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Travel Guide Europe France Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Nice

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Introduction

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Nice (pronounced like "niece") has an exceptional location. Part of the French Riviera, Nice stretches along France's southeastern coast on the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoying a fine Mediterranean climate and a developed tourist infrastructure, it is little surprise that Nice is one of the country's major destinations.

Nice as an area has changed hands many times over the last 2,000 years. Originally a Greek colony then a Roman city. Then later an Italian kingdom, only to be conquered by Spain and France. The different powers in the region fought for control over Nice until the 19th century when finally France maintained permanent control, although during World War II the rallying point for the Italians was reclaiming Nice. Since the war, the the city has once again become a major tourist destination which started in the 18th century.

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Sights and Activities

Public Squares

  • Place Masséna is the principle public square in Nice. Until the covering of the Paillon River the Pont Neuf, which runs in the square, was the only practicable road between the old and new town. The square was further divided in 1824 into north and south sections, and with the casino being demolished in 1979 the square has a much more open feel now. The square is bordered by red ochre buildings of an Italian design. This square is the site of many public concerts, summer festivals and parades. The Place Masséna is a short walk from many major sights around town.
  • Place Garibaldi was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi who was a hero of Italian unification and was born in Nice which gives this public square a strong meaning and place in history. A large statue of Garibaldi stands at the centre of the square. Currently the square is undergoing renovations to make it easier for people to walk around.
  • Place Rossetti being located in the heart of the old town this square is a must see. Buildings in red and yellow ochres line the square and there is a stunning fountain in the center. During the day many vendors set up shops and sell icecream while at night the square can get very lively.
  • Cour Saleya was originally the area for the upper classes, this traditional town square has a very nice daily flower market. In the evening there are many great restaurants to enjoy and pubs to grab a drink at to meet some locals.
  • Place du Palais is located on the steps to the justice building of Nice. There is also a large city clock located in the square and the youth have been known to drink on the steps of the justice building. Public events are quite common in the square also.

Beaches

Although some private beaches have imported sand, all of the public beaches are pebble beaches. The water is beautiful though and is amazing for swimming, making the walk on the pebbles well worth it. For better beaches check out the towns of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins or Cannes. Villefranche-sur-Mer can be reached by TAM bus #100 and is only 20 minutes away.

Museums

The roman ruins in Nice

The roman ruins in Nice

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Churches

  • Sainte Jeanne d'Arc - dedicated to Joan of Arc this modern church was built between 1926 to 1933. Built with with reinforced concrete the church has an Art Deco design, which contrasts greatly with traditional church designs in Europe. The interior paintings are also equally non traditional with a mixture of Russian Cubism and Orthodox icons.
  • The Nice Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate de Nice) is a nice Roman Catholic cathedral in the city center of Nice.
  • The Russian Orthodox Cathedral (Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint-Nicolas) was built in 1859 this national monument of France claims this Russian Orthodox Cathedral is the oldest in western Europe.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Colline du Chateau is a ruined castle overlooking the harbour at Baie Des Anges. Although most of the castle has been destroyed the climb to the top does give a nice view of Nice. The Colline du Chateau closes after dark and people will be forced down.
  • Promenade des Anglais - go for a walk on this stunning coastal path built in the 18th century.
  • Nice Observatory (Observatoire de Nice) - check out this late 19th century observatory located on the summit of Mont Gros.
  • Hiking - Go for nice hikes like the Cliff Walk, which starts about 15 minutes east of town and leads towards Coco Beach although remember it is long hike back up to the road. Or check out some of the other coastal and inland paths around the area.
  • Monument Aux Morts.

