Tourists can stroll the charming streets of Vieille Ville, the old town of Nice, which draws visitors with its antique shops, small bistros, museums and fashion boutiques. Vieille Ville stretches from the foot of Castle Hill all the way to Place Massena, the main square of the city. This is also one of the best places to sample the region’s delicious pastries and Nicois-style pizzas.
Musee Matisse is a museum dedicated to the expansive collection of works by French artist Henri Matisse. Situated within a 17th century villa in the hills of Cimiez in northern Nice, the museum houses hundreds of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by the French master, as well as a large collection of the personal belongings of Matisse.
The largest of its kind in Western Europe, Cathedrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint Nicolas is also arguably the most beautiful Orthodox Church outside of Russia. The Cathedrale boasts an ornate façade with blue onion-shaped domes topped by glimmering gold crosses. The Cathedrale was completed in 1912 and is well worth a visit.
Nestled in the hills of Nice is the beautiful perched village of Eze and the enchanting walled town of Saint-Paul de Vence. Both of these wonderful attractions are well worth the effort of getting to them.
During your stay in Nice, you can take a day trip to Monaco, a principality in which everything screams luxury. Be sure to pay a visit to the dazzling casino in Monte Carlo, a masterpiece with sweeping staircases, gilt ceilings and crystal chandeliers.
The harbor of Nice is an obvious choice with all the glamorous yachts moored there, right next to brightly painted fishermen’s boats. Here you will find an abundance of bars and restaurants at which you can sit outside and have a meal or enjoy a drink within the lovely surroundings. Quai Lunel is a must visit while you are in the Nice harbor area.
Warm in the winter and hot in the summer, Nice boasts a dazzling Mediterranean coastline with azure waters, while offering a much needed retreat from the hustle and bustle of the bigger French cities. All in all, Nice makes for a most beautiful place to visit in France that’s very deserving of a spot on your travel itinerary.
Dubbed the “Pearl of France”, Menton serenely rests on the eastern French Riviera. Situated a 35 minute train ride from Nice, Menton boasts a number of attractions worth seeing.
With its unique microclimate, Menton is a great place for growing its famous lemons. It is also a place where locals crowd into outdoor seats at cafes during winter. For most of the year, there is sunshine, possibly 316 glorious days of it.
While Menton could be regarded as an upscale resort town, it is arguably the least pretentious. The restaurants here are modest and mostly Italian. You can also find tasty Moroccan food here. As such, Menton is comfortable. It’s not really about expensive designer shops, but rather about its many gardens. If you are into exotic botanicals, you can visit Jardin Botanique Exotique du Val Rahmeh.
A strolling city, Menton boasts being host to Monet, Flaubert and Liszt, among others, all of whom enjoyed a stroll on its streets. Musee Municipal is Menton’s museum that features everything from modern art to a collection of prehistoric exhibits from the local area.
The main attraction at the Hotel del Ville, Menton’s town hall is the Salle des Mariages. The room was decorated by Jean Cocteau in frescoes that took 2 years to paint, starting from 1957. Cocteau was also involved with the furnishings you will see inside this room.
Cocteau worked extensively along the French Riviera and his works can also be admired in the Bastion and the Jean Cocteau-Severin Wunderman museum.
The Bastion of Menton was constructed in 1619 on the orders of the Prince of Monaco for purposes of defending the Bay of Menton. Cocteau felt the Bastion would make a good museum space and therefore undertook its renovation, by creating a staircase, pastels, ceramics, tapestries, drawings, watercolors and mosaics made of pebbles.
Having amassed a large collection of works by Cocteau and others displayed inside his California warehouse, Severin Wunderman bequeathed all this to a museum that was opened in 2011 close to the old port.
This collection includes 1,800 works, 990 of which are by Cocteau, including ceramics, jewelry, paintings, drawings, tapestries, photography, pebble mosaics, cinema and audio. Of the other works, 450 are by Cocteau’s friends such as Picasso and Miro.
Other works by Cocteau can be viewed in Villefranche-sur-Mer, at the Chapelle Saint-Pierre which overlooks the old port; as well as the Cap d’Ail’s Centre Mediterraneen d’Etudes Francaises.
