In planning my trip to the South of France, I had a difficult time narrowing down where I wanted to go. There are so many enticing options! I knew I wanted to spend a few days in Avignon as I was longing to visit the Southern Rhône wine region. But then there is Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice, and so much more! I only had a week in France, so I decided to visit Nice and I was beyond happy with that decision. Though, now that I’ve had a taste of Provence and the Côte D’Azur, I definitely want to return ASAP. The next time around I will rent a car and spend at least 3 weeks exploring Provence, all of the coastal towns along the French Riviera, and as many hilltop villages as I can. Possibly with a man next time because this is a very romantic part of the world! 😉
Back to Nice! Stepping off of the train from idyllic Avignon, we were immediately greeted by bustling diversity. The sun was shining and I could feel the Mediterranean Sea in the air. If you’re taking the train to Nice, definitely grab a window seat on the right side if possible because the views of the Mediterranean are insane! There are tons of things to do in Nice – museums, shopping, wine bars, beaches, incredible restaurants, you name it. Plus, nearby coastal villages and cities are just a short and affordable train ride away.
I chose Nice because it is a city you can spend days exploring. Nice acts as a good home base to discover the rest of the Eastern French Riviera. I was also longing for a little taste of Italy. I haven’t been back to Italy since I studied abroad in Florence during college and I miss that beautiful country dearly. With it’s proximity to Italy, Nice showcases some Italian influences too. The Mediterranean is gorgeous, the food is unreal, and there’s even some good night life. I would return to Nice in a heartbeat!
So here’s what I did over my short 3 day stay in Nice. I hope it brings you some inspiration when planning your next getaway to the Côte D’Azur!
Nice is a colorful, lively city with a diverse dining scene to match. There are TONS of great restaurant options, but please note that many restaurants do require reservations. So a little bit of planning ahead will go a long way in discovering some unforgettable meals.
Dining on seafood is definitely a requirement when you’re steps away from the Mediterranean with the salty sea breeze on you skin. We were craving seafood on our first night in Nice, so we headed to Le Café de Turin. Located on the back end of Nice’s port, you know this restaurant is dishing up the freshest seafood around.
We ordered a ton of oysters and two of the daily house specials. The oysters tasted as if they were plucked from the Mediterranean moments before arriving at our table and only needed a lemon to garnish. The daily special of mussels in gorgonzola sauce was nothing short of heavenly. Each mussel was coated in a luscious, cheesy sauce and there must have been about 150 mussels in the pot! Though we were at a seafood centric restaurant, I could feel Italy nearby and I was craving some pasta. So we also ordered the smoked salmon linguine which was completely delicious. Le Café de Turin’s seafood towers were seriously impressive as well! We toasted our first night in Nice with a bottle of Provençal rosé and dined al fresco because the evening was beautiful. If you’re craving seafood while in Nice, then Le Café de Turin is the place.
Le Safari makes for the perfect pit stop for bite and a bottle of rosé post-shopping at the Cours Saleya outdoor market. Though other restaurants on Cours Saleya seemed to be a bit of a tourist trap with high prices, Le Safari was fairly priced with a mouthwatering menu. My friend and I had just eaten our way through the impressive market and were in need of some wine to ease us into the afternoon. We grabbed a table at Le Safari and ordered a bottle of rosé and calamari fritti. The rosé was refreshingly crisp under the hot afternoon sun and the salty fried calamari were the perfect pairing. We sipped wine and laughed with the entertaining waiters while the market vendors packed everything up, all under the watchful eye of Matisse’s old home at the end of the street.
When we couldn’t get a reservation at Le Bistrot d’Antoine, we opted for one of Chef Antoine Crespo’s other eateries. Bar des Oiseaux is a lovely little pasta oriented restaurant I would return to in a heartbeat. With a handful of tables outside and maybe 10 tables inside, Bar des Oiseaux is quaint but edgy, offering two seatings per night. The open kitchen is the focal point of this eatery and we absolutely loved watching the chefs at work. Bar des Oiseaux has literally one wine list set in a large wooden frame and one menu written on a big chalkboard. Each is passed around by the servers and brought to every table in turn. We ordered the tuna and white fish ceviche that packed a citrus punch with astonishingly buttery fish. We also each ordered ravioli with calamari and a luscious sabayon and split a tiramisu for dessert. Everything was fantastic and the vibe was a lot of fun.