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Events and Festivals

  • Carnival Of Nice - The Carnival Of Nice, in February, is the major Winter event on the French Riviera during a fortnight. It dates back to 1294 and is one of the largest carnivals in the World attracting over a million visitors to Nice a year. Giant, colourful parades go all day and night with musicians and dancers from all over the World. The final fifteenth day of the Carnival is on Mardi Gras, which adds to the great celebrations! Each year there is a different theme with huge papier mâché figures adorning the parade floats.
  • There are great sporting events like International Half-Marathon in April and Iron Man (Triatlhon) in June, Promenade des Anglais. The Half-Marathon takes place on the legendary Promenade des Anglais and takes the runners through amazing tourist sights of the city and also along the sea. Ironman sees 2,500 athletes take on 3.8 kilometres of swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and a bike course through 17 towns. It attracts 80,000 spectators and an incredibly buzzing atmosphere!
  • Nice Jazz Festival - The Nice Jazz Festival is an outdoor music festival held in July in the Amphitheatre and Gardens of Cimiez. It was the first Jazz Festival of international significance in the World and is incredibly prestigious (and quite flashy). There are several stages where music is performed each evening for eight days.
  • [b]Bastille Day (14 Jul 2013 - 14 Jul 2013) - On this French National Holiday, the traditional French Military Parade will occur, followed by four individually themed parties that simultaneously happen in four different locations along the famous Promenade des Anglais from 9:00pm - 12:30am. Fireworks at 10pm are mind-blowing and go on for 20 minutes.
  • Gourd Festival - This Festival is held in March every year to welcome the coming of Spring! It is held in Nice's Cimiez quarters and celebrates the Annunciation of Mary. Gourds are part of the pumpkin family and are transformed into tasty dishes, but locals also paint and engrave them too.
  • Printemps des Musées - Every year, for one day in Spring, many museums along the French Riviera open their doors for free visits. It falls on the Saturday closest to May 18th (The European International Museum Day) so the general public can participate in exploring their country's culture.
  • La Fête de Mai (05 May 2013 - 26 May 2013) - The Festival of May takes place every Sunday during May to honour the Earth Goddess and the arrival of Spring. A variety of festivities take place, such as dancing, folklore, inflatables, rides, free events, entertainment for all ages, and speciality dishes from locally sourced ingrediants.
  • Musicalia (02 Aug 2013 - 30 Aug 2013) - This cultural music festival focuses on Mediterranean music, with performances teamed with projections, short films and dance performances. It is held in the beautfiful open air Théâtre de verdure, just off the Promenade des Anglais, which can accommodate up to 3,000 spectators.
  • Christmas Day Swim (25 Dec 2013 - 25 Dec 2013) - Every year, swimmers traditionally take to the Mediterranean waters (Brrr!) from Nice's Ruhl Plage. Feeling brave and festive? Join in! Hours: All Day
  • Christmas Village (05 Dec 2013 - 06 Jan 2014) - If you find yourself in Nice over Christmas, this is definitely a must-see and must-do! Fifty wooden chalets sell crafty goods for the festive period. It is the place to stock up on specialities from the south of France as local craftsmen offer a wide range of Chritsmas products from the Riviera.

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Weather

Thanks to the tempering effect of the Mediterranean and the barrier of the Alps, Nice enjoys an exceptional climate all year round. Protected from the wind by the surrounding hills, Nice has very mild winters, with an average maximum temperatures of around 13-14 °C and nights around 6 °C. Summers are dry and warm with average highs of 27 °C in July and August and lows just below 20 °C in general. Summers see a few showers, though half of the annual precipitation of around 800 mm falls from October to January.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max12.9 °C13.4 °C14.9 °C16.5 °C20.1 °C23.6 °C26.6 °C27.2 °C24.3 °C20.6 °C16.3 °C13.8 °C
Avg Min5.3 °C5.9 °C7.6 °C9.7 °C13.5 °C16.7 °C19.7 °C20 °C17 °C13.2 °C8.8 °C6.2 °C
Rainfall85.1 mm59.7 mm60.9 mm69.2 mm49.4 mm38.3 mm15.4 mm23.9 mm75.6 mm143.9 mm94.3 mm87.6 mm
Rain Days6.55.55.27.25.4422.94.47.36.66

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Getting There

Transport links in and out of Nice are absolutely excellent and is the reason why so many people from other countries choose to live here.

By Plane

Nice Côte d'Azur Airport (NCE) is the main airport in Nice. The airport is about 7 kilometres west of the city centre. It is the third most important airport in France handling almost 10 million passenger in 2006. Almost every major city in Europe has regular service to this airport, while almost every airport in the UK has service too. There are also flights to Marrakech, Casablanca, Dubai, Algiers, Malta, Tunis, Beirut and even to New York directly from the airport.

