Please sign in to post.

Aix en Provence or Vieux Nice for a month?

I have found great apartments in both cities and can't decide! My husband and I want to settle for a month and live like locals. We have the luxury of working from home so will work from a French home for a while. ;) Outside of work, we want to go to the market, cook, hang out at cafes with wine and coffee, people watch, visit French bakeries.... We live near Malibu and do not "need" the ocean of Nice, although I'm sure it is beautiful. We are more interested in a French vibe... whatever that means. :) We will do a handful of day trips but it is not our priority.

Taking a vote! Which would you stay for a month? We haven't been to either town.

Thank you!!

Posted by
21302 posts

The short answer is that for this length of time I'd choose Nice.

But please remind us of the timing; what month? The farther off-season you are, the more I'd favor Nice because of the potential for the mistral in Aix-en-Provence.

And what's your position on renting a car? Having one for weekend jaunts would be more important in Aix than in Nice.

Nice is about 2.5 times the size of Aix-en-Provence. I spent 2+ weeks in Nice in 2017 (taking French lessons) and just day-tripped to Aix, so I can't make a clear comparison. However, Nice felt a lot larger; I'd have guessed the population difference was a lot greater.

Aix is certainly large enough to provide a variety of restaurants, etc., but it doesn't have a huge number of local sights. On the other hand, it's practically a suburb of Marseille (12 minutes by TGV), a real working city.

I think Nice has a more resort-like feel to it. It has at least six art museums, a lively market and some other sights that will help keep you occupied on days when you don't leave town. It's on the coastal rail line that provides quick access all along the Riviera at a reasonable cost. You'd even be able to pop over to Italy; Ventimiglia's less than an hour away and San Remo takes about 1-1/2 hours with a change. Nice is also a significant bus hub for trips up into the hills, though some of the hill-town destinations require a combination of train + bus.

One thing about the Nice apartment: Be sure the reviews don't indicate infrastructure issues. I think Rick recommends hotels outside that area because the Old Nice buildings are old; I suspect he is concerned about things like plumbing, air conditioning and Wi-Fi, but I don't remember the details.

Posted by
1954 posts

I'd say the food scene in Nice would be a little more varied than in Aix, but in Aix the vibe will be a little more collegiate.
Great day trips from either spot. More variety to the museums in Nice, too.

I'm not the one for objective views of SoCal, but I'd venture to say that Aix is more like Malibu or Brentwood while Nice is more like San Diego. (the non-franchise parts of San Diego) I've told the story once (at least) here that I was talking with a guy from southwestern France at a creperie in Juan les Pins once who insisted on pointing out to me that Nice was part of Italy until 150 years ago, and I explained to him that San Diego was part of Mexico until 150 years ago, and he was visibly shocked to hear it.

Posted by
665 posts

Thanks all!

@acraven, we will be there in September 2020. I was thinking that Old Town Nice might give us that quaint charming village feel we are looking for (yet, villages like St. Remy will be too small, Eze and St. Paul de Vence too touristy, probably also too small). But you have a good point about infrastructure -- thank you.

@avirosemail, I definitely don't want to go to San Diego! ;) Thanks for the comparison. Hmmm..... I love Old Town San Diego but it is a few blocks in a real city, and that's not what we're looking for.

We won't have a car so I love that Nice offers rail service to so many places, however, we can rent a car on the weekend if need be in Aix. From Nice, we might take weekend day trips up or down the coast and up to Eze and SPDV. From Aix, we might go to Avignon, Marseilles and perhaps Lyon. Otherwise, I will be staying close to "home".

Posted by
511 posts

I'm biased as I have a place in Nice and like access to the water and find the public transport excellent. I only rent a car when I want to go to Western Provence or deep in the countryside of Italy or France. If you do choose Nice, choose carefully in the Vielle Ville as certain sections and Places (squares) can be extremely touristy. You might prefer the region farthest from the water, where there is good access to cafe-filled Place Garibaldi and over into le Petit Marais and the Port. This is where there are a bunch of up and coming restaurants, bars, and a cafes where there are more locals than tourists. Or, consider locations closer to Castle Hill, where there are quieter streets. The Carre d'Or is also another neighborhood, but is more of a city feel with bourgeois Hausman style buildings but the buildings will have AC and elevators, which can be rare in the old city. You might consider Antibes as well, but it is definitely a mid-size town, but is a summer-peak tourist destination.

September is a good month to go, definitely not as crazy as the 2nd half of July.

Posted by
21302 posts

Does the place you're looking at in Nice have air conditioning? If not, take a good, long look at the day-by-day historical weather stats on timeanddate.com. I think you might need a/c in September.

