Promenade du Paillon, or coulee verte (green belt), as it is often referred to by locals, is conveniently sandwiched between Place Massena and Place Garibaldi on one side and Old Town and newer, trendy areas on the other. It is an unbeatable location for taking a break before venturing on yet another sightseeing mission. It has a playground and fountains for kids, a tourist information centre, toilets and free wi-fi for visitors, lush vegetation and convenient sitting areas for pensioners, and the overall atmosphere of a movable feast for everyone. The park often hosts poster exhibitions, free jazz concerts during the July Jazz Festival and numerous cultural events.
The recently unveiled park is a E40 million project which started in 2011 and involved the demolition of the old bus station and the three-story parking lot as part of the general rejuvenation of the area. Today the area covers 12 hectares and boasts 1600 trees, 50 000 perennials and 6 000 shrubs. The closing hours depend upon the season, 9 pm off season and 11 pm during high season.
Cours Saleya in Old Nice is everything you always thought a French market should be and more. The produce, the aromas, the colours, the ambiance. It is a picture-perfect place to spend the morning in search of a loaf of bread, truffle cheese, freshly-made sausage, fish and numerous Provencal specialties – honey, spices, sugared fruit, lemons, garlic, mesclun salad mix and so on. The market’s fruits and vegetables, bright and succulent, are hard to resist, and the aroma of socca, freshly prepared and delivered to the market, entices you to part with your money there and now. And, of course, the restaurants lining Cours Saleya on both sides provide tempting lunch opportunities – from seafood to traditional Nicois dishes.
If you go, make sure to come relatively early. After 12 pm many of the produce vendors are getting ready to leave and are gone by 1 pm. The Flower Market, located at the end of Cours Saleya, close to the Opera House, stays open longer. In the evening, restaurant tables and souvenir stands replace produce stalls, and the place buzzes with new energy – people having pre-dinner aperitifs, tourists shopping for mementoes and couples strolling holding hands. On Monday, Cours Saleya exchanges the vegetable market for an antiques market. It is a treasure-trove for people looking for vintage designer purses, silverware, linen napkins and tablecloths, old books and posters, and all sorts of other exciting things. You have to know your antiques, otherwise you might wind up with somebody’s old junk. Despite all that, the hunt can be exhilarating, and, if treated as entertainment, very enjoyable.
Strolling down Promenade des Anglais is an essential experience of visiting Nice. Lined with palm trees and stretching for almost seven kilometers along the beach, it is the place to be for both visitors and locals. The early morning crowd of joggers, bikers, tourists in tennis shoes and other comfortable gear is gradually replaced by smart-looking older French women, heels and all, Eastern European nouveau riche with high-heeled young girls on their arms, and young families with strollers. In the evening, they are joined by artists selling their work, musicians and entertainers, souvenir peddlers, and fashionable couples. And, of course, the place is heaven for pensioners occupying the Promenade’s blue chairs and watching the passers-by.
In the summer, one can have a drink or a meal in one of the numerous restaurants set up as part of private beaches along the Promenade. Or you can simply go to one of the free beaches, located in-between the private ones, and bring your own picnic. The experience is no less exciting. Watching night ferries arriving from Corsica and planes making their approach to the airport, listening to the sounds of jazz coming from musicians on the Promenade while drinking your rose makes you think over and over again: “La vie est belle.”
Le Chateau: an Enchanted Garden
Perched on a hill with breathtaking views of the port of Nice, the Old Town and the Baie des Anges, Le Chateau is a park like none other. It offers everything for everyone, just take your pick. Tourists take relish in taking pictures of Nice from above and the park’s waterfall, in strolling down its numerous pathways, in examining the old ruins, and in sipping coffee in one of the park’s cafes or, even better, rose champagne purchased in Old Town and brought to the Castle Hill for the occasion (it tastes even better with sea views and all). Locals with young children congregate near Le Chateau’s playground, while others find a bench in a secluded spot to read a book or chat with a friend. In the morning, this is the place for all sorts of sports activities – joggers running up and down the steps from the quai des Etats-Unis, martial artists training and seniors doing Tai-Chi. Off season, mornings are the time when you feel that Le Chateau belongs to you. It is your personal piece of heaven on earth when doing yoga or sit-ups is not a personally inflicted torture but a gift, and when discovering a new pathway among the secret maze of walkways is your bonus of starting a new day.
One can access Le Chateau from le quai des Etats-Unis by steps or by taking the free elevator. A more exciting and interesting way of getting there is through Old Nice. It is also easier in terms of climbing steps – they are not as steep and one has to walk short distances before taking a new set of steps. An additional bonus is an opportunity to visit the three cemeteries of the park – Catholic, Protestant and Jewish with such famous people, among others, as Gaston Leroux (author of “Phantom of the Opera”) and Alexander Herzen (Russian writer) buried there. All in all, an experience not to be missed.
5 Rue de la Poissonnerie, 06300 Nice, France
Tel. +33 4 93 80 92 45
Old Nice is flooded with good bakeries; choices are immense, and decisions are difficult to make. Each bakery has its own face, adding something extra to the usual selection of croissants, pain au chocolat, pissaladiere, pain bagnat, etc. Thus we always find ourselves shopping for “baguette tradition” in the bakery close to Chez Palmyre, “brioche a la pistache” in the bakery off Palais de Justice, and “tarte fleur d’oranger” on rue Droite.
