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Nice, France - nice or not?

I will be in France for three weeks next September and have given Nice 5 days in my itinerary. My niece lived in Genoa for two years (2014-2016), and she said I should stay in a different town because Nice isn’t nice. So, for those who have been there in the last year, could you tell me if it’s a town you would want to stay? If no, is there another place you would recommend instead? I’ll be traveling solo during that portion, and I’m a female, 63 years old. I am planning to take a train or bus to some of the nearby villages and take a pastry cooking class while I’m there.

Posted by
1307 posts

I spent 4 nights in Nice on my own 2 years ago and really enjoyed it.
It's a lovely small city on the water with lots of nice cafes and museums and pretty good public transportation.
I didn't do a day trip out of town but wished that I had.
It is more Italian in feel than the rest of France so it's a pleasant contrast.

Posted by
1878 posts

My knowldge is not the most current since I visited on 2003, but we found Villefranche-sur-Mer appealing. Nice had its appeal in the old town area and the oven front promenade. The area around the train station felt very grungy, not uncommon in big cities. Rick seems to recommend Antibes. You might want to check the number or cruise ships in port. Also what were your niece’s specific concerns about Nice? They do have some highly related museums there.

Posted by
2699 posts

We ended a RS tour in Nice and two days was enough time. We visited the Chagall museum, strolled, ate lots of mussels. We then rented a car, drove to Lourmarin and spent a week doing day trips to small villages in the Luberon. I would not spend 5 days in Nice.

Posted by
27041 posts

Nice has at least six art museums, so if you are an art lover, it is really the most convenient place to stay. It also is a major transit hub for both trains along the coast and buses up into the hills. I enjoyed Nice, but then I get antsy if I spend too many nights in the same small town. Other people are charmed.

If you don't plan to overdose on the art museums in Nice, I think it will be perfect convenient to stay elsewhere along the coast. Just be sure the town has a train station (meaning not St.-Tropez). And if you plan to visit multiple hill towns, it would be smart to check on the logistics of doing that from the place you propose to stay. It wouldn't hurt to take a look at map to see the locations of the other towns you plan to visit. If they're all in the west, toward Cannes, you might not want to stay way over near Italy in a place like Menton, and vice versa.

The area within a block or two of the Nice Ville station is definitely not the prettiest in the city, but I stayed there in a perfectly nice small hotel (on a block that many people would not have liked), and within 1.5-2 blocks of my hotel were two very good French/Provencal restaurtants. I will definitely stay there again if I return to Nice (which I would gladly do).

I preferred Antibes to Villefranche-sur-Mer, but it is really a matter of taste. At a population of about 75,000, Antibes is more than ten times the size of VsM.

Posted by
380 posts

Nice has several regional buses and a train station. We rode the bus to Eze and Villefranche-sur-Mer, both nice places to visit. You could also go farther afield with the train. 5 days might be a bit much if you are just staying in Nice, but with some day trips it would make a good base. Also if you want to plan in some downtime, an easy day walking a bit on the boardwalk and then relaxing on the beach, Nice is a good choice (as I'm sure are many others). It is a bit gritty right around the train station but so are many towns.

Posted by
2442 posts

In past trips I've stayed in an AirBnB apartment in Nice and at a resort in Juan les Pins, and I would be happy to visit again -- no where near exhausted all there is to do.
It's easier to get beach time on the Antibes peninsula but the water may not be as sparkling blue, while it is easier to get train and bus connections from Nice, so decide on your priorities. A day and a half of beach is plenty for me -- would rather see another gallery or museum or mansion than another magnate showing off his trophy wife at the water.
The rise in short-term rentals probably does change the feel of Nice in the direction of Florida spring break a little bit, but that scene is easy enough to avoid if you read up on where to dine and where to hike ahead of time and make reservations rather than wandering the heavily trafficked market areas and choosing on the fly. Like anywhere else you can have a good time just flowing with the crowd or you can have a better time by exercising a little discrimination.

Posted by
1103 posts

We were in Nice for two days in May 2018 as part of the RS Loire Valley/South of France tour, and also stayed on two extra days in Nice on our own. We really enjoyed our time there, and found that there was plenty to do for four days. We did not even take any day trips to the surrounding area. The restaurants are great, and the old town area is charming.

Posted by
5252 posts

We spent two weeks close to Nice last August. We rented an Airbnb villa in a nearby town that turned out to be within a gated community. We popped into Nice several times as well as staying near to the airport on the final night. I wouldn't want to stay in Nice, I'd rather stay elsewhere but everyone's different.

