Fabulous Nice lies along the shores of the Baie des Anges in the Mediterranean Sea. Located in the Alpes-Maritimes département of the Région Provence-Cote-d’Azur on, what English speakers often call, the French Riviera but which the French know as the Côte d’Azur. The English discovered Nice’s delights during the mid 19th century. However, the secret eventually emerged and the Riviera soon established itself as an international playground.
The City can be divided into two parts, the old town (Vieux Nice) and the modern town. Vieux Nice occupies a relatively small triangular area at the foot of Château Hill, at the extreme eastern end of the Promenade des Anglais, better explored as an entity. Baroque churches, ancient streets and the colourful Place Rossetti create an amazing atmosphere unrivalled elsewhere on the Côte d’Azur.
The modern city of Nice occupies the huge urban area which surrounds the old town. It includes many attractions including the aforementioned Promenade and all its adjacent beaches looking out over the beautiful Baie des Anges. Furthermore, the strangely out of place Russian Orthodox Church, the romantic Roman ruins at Cimiez, the fascinating Musée Masséna which features the history of Nice and the renowned botanical garden of Parc Phoenix to name but a few, all await your attention.
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The red ochre arcaded Place Massena, named after one of Napoleon’s generals constitutes the hub of the city. The Ligne d’Azur tram system glides silently through the Place, in between pedestrians and the seven participants of the Conversation of Nice, a series of sculptures by the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. Leading off the Place are Boulevard Jean Médicin and Rue Masséna which offer a paradise for those visitors wishing to indulge in some retail therapy.
Construction Work: Please be aware that essential works are taking place at several locations around Nice, especially on the Promenade des Anglais to improve security but also on the Rue de France and elsewhere where the extension to the Ligne d’Azur Tramway will be routed.
However, this page is about much more than Nice itself. In addition, it also covers the beautiful mountainous territory to the north known as the ‘L’Arrière Pays Niçois’. Also called ‘Nice Beyond’ which includes the Mercantour National Park. ‘Nice Beyond’ is only an hour away by car to the North and can be accessed by two separate routes. One of these is along the beautiful Vésubie Valley to the gateway of the Mercantour itself at St Martin Vésubie. The other proceeds along the equally beautiful Bévéra and Roya Valleys which lie further to the east.
As if all this isn’t enough, there are many more fabulous places to visit to the east of Nice. Drive along one of the three Corniches or, alternatively, take the train or bus to the Italian border at Menton. Villefranche next door boasts a beautiful harbour and a fascinating medieval covered street amongst its other charms.
From here the Moyenne Corniche leads to the famous and impressive perched village of Eze. Proceed to fabled Monaco Monte Carlo while further east lies beautiful Menton. Whilst here why not sample the delights of Liguria across the border in Italy for good measure?
Finally, don’t forget to click on the yellow bar above for details about when to go to Nice; what it costs to travel within the Nice; transportation to and from (and within) Nice; informative background reading that digs deeper into Nice’s history, culture, cuisine. Moreover there is also some recommended reading, movies and a photo montage of Nice images.
Nice and Beyond is a year round destination. Mild Winters and warm Summers on the Coast are pretty much guaranteed although it will be very busy during high Summer, especially in July and August. In the Beyond however is one place you can be absolutely certain won’t be busy at any time and you’ll be able to enjoy all the amazing year-round activities which the fabulous Mountains and the fascinating Mercantour National Park can offer.
Nice itself can be explored in a few days but if you wish to enjoy the rest of the Côte d’Azur you will need a couple of weeks at least. The interior or Pays Arrière Niçoise will take a little longer as the roads are winding and slow – it would be ideal to spend at least a week or ten days here allocating a few days in the Vésubie Valley and a few in the Roya Valley but if you only have one or two days spare head up to St Martin Vésubie (only an hour and a bit from Nice) and from here you can see quite a lot of the Mercantour.
If you’re looking to try some outdoor pursuits while you stay in the region why not contact Liz and Mel at Spacebetween?
July and August is High Season on the coast but other times are popular too. Carnival time (late February and early March) can be extremely busy as can school holidays especially up in the mountains.