However, there is one bakery, La Fougasserie, where we shop every day. Our daily purchase is their multigrain bread, the recipe of which comes unchanged from the 17th century. The bread is the best I have ever had. It offers a mixture of textures – a crunchy crust, soft chewy inside and an abundance of grains sprinkled over the crust. Faced with describing it to friends, I call it “orgasmic”, which makes my husband look visibly embarrassed but nevertheless gives justice to this artisanal creation. Needless to say, the bread is sold out very quickly. However, one can reserve a loaf or two, a tip which took us years to learn and which makes our life now considerably easier. No cake for us, Marie Antoinette, when we can have our “pain multigrain” from La Fougasserie.
1 Rue Sainte-Reparate, 06300 Nice, France
Nice has an abundance of ice cream shops, and most of them are very good. Perhaps the reason for it is the high competition with Italians who open numerous gelato places here. The flavours and colours of local ice cream are mind-boggling, and choosing one is not easy. That said, our favourite ice cream shop is Gelateria Azzuro in Old Nice, and this is why.
The first thing that springs is the friendliness of the staff. Fiercely proud of their product, they are not anxious to make a sale if a customer might not be satisfied. I was once tempted to buy violet ice cream. The colour looked so pretty, and the idea of eating a flower-based gelato sounded good. “Have you ever tried it before?” was the question which I got from the vendor. After my “no”, he offered me a taste which saved me from a bad purchase. Non-traditional flavours could sometimes be a challenge. In the end, I settled for Ferrero Rocher, one of my favourite flavours. It turned out to be the best I have ever tasted which prompted me to return to the shop over and over again.
Gelateria Azzurro is a family-run business which opened in Nice in 1996. Their specialty is home-made ice cream and cones. It is hugely popular with the local French, another good sign. Last time I bought ice cream there I saw a sign- “2nd best ice cream shop in France”. I was not surprised in the least.
3 Rue de la Tour, 06300 Nice, France
Imagine you have very limited time in Nice, you are dying for a drink (and food), and you have to make only one choice which will satisfy all your touristy requirements – authentically French, a pretty location, the presence of locals, lots of character, great wine and food, and, most importantly, good prices. Then you do not have to look any further than Cave de la Tour.
An institution in Nice since 1947, this family-run business is located in one of the most picturesque streets in Old Town. Its specialty is local wines served by the glass. You can also order a bottle, an experience which will not break your wallet. A plat du jour, usually a local specialty, is served at lunch. Making reservations is essential since seating is limited and you will have to compete with both tourists and locals who love the place. Otherwise, having a drink inside or outside, at large oak barrels serving as tables, is also a treat. One can always order cheese or some other kind of local snacks, like pissaladiere, to go with wine. All in all, a very satisfying experience.
7 Rue Saint-François de Paule, 06300 Nice, France
If one were to choose the most beautiful shop in Nice, it will undoubtedly be Maison Auer in Old Town. Located in front of the Nice Opera House, the shop boasts a stunningly beautiful Florentine-style interior. It is a family-run business since 1820, and the current owner Thierry Auer is the fifth generation chocolatier. Fiercely committed to producing some of the best products on the Cote d’Azur, Thierry keeps his business local, having refused to expand to Paris. His guiding principles are loyalty to the quality of his products and the quality of his own life. After all, La vie est belle a Nice.
Maison Auer is a chocolaterie confiserie. It sells chocolate, candied fruit, glazed chestnuts and many other local specialties. A great thing about the store is that you can buy as many or as few delicacies as you wish. I like the idea of picking several chocolates to share with my husband, a fun thing to do without worrying about calories. Among my favourite products are chocolate almonds. I have never tasted anything better. Maison Auer is not cheap but is worth every penny. No wonder that even Queen Victoria was one of the customers.
13 Rue Bavastro, 06000 Nice, France
Visiting Nice and never tasting socca is like visiting France and never having champagne. A local specialty, socca is a chick-pea flatbread sold all over Nice in restaurants, cafes and special socca stands. If you would like to taste what is considered the best socca in town, Chez Pipo is your place. Going to Chez Pipo for socca would also give you a nod of approval from the locals, read “you have good taste”.
An institution in Nice, Chez Pipo is located in the port area. They do not take reservations and are always extremely busy. If you would like to sit outside in the summer, make sure you plan for it, otherwise the wait might be long. A portion of socca and a glass of rose is all you need for a pleasant appero, but they also serve other local specialties like pissaladiere, tapenades, etc. Not to be missed!
5 Rue Droite, 06300 Nice, France
Phone: +33 4 93 85 72 32
If you have to pick just one restaurant in Old Nice which would reflect the local cuisine and culture plus give you the best value for your money, choose Chez Palmyre. Mind you, you have to make reservations as far in advance as possible. I have never seen anyone showing up at the last minute and getting in. A week in advance should be sufficient, but if you prefer dinner to lunch, you might consider contacting them earlier.
The place is very French and filled with locals. The interior is simple but with a lot of character. The walls are decorated with finds from the local antiques market. The menu, which changes once every several weeks and reflects seasonal products, is written with a chalk on the mirrors and boards. For mere 18 euros you can get a very memorable meal. Alcohol is very inexpensive. All in all, this is a never-fail choice.