General Information About Nice
Famous for its belle époque architecture, Nice is quite definitely one of the liveliest cities in the south of France and has all the benefits of being a cosmopolitan town, a great seaside resort and enjoying the influence of nearby Italian and Mediterranean cultures.
Nice has been attracting tourists for at least the last two centuries to enjoy its lovely coastline and soak up its wonderful culture. It may lack the glamour of nearby Cannes or Monaco, but is all the better for that, remaining with its feet firmly fixed on the ground and offering an all round fantastic experience for the visitor or the resident.
Built upon the graceful curve of the Bay of Angels, Nice is one of France's great cities, with palm lined boulevards, beautiful architecture and a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. In the middle of the Côte d'Azur region, sitting on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is comprised of two large bays. A large bay encompasses the main part of the city, whereas a smaller closed deep bay is home to the natural harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer. Behind the city, rolling hills rise towards the Alps less than 50 kilometres away.
Cap de Nice and Mont Boron is a peaceful, affluent area of villas and forest, perched on the hill that rises up between Nice port and the bay of Villefranche. Mount Boron is largely National Park with lovely walking trails and a fort; Cap Nice is the more developed part of Mount Boron that lies between the Basse Corniche road and the sea. If not driving, take buses 81 or 100 to get to Cap de Nice (bus stop Maeterlinck) or bus 14 to go directly to Mont Boron.
Beaches in Nice
Nice has a gloriously long stretch of beach that curves around the Bay of Angels and runs all the way uninterrupted to Antibes. However, this beach is covered in smooth pebbles rather than sand, so many people elect to rent a deckchair in one of the many private beach clubs. These clubs range in price and character- some are more sophisticated, some have a party atmosphere, and others are family friendly. There are public stretches of beach as well, with showers and toilet facilities; you can also rent mats if you want to cushion yourself from the smooth stones. As is customary on the Riviera, there is a great range of water sport equipment to be hired, including pedalos, jetskis and kayaks, as well as pontoons you can swim to and laze the afternoon away. You can also go parasailing, kiteboarding, banana boating or wakeboarding.
The Ministry of Health in France provides up-to-date information regarding the cleanliness of beaches. The interactive map (which is available in English) allows you to zoom in on the beaches of interest and to review recent test results. The beaches and rivers are ranked from excellent (blue) to prohibited (pink), meaning that entering the water is strictly prohibited. The monthly testing and monitoring makes it possible to assess the effects of wastewater sanitation and dirty rainwater runoff into swimming sites.
Where is Nice?
Well-serviced by Nice international airport, Nice is an extremely easy city both to travel to and to get around in. Major airlines catering to all budgets fly into Nice, with the lesser-known Norwegian Air also offering extremely competitive pricing along with Easyjet. Buses and taxis connect the airport easily with the city centre. Nice has an excellent and cheap public transport network, with a new and modern tram system, as well as buses and trains connecting Nice with the rest of the Cote d'Azur (unless there's a strike, which, it must be said, is known to happen rather regularly).
Events in Nice
Many events take place along the Promenade throughout the year such as the Carnival in February, the Bastille celebrations in July and the Nice marathon in November - have a look at our events calendar to see what is coming up soon.
Sights & Attractions in NiceOne of the great attractions for art lovers visiting Nice is the Musee Matisse in the Nicois suburb of Cimiez, where the great artist lived for many years and was buried in the local cemetery. Other notable sights in Nice are the Musee Massena covering Nice's modern history, and the giant war monument carved into the cliff by the port to commemorate the 4000 Nicoise who died in the Great Wars. There's also the impressive Place Massena under the giant ferris wheel and a truly wonderful new park called Promenade du Paillon - a 30 acre park of sculptures, gardens, fountains and kids playgrounds running from the city centre to the sea.
At the very peak of Mont Boron you’ll find its crowning glory: Fort Mont Alban, built in 1557 on the orders of the Duke of Savoy in response to the siege of Nice. This well-preserved castle is complete with turrets, towers and a drawbridge- and while you can't go inside,it's well worth the hike up to look around. At the foot of Mont Boron is the Grotte du Lazaret (visits only possible by arrangement), a prehistoric cave that has revealed remains of woolly mammoths, panthers, lynx and bears - as well as human remains, suggesting that it was occupied almost two hundred thousand years ago. More recently, the Batterie du Mont Boron is a 400m long military bunker built in 1886 to protect the Baie des Anges- the views from the walls are stunning.
