Nice is located in southern France along the Mediterranean coast in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. The city is a major tourist center and the capital of the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur). It is also a bustling commercial center and the commercial capital of the Alpes Maritimes department. The city lies between Marseilles and Genoa, and is famous for its mild climate. The air is clean and the sky is sunny most of the year.
The old world grandeur is still seen everywhere, the belle époque villas and grand casinos, magnificent hotels and exotic plants bear witness to Nice’s glorious past when the city was a playground of the rich and famous at the close of the 19 th century.
The city offers Mediterranean and cosmopolitan cuisine. There is alot to keep you busy; the nightlife is lively - the city is always pulsating with life. There are plenty beautiful beaches, most are free, pebbly, and pristinely clean. Once you've had enough of sun and fun, you can head to one of the numerous art museums throughout the city.
Nice has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. It is sunny and mild all year round. Springs are warm (around 15°C), and summers are hot, with temperatures reaching up to 40 °C in peak summer period of July and August. Winters are mild. Temperatures rarely reach freezing point, and snow is extremely rare. August is the average warmest month and January is the coolest. November usually sees the most rainfall.
January average temperature 8.9 deg Celsius, 76.2 mm rainfall February average temperature 8.9 deg Celsius, 73.7 mm rainfall March average temperature 10.5 deg Celsius, 73.7 mm rainfall April average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 63.5 mm rainfall May average temperature 16.6 deg Celsius, 48.3 mm rainfall June average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 38.1 mm rainfall July average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 17.8 mm rainfall August average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 30.5 mm rainfall September average temperature 20.5 deg Celsius, 66.0 mm rainfall October average temperature 16.6 deg Celsius, 111.8 mm rainfall November average temperature 11.7 deg Celsius, 116.8 mm rainfall December average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 68.9 mm rainfall
Nice Airport, Aéroport International Nice-Côte d'Azur is located 6 km west of Nice, and is one of the busiest in France. It has direct flights to most of Europe’s major cities, intercontinental flights and other international flights.
Take line 98 to the downtown bus depot. Services run every 30 minutes. Free shuttle busses are available at some hotels.
Sun Bus transport system serves the entire Nice area. A single ticket costs 1.3 EUR, a daily pas 4 EUR. There are also five and seven–day passes and multi use tickets available. Night services operate on 4 routes. Tickets can be bought at ‘Sunboutiques’ and onboard the buses.
The old town of Nice can be easily explored on foot. Nice, however, is a sprawling city and to reach districts out of the old town you‘ll need to use public transport.
Driving along the Riviera can be hair-raising. Nice has one of the worst accident records in France.
A car, however, is very useful for day trips out of Nice. Rental car offices are located along the terminal building. If possible, rent a car already dented, so the new bumps and scratches won’t be noticed.
Taxis are better avoided. The drivers are notorious for ripping off foreigners. The trip from the airport to Nice should cost less than 20 EUR. Negotiate the price before the trip.
The beaches in Nice are not really suitable for lying around. Nice beaches are all gravel and rocks. You can find sandy beaches at Villefranche-sur-Mer or Cannes. Nice, however, has some artificial beaches where volleyball can be played. Free showers are available at all public beaches.
The game of boules is a typical Provencial game, representing the easy life in the warm sun. The game is played with metallic balls on a dirt surface, with a glass of pastis at hand, beneath plane trees. It is a popular sport among friends and the local boulodrome is the focal point of the social life in Southern France.
Southern France has some of the best hiking places in the world. There are plenty of hiking trails of all levels of difficulty.
From Nice the closest is the Grande Randonnée GR5 which goes all the way to Amsterdam. You can branch off to other Grande Randonnée trails to Italy, or Switzerland, or other parts of France.
The Grande Randonnée GR51 is called the Balcony of the Côte d'Azur. It is a marvelous trail, leading along the southern slopes parallel to the coast, without excessive climbing. The route offers a magnificent view all the way.
The peak hiking season is in July and August, so call the huts in advance or bring your tent.
CANNES AND MONACO
An ideal day trip from Nice, Cannes is only 25-minutes train ride away. Cannes is a world famous haunt of the rich and famous. Central Cannes is beautiful, full of charming streets and great shops. La Croisette Boulevard along Cannes’ waterfront is lined with elegant restaurants and cafés, and exclusive hotels overlooking sandy beaches.
Monte Carlo is only 20 minutes away by train. It is the wealthiest of Monaco’s 4 quarters and is all about casinos, gambling, famous people, fine restaurants and glamour.
