24 hours in Nice From top-notch Provençal cuisine to cultural venues that rival those in Paris, Nice’s abundant offerings are manifold. Long-time local Kathryn Tomasetti shares the best spots to see, sip and savour the Côte d’Azur’s cosmopolitan capital.
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’s packed out 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. Pick up wholemeal loaves studded with dried figs, fougasses (Provençal bread stuffed with sundried tomatoes or roasted aubergines) and sunflower seed baguettes from local favourite Boulangerie L'épi de Blé (1 rue Louis Gassin, 04 9385 8646). Then hop back over the road to enjoy your spread on Nice’s public beach.
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. Pop into the free Palais Lascaris (15 rue Droite, 04 9362 7240) townhouse. Constructed in the 17th century by the noble Lascaris-Vintimille family, it boasts antique tapestries and ancient frescos. 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. After you’ve made your way back down, be sure to explore the neighbourhood’s brand-new Promenade du Paillon. Dotted with olive trees, vines and plenty of kids’ play areas, this verdant park stretches from Place Garibaldi all the way down to the sea.
Continue over to Boulevard Dubouchage and 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 at Musée Archéologique de Nice-Cimiez (160 avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, 04 9381 5957) are free to enter on the first and third Sundays of every month. Next door, the exquisite Musée Matisse (164 avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, 04 9381 0808) is well worth a visit. Artworks – from paintings and drawings to sculptures and photographs – are arranged over this 18th-century villa, and exhibits span the whole of the artist’s illustrious career.
By now you’ve likely worked up a hearty appetite. Take bus 15 downhill from Cimiez and stroll over to the lively port neighbourhood. For seasonal salads and innovative sandwiches, head to chic lunchtime café Déli Bo (5 rue Bonaparte, 04 9356 3304). Be sure to save space for their delectable desserts, which include delicious mini blueberry cheesecakes and mouth-watering macarons. Around the corner, sophisticated G-Square (9 place Garibaldi, 04 8903 6928) dishes up slow-roasted Périgord chicken. Contemporary recipes may range from prawn beignets to Asian-inspired chocolate nems. But it’s the lunchtime set menu that’s a steal: priced at €15, it includes three market-fresh courses. After lunch, visit the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l'Image (27 boulevard Dubouchage, 04 9713 4220), the only dedicated photography museum in Nice.
As the afternoon draws to a close, 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. Pots of caviar d’aubergine (smoked aubergine pâté) and olive tapenade spread line the shelves at new foodie emporium Aperitiv (4 rue Cassini, 04 8355 3709). Personalised gift boxes of regional foods and wines can also be made up upon request. 1700-1900. Kick back and relax at Rosalina Bar (16 rue Lascaris, 04 9389 3496), one of the port’s hippest spots for an aperitif. Chilled glasses of Prosecco and fruity house cocktails come highly recommended. Around the corner, tables spill onto the pavement outside of new venue Le Comptoir Central Électrique (10 rue Bonaparte, 04 9314 0962). This ex-electrical warehouse mixes eclectic décor with Provençal rosé and tasty nibbles.
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 a firm favourite with locals. The restaurant is lively, and its retro décor boasts an open kitchen serving seared tuna with artichokes, plump pots of mussels or truffle risotto. Or head to Carré Llorca (3 rue de la Préfecture, 04 9392 9586) instead. Under the guidance of Michelin-starred chef Alain Llorca, the brasserie dishes up gourmet Mediterranean delights in a relaxed atmosphere. Popular regional recipes, such as Niçoise salad, pancake-like chickpea socca and courgette flower fritters often appear on the seasonal menu. 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 menu of more than 100 bizarre ice-cream flavours includes lavender, rose, avocado, chilli chocolate, jasmine, black olive and poppy seed.
Nice’s nightlife offers a little something for everyone. Shapko (5 rue Rossetti, 06 2333 7120) organises regular jazz evenings, jam sessions and an all-night student-friendly ‘happy hour’ on Thursdays. 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 Bar (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 Le Ghost’s (3 rue Barillerie, 04 9392 9337) electro and house tunes keep crowds shimmying until sunrise.