Author and travel writer Amanda Cassidy picks out Nice's best bits
Springboard for the jet-set riviera dream, Nice’s allure has captured the attention of artists writers and explorers for decades.
Matisse created most of his paintings while living here while Nietzsche spent six consecutive winters here.
Maybe it’s the light, the year-round weather, the glittering beaches or the glamorous people watching that draws the crowds.
In my case, it’s the setting for my third book. Here’s how we spent our two days in the sunny South of France.
The old town of Nice (Vieux Nice) is a tangle of narrow cobblestone streets and colourful architecture. Wandering through it’s small squares with fountains and art galleries is a great way to absorb the energy of this city. Everywhere you look there are splashes of red and yellow, a stunning contrast against the pulled-silk sky.
There are two main squares; Place Masséna, named after a military commander in the French revolution is at the vibrant centre of Nice. You’ll notice it’s deep red neoclassical arcaded building and chess-board files. The tramline cuts through this popular shopping area.
Place Garibaldi is just a short walk (20 minutes) from here. Close to the Port, it’s the oldest square in Nice and named after the hero of the Italian unification.
Think baroque cloisters and huge fountains. Drink a coffee under the shade of the trees or visit the nearby Modern and Contemporary Art museum.
Other must-visit sites in the Nice city center include the richly adorned Cathedral of St. Reparata (Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate), and Musée du Palais Lascaris, home to over 500 music instruments.
Known by the locals as “La Prom”, the Promenade des Anglais is a five mile palm tree lined stretch along the Mediterranean coast. This seaside boulevard is a wonderful place for a salty stroll. There’s a pedestrian-only sidewalk, a cycling lane, as well as a road for cars.
Celeb-spotting is the name of the game here in these art-deco inspired surroundings. Very Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Cours Saleya is a pedestrian area that hosts Nice’s most vibrant outdoor markets, the most well-known being the Marché aux Fleurs, or Flower Market in the old town.
You’ll find stalls heaped with flowers of colours you barely knew existed. Local produce, mountains of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables are sold here from Tuesday to Sunday.
There’s a reason that the locals recommend this ice-cream place, and a reason it’s typically always got a queue outside. Fabulous and inventive ice cream with countless flavour choices sit temptingly behind the glass windows.
My daughter tried the rose flavoured ice-cream, while me and the youngest indulged in a chocolate orange boule.
Located at the heart of the old town near the old castle, this area is perfect for people watching or strolling through the building-shaded lanes discovering tiny lavender-sented store. You’ll find it on 2, Place Rossetti, Nice.
The Plaza hotel’s iconic rooftop restaurant serves contemporary culinary fusion with Niçoise touches in a relaxed and understated setting, but it’s the 360-degree views from the terrace that will see you coming back for more. Stepped seating and celeb-spotting is the name of the game here on this art-deco inspired surroundings. An excellent Aperol too. Very Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Soak up the breathtaking views from the top of the hill where the Castle of Nice once stood. Castle Hill, which towers over Nice’s historic core, is the most popular park in town. Hike uphill through a set of winding trails (We heard there is an elevator that brings you to the top for free) We went for the sunset over the dazzling smirk-shaped Promenade des Anglais,
Don’t be alarmed by the cannon shot which goes off every day at noon.
Where to stay
The Anantara Plaza in Nice – a rejuvenated 19th century architectural jewel on the Nice boardwalk. The heritage property opened earlier this year following a two-year renovation to its Belle Époque era glory. Rooms overlook Albert 1er gardens and the seafront.
Rooms and suites are inspired by the golden era of Côte D’Azur, the marble-clad interiors feature pastel tones and rich Mediterranean textures to create a tranquil atmosphere, with subtle accents of wood and gold.
For those tired feet, the tranquil Anantara spa is an oasis not to miss. Featuring a Hamman, Sauna, fitness centre and a collection of treatment rooms, the spa uses haute couture marine-inspired cosmetics and natural essential oils from the famous Grasse region.
Where to tour
Just a twenty minute drive from Nice, the tiny medieval village of Eze is worth every step. Carved into the side of a medieval fortress, this crown of the riviera is home to an exotic garden perched 429 metres above the Mediterranean Sea.
The panorama from the garden offers one of the most spectacular views of the French Riviera extending all the way to the Esterel Mountains and the Golf of Saint Tropez.
An exceptional experience and thoroughly Instagrammable.