Nice Things to Do, Côte d’Azur, France

Walking Promenade des Anglais, Nice things to do, Côte d'Azur, France

Strolling on the Promenade des Anglais, number one Nice things to do, as Queen Victoria’s ghost would attest.

Nice’s Prom was suggested by British expats as a way of employing poor and unemployed itinerants in 1820.

It  was the scene of the famously existential departure of Isadora Duncan – leading free dancer and feminist – as she was throttled by her own scarf when it caught in the wheels of her open-top Bugatti in 1927, outside the Negresco Hotel (that pink-domed pleasure palace below).

Hoist by her own petard you might say.
Well-dressed travellers with deep pockets should have a drink in the Negresco’s Bar Le Relais but avoid the CO2-dominated terrace.

Nice things to do, the best:

Walking the Promenade des Anglais

The Promenade des Anglais is a delight, wide enough to accommodate any number of weird foreigners, dedicated cycle track, rental bikes (velos bleus), some magnificent buildings on the left or beach and sea views on the right and usually a gentle onshore breeze to carry away any traffic fumes (such as cruising Ferraris).

Starting with the short stretch of Quai des Etats-Unis at the east end, the Promenade is 6km (3. 75 miles) long, wide and beautifully lined with palm trees, many elegant buildings, slowly moving cars and gives access to the pebble beach; the promenade is superb for people watching be they glamorous Milanese, stuffy Parisians, heavy Muscovites, overdressed Nicoises, or pasty and underdressed Londoners.

Biking and inline skating along the prom is excellent, with a dedicated and busy cycle track running past the airport and on to St Laurent-du-Var, the massive and stylish Cap 3000 shopping centre, pleasant Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villeneuve-Loubet Plage.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, Palais de Mediterranee casino, France

Le Palais de la Méditerranée hotel and casino, one of the two most outstanding buildings on the Prom.

Le Palais de la Méditerranée also hosts the city’s largest underground car park if you arrive in Nice in the middle of the day in summertime when any kind of parking is almost impossible to find. At about 2 euros per hour the cost is reasonable. The cyclist is, of course, on a city rental bike velo bleu.

The Promenade du Paillon is a pleasant and sight-packed wide walkway stretching about 1. 5 kilometres more-or-less from the Promenade des Anglais at the Carousel/McDonalds/west end of Old Town, past Place Masséna (officially the prom starts at Masséna but there is a band of greenery all the way from the Carousel officially called Parque Albert Premier), and on to the cluster of civil buildings beginning with the National Theatre and the Museum of Modern Art.

The Paillon fountains and play areas are very popular with kids/parents but also make a lovely green stroll for kid-free people.

Promenade du Paillon fountains, Nice, France

The Paillon offers strollers – but not adult cyclists or skaters who have to use dedicated tracks around the park – an open view of some grand Belle Epoque architecture, a large rectangular ‘reflecting pool’ studded with randomised dancing fountains that changes into mist on occasion and kids love to fool around with, a marine themed playground, a tiled path that kind-of replicates a river bed (remnants of the River Paillon run below it) and plenty of grass and trees.

Promenade du Paillon fountains, Nice, France

The fountain zone of the Promenade du Paillon has an interesting tile layout,  with lighter areas are for nervous paddlers such as toddlers, and darker areas – psychologically more challenging – aimed at more adventurous older kids. Water depth is actually no more than 3 or 4 centimetres whether the tiles are pale or dark.

Cours Saleya

Mt Boron view over Nice Port and Castle Hill, France

Cours Saleya market and dining area between the Vieille Ville and the beach.

Cours Saleya is a large and lively market area selling flowers, foodstuffs and antiques, while cafés, restaurants and bars line the borders and take over the entire space in the evenings. The Flower Market (Marché aux Fleurs)  takes place every day, from 6 am to 5.30 pm except Mondays, Sunday afternoons and public holidays. In the evenings  a small craft market hums with activity as sozzled diners pick up silly souvenirs. All day Mondays the Marché a la Brocante (antiques, curios, second-hand stuff) takes over Saleya.

Colline du Château (Castle Hill)

Mt Boron view over Nice Port and Castle Hill, France

Colline du Chateau, at one end of  Nice’s Promenade des Anglais.