Address: 164 ave des Arènes de Cimiez 06000 Web: www.musee-matisse-nice.org Phone: 04 93 81 08 08 Open: Wednesday – Monday: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
The museum displays a wide range of artist’s works, from his early career to the later years. It includes oil paintings, drawings, bronze sculptures, and more. It is located in a lovely 17 th century Genoese villa. There is also a gift shop selling prints of the artist’s works.
PROMENADES DES ANGLAIS
This picturesque waterfront boulevard is a favorite haunt for locals and tourists alike. It is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Nice. The boulevard, facing the beautiful azure waters of the Mediterranean, is lined with restaurants, cafés, shops, villas and hotels. The boulevard is always full of people jogging, cycling or just relaxing.
Address: Ave Nicholas II Phone: 04 93 96 88 02 Open: 9:00 am – noon; 2:30 pm - 6:00 pm
The Russian Cathedral was built between 1902 and 1912, in early 17 th century style. The cathedral resembles the famous St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. The roof is decorated by six onion-shaped domes. The interior is lavish with frescoes, icons and paneling. The Russian presence amidst the palm trees of the Cote d'Azur may seem strange, but the Russian aristocracy used Nice as a getaway and left a lasting mark in the city.
Vieux Nice is the old town of Nice famous for Italian architecture and cuisine. The narrow streets are lined with delicious little restaurants, cafés, boutiques and great shops selling anything from wine to gourmet gifts to Provençal wares. The area offers some of the greatest shopping in Nice. It is also a lively place at night with several night clubs and bars.
PARC DU CHÂTEAU
Address: Rue de Foresta / Montée Monfort Open: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm; in summer: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
The park offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city and of the port. The castle, however, has been gone since 1706 and only one tower remains. The park is well worth a visit. It features Roman ruins, a gorgeous waterfall, a sportsfield and lots of shady trees. The park can be accessed via stairs, offering spectacular views as you climb the 213 stairs to the top. Or, it can be accessed via an elevator if your legs are too tired for the ascent.
The majority of Nice restaurants offer mostly French cuisine. But it would be a shame not to try the ‘cuisine Nissarde’ the authentic food of Nice.
The local food includes ‘pissaladière’ (onion and anchovy sauce pie), ‘socca’ (pancake made from chickpea flour), ‘soupe de poisson’ (fish soup with chili aioli, croutons, and grated cheese), ‘salade niçoise’ (seafood salad), ‘farcis niçois’ (vegetables stuffed with breadcrumbs), tomato salad with green peppers, and corn bread with tuna and olives. The most common dessert is ‘tarte aux blettes’ (sweet tarts with Savoy cabbage, raisins, nuts and powdered sugar).
For authentic Nice cuisine take a walk north on Rue Droite. Here you will find many of the most authentic and not in the least fancy restaurants found in Vieux Nice
Eating out in Nice is mainly snack-oriented. You can grab a ‘salade niçoise’ or ‘soupe de poisson’ (fish soup) and Nice abounds in street stalls selling food.
Budget eating is virtually non-existent in Nice. Even McDonald’s menus cost around 7 EUR. The cheapest eateries in the city center can be found in the port area. Good value, set menu meals can be obtained at lunchtime for around 10 – 12 EUR.
Mardi Grass in Nice is a wild, 10-day-long celebration of street revelry, parades, concerts and street theatre. The feast dates back to the Middle Ages, for a period it fell into oblivion only to return in 1873 with the first parade of floats. Carnival has since then become a grand event, known worldwide. It is best known for the papier-mâché heads and flower and confetti battles. The celebration ends with the cremation of the Carnival King, and a marvelous fireworks display.
Date: July Location: Arenes de Cimiez
Nice has hosted the Jazz Festival since 1948. Its program features renowned international musicians. The concerts are located at the Cimiez gardens and amphitheater. Each year the festival attracts over 45,000 visitors.
FESTIN DES COUGOURDONS
Date: March Location: Cimiez
The gardens of the monastery at Cimiez host the festival of squashes. Traditional dancing, music and lots of oddly shaped squashes guaranteed.
FÊTE DES MAIS
Date: May 1 – 31 Location: Place du Monastère de Cimiez (Jardins des Arènes de Cimiez)
Celebrating the pagan festival of earth goddess, it has become a vastly popular event. Starting on May 1, the festivities take place every Sunday and national holiday in May. Folkloric dances, cuisine, and music, as well as games such as archery, are to be found at the Jardins et Arts de Cimiez.