Things to Do in Nice
The old centre has been restored, and a pedestrian zone has been created to make it more attractive to those on foot. There are activities galore throughout the summer months, from concerts to gallery exhibitions and festivals. Within a very short drive are the beautiful inland villages of Vence and St-Paul-de-Vence, making Nice a perfect base for a holiday.
Perhaps one of the most iconic activities of Nice is to walk, cycle or rollerblade along the palm lined Promenade des Anglais.This famous boulevard by the sea is the site of the Battle of the Flowers each year in February/March, although it is gorgeous year round-with magestic hotels, sophisticated beach clubs and sun--drenched pavement cafes. Nice is rich in belle epoque, art deco and neoclassical architecture; take one of the excellent guided walking tours to learn more about this historic city. Marvel at the luxury superyachts in the port, have a flutter at the grand Casino Barriere and walk among the colourful flowers at Cours de Saleyna market. Head down to the beach for watersports and sunbathing, or head up to the Parc du Chateau for a picnic of bread and cheese with a glorious view over Nice and the Bay of Angels stretched out below.
Along the Promenade des Anglais bicycle lanes run the entire length, keeping cyclists safely apart from the traffic on the busy road and there are a number of Vélobleu stations where you can hire bikes for as little as 1€. There are also many bus stops all along the road, so getting to your favourite section of beach is very easy.
Mont Boron has 11km of walking paths through the forest , including a 1.5km fitness trail with exercise stations. Also, if you nip round the back of the pizzeria on Boulevard Maurice Maeterlinck, you’ll see a sign saying “Escalier Pieton”. Follow this and you’ll come to a steep narrow staircase that leads directly to the sea and onto a wonderful coastal path leading all the way to Coco Beach at the beginning of Nice.
In addition to the beautiful city and coastline there are also numerous towns and villages surrounding Nice that are worth visiting. From perfumeries to art, pottery to ancient artefacts and national parks, there will be something to suit everyone's taste, from the most glamorous tourists to the grass roots archaeologists and history buffs.
Restaurants in Nice
In Nice you’re spoilt for choice on any budget, whether dining on sophisticated French fare at the Michelin-starred Hotel Negresco, taking a table at a cosy Italian restaurant in the old town, or eating fresh baguettes and soft camembert from a market stall at Cours de Salenya. Enjoy an elegant seafood lunch at a beach club along the Promenade des Anglais (washed down with a crisp glass of local white wine, bien sur), or explore the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town,where you'll find lots of cafes just perfect for people-watching while tucking into the local Salade Nicoise. In Nice you’ll discover cheerful French bistros serving up Provencal food with excellence and style, such as the Bistro d’Antoine, while the city’s Italian heritage shows in standout pizzerias like Pucci’s. While in Nice, don't miss sampling the Nicoise speciality socca- a chickpea crepe cooked in a woodfired oven and served all oily and peppery in a piece of tin foil. Delicious! For more detailed listings, visit our restaurant guide.
Nightlife in Nice
As one of France’s largest cities, there’s no surprise that there’s lots do at night in Nice, whether you fancy a classy cocktail looking out across the Mediterranean, a heaving nightclub, or live music in one of the English pubs. Start off with a cocktail at a beach club at sunset, then head to champagne bar l'Effervescence, trendy Bliss or atmospheric Les Distilleries Ideales. For a dash of Riviera glamour have a drink in the plush walnut and velvet surroundings at the Hotel Negresco, before heading to Casino Barrière for a night of blackjack and cabaret. When it comes to nightclubs, Le 3 Diablos is young and fun with wild student nights, while High Club draws the big name DJs and Ghost is another popular mainstay. L'Ambassade is the most glamorous nightclub in Nice and can be difficult to get into, while there's a good gay scene offering in Nice, with Le Six and Le Klub as the obvious choices.
History & Culture in Nice
A vibrant, beautiful and sometimes gritty city, Nice is full of treasures in her narrow, winding streets, stunning parks and grand boulevards. Once an ancient Greek city, Nice was Italian (Nizza) until 1860, and you can feel her Italian heritage in the narrow dark walkways and sunny piazzas of the old town. The architecture shows her varied history,with stunning art deco hotels, neo-classical villas and belle epoque buildings, while her restaurants and museums further show off her character as a melting pot of cuisines and cultures. Her 'piece de resistance' must certainly be the Promenade des Anglais- that astonishingly pretty palm lined boulevard where crowds walk along, soaking up the sunshine under the palms before the glittering Mediterranean sea.