Posted by
137 posts

We've stayed in Nice three or four times over the years, the last time being Christmas 2014. At that time we rented an apt for the two of us and our three adult children. As it was over Christmas, there was much to see in Nice and we all enjoyed it. We always felt safe.
Nice is a great transportation hub and it is easy and fairly cheap to travel along the coast. We did day trips to Antibes and Monaco/Monte Carlo. We spent a lovely Christmas Day at the beautiful Rothschild Villa in St Jean Cap Ferrat and virtually had the place to ourselves, eating lunch in their cafe with an amazing view of the sea.
October 2017, my husband and I spent a week in Villefranche sur mer and loved it. While it is small, we enjoyed being right on the beach and also walking around the Old Town. If you enjoy walking/hiking, you will love staying here. We were 61 and 63 at the time and walked along to the end of the beach, up a lot of steps and then over to Beaulieu and St Jean Cap Ferrat. Beaulieu has a Greek villa that we toured. We love the Rothschild Villa so we bought annual passes and visited every day we were there. There is a walking path between Beaulieu and St Jean Cap Ferrat that is very scenic. We also took the bus to Eze one day and I would certainly recommend it. Another day we took the train over to Menton. We always felt very safe wherever we were.
You'll have a wonderful time!

Posted by
7233 posts

I reserved Hotel Regence at 21 rue Massena (w/ free cancellation), so I could take the tram up to the train station and not need to be next to it for day trips. I see now that there’s an Amorino near the hotel, so my favorite food group is covered. : )

I wouldn’t be planning a suntan beach day - more of a relaxed walk along the promenade and enjoy the setting, stopping for a refreshing drink. The rest of my 3-week trip consists of 1-3 night stops, so this was planned to have a bit of relaxation from that pace....although I do like to have activities each day. And, I figured I would need a break from chateaus & huge cathedrals. Regarding villages, I love to photograph small villages so was hoping to take an early morning bus or train to some locales to take photos before the horde of day-trippers arrive late morning. Monaco isn’t a place I would seek out, but since I’m in the area, I would at least take a bus or train there and combine it with a stop in Menton if Menton is worth it. Thought I would wrap up this area with one or two museums, especially the Chagall. Even the Villa Massena - Musee d'Art et d'Histoire near my hotel would be worth an hour as I enjoy ones that aren’t as crowded.

Posted by
7233 posts

Susan, your trip in 2017 sounds wonderful! I’ll look into those options. I love interesting architecture - could spend hours just enjoying those locations!

Posted by
27041 posts

There were very few people in the Asian Art Museum and Naïve Art Museum [oops--in Nice] on the days I visited.

Menton has a very picturesque old quarter, but it was packed with tourists the days I was there (May 2017). I don't know how typical that is, but I heard a great deal of English being spoken and supposed that the city was popular with British visitors. The city has two really good gardens, one of them more or less walkable from the historic district (though closer to the town's secondary train station). The other is far enough away that you'd want to take a bus or a taxi. I think the bus stops at or very near the main train station. Despite its being very touristy, I liked Menton enough that I went there twice.

I'll second the earlier recommendations for the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and the (Greek-style) Villa Kerylos.

Posted by
673 posts

We have a place in Nice, so perhaps I'm a bit biased. I think for a solo female traveller with a lower interest in sandy beaches, it makes a lot of sense. It has the advantage that the main bus and train lines originate in the city, which makes it an excellent base to explore villages like Eze (bus 82), Villefranche-sur-Mer (train or line 100), St. Paul de Vence (bus 400), etc or venture up and down the Cote d'Azur.

September is a bit of the high season still so the scene on Rue Massena, near the Hotel Regence, will be quite lively well into the night. It's the main pedestrian zone in the Carre d'Or (Golden Square), and close to the heart of the city. If you prefer a quieter street, you might consider another -- but it is very close to key transport links.. Or consider an apartment (most are professionally managed), which can be affordable for five days and allow you prep a fresh meal from the daily market or have takeout from a local traiteur.

There are a number of cooking classes, btw, including Rosa Jackson's market tour and cooking class (les petites farcies). (Oh, and Amorino is fine but Fenocchio is the place to go in Nice for local flavors of ice cream).

The area around the train station has really transformed during the last 12 to 13 years, as has the rest of Nice, through some massive investments in the central city. The transformation continues with a new complex at the train station and the opening of a new direct tram from the airport in 2019.

Posted by
139 posts

I traveled to France for 25 years with high school students. I have been to Nice several times. It is a lovely city with plenty to do and see. However, the last time I visited with students I had a very bad experience which has colored my perception (right or wrong) of Nice and going forward I asked our tour company to substitiute another city for Nice. On future trips we stayed in Cannes and did a day trip to Nice. We were lodged with another high school group of students. One night someone broke into two rooms, a chaperone from the other group and a student room. They stole their purses while they slept. They were unaware of what happened until the next day when they got a call from the police telling them they found their purses which had been discarded. The police believe the intruders climbed onto and awning and accessed the rooms from the outside. It was a very upsetting experience for all. Admittedly, the hotel was near the train station. During that same trip I read in the newpaper that the body of a woman was found in the Parc de la Colline du Chateau above the old city. Those two things made me feel unsafe in Nice.

Posted by
299 posts

I don't think you should let any stories like this scare you away from this beautiful, culturally rich city. Just make sure you take normal precautions. I'm older than you and I'd go back there in a heartbeat. You'll love Nice!

