Nice, France is a popular tourist destination in the summer, but after a cold few months of winter, I was desperate for an escape to a slightly nicer climate and booked a trip in hopes for better weather, tasty food and a cost-effective city break.
I wasn’t entirely sure what the city would be like in winter, but made the leap and was happy to find the city is still very much alive during the winter months.
Here’s a list of my favourite things to do in Nice during a winter break (although these things are also available in the summer):
1. Visit the old town – The Old Town is one of the most popular areas of town for people looking to experience traditional Nice and explore the quaint winding streets and specialized shops, local goods markets and majestic churches.
2. Explore the city with a local – one of my favourite things to do when I visit a new city is to spend time with the locals. If I don’t know anyone in the city that I’m visiting, I check to see if the city runs a greeters program. I had a fantastic tour when I was in Athens and now make it a priority to have a tour with a local wherever possible. When run by the city’s tourism board, these programs are entirely free to visitors and allow you the chance to scratch beneath the city’s surface. Fortunately, Nice has a greeters program and through it we were matched with Gaetan, who spent a few hours walking through the city with us, telling us about the local history and culture and making recommendations on things to see and do during our trip.
3. Admire the architecture and original fixtures – there are some beautiful buildings and original features in Nice, especially in the old town. Take a walk through the town and see if you can spot Mattise’s old house or the beautiful original tiling and fixtures on the stores which have been preserved throughout the generations.
4. Order the rose house wine – Although you’ll be offered a full list of wine’s at any restaurant you visit, your best bet will always be to order the house wine. Typically offered by the glass, or in half a litre or a litre amounts, this wine is usually produced by a hyper-local producer, exceptionally tasty and often half the price of buying a bottle of the next cheapest wine in the restaurant. We decided to do this at almost every restaurant we visited (the rose wine is highly recommended in this region) after being advised to do so by the locals, and were not disappointed. Every wine we tried was exceptional! We could often buy a half litre of wine to split between us over a leisurely dinner for less than €8. Although not every single restaurant offers this option, we found that the house wines regardless of where we ordered them were exceptional.
5. Try socca – this traditional street-food from Nice is made from chickpea flour and cooked in large pans over an open flame. The dish can be bought at restaurants and at the outdoor markets in Nice (where we bought ours). It’s a really tasty treat and, the locals will tell you it’s best served with a cold glass of rose wine. Fantastic!
6. Check out the view from Le Chateau – despite the name, Le Chateau in Nice is not actually a castle. It is, however, a rather tall hill from which you can get a spectacular view over the city. Although there are free elevators available that will take you to the top of the hill, it’s a lovely and not overly strenuous walk to the top. It will take less than 10 minutes to get to the top, so try and time your trip to arrive just before sunset. You’ll be treated to fantastic views over the city and a beautiful sunset.
7. Check out/stay in Napoleon’s old apartment – one of the sites we would have missed entirely if it weren’t for Gaetan, our local greeter, was a tour of Napoleon’s old apartment. Napoleon’s old residence is now being rented out as private holiday apartments, so it’s possible to rent out his old accommodation during your holiday. Although it was too late to change our accommodation, Gaetan knows the owners of the apartment and managed to get us a cheeky look inside.
8. Enjoy the beach – There is a long pebble beach which stretches across one side of the city and it’s lovely to walk across the boardwalk or sit at a nearby cafe or restaurant (located across the street from the beach) and to listen to the crashing waves. For best results, combine your beach time with a bottle of local rose wine (see point 4).
9. Take a day trip – Nice is a pretty city, but I really didn’t need more than a day or two there to feel like I’d seen and done most of the things I wanted to see and do. There are a number of other great locations close to the city which I highly recommend you take the time to check out. We went on a day trip to the medieval town of Eze, right on the coast, and then made our way to the country of Monaco in the afternoon. We had a great time on this day trip, but there are also a number of other great locations nearby to check out, like Cannes, where the world famous film festival takes place every year in.