To/from the airport

  • Bus: The best way to get from the Airport to central Nice or the Nice Ville train station is the airport express buses. Take bus #98 to the Nice bus station (Gare Routiere) or take bus #99 to the Nice main railway station (Gare Nice Ville SNCF). Routes 98 and 99 cost just €4 and are accessible from both terminals. They run every 30 minutes during the following hours: bus #98 from 6:00am to midnight, and bus #99 from 8:00am to 9:00pm. Pay the driver on boarding and the ticket acts as a "Pass de Jour" for unlimited travel on local buses and the tram that day. The cheapest connection with Nice though is the local bus #23 costing €1, and running between 5:30am and 8:05pm. The journey takes about 30 minutes from terminal 1 to the major train station (Gare Nice Thiers).
  • Rail: Convenient for some destinations, there is also a small train station close to the airport (Nice St Augustin) where you can pick up a TER train eastward to Nice, Monaco and all stations to the Italian border at Ventimiglia, or west back to Antibes and Cannes. It's just about 500 metres from the airport.
  • Shuttle services by luxurious minivans are operated by Nice Airport Transfer but at a cost which starts near €50.
  • Regular taxis and rental cars are both widely available at the airport as well.

By Train

Probably the most efficient method of traveling in Europe is by taking the TGV (high-speed train). You can buy train tickets from almost any main train station in Europe which will ultimately connect you to the TGV network. The TGV system stops slightly short of Nice but the local train gets you there in only 40 minutes. Check the TGV website for more information about schedules and prices. For example, Paris is just 6 hours by TGV from Nice.
Trenitalia trains connect Nice to Italian cities like Milan, Genoa, Rome and Venice.

For traveling around the coastline just east and west of the city, you will be using the excellent local TER train system. You can book online or check timetables at TER-sncf. Remember to buy you local coast hopping tickets at the machines or at a window before boarding the train.

In summer season you can buy a Carte Isabelle for €12 which is valid for unlimited travel anywhere for one day. Great value if you are zipping around. More information here about prices at the TER-sncf tariffs link.

By Car

Wonderful scenery and great weather make this a great place to explore by car, especially if you like exploring the mountain areas as well as the coast. In summer though the traffic can be terrible so please try to avoid the most obvious times for tourist travel. Begin your journeys either very early before 9:00am or during lunchtime (1:00pm-2:00pm) and don't return before 7:00pm. This way you will almost have the Riviera to yourself as the vast majority of tourists do the same things at the same time. Try not to be on the roads between 9:30am and 11:30am and again from 4:00 pm to 7:00pm.
The A8 autoroute is the easiest way to access Nice either from the west (Cannes, Aix-en-Provence) or from Italy. From the east take exit 50 and follow the signs for the Promenade des Anglais which takes you into Nice and is a lovely drive along the coast. Coming from the west take exit 55 and follow the signs for 'Nice centre'.

By Bus

You can connect to and from Nice on the Eurolines system.
When you are visiting the direct Cote d'Azur region, the buses are the Riviera's secret weapon. It is only €1 to go anywhere on the whole Alpes Maritimes by bus. Just go the central bus station over the Paillon river and select any number of fabulous daytrips. How about Cannes for the day? Or a lazy afternoon on the beach in Monte Carlo, Monaco? All yours for only €1. To check routes and times visit the Ligne d'Azur website.

By Boat

You can arrive in Nice by ferry from Corsica. Tickets can be bought online for foot passengers or cars at the Société Nationale Maritime Corse-Mediterranée (SNCM) website. Destinations on Corsica include Bastia, Ajaccio, Ile Rouse and Calvi.
If you have a yacht you can arrive at many of the Riviera's ports and marinas and be allowed a visitors berth, radio on CH12 as soon as you're in range.

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

Ligne d'Azur operates buses in and around Nice.

By Foot

Most of central Nice is easily navigated on foot.

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Eat

A food called socca, a chickpea flat bread, is a local specialty, as is a tuna fish sandwich called pan bagnat. Other specialities include soupe de poisson (fish soup, made with chili aioli, croutons, and grated cheese), salade niçoise (made with tuna), tourtes aux blettes (sweet tartes made with Savoy cabbage, raisins, nuts, and powdered sugar) and pissaladiere (a type of pizza topped with sauteed onion, olives, garlic and anchovies; it includes no tomatoes or cheese). As may be expected, seafood features prominently in Niçoise cuisine, and several restaurants specialise in sea urchin and oysters.

Check out the daily market in the Vieux Nice for fresh, local produce. You can save a lot of money if you are willing to cook at least some of your meals yourself and if you also eat leftovers, cooking can actually save you time as well since eating at a restaurant will easily cost you one to two hours per meal. There are several decent size 'supermarchés' around the city as well as numerous boucheries, boulangeries and fruit and veg shops which are often competitive on price and superior on quality.

