Nice: A Modern Village in the French Riviera


The beautiful coastal city of Nice brings a different vibe to the French experience. It's long promenade, pebble beaches, and tropical palm trees give Nice a very "west coast" feel. It's gorgeous sunsets, old-town vibe, and romantic appeal left a great impression on me. I have to return for more some day!

To-Do List:

While it didn't affect us too much, it's worth mentioning that all of Europe was exhibiting International Workers' Day. During this time, organizations take to the streets and voice their concerns over workers rights. This is the same as the events known as May Day that happen in the United States.

While we never experienced any protests, we noticed a whole bunch of militarized police officers patrolling the streets on our walk to the train station. It was quite concerning, but we made it just fine.

Day One

Our journey began with a 3-hour train from Marseille to Nice-Ville, the main train station in the city. Unlike our other trains, this one loaded passengers "first-come-first-serve". So, we had to rush a bit to get the seats we wanted. Eventually, we settled on two seats near first-class! Beer and cheese-sandwiches kept the hunger at bay the entire trip.

After a train ride past many beautiful beaches, we finally made it to Nice-Ville! Our hotel was only a 15-minute walk away. We strapped up our backpacks and walked along Avenue Jean Medicin, the central road in Nice.

The Star Hotel is a small, 2-star hotel about two blocks from Avenue Jean Medicin. While it isn't the most fancy, it's location was absolutely perfect for exploring the city!

The view of the street from our room was pretty cool. We were right next to the sign!

With the sun shining high up above, we were out and about in no time! We stopped into a coffee and pastry shop named Paul, one of the very view places open during the International Workers' holiday. The coffee was about as average as it has been so far throughout France, but the pistachio macaron was sweet and rich.

After the caffeine boost, we walked down the main road towards Place Massena, the main plaza in Nice. This busy square divides most of the new town from old and is lined with many shops and restaurants. 

The plaza is also right in the middle of Promenade du Paillon, a road that cuts through a long park in the middle of the city. Promenade du Paillon reminded me of North End Park in Boston, Massachusetts, serving as a division between old and new neighborhoods.

We walked through Esplanade Georges Pompidou (a small park) towards the waterfront. The narrow walkways eventually opened up to a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean the road at the end of Promenade des Anglais! This long, concrete walkway serves as the main footpath along the beaches of Nice.

After walking along the Promenade des Anglais, we made our way up towards the viewpoint at Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill). Rather than continuing up the main road, we decided to cut through Vieux Nice (Old Nice).

Vieux Nice is very busy with tourists, but Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate was a nice, quiet break from the noise. This decorative little Baroque basilica is one of the oldest in the city, built right in the middle of the old town.

Right outside the basilica, we stopped at a popular gelato spot named Fenocchio. It's known for its unique and adventurous flavors. We tried a scoop of cactus, which tasted like soapy lime juice. Afterwards, we continued the steep walk up Rue Rossetti to the stairs leading up to Castle Hill.

The stairs up to Montee du Chateu weren't easy, but gave us some gorgeous views of Vieux Nice!

We made our way along the winding roads to the top of Castle Hill. Of course, there were many great views of the city!

The Castle of Nice stood watch over the city for many centuries, but it was finally destroyed by French troops in 1706. Now, its ruins serve as a park for tourists.

At the very top of the hill is Colline du Chateau, the panoramic viewpoint high above the city!

We spent some time taking in the view before making our way back down. Rather than walking back through Vieux Nice, we went down the main stairway down through Ascenseurs du Château. The views from this stairway are also very beautiful!

Back in Vieux Nice, we navigated the narrow corridors to find dinner. We stumbled upon a small pizzeria named Au Pizziaolo, hidden away along the backstreets of the old town. The waitress was very nice, teaching us some phrases in French and telling us about some of the cities she's visited in the United States.

The salami platter was very delicious, accompanied by olives and buttered bread. We ordered the house special pizza: a thin, buttery crust topped with strong mozzarella, ham, and artichoke. A really delicious dinner with generous portions!

For our nightcap, we walked to an English bar nearby named King's Pub. It had a very grungy, American feel to it, as alternative rock music played on the speakers. We enjoyed some cold beers while watching soccer projected on the wall.

A great way to end a long day!

Day Two

Since we had seen so much our first day in Nice, we took our time with our second day. We started off by heading towards the waterfront to find coffee.

We stopped at a bakery and cafe named J. Multari. We sipped cappuccino at an outdoor table and watched as people walked along Boulevard Jean Juarez. 

The coffee made us a bit hungrier, so we walked around the corner to a popular creperie named Le Trimaran. We enjoyed some delicious galettes at the colorful tables outside and finished off with, you guessed it, more coffee!

Just next door, we stopped into a small bakery named Ronde des Pains and picked up a baguette as a snack for later.

Since we missed riding the Petite Train in Marseille, we decided to ride the Petite Train of Nice! The station was along Promenade des Anglais, so we made our way back down to the waterfront.

Back through Promenade du Paillon!

The Petite Train of Nice is exactly the same as the one in Marseille. It took us through Vieux Nice and back up to Colline du Chateau. Rather than going back to the panoramic viewpoint, we made our way to the back side of Castle Hill.

We were able to see views of Port Lympia, the main harbor of Nice. We missed it the day before!

The train took us back down around the harbor, then along Quai des Etats-Unis, and back along Promenade des Anglai to the train stop. We hopped off and walked along the water back to the old town. 

We had ridden past a cookie shop on the Petite Train named Emilie's Cookies and Coffee. Since it caught our attention, we wanted to go back and give it a try. I'm really glad we did, because the coffee was actually decent and the Kind bar cookie was delicious!

We had dinner reservations in the old town, but still had some time to kill. So, we continued explore the hidden corridors of Vieux Nice. Along the way, we stumbled upon a nougat shop with products from Provence, a small French town not too far from Nice. After some small samples, we decided to buy some!

With still more time to kill, we had Stella Artois and potato chips at a bar named Antonia Caffe. It was right outside Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate, a perfect place to people-watch.

Our dinner reservations were at a small restaurant named La Rossettisserie. I'm glad we were able to get seats because many people tried to come in, but were turned away due to lack of reservation!

The restaurant environment was very familial, with our seats shared with other guests at the same, large wooden table. We thought it'd be cramped, but we were surprised to find the experience pretty enjoyable.

The restaurant specialzes in various types of slow-roasted meats (thus the name). This was one of our favorite culinary experiences in France! We started with poached egg on ratatouille, an interesting mix of vegetables and lentils. Then, we shared roasted lamb with roasted potatoes and roasted pork with mashed potatoes. Both were very delicious!

To finish off the meal, we had pistachio creme brulée (apparently we love pistachio). It was subtle in sweetness, perfect in texture, and had a strong taste of toasted pistachio!

Overall, I'd have to rank Nice as my second favorite city in France (behind Paris). It was the perfect town to end our journey along the French Riviera, leaving me wanting more!

I wish we could have stayed just one more day, but more adventure awaits in Italy.

Bon voyage!

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