Posted by
665 posts

The apartment in Aix has air and a terrace. I will check the Nice apartments ... and look the other areas. I love Haussmann architecture! Just watched the Rick Steves 2014 video of Provence, market in Aix, old men playing boules... Looks like a real town... Hmmm....

Posted by
8506 posts

We were six months in Cassis, while one of my kids lived in Aix, and we have close family next to Nice, so to me they're different but it's a toss-up since you are there to settle in. I'd go with the best lodging: quiet off-the street bedrooms, good light, outdoor space, good neighborhood, workable kitchen, possible parking, no cafes or restaurants under your building.

Posted by
3172 posts

I’ll echo what Bets said. You can’t go wrong with either city if your goal it to settle into an atmospheric place with plenty of charm and services. We’ve spent a month in Aix en Provence and a few days in Nice and found many worthwhile things to see in both places. In Aix we especially liked the markets, restaurants, shops, Impressionist connections and ease of getting around in Provence. In Nice we especially liked the food, museums and sound of the rocks rolling around on the beach. In Aix we had a pool for the month we were there, July-August. We were living in coastal California at the time and the lure of a rocky beach in Nice was a better vacation away from our month in Aix than actually basing ourselves on the coast, but that sound of waves on rolling rocks made a lasting impression on me.

My husband was just looking through some pictures from our Aix stay last night and said it was one of our best locations in all of France for us ever.

Posted by
295 posts

I have not been to Aix, but Nice is near several gorgeous spots on the Riviera. From Nice you can easily take the bus or train to Villefranche sur Mer which is charming and has a lovely small pebble beach, also St. Jean Cap Ferrat has a beautiful promenade on Maurice Rouvier and lovely walking areas. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in St.Jean Cap Ferrat has great views also. From Nice you could also go to the hilltop village of Eze. The Cote d'Azur has spectacular scenery! Vieux Nice was one of our favorite parts of Nice.

Posted by
665 posts

Are there apartment rental services for Provence or Nice? Or is there only AirBnB and VRBO?

Posted by
8506 posts

Yes. Nice is a winter destination so plenty of people rent a month at a time. In addition to being known in France as a “bourgeois” town, Aix is also a university town, so yes, there are agencies in both.

Posted by
21302 posts

Booking.com typically includes a lot of apartments among its options. I have never used Airbnb, VRBO, etc., but others have reported here that the same apartment is often listed on several websites at different prices, so it's worthwhile to Google a distinctive string of text from a listing you like to see whether the place is available for less money elsewhere. I believe Airbnb is sometimes more expensive than alternative websites, but the few apartments I've ended up in (because they were considerably cheaper than a hotel room) were from booking.com. I have never made rental-rate comparisons myself.

Do check cleaning fees carefully. I don't think they show up on high-level lists of possibilities. Of course, on a monthly rental any cleaning fee will probably be reasonable on a per-day basis. And cancellation policies can be a lot less lenient than is the case with hotels.

Posted by
847 posts

I've been to both (at least twice each) and for what you describe I'd choose Aix. While there are numerous worthwhile day trips from either, I think the edge goes to Aix. And I love the vibe of Aix itself. Especially for a whole month, to 'live like a local' and especially since being on the water is not a priority. And you are so close to Marseilles and Cassis for day trips if you want a bit of coast time.

Here's my photos of both areas: https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f667172952

Posted by
665 posts

AirBnB was great to work with when my daughter was asked to leave her AirBnB apartment in Paris due to a water leak. Reimbursed us 100% — even for the month that she stayed there because she was kicked out in the street in the middle of a 4-month agreement. And they sent us a credit wort several hundred.

Has anyone heard of this organization?
https://www.lux-residence.com/en/real-estate-listings/rent/luxury-real-estate-AIX+EN+PROVENCE.php?xtor=SEC-546807784-GOO-%5BDSA-lux%5D--S-%5B%5D&xts=251650&gclid=CjwKCAiAlajvBRB_EiwA4vAqiJKp-E3bKfvgLf2-W2tkcChT7r1YvyArK3Emelaa5jG2pq__0-ksfBoCvBkQAvD_BwE

Posted by
511 posts

In Nice there are a variety of professional (licensed and bonded) management firms that handle short term rentals, in addition to the VRBOs, AirBnbs, Arbritels/Homeaway, etc. They will often negotiate better rates for stays of one month or longer. Two such larger firms are Nice Pebbles and Nestor & Jeeves.

Posted by
665 posts

Thank you! So, I will look for apartments in Carre d'Or and the Pettit Marais in Nice and where in Aix? Is Old Town or Mazarin better? I think Cours Mirabeau would be too touristy, right?

