Destination Guides. Nice.

 
Nice offers a myriad of museums, top-notch regional cuisine and endless Mediterranean vistas. Long-time local Kathryn Tomasetti shares the best spots to see, sip and savour the Côte d’Azur’s cosmopolitan capital. 
 
0700-0900. Nice is famous for its elegant promenade, so take advantage of the early hour to head to the beach and enjoy the seafront before it fills up to the hilt with people. Squeeze in an early morning swim along the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), go for a jog or rent rollerblades from Roller Station (49 quai des États-Unis, 04 9362 9905) at the eastern end of the promenade. Having earned your breakfast, a trip to the pedestrianised Cours Saleya fruit and vegetable market is in order. Locals crowd the smaller producers’ stalls, stocking up on fresh goat’s cheese, black Niçoise olives and punnets of mara des bois strawberries. On a sunny day, there’s nothing better than shopping for your own picnic breakfast here. Pop into La Fougasserie (5 rue de la Poissonnerie, 04 9380 9245) for stuffed fougasse bread (try garlic and aubergines, or courgette and parmesan), then hop back over the road to enjoy your spread on Nice’s public beach. 
 
0900-1100. After breakfast, stroll around Vieux Nice (Old Town). This stunning warren of winding streets and pastel-hued Italianate buildings is pinched between Nice’s Jardin Albert 1er, the Promenade des Anglais and the port. Be sure to take in the neighbourhood’s baroque Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate (3 place Rossetti, 04 9392 0135), as well as the 18th-century facade of 1 place Charles Felix, where Henri Matisse lived and painted for two decades. For sweeping seascapes – as well as unbeatable snaps over the city’s skyline – head back to the Promenade des Anglais and take the Tour Bellanda steps up to the Colline du Château, a hilltop park scattered with the ruins of an ancient castle.
 
1100-1300. Wander westwards through the zone piétonne (pedestrianised rue Masséna and rue de France) to see a selection of Nice’s lesser-visited sights. The elaborate exterior of the Villa Masséna (65 rue de France, 04 9391 1910) hides a superb museum. Exhibits chronicle local life over the past 200 years. Highlights include photos of the Casino de la Jetée-Promenade (destroyed during WWII) and elegant dinner menus documenting Riviera flavours during the Roaring Twenties. In the residential streets surrounding avenue des Baumettes, seek out the Musée des Beaux-Arts (33 avenue des Baumettes, 04 9215 2828) and admire its Dufy, Sisley, Rodin, Picasso and Degas artworks. Then head north for a peek at the city’s St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral (Avenue Nicolas II, 04 9396 8802). Deep green domes crown its otherworldly facade.
 
1300-1500. By now you’ve likely worked up a hearty appetite. Make a beeline for 20 sur Vin (18 bis rue Biscarra, 04 9392 9320), a welcoming pavement café that plates up Provençal classics, including platters of charcuterie and cheeses, and slow-cooked daube beef stew. For a lighter lunch, hit Kamogawa (18 rue de la Buffa, 04 9388 7588). An institution for Nice’s small but vibrant Japanese community, the simple restaurant’s midday set menus feature delectable sushi, sashimi and bento boxes. After lunch, visit the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l'Image (27 boulevard Dubouchage, 04 9713 4220). It’s the only dedicated photography museum in Nice; recent exhibitions have showcased works by Gilberte Brassaï and André Villars.
 
1500-1700. Jump on bus 15, which winds its way along a road lined with glorious Victorian mansions up to Cimiez. Here the Romans constructed the city of Cemenelum, a thriving community from the first to the fourth centuries AD. Its ruins (Musée Archéologique de Nice-Cimiez, 160 rue des Arènes, 04 9381 5957) are free to enter on the first and third Sundays of every month. Nearby, the exquisite Musée Matisse (164 avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, 04 9381 0808) is well worth a visit. Artworks, arranged over this 18th-century villa, span the whole of the artist’s illustrious career. 
 
1700-1900. As the afternoon draws to a close, take bus 15 down from Cimiez back to boulevard Dubouchage and stroll over to the lively port neighbourhood. Shop for unique souvenirs along the boutique-dotted rue Bonaparte. Pick of the pack is Italian-owned Lucien Chausseur (6 rue Bonaparte, 04 9355 5214), stocked with leather belts and bracelets, silky scarves and envy-inducing handbags. Around the corner, Rosalina Bar (16 rue Lascaris, 04 9389 3496) is the port’s hippest spot to stop for an aperitif: chilled glasses of Prosecco and fruity house cocktails come highly recommended.
 
1900-2100. Vieux Nice is the most picturesque place in the city for dining. Nestled into the neighbourhood’s tangle of backstreets, Le Comptoir du Marché (8 rue du Marché, 04 9313 4501) is relatively new on the local dining scene and has already become a firm favourite. The restaurant is lively and low-key, and its retro décor boasts an open kitchen serving seared tuna with artichokes, plump pots of mussels or truffle risotto. Or head to Hôtel Negresco’s La Rotonde (37 promenade des Anglais, 04 9316 6400), with its weird and wonderful carousel-themed booths, and savour chef Jean-Denis Rieubland’s seasonal Menu Coup de Coeur (€34) – its three courses may include mackerel escabeche or spicy swordfish with cumin-infused carrot purée. Be sure to save space for dessert at famous ice-cream parlour Fenocchio (2 place Rossetti, 04 9380 7252). Going strong since 1966, Fenocchio’s bizarre ice-cream flavours include lavender, rose, avocado, chilli chocolate, jasmine, black olive and poppy seed – and these are just a handful of the hundred or so on offer. 
 
After 2100. Nice’s nightlife offers a little something for everyone. Cave Wilson (16 rue Gubernatis, 04 9385 3310) not only offers excellent wine, but also often organises jazz evenings. For trendiness galore, champagne bar Effervescence (10 rue de la Loge, 04 9380 8737) is hidden away in a cave-like cellar in the Old Town. Nearby Bliss (12 rue de l'Abbaye, 04 9316 8238) is petite but pumping, with pop art on the walls and excellent DJs that ensure its dancefloor is perennially packed, while High Club (45 promenade des Anglais, 06 9545 4112) boasts three clubs under one roof – Le High, Studio 47 and SK High.

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Written by World Travel Guide.

 

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