily into the afternoon.

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

With the hot Niçois summers, carrying a bottle of water is almost a must. Bear in mind the largest single complaint to the municipal authority tourist department is the offering in restaurants of branded water bottles whose seal has been broken - i.e. refilled with tap water - and charged as Perrier or Evian.

You can save a lot of money by buying alcoholic drinks and such in a normal supermarket instead of the vendors geared towards tourists. Carrefour has a huge selection and unlike the other supermarkets has a policy of buying in wine show "prize winners" distinguished by their gold, silver or bronze medal stickers.

Some popular places to go out for a drink include:

Wine in restaurants is often ferociously expensive, so do as the locals and order it by the "pichet" - usually a 50 centilitre jug. However, if you fancy quality appellation French wine to drink back home, Les Caves Caprioglio at 16 Rue de la Prefecture in Vieux Nice has a fabulous cellar of the wines you usually only read about in the fine wines books but rarely see. To see French wine making, the Chateau's Bellet and Cremat in the Var are nearest to Nice and will do tours by arrangement (reachable via the tiny narrow-gauge train from the Chemin de Fer de Provence).

Sleep

The Hôtel Negresco

There are a number of hotels within walking distance of terminal 1 of the Airport and a special hotel shuttle bus serves other hotels within Nice itself. Be aware that the hotels near the airport are a long way away from Nice center (7 km) and it will take a bus journey or taxi to reach the centre. A wide range of modern and traditional French hotels is available in the town, though few in the old quarter itself, which is mainly apartments. Convenient locations are between the main station and the promenade, in particular below Boulevard Victor Hugo and east of Boulevard Gambetta. Hotels further from the seafront are most convenient in the vicinity of the tramway along Avenue Jean Medicine or Avenue de la Republique.

Budget

It would seem that the simplest solution is to stay at a youth hostel. There are quite a number in Nice :

Mid-range

Being a heavily touristed city, it's easy to find a number of small hotels which are perfectly acceptable, and usually at a decent rate.

Splurge

The Palais de la Méditérannée, now the local Hyatt Regency hotel and casino, is a landmark in Art Deco architecture

Stay safe

Nice is no more dangerous than other cities in western countries - indeed in many cases it's a lot safer - however, you can stay more safe still following a few pieces of advice:

If you do fall foul of Nice's criminal practitioners, the National Police Station is where you need to go to report problems such as being pickpocketed. It's at the junction of Ave Marechal Foch and Dubouchage, a couple of hundred metres east of the Nice Etoiles shopping centre. They will supply you with the necessary statements to support insurance claims, but don't expect them to recover your property. You will find the police station very busy with other victims towards the end of the evening.

Cope

Religious services

Holy mass in Catholic churches in the vicinity of the convention centre Acropolis (Palais des Congrès et des Expositions):

Some other Catholic churches in downtown Nice:

Protestant churches

Orthodox churches

Mosques

Orthodox Synagogues

Consulates

Go next

Some nice places just to the west of Nice include Haute de Cagnes, Antibes, Cannes and Saint-Tropez. East of Nice the trains stops at Villefranche, Monaco and Menton, and the border town of Ventimiglia. To the North of Nice in the interior of Provence, Vence and Saint-Paul de Vence are worth a visit for their hilltop old towns and boules pitches.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, November 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.