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Nice still exudes a certain Italian panache. This is due to the fact that it was an Italian city until 1860. That year, the inhabitants voted in favor of joining France. Nice is located in a beautiful, natural bay with the city's main attraction, the Promenade des Anglais, running along the beach. As the name already implies, this promenade was constructed by the British elite, who had already discovered the city's attractiveness in the eighteenth century.
Nice not only offers sun, sea and beach; the city is also full of culture: Ancient monuments, museums and remains of the Roman Empire. In France, only Paris can boast more cultural attractions. When you add Nice's exuberant nightlife to the mix, you'll understand why many people consider a city trip of only a few days barely enough for this city.
The Place Masséna with its golden arcades and typical Italian architecture forms the heart of the city. The old neighborhood that lies behind this square – at the bottom of the hill on which the castle is built – is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways. Here you'll find nice stores, excellent restaurants and lively cafés. On the Cours Saleya there is a daily fresh-food market. It is called the flower market and so flowers are sold in abundance, but you'll also find other fresh produce, such as fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. It's a spectacle of fragrances and colors! We recommend going as early as possible, before hordes of tourists flood the market. In summer months there is also an art fair and on Mondays the Cours Saleya becomes a flea market.
The restaurants and terraces on the Promenade des Anglais are expensive, but your visit to Nice is incomplete without renting a lounge chair on one of the private beaches. It is at least a good alternative to the hard stones on the public beaches. Relax and enjoy the view of the beautiful Baie des Anges while being served a snack or a drink. The Grand Hotel Négresco is a splendid building in Belle Époque style.
In Nice you can admire the works of two famous painters: Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. Matisse donated the city eight of his artworks right before he died. Over the years, the Musée Matisse's collection has steadily expanded. It now gives a good overview of the painter's evolution. Chagall's main inspiration was the bible. The Musée du Message Biblique Marc Chagall has the largest collection of religious paintings by this artist. You should not only admire the paintings though, but also take a look at the impressive stained glass windows. Three of those windows were made by Chagall.
For modern art lovers a museum definitely worthwhile visiting is the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain (MAMAC). This museum has a large pop-art collection from the 1960s, but also exhibitions by contemporary artists.
Nice's pebble beach is not very nice, yet it gets extremely busy during the summer. You can find some sandy beaches in the vicinity of Nice, for example near Antibes (Plage du Ponteil, Plage de la Salis, Plage de la Garoupe), near Cap d'Ail and near Juan les Pins. Some of the beaches are highly exclusive and so you should bring a hefty wallet. It will give you the opportunity to run into celebrities in their swimwear though!
Between Nice and Antibes lie several artist villages, the most famous one being Biot, where you can buy products from potters and jewelers. The artist villages of Vallauris, Mougins and Mouans-Sartoux are also worth a visit.
Although fairly touristy, you should not skip the ancient Saint-Paul-de-Vence. A rental car is an excellent means of transportation to visit this ancient fortress, as there is no direct train connection from Nice and only a limited bus service. In this medieval village also live many artists.
Especially in summer, this coastal strip gets very busy. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, you should go explore the interior. The nature in the Alpes-Maritimes department is overwhelming and along the way you will cross small mountain villages that are visited by very few tourists.
North of Nice you can find remnants of Roman baths and an amphitheater. The Archeological Museum exhibits a scale model, which makes you understand better what this settlement looked like in Roman times. It also houses an exhibition of objects that were found during the excavations.
Some more attractions in the vicinity of Nice:
In summer months, it is extremely difficult to find a parking space in Nice. There are parking garages, but most of the time they are full and in addition you can generally only park there for a limited time. Parking lots or garages near hotels are expensive.
On the outskirts of the city you can park your car for free and continue your journey by public transportation. You are leaving your car unattended though ...
The airport is located seven kilometers west of Nice. Nice Airport is surrounded by an extensive road network. The Route National 7 runs right along the airport and connects several towns along the Mediterranean coast.