Another walk worth doing is up Castle Hill for stunning views over Nice’s seafront, the city or the port. There are three main access routes, one from the far east end of the promenade (near that huge water-tank cylinder) with an elevator (lift) option for those who don’t climb too well, one from the Old Town (straight up the steep road from the Cathedral) and another more complex route via Place Garibaldi.

Nice Museums

Promenade du Paillon fountains, Nice, France

The Matisse Museum on Cimiez hill.

A handful of decent museums/galleries are popular Nice things to do, including Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (it’s free and located at one end of the Promenade du Paillon), Musée Chagall, Musée Matisse and Musée Archéologique, plus the Gallo-Roman Ruins up the hill in affluent Cimiez district that are unusual but hardly worth the trip.

Looking for winter sunshine?

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Jean Médecin and Place Massena

Jean Medecin shopping street, Nice, France

Jean Médecin, Nice’s premier shopping street. Newly renovated and traffic free apart from tinkling trams and service vehicles.

Place Massena, Nice, France

Place Massena in mid-winter, with Ave Jean Médecin straight ahead.

Tourists heading for Nice for the first time should memorise four long, landmark stretches for orientation purposes: Promenade des Anglais, the Paillon, Jean Médecin and the popular strolling and eating pedestrian street, Rue de France, pictured below.

Rue de France

Rue de France pedestrian zone, Nice, France

Rue de France is a pedestrian street that runs parallel to Promenade des Anglais for a kilometre or so from Place Massena. It offers small shops and large eateries that are noticeably less refined than those in Cours Saleya in the old town. See the Nice map.

Walks around/near Nice

Promenade des Anglais, Negresco hotel, France

Coastal walk, Cap de Nice, Sentier Littoral.

Nice is a low-pollution walking city, no question. With no heavy industry, sea breezes, pedestrianised main streets, dozens more trees being planted (in streets) as I write,  the magnificent 7km Promenade des Anglais, and a second tram line about to open from the city centre to the airport (doing away with buses and replacing their lanes with bikes, Nice is a place to swing those legs. And occasionally take a bus or tram for a more distant leg-swinging.

Some great short walks we’ve done recently:

Cap de Nice: Head past the port for Coco Beach, just keep as near to the sea as you can until you find some steps down to the right posted to Coco Beach (which is actually an attractive cluster of rocks and shallow water little sand). The Cap de Nice Sentier Littoral starts there. Bus #38 to Villa La Cote will also get you there/back.

The trail is pretty smooth and new though don’t get too relaxed as steps do appear occasionally and being exactly the same composition as the path could lead to a bit of a surprise. Eyes wide open!

After half an hour of serpentine rock and sea views – with no shade at all – you will come to the end, a break in the trail at a flat swimming platform with views over to Villefranche-sur-Mer. You can’t miss it because the incredibly expensive apartments above have installed an elevator track down from their heavenly abode, Palais Maeterlinck.

However! You have two options if you wish to continue walking!
Mount Boron – change direction when you see a sign to Mt Boron heading up left. There’s only one sign so keep the eyes peeled. Mt Boron is very green and delightful, with grand views but it is quite a steep walk and may not be well sign-posted, tho’ it’s quite obvious! From there you can easily walk back to Nice via some steps.
Villefranche – change direction when you see the sign to Mt Boron heading up left but turn right as soon as you reach the first road – which is the Basse Corniche. Walk past Palais Maeterlinck from above and look out for  a trail down after that building. That track is much older and a bit trickier than the Cap de Nice but much more varied and interesting. It ends at Villefranche-sur-Mer port.

More Walkies with the help of bus #81 (from Palais Des Arts, Nice)

St-Jean Cap Ferrat offers not only two excellent walks but also a nice terraced restaurant area with panoramic views for a meal before or after.

Check the brilliant Cap d’Antibes walk, starting at the very relaxed café at Plage de la Garoupe. Drop in at Eden Roc for a drink and gawk! Get there from Nice via train in 20 minutes.

Antibes is a lovely little old fortified city and well worth a wander or swimming off the fine sand beaches in summertime.