The Côte d’Azur has since Victorian time had a reputation of being the place to spend the winter months due to its very mild climate. Rich and titled Northern Europeans including Queen Victoria and the Czar of Russia would migrate here in November and return home in the Spring. Undoubtedly it is very pleasant along the Riviera at this time but it is even more pleasant in the Spring, Summer and Autumn even if a little more crowded, especially in July and August when it does get very busy (and warm!)
Up in the Mercantour there are plenty of winter activities to keep you busy from snow shoeing, skiing (both types) and ice climbing. Spacebetween provides a great base for such sports!
French Holidays include:
January 1st New Year’s Day
Good Friday and Easter Monday
May 1st or the first Monday in May
May 14th Ascension Day
May Whit Monday
July 14th Bastille Day
August 15th Assumption Day
December 25th: Christmas Day
December 26th: Boxing Day
France is located in the Central European Time Zone (CET)
To check the local time in Nice, click here.
Daylight Saving Time (DST) happens in the Spring (last Sunday in March at 1AM) when clocks are advanced one hour. In the Autumn (last Sunday in October at 1AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time to give more daylight in the morning.
Nice itself, and indeed the Côte d’Azur generally, experience a mild climate all year round although during the winter months you will need some warm clothing especially in the evenings. During the Summer months it can be very hot so make sure you are able to cover up if you are going to be out in the strong sun. Take a high factor sun lotion with you!
If you intend to go into the mountains behind Nice even during the Summer months you will need to ensure you have suitable clothing as it can be quite cool.
There has recently been a hike in the per bag cost for left luggage at Nice airport – now €14 per bag for between 3 & 24 hours. There are no left luggage facilities at the newly refurbished Nice railway station. However both the Hotel Belle Meuniere – 21 avenue durante – 0493883015 and the Hotel Interlaken – 26 avenue Durante – 0493886615 offer luggage storage facilities for €5 per bag. In addition – at 22 rue Centrale (just off place Rossetti) The Bag Guys – offer the same for €8 – call 0612491136 (Yann) if no-one is at the shop.
This information is current asat May 2 2016 – please check first.
Courtesy of Liz Lord at spacebetween.
France and in particular Provence is not expensive – expect to pay much the same as, or even less, than you would elsewhere and certainly much less than in neighbouring Switzerland for example. Admission to sites of interest is often surprisingly cheap and eating out, while not exactly inexpensive, is normally very good value for money.
Of course the traveller will find that large cities and resorts such as Nice and Cannes can be a little pricey especially for eating out but, if you are prepared to shop around a little, you will find something to suit your pocket.
What you can expect is value for money wherever you go. For food shopping try the local outdoor market, held daily in the big cities and weekly in small towns and villages. These are not necessarily cheaper than shops but the produce is guaranteed to be local and fresh.
For really low prices on a whole range of goods try the local Hypermarché. These are huge retail outlets, usually to be found on the outskirts of town, which sell everything from food to clothes. Hypermarchés to look out for are Carrefour, Leclerc, Auchan, Intermarché Hyper and Géant Casino.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in €.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person
Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double
Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2, British Airways, flybe and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transport, so you donât need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about €8 a month; rentals are about €8-13.50 per hour; fuel and insurance are included.
Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout ‘France.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation – About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical – Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card which entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as citizens from the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement which means, for example, that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do. Some countries e.g. France make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospital for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travellers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover for example the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.
For travellers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad but you need to check this out and in any case additional medical travel insurance will cover you for private health care or other expenses.
Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries. For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.
Trip Interruption – For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay – Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage – Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework – check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, Axa and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.
Pre-existing health conditions – Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition. Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance – If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have stripped down coverage and restrictions.
The main currency of Europe is the Euro which is currently used in 25 countries a few of which are not even EU members. Some countries within the European Union have retained their original currency including the UK (Pound), Denmark (Kroner) and Poland (Zloty). Most non-EU countries such as Switzerland (Swiss Franc) and Turkey (Lira) continue to use their own currency. All are decimalised and have 100 pennies in each main unit.