Located in the city’s most Italian piazza in Vieux Nice, you’ll find Glacier Fenocchio boasting a variety of 100 flavors of homemade gelato-style ice cream. I opted for raspberry and lemon, while my friend went for nutella and pistachio. I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough gelato!
This wine shop is a great stop for an afternoon glass of wine. Olivier has owned La Part des Anges for 19 years and his wine shop houses some 200 wines. With a cluster of tables and chairs in the back, you can order a glass of wine off his chalkboard menu or opt to purchase one of his many bottles to drink in the shop with no corkage fee. La Part des Anges also offers cheese and charcuterie, as well as a handful of homemade French and Italian dishes.
If you’re of the younger set and looking for some late night fun, head over to Wayne’s Bar. The drinks are strong, the crowd is rambunctious, and there’s live music every night. On our visit, the band was crushing it and had everyone up dancing on tables.
Stroll Along Promenade des Anglais and Take in the Coastal Views at Castle Hill
Promenade des Anglais is the expansive boardwalk along the gorgeous coast of Nice. Grab a gelato from a nearby vendor and go for a stroll right before sunset. You could also rent bikes and go for a cruise! The view is spectacular and the people watching isn’t bad either. Start near Vieux Nice and end up at the iconic Hotel Negresco for a cocktail or glass of wine. Or do it vice versa and end in Vieux Nice to climb up Castle Hill for the best views in Nice!
While in Nice, be sure to step into the luxurious Hotel Negresco because it is absolutely spectacular. We were planning to head to Le Bar Du Negresco for a glass of bubbly, so we were able to explore the interior a bit…sneakily. However, the pricey, museum-like hotel is off limits to non-guests. We learned the hard way after being shooed out of the Salon Royal by an aptly uniformed bellman who caught us gazing at a chandelier made from 16,000 pieces of crystal originally created for the Russian Czar’s Moscow palace in the early 1900’s. Le Bar Du Negresco was just as exquisite and our 2 glasses of Tattinger racked up an 80 Euro bill. Oh well, when in France!
Do not miss this market! Vendors and artists set up their stalls every Tuesday- Sunday until 1pm on Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice. Cours Saleya has everything you could want in an outdoor market and to make it even more special, the enchanting, old yellow home of revolutionary Modern artist Henri Matisse watches over the market daily.
I wish I had a kitchen while I was in Nice because all of the produce was incredibly fresh! We purchased figs enjoyed later at the beach whose sweet, nectar flavors were out of this world. There are cheesemongers, charcuterie, handmade soaps, florists, bakers, tons of olives, handmade mustards, spices galore, olive tapenades, and more. I ordered a piece of pizza from one of the bakers and immediately wished I ordered 5 more slices as soon as I finished. The pizza was a beautiful, pillowy square of dough covered in a fresh made tomato sauce with oven roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and olives. I miss that pizza! I also tried a freshly sun-dried tomato that was one of the most flavorful things I’ve ever eaten. The market is also home to exceptionally gifted artists. I purchased a postcard size watercolor of the Nice coastline from a sweet and gracious Frenchman. And of course, I had to buy olives because the olives in the South of France are game changing. Most of the vendors are happy to offer you a sample taste too!
Hop on the Train to Villefranche-Sur-Mer
A quick 6 minute train East, Villefranche-Sur-Mer is a must visit!! Beyond breathtaking and completely idyllic. Head over for lunch and take in the views. I recommend Le Cosmo for both!
I definitely wish I could have visited Musée Matisse because I am a fan of his work. I’ve also read great reviews about this museum. Unfortunately, my travel schedule didn’t allow for a visit, but I wanted to include the museum here in case you want to go! Housed in a 17th century villa, the collection encompasses the evolution of Matisse’s art, including paintings, book illustrations, engravings, and even photographs of the artist at work. The museum is open Wednesday – Monday from 10am – 6pm.