Posted by
1829 posts

I visited Nice this summer and I did not have the highest of expectations. It exceeded them.
I only stayed the day and explored the old town, flower market, promenade, beach and the Castle Hill park.

To stay in Nice or one of the surrounding towns, I don't think there is one right answer. We stayed in the town of Eze but had a car, where we stayed would not have been good without a car. If day tripping to the other towns via public transit is a main criteria than Nice will be more convenient than anywhere else and think the plan of staying along the promenade area with easy access to the tram to reach the train station is a good one.

Seems like most everyone has the same impression of Monte Carlo / Monaco. Definitely a check the box, glad I went but would not return, I was nearby so had to see it once kind of place.

Posted by
7233 posts

Thank you, everyone, for your comments - both pro & con! Your details have given me a better idea of the area - special thanks to Gooster for your details & gelato shop advice. 10,000 steps earns a gelato break, so I’ll be checking that one, too!

My niece had recommended staying in Cannes and avoiding Nice. But, the daytrips i am planning are near Nice or east of that city, so it made more sense to stay there. Also, I like a larger city if I’m at a location several days, so there’s more things to do.

Posted by
3683 posts

It just goes to show that everyone has different tastes. I have been to both Cannes and Nice and would choose Nice over Cannes mainly because Cannes had such a "oh, look at me, I have a lot of money and a trophy wife" feel to the places where I was. I did buy a gorgeous handbag there though so it does have its benefits.

Posted by
1829 posts

I preferred Nice over Cannes as well as a day tripping tourist to both towns.

I have been told by relatives who lived in Vence very close to Nice that Nice did not used to be so nice as a tourist location years back when they lived in the area. That was before the tram system which really improved the downtown area for tourism.
They also had the terrorist attack in 2016

Just mentioning both of these as your relative's opinion on Nice may have been influenced by one of both of these.

Posted by
7233 posts

Mreynolds, when she and her friend took a day trip to Nice from Cannes, it was just three days before the terrorist attack occurred.

Posted by
7233 posts

JHK, my husband may need to accompany me to this part of our vacation to complete the trophy wife ensemble look - BIG laugh!!! He’s flying to Paris to join me the last week of this trip.

Posted by
673 posts

That time of year, in July, is crowded and quite hot. As I recall, Euro 2016 was also on and the city was overrun with footie/soccer "lads/mecs" and there were special stages and areas blocking movement (and normal vistas). September is much better, with better weather, warm seas, and fewer people (but not empty by any means).

Cannes does give some people an impression of snobbery and pretension, but I'm not sensitive to the trophy wife phenomenon nor the trappings of a high end feel (positive or negative). On the plus side, there is a good range of high end boutiques and shops, it's smaller and relatively compact. But it's also slightly more expensive (in general) with fewer things to do, and as you noted, it's less central to most desired day trips (other than the Lerins Islands).

Posted by
3940 posts

We've been to Nice three times - the first time we stayed in Villefranche-sur-Mer (2012), then the next two times we were either arriving or leaving via the airport so just spent a night at a hotel walking distance to the airport (2015/18). I like Nice - walking along the Promenade (I so enjoy doing this), wandering the Old Town - and there are so many great little places accessible via the trains/bus. We aren't art lovers, so we skipped the museums (hearsay!!) but we enjoyed visiting the Russian Orthodox church (a first for us) and Castle Hill - I think if you stay in a hotel with easy access to the transport system, you'll be fine.

Posted by
12172 posts

Nice isn't bad but it's a pretty large city.

Menton is known as a family destination, the beach is mostly rocks and I didn't find anything particularly attractive about it. It's appreciated because lodging is a better deal than much of the riviera and it's low key rather than glam.

My personal favorite is Antibes. I loved that it has a nice marina, nicest white sand beaches, a medieval town center and ramparts, restaurant/cafe area and well regarded art gallery all in a walkable package.

I stayed in Juan les Pins, just across the peninsula from Antibes. It also has sand, not pebbly, beaches but not quite as white of sand as Antibes.

Monaco, Villefranche sur Mer and Cannes were all nice places to visit but wouldn't be my favorite for a stay in the area.

The best way to get around is to take a train along the coast, buses will get stuck in traffic (why you don't want a car). Virtually every town along the coast has a train station. Depending on where you stay you might prefer a taxi from the station rather than walking. If you fly into Nice, it's about a mile to the closest train station.

Posted by
7233 posts

Thank you, everyone, for your very helpful comments! I really appreciate the time you took to reply. Based on your input and looking overall at the sites along the coast and my travel style, I’m going to keep my hotel reservation in Nice for that portion of my trip.

Posted by
3990 posts

Love Nice! Not just on the water but in the old town. Have fun at the pastry cooking class!

Posted by
1334 posts

Nice is certainly worth a visit ! For the art alone! I love it. It feels very Italian and the cuisine is spectacular. I went back in 2012 when I was in grad school and am going next year in March,