The area of Nice was already settled 400,000 years ago, and there is the archeological evidence at Terra Amata to prove this. In the 4 th century BC the Greeks won a battle against Barbarians in this area and established a colony named Nikaia (named for the god of victory). The settlement soon became one of the busiest trading posts on the Ligurian coast. Invasions of Germanic tribes and Saracens between the 3 rd and 10 th centuries AD pushed much of the city’s population from the La Chateau hill towards the sea. In the 7 th century Nice joined the Genoese League formed by the towns of Liguria. In the 9 th century the Saracens pillaged and burned the town; and remained in control over the surrounding country until the 10 th century. In 974 the Saracens were chased out of the region and William, Count of Provence united Provence. In 1032 it joined the Holy Roman Empire. Trade and produce flourished. In the 12 th century Provence was divided. Nice became part of the Catalan Comte de Provence. After the death of Countess Jean de Provence the war of succession followed. It was resolved six years later when people of Nice sought protection under the Comte de Savoie. Nice became a strategic stronghold for the House of Savoy. In 1543 the Turkish fleet tried to attack the city but was repelled by the locals. In the 17 th century Baroque art flourished in Nice. The architectural gems from this era include the Cathedrale sainte-Reparate in the Old Town in addition to the newly renovated facades in the city center.
The French forces took Nice at the end of the 17 th century. The citadel and its ramparts were demolished. Under the treaty of Utrecht the city again returned to the hands of Savoy. The new town was built in the following peaceful years. Between 1792 and 1814 the region was annexed to France. However, with the fall of Napoleon Nice came under Sardinia. In 1860 Nice was once and for all handed back to France. Economy boomed, new roads were built, and the railway was introduced. Population grew rapidly. Winter tourism also began to flourish. Towards the end on 19 th century Nice was the fastest growing city in Europe. It became one of the first European cities to base its economy on tourism. The city was decked out with exotic plants and belle époque buildings and it became the playground of the rich and famous. Numerous artists were attracted to the area due to its beauty and bright light. Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh and others flocked to the Côte d’Azur. The name was coined by lawyer/poet who wrote the first guide book to the area in 1887.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
During WW I Nice was left pretty much unharmed but many lives were lost as soldiers were conscripted from this area. The 1920s re-established the region as the Mecca for writers and artist such as Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mann and Huxley. In 1927 the first Casino was opened in this area, Jazz splashed into town and the nightlife boomed. During the first part of WW II Nice was part of free Vichy-France but fell to the Italians in 1942, as Vichy-France was occupied by the Nazi Germans. In 1944 the region was liberated by the Allied forces. Soon afterwards the jet set returned and Nice was back in business.
The 1980s and 90s were marked by political corruption, the right-wing Jacques Médicin (who was the mayor for 24 years) was twice found guilty of tax evasion and was imprisoned.
Today Nice is a hugely popular summer resort; mass tourism grew and has now become the major source of income.
A common form of greeting is the handshake, whereas friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right cheek. First names are used for family members and close friends.
'Bonjour', 'bonsoir' means good morning and good evening, 'au revoir' means good-bye). If you are giving flowers, you should do so in odd numbers but not 13, which is considered unlucky. If you give wine, it should be of the highest quality you can afford.
A typical gesture of politeness is to let another person pass through a door first. In addition, a man always gives way to a woman. If someone gives way to you, it is common to thank them or say pardon.
Nice is a relatively safe destination although there are some traps awaiting the unwary traveler.
If you keep in mind the following tips, your visit should be worry free.
Beach safety: stealing from bathers is organized. Groups of very skillful thieves prey on tourists so do not take any valuables or documents to the beach.
There are a few areas which are better avoided, such as les Moulins and l'Ariane, where levels of crime are higher, but do not contain any tourist attractions.
Theft from cars stopped at traffic lights or caught in slow-moving traffic is very common along the Riviera of the Nice-Antibes-Cannes area. Keep car doors locked and windows raised at all times. Thieves often pass by on motorcycles and grab valuables from unsuspecting drivers.
Thefts from parked cars are also frequent. Do not leave anything valuable in the car, not even in the trunk, when the car is unattended.
Emergency phone numbers: General Emergency number 112 Ambulance 15 Police 17 Fire Department 18
The Côte d'Azur is famous for having lots of sunshine. On the average, it has 2500 hours of sun per year. Nice is warm all year round, ranging from mild (15°C) in spring to hot (up to 40°C) in summer. Winters are mild (around 5°C). The high tourist season is in July and August.