Euros come in 5, 10, 20, 50,100, 200 and 500 notes. They vary in size from 120mm x 62mm (€5) to 160mm x 82mm (€500) and colour, so it is easy to differentiate between them. All feature European architecture throughout the ages. (Smaller businesses may not accept the larger notes, so plan to have €20s or smaller notes in hand)
There are eight denominations of euro coin: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent plus a €1 and €2 coin. All have a common side and a national side. Remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!
Many travellers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.
If you get money from an ATM machine abroad you will usually incur charges (typically 1.5 or 2% per transaction)
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Europe.
Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.
Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.
The good news for travellers in Europe is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend upon tips to make up their wages. In some cases over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.
Many restaurants include a service charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 to 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them.
Other methods are to add a euro for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros.
With taxis, just round up to the next euro or pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.
You may wish to give the porter a euro or pound for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between €10 and €40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, insect repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery, super/hypermarkets and pharmacies will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
Nice and the Côte d’Azur has an extensive, cheap and efficient bus service although be aware that most routes close down in the evening. Check the timetables at the bus stops if you need to return after 6.30pm. I’ve heard it said, only half jokingly, that the service is run for the convenience of it’s drivers rather than it’s passengers!
The excellent Ligne d’Azur Tramway, which currently operates only in the centre of Nice, is due to be extended to the East and West during 2018 and 2019
There are regular trains operating along the coast in either direction and even up into the mountains.
Bus into Nice
There is a 98 bus from Terminal 1 of the airport, which costs €6. However, if you walk 2 minutes towards the north and the Promenade des Anglais you can pick up the 200 or other buses which cost just €1.50 – the norm is to stow your own baggage in the bus and then request your ticket. Don’t forget to stamp your ticket in the machine! To return to the airport, check out the easy diagrams of bus routes at any bus stop.
N.B. If you have several large cases, the airport bus or even a taxi might be a better choice.
Information courtesy of Liz Lord at spacebetween.
For Nice itself a car can be a hindrance. Parking is not easy and not practical especially in Vieux Nice. If you are fit, use the Vélo Bleu or just walk. Failing that there is a good and cheap bus service and also the modern tramway which goes from from the North west of the city to the north east via the Place Masséna in the centre. Taxis can be expensive.
N.B. The Tram service is due to be extended from June 2018 to September 2019 both to the East and West of the City. Check out Ligne d’Azur Tramway.
If you intend to explore the Côte d’Azur either side of Nice then either use the bus or the train. A car is useful but expect very heavy traffic especially east of Nice and parking can be difficult. However, while there is a bus service into Nice Beyond and the Mercantour, the best method of exploring this region is by car.
There is an excellent train service into the eastern side of the Mercantour – the Train des Merveilles leave Nice in the morning and returns during the afternoon.
The bus and tram service costs €1.50 per journey regardless of length. You can travel as far as Menton, Monaco, Cannes or Vence for example. If you intend to do several journeys then the Multi 10 Voyages, costing only €10, is great value.
Also consider taking the open top bus tour around the City. Check out NICE Le Grand Tour where you can obtain a 1 or 2 day pass on the ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ service. During the Summer months the bus includes next door Villefranche-sur-Mer in it’s itinerary.
Tickets for the tram and bus are available from machines at the tramway stops or from the bus driver. Try to have the correct change.
Nice is one of the oldest cities in Europe dating back to 350 BC when Greeks, from today’s Marseille, came here and founded the settlement of Nikaia. They named it after Nike their Goddess of victory following the defeat of the local Ligurians.
Nikaia was very successful and continued to do well even though it eventually faced competition from the Roman settlement of Cimiez (Cemelenum) further up the hill. The Romans gradually defeated the remaining local Ligurian tribes and constructed a Trophy nearby at La Turbie on the Via Julia Augusta to commemorate this achievement. Soon the region was fully Romanized and known as Regio IX Liguria. Cemelenum became so important it even had its own Amphitheatre.
Around this time the Barbarian invasions began and the area was conquered by the Franks. During the early Middle Ages it became a semi-autonomous part of the County of Provence although it was briefly a Maritime Republic during the 12th Century.