Thanks to its fine weather, Menton is famous for its extensive gardens, the top 2 of which are Jardin Botanique and Jardin Bioves. Jardin Bioves is situated at 8 Avenue Boyer adjacent to the Belle Époque Palais d’Europe, a former casino that today houses the Cultural Center and Tourist Office.
The Menton Market Hall features an antique market as well as a Saturday flea market at the parking lot adjacent to the Market Hall. Inside the market are several bread, wine and cheese stands from which you can obtain a fine picnic or even a full meal for self-caterers.
Menton is a great destination to visit especially during the off season. Plan your visit in early spring to attend the Lemon Festival held in honor of Menton’s famous lemons.
Hearty travelers can walk along the coastal route to Monaco, although this trip is easier via train. If you have a car, Menton is great as a base for visiting some of the perched villages of the region. Sun bunnies will love Menton’s famed beaches.
All in all, Menton is a laid-back spot to visit, a place to recharge your batteries before further exploring the stunning Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur region.
A place where fairytale comes to life, elegant little Monaco is the playground of the French Riviera. Measuring only one square mile, Monaco nevertheless boasts outsize attractions. The jewel-like principality overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and features an expansive harbor that glitters at night with lights from the lengthiest and most expensive yachts in the world.
Aside from all the glitter, the legendary luxury travel destination is also famous for its glorious Mediterranean perch, mild, sunny year-round climate and ultra-festive summer season. The Mediterranean sea offers a breathtaking backdrop to the frolics that go on in Monaco.
Take a stroll around the old town where you can admire architecture dating from the medieval period. Monaco is full of narrow walkways and vaulted passageways, which are perfect for a romantic stroll. Allow yourself to be intoxicated by the scents from Monaco’s Jardin Exotique, where over 7,000 varieties of flowers bloom, and the exquisite Princess Grace Rose Garden flourishes.
It is easy to access Monaco by train from Nice, which is about 10 miles away or take a ferry during the summer months. A diversion in itself, Monaco is an ideal spot to take a break en route to the south of France or northern Italy. Visitors can take half daytrips to charming spots such as Cap Ferrat on the coast, or a full day trip to Saint-Tropez or Cannes.
If there’s one attraction that defines Monaco in all its high-rolling glamour, it’s the Casino de Monte-Carlo. Constructed in 1863, the Belle Époque structure was designed by Charles Garnier, the architect behind Monaco’s opera house, and the famous one in Paris.
Architecture buffs the opera house and Grand Casino whose highlights include verdigris cupolas, Rococo turrets and golden chandeliers. The Baroque casino offers a range of table games to wager on, as well as entertainment from Jimmy’s disco and Le Cabaret. If gambling is not your thing, you can still enjoy Mediterranean views from the terraces of the Salle Medecin and Salle Blanche.
But if world class fine dining is your thing, then you will be spoilt for choice in Monaco. The principality has five-star hotels strung along the Mediterranean to ensure that its visitors dine well.
The ruling Grimaldi dynasty of Monaco traces its lineage to the 13th century, which makes it Europe’s oldest reigning family. History buffs should find the Grimaldi palaces intriguing.
Visit the historic Le Rocher district for a tour of Palais Princier, the Prince’s Palace, whose oldest wing was constructed during the 13th century. Some of the rooms inside the Prince’s Palace at the top of the Rock of Monaco are open to the public.
One of the tour highlights is Prince Rainier’s vintage car collection. The collection comprises approximately 100 vehicles on display, including Jaguars, Maseratis, Rolls-Royces, Lamborghinis and many more.
In November, the Monte Carlo Jazz Festival brings international jazz artists such as Herbie Hancock to Monaco on a 4-day festival staged inside the dazzling Beaux Arts-style Salle Garnier inside the Opera de Monte Carlo.
Go party and dance at the Black Legend Monaco, an energetic harbor side bar, lounge and restaurant that transforms into a pulsating dance venue around midnight. The Black Legend Monaco is entirely a tribute to African-American music, from soul, funk and Motown, to contemporary R&B.
Started in 1929, the Grand Prix de Monaco is one of the most famous and electrifying sporting events in the world. Each May during the Grand Prix, hundreds of super fast cars race throughout the principality. The race is regarded as the most challenging of any major race, with its perilous circuit that cuts through the city streets, tunnels and winding cliff roads of Monaco.
3. Cathedrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint Nicolas
Symbolic and timeless, the Cathedrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint Nicolas is the Russian orthodox cathedral of Nice that would look right at home in Moscow. Dedicated to Saint Nicolas, the Cathedrale offers a glimpse of Moscow on the Mediterranean, its onion stretching to the sky, poking up between the tropical palm trees in unique contrast.
An architectural gem constructed in the year 1912, the cathedral is widely considered as being the most beautiful Russian religious building outside of Russia. It looks as if it was shipped directly from Moscow with its brightly colored brick exterior crowned with fanciful onion-shaped domes. Its interior color scheme and architecture is reminiscent of a bejeweled Easter egg.
The cathedral is the largest Eastern Orthodox place of worship outside Russia. Its Russian architecture is easy to distinguish from the surrounding buildings as it features the standard onion dome structure you would expect to see in Moscow.
Inside is a treasure of historical artifacts and icons, much of which was transferred to Nice during the Russian Civil War. The cathedral’s collection of icons is indeed one of the world’s finest.
A rather surprising yet amazing sight, the cathedral is situated at Avenue Nicolas-II boulevard Tzarevitch. If you’re already on this street, the onion-shaped domes, bright colors and detailed ornamentation of the church will be hard to miss.
Visitors can take a tour of the cathedral during which you will see what lies underneath the onion domes, such as the religious icons and frescoes. Whether your interest lies in history, architecture or matters of faith, you’ll find plenty to pique your interest in this church. The cathedral speaks to the history of Nice as a popular destination for tourists from all across the globe.
4. Port de Nice
The port of Nice is one of the main harbors for boats sailing across the Mediterranean. The port enjoys an almost central location in Nice and is a notable leisure site that’s dotted with a number of sightseeing opportunities. Notable for its history, the old port of Nice boasts over 1,000 years of history behind it.
The attractive harbor setting at Port de Nice is lined with restaurants and offers quick access to Vieille Ville with all its galleries and artisan shops, as well as the famous Cours Saleya flower market, the Colline du Château, several beaches and many cafes and restaurants.
The port is relatively small, compact and navigable and has a harbor wall pointing out towards Cap Ferrat that makes for a very pleasant stroll. Be sure to check out the fish restaurants at the beautiful 18th century square, Place Garibaldi.
Quai Lunel in the old port has attractive colorful buildings and is a great place to wander and identify a restaurant for lunch or dinner with a view. Just west of Quai Lunel is the Quartier Segurane, a neighborhood famous for its flea markets and antique shops at which you can find an authentic antique bargain cheaper than you would at the center of Vieille Ville.
Visitors could easily spend their entire vacation within 10 minutes walk from the port which boasts many interesting attractions. Here you can indulge in the Terra Amata Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art as well as the Palais Lascaris in Vieille Ville.
Filled with yachts at any time of the year, the old port is a great place to soak up some maritime atmosphere and Nice, both the past and the present.
Each year, the Nice harbor and surrounding French Riviera attract at least half of the world’s super yachts, with an estimated 90% of all super yachts in the world visiting here at last once. Sit at a harbor front café where you can gaze at the gleaming mega-yachts as you tuck into a delightful croquet-monsieur, steak frites or salad Nicoise.
To access the port of Nice from the Nice center, simply take a walk around the waterfront onto the balcony-style walkway past the large interactive sundial or venture through Vieille Ville to Place Garibaldi and along the Rue Cassini. Place Garibaldi is the area surrounding the port which has been renovated and largely pedestrianised.
Travelers can also leave the Nice port and head out onto the water hopping on a ferry to take you to ports on Corsica such as Calvi, Bastia, Ajaccio and Ile Rousse.
5. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Of the numerous spectacular villas along the French Riviera, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is one of the most palatial. Constructed in 1905, the main purpose of the Villa was to house the growing art collection of Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild.
The Villa was also a place of music and conversation, for art collectors and literary gatherings, far removed from the racier delights of the Cote d’Azur and places such as St. Tropez and the Monte Carlo Casino. Despite the grandeur of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, the building offers a delightful feel of being a real home.