No visit to Nice would be complete without a trip to Fennochio's in the Place Rosetti to sample their (rightly) world famous ice cream.

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Drink

With the hot Niçois summers, carrying a bottle of water is almost a must. Bear in mind the largest single complaint to the municipal authority tourist department is the offering in restaurants of branded water bottles whose seal has been broken - i.e. refilled with tap water - and charged as Perrier or Evian.

You can save a lot of money by buying alcoholic drinks and such in a normal supermarket instead of the vendors geared towards tourists. Carrefour has a huge selection and unlike the other supermarkets has a policy of buying in wine show "prize winners" distinguished by their gold, silver or bronze medal stickers.

Wine in restaurants is often ferociously expensive, so do as the locals and order it by the "pichet" - usually a 50 centilitre jug. However, if you fancy quality appellation French wine to drink back home, Les Caves Caprioglio at 16 Rue de la Prefecture in Vieux Nice has a fabulous cellar of the wines you usually only read about in the fine wines books but rarely see. To see French wine making, the Chateau's Bellet and Cremat in the Var are nearest to Nice and will do tours by arrangement (reachable via the tiny narrow-gauge train from the Chemin de Fer de Provence).

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Sleep

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Nice or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Work

Generally the Riviera is a place people come to spend money rather than earn it. Unemployment levels are high, casual work hard to come by, and as everywhere, service industry jobs tend to go to those with low wage expectations.

Sophia Antipolis is a huge office/science/tech park 20 minutes outside of Nice, which is the base for many French and multinational companies.

For those with the right qualifications and experience the luxury, super yachts of Antibes International Yacht Club have spawned a major industry in crew and boat services which attracts many young English speakers. Connections are equally important as the boats often post signs to deter casual enquiries - "no day-workers required"

Financial service companies abound in Monaco which is readily commutable from Nice.

If you are seeking a career aboard one of the many superyachts in Nice a good place to register and start looking is http://www.crew-central.com/|Crew Central..

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Keep Connected

Internet

France is one of the best connected countries in the world, with data speed for upload/download ranked among the top 5 in the world. Most hotels and hostels would have in-house facilities to provide free internet access. Many major cities also have initiatives put in place to provide free wi-fi connection in public spaces. Alternatively there are internet cafés available in most cities/towns at a reasonable rate. Some private businesses, such as local cafés (or even the Starbuck's chain), may also provide wi-fi connectivity - keep an eye out for the signs by the shop windows/doors. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. However, with most homes now wired for the internet, cyber cafés are increasingly hard to find, especially outside the major cities.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

To dial an international number from France, the IDD is 00, followed by the country code that you wish to dial, the area code and the phone number.
To call France from abroad, start with the international direct dialing (IDD) code from the country you're in, followed by French country code 33, the area code (drop the first zero in front of the area code), and the phone number. French telephone numbers are rarely given without the area code. The telephone number, including the area code, is made up of 10 digits. They are written in a set of 5 pairs of digits (i.e. 01 xx xx xx xx xx).
In France, the area code designations are: 01 - Paris Area ("Région Ile-de-France"), 02 - northwest, 03 - northeast, 04 - southeast, 05 - southwest, 06 - mobile phone providers. From 2010 onwards, 07 will also be assigned to mobile phone providers in order to cater for the surging demands for mobile phones.

Emergency numbers are 15 (medical aid), 17 (police station) and 18 (fire/rescue). You can also use the European emergency number 112 (perhaps a better choice if you don't speak French). These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones.

France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are several companies (Orange, SFR, Free, Bouygues Télécom and some others MVNOs like Virgin Mobile) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free.

Post

La Poste in France is also referred to as the PTT (short for postes, télégraphes et téléphones). The mailboxes are painted bright yellow and often there is a slot for local city mail and another slot for "outside mail". Normally there is a queue in the post office, but most of the post offices have the self service machine installed which is quite easy to operate. Nowadays many of the tabac and even some of the souvenir shops also sell postage stamps. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter. Mails sent in France also have a zip code. The first two numbers represent the administrative department (e.g. in Paris' case that would be 75).

Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 7:00pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Apart from the basic job of mailing letters, most of the post offices do some banking activities also and some even have photocopy machines and cyber cafes for internet access.

For international package services, you might also check options with companies like DHL, UPS or TNT, which have competitive services and prices and might be faster in most cases.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 43.703406
  • Longitude: 7.266202

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