Posted by
439 posts

Nice is nice enough (ugh, did I say that?) but I found Aix more compatible with your concerns. Nice seemed more touristy to me, more like a big city that the lacked charm of the interior. Personally my favorite was Avignon--it had everything--great markets, wonderful bakeries, lots of good restaurants and cafes, a small town feel and great easy connections by train for day trips. We spent 10 days there and really enjoyed it. It's more like Aix than Nice. If you choose Nice, my advice would be to either make sure you have AC or screens. In Vieux Nice, and not near a lot of greenery or water, we were miserable because of tons of mosquitoes and no screens. We were there in October. I didn't mind the heat, but the bugs ate me alive.

Posted by
1 posts

I’m going to piggyback here if that’s ok rather than start a new topic. I’m traveling single at age 68 and planning on renting an apartment in Aix for a month. First anyone stay anywhere they loved? I have some mobility issues and can’t do stairs that well and second any suggestions fo a company with which to do day trips from Aix to other areas? Thanks so much?

Posted by
665 posts

Hi Regmft,

I connected with someone on TripAdvisor who lives in Aix. He said the following:

The Mazarin is generally quieter, as there aren't any bars on that side of Cours Mirabeau. There are lots of tourists visiting Aix, but September is the 'mois des retraites' because all the kids are back in school. Apartments around the Palais de Justice and Hotel de Ville tend to have steep stairways, no lifts, and 'interesting' bathrooms.
If you want 'all mod cons'(up to date plumbing, lifts, double glazing, etc), look for flats in the Allées Provencale, which are the modern apartment blocks near the Rotonde fountain.

Posted by
1799 posts

Viex Nice because it has everything and you'll be in close proximity to places of interest compared to Aix en Provnece. There is no comparison between the Riviera and Malibu.

Posted by
11973 posts

Aix wasn't for me but might be a better base for driving around Provence.

Nice has more to do and IMO is a more interesting place. Traffic can be an issue getting up and down the Riviera - the train is good if you stay on the coast but not a good option getting off the coast.

Both are plenty touristy.

What month? I like Provence in September or October. I think it's too hot in the summer and the spring has the Mistral winds. For an entire month, you would likely get some winds but also periods without winds. A person who only has a few days to spend might have very strong winds for their entire stay.

I like the Riviera best in mid to late September because it's still nice weather but has calmed down from the summer rush. Riviera's proximity to the ocean might make winter travel better but I haven't experience winter weather in either area.

Posted by
665 posts

Thanks Brad and MaryPat! My husband and I (late 50s) have the luxury of working from home so thought we would mix it up and work from Europe. We’re thinking a mid-size town that is walkable. My husband thinks he would like a true village but I will get bored with a month in someplace too tiny. ;)

We won’t have a car.

I found a great apartment a block off Place Richelme in Aix with a terrace, lots of outdoor cafes close by... on weekends we would go to Marseilles, Avignon and maybe Lyon, maybe hike Montagne Sainte-Victoire. I really want to see St Remy as it is so popular.

In Nice I have been looking in Old Town and Le Carre D’Or but haven’t found an apartment yet... Weekend day trips would be St. Paul de Vence, Menton and see the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. We have been to Monaco, Villefranche, Eze and Cagnes Sur Mer.

Posted by
2071 posts

CaliMom, is the apartment on rue des Marseillais? If so, a heads up that the balcony is so tiny that you and the chairs will be squished! Doug and I had that apartment 4 years ago (I think) and although we enjoyed it, there's another one that we really prefer on rue Espariat. We've stayed there twice for a week each time. Also the one on rue des Marseillais also has the Pub O'Shannon where the college kids frequently party till at least 2:00.

Posted by
15045 posts

My only experience was 10N this year in the latter half of March - off season. Marseilles 2N, Nice 5N, Saint-Paul-de-Vence (with a car) 3N.

I loved the Vieux Port area of Marseilles, didn't venture outside the tourist areas. Nice was, yeah, nice, no more than that. I went to various towns along the coast by train which I enjoyed, but Nice felt like a big city to me, nothing quaint or village-y. There were lots of tourists, but nothing was crowded, except the Irish pubs on March 17 (and there are several in NIce). As someone mentioned, the area is a mix of French and Italian influences.

Saint-Paul was a great place to sleep, very quiet and romantic at night (within the walled village) with a couple good restaurants and bars frequented by a mix of locals and tourists - mostly locals at the bars, tourists at the restaurants. I'm told that during the day there are hordes of tourists. I left each morning between 9 and 10, before they arrived and returned around sunset as the last of them were leaving. It was very challenging to drive in and out of the walled village and parking was scarce.

Posted by
665 posts

Darcy, I sent you a private message! :)
Chani, I would love to go to St. Paul de Vence... but I have been warned on this Board and another that it is overrun with tourists.