When I found out that I would be studying abroad in Nice, I admittedly didn’t know anything about the Côte d’Azur. But I looked forward to gorging on croissants, canoodling with French guys, and working on my tan at the beach. Well, imagine my disappointment when it turned out that my study program wasn’t exactly in the city – 20 km away at a university campus, in fact. Nevertheless, I found time (during weekends and free time) to enjoy the French Riviera, and by the time I left, Nice had become like a second home.
1) Promenade d’Anglais & The Beach
Sparkling blue waters. Abundant sunshine. Palm trees gently swaying in the breeze. This is probably the first image that pops up in your mind when you think of the Côte d’Azur (literally “Blue Coast”), and if you want to see it, a stroll through this famous waterfront street is a must. Note that the beaches here are pebbly, not sandy, so if you want to take a dip, don’t forget sandals and a thick towel to sit on. To be honest, if you want to swim, I recommend nearby beaches in Antibes or Cannes. But the beautiful blue waters are truly a sight to behold, and I would gladly spend an afternoon walking along the Promenade or relaxing in a lounge chair by the beach.
2) Vieux Vielle – Old Town
Nice’s Old Town is a charming neighborhood of food markets, narrow alleyways, restaurants, bars, boutiques, alleyways, souvenir shops, and more. I enjoyed looking up at the quaint shuttered windows, some with flowers on the windowsills or with laundry hanging out to dry. This is also where I had the best ice cream I’ve ever had, in unique flavors such as rose, lavender, cactus, and jasmine (my favorite!) as well as traditional (chocolate, coffee, salted caramel, etc.). Make sure you stop by Fennochio’s ice cream stand when you get the chance – it’ll be the one with the small crowd around it!
3) Jean Médecin
If shopping’s your thing, this is the place to be. Jean Médecin is a long avenue lined with shops, mostly shoe and clothing stores. There’s even a shopping mall, Nice Étoile, which spans a whole city block. A tram line goes through it as well, so when you’re tired from carrying shopping bags, just hop on! Near Place Masséna, there is a high-end shopping center as well, and on the ground floor is a Pierre Hermés macaron stand!
4) Place Masséna
This is the heart of the city – an open square surrounded by red buildings and marked by a fountain (affectionately nicknamed the “big penis fountain” by our program director). Nearby, children play in the water display and adults cool off in the mist released from the ground.
5) Colline du Château
I actually discovered this place by accident – I was wandering around Old Town when one of those tourist bus/train/shuttle things drove past me. I thought to myself “Ooh, it must be going somewhere interesting!” so I walked up a hill and a bunch of steps (there’s a lot but they’re not very steep, don’t worry) and arrived at the top of a hill, where a chateau used to be, but is no more. Here you’ll have an amazing view of the city and the coastline – definitely don’t miss it! There is also a children’s playground nearby, and a waterfall (random?).
As you can see, Nice has a lot to offer. Somehow, despite all the tourists and visitors, the city avoids being… touristy and retains its charm. There’s a reason why so many people tout it as one of Europe’s best vacation destinations, and now I’ve learned why. I can’t wait to be back someday!