Here are 4 Reasons to Visit Nice, France
When I did my equivalent of the Grand Tour of Europe (minus the stately balls) in my 20s, Nice was the place we landed after an exhausting whirlwind of cities and train rides. Broke and fatigued, my then-boyfriend and I decided to spend a few extra days recuperating by the sea.
It has remained a favorite memory from all my travels for the past 18 years.
Finally I was able to walk the streets my former self had marveled at, float in the magical waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and soak up the golden sun that you simply can’t find anywhere else.
Here are my reasons for visiting Nice.
1. It’s Gentler Than Its Riviera Counterparts
Saint Tropez attracts the well-heeled. Cannes attracts the well-heeled celebrity. Nice, by contrast, is like the quiet stepsister, though that’s all the more reason to visit. Nice isn’t flashy. Instead, it’s comfy. In fact, it reminds me of where I live — San Diego — in its laid-back attitude.
To me, visiting a seaside town isn’t about paying $18 for a cocktail just to be in the orbit of someone famous. It’s about lazy, leisurely days with no agenda. No dinner reservations. Flip flops. Nice is the town that can accommodate.
2. The Water. Ohhh, the Water
The strongest memory of Nice for me was floating in the waters each day years ago. We quickly learned that the beaches in Nice are peppered with smooth stones that, while they don’t puncture your feet, aren’t all that pleasant to walk on. But as two broke college students, we made do without the cheap straw mats smarter beachgoers used to lay on the rocks.
My body still remembered the incubating loveliness of the docile waters, so in contrast to the Pacific or the Atlantic. I’d felt safe. Nothing could harm me in those waters. It was a lovely feeling, even if we know that in reality, nothing can protect us from the pains that life brings.
And so I returned this time, 18 years, one child, and one divorce later. I think I was apprehensive that the experience wouldn’t be as magical as my memory. But it was.
I hadn’t remembered the click-clack that the rocks beneath the waters made as they were tugged back and forth with the waves. The sound delighted me, my ears submerged beneath the surface for the concert. And the waves held me, just as they had all those years and problems ago.
3. Niçoise Food is a Delight
While I hadn’t known that the food in Nice is a brand all its own, I had recognized on my first trip that I’d found dishes I’d never seen anywhere else, like the fruits de mer pizza, sprinkled with baby octopuses and mussels. On this trip, I learned more about this hyper-regional cuisine.
It’s one of only two cities that has cuisine named after it (the other is Lyon with its Lyonnais cuisine). There’s even a labeling program that awards restaurants that serve authentic Cuisine Niçoise the authentic seal of approval (look for the lady with the basket, and you’ll know you’re in a bona fide restaurant serving Cuisine Niçoise!).
Nice is an interesting blend of French and Italian, and many conversations you’ll hear will switch back and forth between the two languages. The food is the same. Dishes like pan bagnat, salade Niçoise, socca, and pissaladière all are influenced by both sides of the border, and are worth an entire trip just to try them all. I recommend Restaurant Lu Fran Calin.
4. The Views from Parc de la Colline du Chateau are Heavenly
If the magical float in the sea wasn’t enough delight for you, check out the view from the Parc de la Colline du Chateau. While there hasn’t been a castle there for quite some time, the park that towers above the Promenade des Anglais is majestic in 360 degrees. On one side is the harbor, where giant ships transport people to Corsica and fishermen park their brightly-colored boats. On the other, the Promenade and the beachfront, where people amble on the sidewalk or go topless on the beach.
The park itself is sizeable, though I didn’t spend much time there on my recent visit. A man playing Ed Sheeran on accordion made me smile as I took a quick tour around the playground.
There are so many more reasons to visit Nice. It’s got an airport that connects to all the major European cities, so it’s a great starting point (or complete destination) for a trip to Provence.