There's a certain warmth in Nice which doesn't just come from the Mediterranean sun. Perhaps it's the picture-postcard vista. After all, that view of nodding palm trees overlooking a gently sweeping bay, with its sparkling azure waters and dramatic mountainous backdrop, would warm the coldest of hearts.
Or maybe it's the terracotta roofs of the Old Town, and its cosy cafes jostling for space with quaint boutiques and art galleries. Or perhaps it's the hearty Niçoise fare; served with a flourish and a glass of something heavenly in the city's bistros and brasseries.
Whatever the reason, this Southern French city is certainly not known as Nice la Belle for nothing.
Formerly Italian, "Nice the beautiful" became part of France in 1860. But its story goes way back, as Nice is believed to be one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. Evidence of settlers from 230,000 years ago was found in the Terra Amata archaeological site, although it is thought that the area was inhabited much earlier - up to 400,000 years ago. The Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement in Nice - then known as Nikaia, after Nike, the goddess of victory - in 350 BC, and over time it grew to become a vital port city. And its seafront location has certainly served it well throughout history.
Today, the port is a bustling place filled with yachts, ferries and cruise liners. But its seafront location also earned it a high spot in the tourism stakes, and Nice is now the second-most visited place in France after Paris. It's got the climate, the landscape, and the culture. Artists such as Matisse were drawn to the city's soft hues and spectacular beauty, and after an amble along the Promenade des Anglais or a wander through the twisting lanes and looming buildings of the Old Town, you'll soon see what all the fuss is about.
It's the same thing that brings artists, writers, foodies, holidaymakers, dignitaries and everyone in-between here in their droves.
In essence it's warm, it's beautiful, it's welcoming... and it's really rather nice.
Nice France Travel Tip: The English Way
The main walkway in Nice is La Promenade des Anglais - Promenade of the English - runs for almost five miles along the city's lovely sweeping seafront, the Bay of Angels.
Back in the 18th century, wealthy tourists and English families came to visit Nice for its mild winters and attractive panorama, staying in houses set back from the sea. The story goes that in the latter half of the 1700's, a particularly cold French winter brought many vagrants south to Nice. A number of wealthy Englishmen proposed a project for them - building a promenade along the sea - which was eventually to become the Camin dei Anglès, the 'English Way'. The Niçois referred to it as the 'English Way' in their native dialect, Nissart, but it was later translated to La Promenade des Anglais following the incarnation of Nice as a French city in 1860.
The promenade has long been the favoured walkway of the rich and famous, and today it's no different. The bowler hats, gowns and frilly parasols may have been replaced by faux fur, designer handbags and miniature dogs, not to mention the toned joggers with iPods and spray tans. But the promenade is still the big-screen face of Nice. And what better way to enjoy the 'English Way' - or is it the French way? - than sitting by the seafront with those panoramic views and a Kir Royale before you...
Nice France Things To Do & See
1. Èze does it...
The medieval French village of Èze is a treat for the photo album. Sitting atop a rocky perch with the glittering azure sea on one side and lush mountains on the other, it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. It's just 12 km from Nice and well worth a visit. Scale its twisting heights and enjoy its charming lanes, attractive buildings and colourful blooms, not to mention panoramic views of the Riviera.
You can't miss the local craft shops, and a tour of the perfumery is a must. On your way back to Nice, take the Lower Corniche route and, apart from enjoying the trip through ancient villages and pretty marinas, don't forget to look back to see beautiful Èze rising loftily above the sparkling coastline. It's quite a sight.
2. Tuck in
Like any French town worth its salt, Nice has some tasty local dishes that are well worth a try. The city is of course packed with bistros, brasseries, wine bars, cafes and restaurants, each stamping their own influence on local favourites and adding new twists to old classics. Salade niçoise is one of the most famous dishes - a mixed salad topped with tuna, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs and dressed with a vinaigrette. Try the local Pissaladière - a baked savoury tart made with anchovies - or Socca, a rough crepe made from chickpea flour. Ratatouille is another local favourite that has become world-renowned.
3. All that Jazz
Visit Nice in July and enjoy a jazz spectacle of international proportions. The first festival in 1948 featured Louis Armstrong and his All Stars, which kicked off an annual event and set the standard for forthcoming acts. Over the years, the line-up has brought big-name artists to the city. Such stars as Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis graced the stage and made return visits to the festival, which has been described as the "flashiest" jazz festival in Europe. The festival has moved and swayed a little over the years, bringing in more world music and pop; but jazz is still very much at its heart.
This year it is on from 16th to 20th July 2019
4. In deep
Descend underground beneath the streets of Nice to see the city as it once was. At the foot of the Notre Dame, you can walk down into the archaeological crypt to explore the remains of the ancient Roman city of Lutetia. Discover alleyways, streets, houses and the remains of the medieval basilica of Saint-Etienne. Guided tours run regularly throughout the day.
The Cours Selaya between Place Massena and Vieux Nice hosts a daily market, selling flowers and local produce Tuesdays-Sundays, and antiques on Mondays. Other markets take place throughout the city from Tuesdays - Sundays.
Nice Top Restaurants
Our selection of restaurants in Nice
22 Rue A. Karr, 06000 Nice
04 93 16 00 48
A delightful fish and seafood restaurant. Dine in the restaurant for daily set menus with such main courses as sea bream with oyster tartar, grilled turbot, and lobster. Or opt for the bistro for reasonably-priced menus with daily specials. Prices range from €16 for lunch up to the €80 mark.
20 Avenue Mar. Foch, 06000 Nice
04 93 62 98 24
A superb Michelin-starred restaurant serving cutting-edge contemporary French cuisine with such mouth-watering delicacies as veal pâte. Each dish is delicately prepared and visually stunning, paired with a wine suggestion to complement the flavours. This is seriously fine dining. Prices range from €50 up to €80+
Nice France Driving Distances
Driving distances from Nice to nearby cities:
Monte Carlo (Monaco) - 21km / 13 miles
Cannes - 32km / 20 miles
Toulon - 150km / 93 miles
Aix-en-Provence - 176km / 109 miles
Marseille - 205km / 127 miles
Avignon - 261km / 162 miles
Nice Tourist Office
5 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice
08 92 70 74 07
Nice France Property Scene
Nice is an attractive and affluent Riviera city. While the general expectation should be one of high prices, there are many properties north of the railway station that are more affordable, while others within more desirable locations such as the Old City just require a little modernisation.
A relatively new tram system has boosted the transportation network and provided access to the outer reaches of the city, while the arrival of regular low-cost scheduled flights has invigorated an already booming tourism industry.
On the whole it may be an affluent coastal city sandwiched by such glitzy locations as Monte Carlo and Cannes. But although many prices may be eye-watering, it's well worth hunting for bargains as the buy-to-let market is generally a positive one. And Nice is also considered a cheaper option than Cannes.