Mont Boron is a tranquil place of forest and stunning Mediterranean views, sloping down to the sea where the opulent belle epoque villas of Cap de Nice look out across the city of Nice and Cap Ferrat. The area is home to several celebrity mansions, including that of Elton John. On the top of Mount Boron is Fort Mont Alban, built in 1557 in response to the seige of Nice.
With over 2500 hours of sunshine every year, Nice boasts an exceptionally mild climate. The average daily temperature hovers around 15oC, soaring up to 40oC in July-August and rarely dipping below 5oC in winter (November-February). In summer the water temperature is a languid 20-25oC.
May and June are the most pleasant months, followed by September and October. Partygoers will enjoy the Carnival de Nice in February. Skiing can be enjoyed during the winter in Auron, about 90km from Nice.
Nice Culture and History
History of Nice
The history of Nice can be traced back to earliest times, although exactly how far back is a matter of some discussion. Some believe that, according to archaeological evidence, it dates back many thousands of years. Others believe that it was founded by the Greeks of Marseille in 350 BC. Known as Nikaia, or 'The City of Victory', it rapidly grew into a busy trading centre.
We do know for certain that the Romans once occupied the city. They chose to settle in a district of Nice that is known today as Cimiez. When the Roman Empire fell and its forces started to pull out of their various territories, the city became part of the Genoese League. From the 8th to the 10th century AD, the city came under attack from the Saracens. Finally, in 974 AD, William of Provence repelled the Saracens for good.
During the Middle Ages, Nice's history was closely linked with that of Italy. It was an ally of the city-state of Pisa and the enemy of Genoa. In addition, it constantly had to guard against advances made by the King of France. During the 13th and 14th centuries, Nice fell to the counts of Provence. Eventually, in 1388, it came under the control of Savoy. During this period, the city was more heavily fortified against coastal attack from Barbary pirates.
In 1626, Nice's fortunes were given a boost by a proclamation that gave it full freedom of trade. At this time, the city was briefly under the control of the Duke of Guise. Ownership of the city was to change hands several times in the years that followed and it was given back to Savoy in 1713. In 1792, Nice was conquered by France.
The 19th Century to the Present Day
In 1814, Nice became part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. In 1860, however, in order to raise funds, King Immanuel III offered the city to Emperor Napoleon III. In exchange, Italy would benefit from French financial and military support in the Italian War for Independence against Austria. The people of Nice were asked to vote on the deal. Giuseppe Garibaldi tried to persuade the Niçois to turn it down, to no avail. In the years that followed, public disturbances continued to be staged by those who agreed with Garibaldi, namely that the city should be unified with Italy.
Nice has long had a connection with English visitors. After its incorporation and the arrival of the railway in the city, it came to rely on English tourism even more. In 1900, the Tramway de Nice was electrified, introducing a means of modern transport that allowed visitors to travel more easily to nearby Menton and Cagnes-sur-Mer.
Arc de Venet ImageDuring the history of the 1920s, Nice and the surrounding area became a popular haunt of writers and artists. They included the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Aldous Huxley. The city started to build on its image as a place of entertainment for the rich and famous. In 1927, the first casino was opened on the coast. Five years earlier, a luxury train known as the 'Train Bleu' made its first journey from Calais.
Political life during the 20th century was dominated by two men - Jean Medecin and his son Jacques. Both men carried out the role of mayor for many years. It was Jean who hit the headlines in the 1990s, when he was convicted of political corruption.
Today, Nice is the fifth-largest city in France in terms of population size. It remains a major tourist city and the top resort on the French Riviera, attracting some four million visitors each year.
Nice Events and Festivals
Nice has a lively festival scene, with plenty of things to do all year round. The city's biggest event of the year - and indeed the biggest on the whole of the French Riviera - is the Mardi Gras Carnival, a festival that is held every February in Nice. The carnival's colorful parades draw large crowds of tourists and participants. Other significant events within Nice include seasonal markets and fairs, sporting events and music concerts.
A useful source of information about events taking place in Nice is the publication, 'Cotê d'Azur den Fêtes', available from the tourist office.
National Public Holidays
1st January - New Year's Day (Jour de l'an)
Easter Holiday - Easter Monday (late March or early April)
1st May - Labour Day (Fête du premier mai)
8th May - Victory in Europe Day (Fête de la Victoire 1945; Fête du huitième mai)
May (40th day after Easter) - Ascension Thursday
14th July - Bastille Day (Fête nationale)
15th August - Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Assomption)
1st November - All Saints Day (La Toussaint)
11th November - Remembrance Day, Armistice Day (Jour d'armistice)
25th December - Christmas Day (Noel)
26th December - Second Day of Christmas (In Alsace Lorraine only)