Traditionally Nice, or Nizza in Italian, had more in common with Liguria and by the end of the 14th Century the emerging power of the County of Savoy, soon to be a Duchy, absorbed the County of Nice into its territory. Before long the Duchy became the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont which was eventually to form the basis of the modern Italian state.
The City developed as an Italian City State during the Middle Ages. Later it acquired its Baroque churches, including the Cathédrale Ste-Réparate, and also the Monastery at Cimiez. Along with the rest of the County, Nizza became French following the Plebicite of 1860 in which the great majority of the inhabitants voted to join France.
This was despite the fact that the great Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was born in Nice, opposed the cession on the grounds that the city was essentially Italian! The Upper Vallée-de-la-Roya and the Upper Vallée-de-la-Vésubie however, remained part of the King of Sardinia’s hunting grounds until 1946/7.
Nice has been firmly part of France ever since with the exception of a short period during WWII when it reverted to Italy. It soon became the Arrondissement of Nice, part of the Région of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur or PACA as it is often referred to nowadays.
The French tend to be quite formal although the Provençeaux are a little less so than the inhabitants of other regions. It is not considered polite to use anyone’s first or given name unless invited to do so or to indulge in cheek kissing (faire la bise) unless the person you are meeting initiates the process.
Always say ‘Bonjour’ when meeting someone or entering a shop and don’t forget ‘au Revoir’ when you leave. ‘S’il vous plait’ and ‘Merci’ are both essential phrases. If you’ve never spoken French before you may feel a little awkward at first but it is essential if you want to get along with folks and get the most out of your visit.
You may find that the person you are speaking to wants to practice their English – I’ve often found myself in the bizarre situation of endeavoring to speak to someone in French who insists on speaking to me in English! Nowadays I indulge them as there will be plenty who don’t speak English and on the whole they will respect your efforts.
Although things have improved in recent years, the politeness you find on the street or in shops does not always extend to the road. Always make sure drivers are stopping before you step out onto a crossing and, if driving yourself, don’t assume that a driver flashing his/her lights at you wants you to proceed – he/she is probably warning you that ‘Les Flics’ (Gendarmes) are waiting down the road to check your speed!
12 Rue Lascaris, Nice
11 avenue Baquis, Nice
Café and Cupcake Shop
5 rue Bonaparte, Nice
Courtesy of Liz Lord at spacebetween
The culture and history of the Provence is very much linked to the ancient Oc language used in earlier times by the people of southern France and the dialect of the area reflects this even now.
However, the main language spoken in Nice and Beyond is French and is used by everyone. While some people in the larger towns speak English, this is not normally the case, especially in the more rural areas. It pays to assume that the people you come across don’t speak English so begin any conversation in French, if only out of politeness. Often it is resented if you assume people speak English – if they do they will usually switch over when they realise where you’re from and if they don’t, well it can be hard work!
As always when travelling it is a good idea to know at least the basics i.e. the words for good day (bonjour), good evening (bon soir), goodbye (au revoir), thank you (merci), and please (s’il vous plait). Using these will get you a long way especially when you accompany them with monsieur or madame!
The language of Oc
The Oc language is the old language of southern France, Catalonia, Monaco and parts of Liguria and Piedmont in Italy. It has several dialects including Provençal, Nissart (spoken mostly in Nice) and Catalan.
Derived from Vulgar Latin, Oc is the southern French word for ‘yes’, hence the term Languedoc for the southern French Region. Interestingly, the modern French word for ‘yes’ is Oui and the French language used to be referred to as the ‘Langue d’Oui’ although originally it was spoken only in Northern France. During the Middle Ages the Northern French gradually took control of the south and the ‘ Langue d’Oui ‘ became the official tongue of the whole country.
During 19th century Oc re-established itself thanks mainly to the poet Fréderic Mistral and something of a revival took place. Throughout the south you will notice several dual language street signs and occasionally some graffiti defacing those which are not dual language!
Articles by Carol Drinkwater
Courtesy of Liz Lord at spacebetween
Excellent maps of the City Centre and Vieux Nice are available from the Tourist Office. Hotels and Apartments usually have these available too.
Theatre of Photography Nice: