There was only one question on our minds as Scotty and I left the fabulous city of Nice.
Why on earth had it taken us over a decade of French visits to get to this part of France?
It’s safe to say we were smitten with Nice. It had such a relaxed vibe, and felt like the perfect blend of French and Italian cultures. Which is no surprise given Nice’s picture perfect location, close to the border of the two countries.
Perhaps you’ve been in the same boat as us and have managed to miss out on the joys of Nice? In case that’s true, I thought I’d pull together the Distant Francophile version of an essential guide to Nice, France.
The Distant Francophile Essential Guide To Nice France
Where To Stay
If it suits your plans and your budget, I’d absolutely suggest staying either in or near to Vieux-Nice (the old town). Not only will you be close to the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and the renowned Promenade des Anglais, but you’ll have a wide choice of meal and accommodation options. Both big name and boutique hotels are available. And there are even options with washing machines, as anyone following along on our Instagram Stories might have seen. (Side Note: Yes, it’s true. We deliberately booked a hotel with a view for our first three nights in Nice, then switched to a serviced apartment with a washing machine for the remainder of our stay. But in my mind, inconvenience of moving was worth it for the chance to travel light. If you want to travel as light as possible, washing machines are essential.)
Choosing to stay either overlooking the water or in the beating heart of the old town offers two very different vacation experiences. Opt for the water if the weather is bound to be good during your stay and you’re feeling like a beach holiday. Or stay in the old town if exploring winding streets – filled with both French and Italian flavours – is closer to your idea of paradise.
Day Trips To Enjoy
The French Riviera is littered with must visit villages like Antibes, Grasse and Èze. And that’s before I mention Monte Carlo, Monaco. And Nice is the perfect place to base yourself if you’d like to do day trips to all of these destinations.
Turns out that a week wasn’t nearly enough time for us to explore all of the villages on our to-do list. But you can read about the ones we did visit in this post – Four Excellent And Easy Day Trips From Nice.
What And Where To Eat
Nice is the first city we’ve visited in a long time where I had a list of foods I wanted to try. That’s not too surprising when you know that French and Italian rate as my top two favourite cuisines. Moules-frites, Pissaladière, Socca, Salade Niçoise, Beignets filled with zucchini flowers. I was ready to try all the local specialities. And try them I did. I pushed through that to-do list like the project manager I’ve been trained to be. And in doing so I discovered a number of restaurants I’d be happy to return to.
For Great Moules-frites…
At least at the time we visited Nice, Moules-frites were available on just about every menu. We were seriously wondering exactly where all the mussels were coming from. But as with every well known dish, some restaurants did a better job with this meal than others. The best serving we had was at the port side restaurant of Le Rocher. This smallish restaurant served very little other than mussels against the backdrop of their blue decor. But I think they were working on the concept that if you are onto a good thing, you should stick to it. At Le Rocher you’ll definitely discover moules in the classic marinières style. But you’ll also have a choice of flavours that include blue cheese and bolognese sauce.
For Classic French Flavours At A Budget Friendly Price…
Ok. So this restaurant is actually in Villefranche-sur-Mer. But it’s worth taking the two stops on the train or the eight kilometre taxi ride to experience lunch at La Caravelle. With a Menu du Jour filled with options like Salade de Chèvre Chaud (pictured above), Porc au Sauce-Moutard and Confit de Canard you’ll fill up on French flavours. And while your tummy and your tastebuds will be doing a happy dance, your wallet won’t be disappointed either. La Caravelle provides excellent value for your vacation dollars.
For Woodfired Pizza, including Pissaladière…
If you’re wandering the in the old part of town and have a sudden hankering for pizza I recommend you get yourself to L’Ecurie. A great list of local favourites grace the menu, the staff are that perfect combination of professional and friendly, and the food was really good.
For Eating With The Locals
This one came recommended to us and we are so grateful to the friends who pointed us in the direction of Bistrot Chaud-Vin. Our Friday night booking (which we made online), saw us eating between professionals celebrating the end of the working week, and families easing into the weekend. The travellers that were also in the restaurant were treated as regulars by the friendly staff. And in terms of flavours, again we were forced to choose between a stack of delicious Italian and French dishes.
What To Pack For Nice, France
I can only offer advice for the warmer weather. But if that’s when you are travelling, you won’t go wrong with colourful, light, summery attire. For the ladies, white pants were particularly prevalent, as were flowing dresses. And gents, if you’re concerned about whether wearing shorts would be a faux pas, don’t be. Shorts were everywhere, and well received from the beach to dinner – and everywhere in between.
Getting There And Around
Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to getting to Nice, France. Not only is the city is serviced by an international airport, which is located very close to town, but you can also arrive on the French Riviera via train.
The main city railway station is close to a two kilometre walk from the old town. It’s also very busy – thanks to the fact that it regularly connects passengers between Nice and all of the must see towns and villages. Given just how busy this station is, it’s worth arriving early for your train. We often saw disappointed travellers who missed their trains thanks to queues at either the ticket machines or the platform gates.
If a two kilometre walk sounds like a bit much to get to or from the station, you might choose to use one of Nice’s very efficient trams to ferry you around the city. Purchase single tickets at the machine before you jump on, or buy a card allowing for 10 trips at a slightly reduced cost. We found that we preferred to walk to the train station in the cooler part of the day, while our legs were still fresh, and then catch the tram back to our accommodation upon our return to Nice.
Have you ever visited Nice, France? Are you as much of a fan as I am? Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.