Nice is the kind of city that can deliver a lot in just a couple of days. It’s an all year round destination, equally enthralling out of season as in season.
Taking a bus or taxi from Nice Airport into the city is a pleasure in itself, assuming traffic is not clogged up on the Promenade Des Anglais, which it often is. The sight of the sun glistening on the azure water in the Bay of Angels is enough to sustain you in the traffic, while you wait to become part of all that is Nice for couple of days.
The best place to start any day in Nice is in the Cours Saleya market (which I wrote about a few months ago) where you can pick up fresh fruit, baguettes, and croissants for breakfast.
After the market you might want to get a coffee in one of the many little cafes dotted around the market area. Then head over to the Promenade des Anglais, and walk in the direction of Jardin Albert I, and on the seaward side of the promenade opposite the carousel, you can pick up the Nice Le Grand Tour, the local city tour bus. The first departure of the morning is 9.30am. You can either do the entire journey and remain on the bus, or you may want to get off at various points along the way. The Musée Henri Matisse, and the Musée Marc Chagall are both worth a visit.
After the bus tour, you can head back towards the old town for an early lunch. The old town is a maze of tiny atmospheric streets, and a hive of activity, with shops, restaurants, little cafes and colorful buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. A street map is essential if you are on a tight schedule and want to tick off as many things on your to-see list as possible. Must-sees in the old town are the Cathedral Sainte-Reparate, in one of my favorite squares, Place Rossetti. This 17th century Baroque style cathedral is utterly beautiful. Watch out for the occasional concerts of baroque and classical music held in cathedral. Other magnificent churches to look out for in the old town are Chapelle de la Miséricorde de Nice and Eglise Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation.
Next head over to 15 Rue Droite to visit the magnificent Palais Lascaris, a baroque mansion, which will give you an insight into life as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries for the upper class residents in Nice.
On day two, you may want to spend some time on the beach relaxing if you visit during summer. If so you can hire a sun-lounger and umbrella for either a half or a full day from one of the many different private beaches along the promenade, and enjoy a couple of hours gazing out at the sea, have some drinks delivered to you, and forget your troubles for a while! Before you leave you might like to have lunch in one of the little beach restaurants. Be warned: A morning on the beach in Nice is not cheap! There’s always the public beach to avail of, but it’s stony and usually very crowded.
With plenty of energy now, why not head up to the Colline de Chateau, a large, 47-acre public park, high above the city with wonderful views out over the Bay of Angles and the red roof tiles of the buildings of Nice. The hill is 290 feet high and you can climb the steps to it, but fear not, there is also a lift beside the Tour Bellanda historical museum! Plenty of time can be enjoyed up here, watching a pétanque game, taking a shady walk among the trees, or visiting the waterfall, souvenir shops, cafes, or taking the kids to the children’s playground.
If you’re not all walked out after that you could take a walk to the Old Port of Nice just to gaze at the stunning yachts moored there. Whilst there pop into the Confiserie Florian to buy some of their delicious crystallized fruits and flower petals. Also look out for the huge memorial to all those 4,000 Nicoise lost in World War 2.
Place Masséna is Nice’s biggest pedestrian Square. It’s a stunning place surrounded by shuttered buildings painted in Sardinian red, and elegant arcades, and has been pedestrianized since 2007. A tram-line runs through, which you can take up to Nice’s main shopping street, Avenue Jean Médecin which runs north from the square. All department stores, specialist shops and plenty of shops you will find on any main street can be found here. For souvenirs, gifts, pottery, french baskets, olive oils, soaps, dried lavender, etc, shop in the old town.
Last but not least on a two day visit to Nice should be a stroll on the Promenade Des Anglais. I love to do this in the evening after dinner. Stroll down as far as the famous Negresco Hotel, a symbol of the wonderful luxury and style of the Belle Époque era. Take a seat and gaze out to sea, or watch the cyclists, roller skaters, walkers, joggers, and some less wholesome characters who come out at night to take advantage of the naive tourist!