Perched atop the hills above Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, the Villa’s Neo-Classical, pink-washed façade is famed for its splendid gardens. Visitors can stroll through its formal sections that are grown with fragrant roses, among other flowers, past cascading fountains, into Japanese, French and tropical gardens, all of which offer panoramic views over the Mediterranean and its rocky hillsides.
The rooms inside the Villa run off the main covered courtyard and all feature decorations of art, antiques and furniture. Highlights include the unrivaled drawings collection of Jean-Honore Fragonard, the private apartments of the original owner, and a wonderful collection of precious china and porcelain.
With its little medieval village, sandy shores and relaxed atmosphere, Villefranche-sur-Mer offers a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of larger cities close by on the French Riviera. A small undiscovered beach city along the French Riviera, Villefranche-sur-Mer is situated very close to Nice, although its beach is quieter, sandier and less crowded with tourists than its more high profile neighbor.
Most visitors to Villefranche-sur-Mer head straight for the beach, and with good reason. The beach is small but rarely as crowded as the bigger beaches close by. Adjacent to the beach are several ice cream stands where you can enjoy a drink or a cool treat.
There are only a few cafes here, but sunbathing is much more enjoyable. Looming overhead are beautiful mansions and a delightful market.
The old town of Villefranche-sur-Mer is situated a short walk from its port and beach, and makes for a wonderful afternoon of aimless wandering and café dining. This old medieval town with cobblestone streets and vaulted passages oozes with charm and atmosphere.
Eglise Saint-Michel is a Baroque Italian church that was constructed in the 1700s on the site of an earlier 14th century church. Situated in the heart of old town Villefranche-sur-Mer, the church is worth a visit for its lovely architectural details. Visitors can also take a peek at the impressive sculpture of the Christ dating from the 18th century.
Be sure to see the Chapelle Saint Pierre that’s situated down on the seafront. In agreement with the local fishermen, French artist Jean Cocteau (1895-1963) in 1957 decorated the Chapelle in great swirling and powerful scenes of the life of Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, and local scenes, along with designing the stained glass windows that depict scenes of the Apocalypse.
The pretty harbor, narrow alleys and roads of its old town that climb up a hillside filled with tall, brightly-colored houses, restaurants and shops, as well as the Citadelle are reasons enough to visit the delightful, low-key village of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
And you can always hop on the train from Villefranche-sur-Mer and be in Nice in less than 5 minutes. Yes, Villefranche-sur-Mer is literally situated just 5 minutes away from Nice. You will have already arrived even before you get comfortable in your seat.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is also a wonderful central location to vacation in and enjoy daytrips to several French Riviera destinations including Eze, Saint Paul de Vence, Monte Carlo, Cannes and Antibes. Your daytrip options from Villefranche-sur-Mer could take up an entire month, much less a week’s vacation.
7. Musee Matisse
Musee Matisse is home to a splendid collection of artworks by Henri Matisse. The museum’s collection is on display inside a red-ochre Genoese villa dating from the 17th century and which overlooks the tree-studded Parc des Arenes. Close by is Hotel Regina at which Matisse lived during his time in Nice. Temporary exhibitions are held inside this futuristic basement building.
Founded in 1963, the museum is an imperative for all art connoisseurs who wish to learn more about the life and work of Matisse. Here, works of varying techniques and genres are on display, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, collages, pictures and leaded panes. The museum features 68 paintings, 57 sculptures and 236 drawings, all by the artist.
The museum’s reception hall is dominated by a colorful paper cutout frieze that’s entitled Flowers and Fruits, which Matisse designed in 1953 for a Californian villa. Other famous pieces in the museum’s permanent collection include the artist’s paper cut-outs of Blue Nude IV and Woman with Amphora. Another of his famous works on display is Still Life with Pomegranates.
The art collection is arranged such that when comparing the styles, visitors can gain more insight into the artist’s development and changes in art periods. One of the halls of the second floor has been entirely dedicated to Matisse’s last masterpiece, which was the decoration adorning the Chapelle in Vence.
Matisse was a great and never-tiring artist who spent his life in search of newer forms of creative self-expression. Attracted by the beautiful scenery, mild climate and proximity of friends Renoir, Picasso and others who lived in the neighboring towns, Matisse moved to Nice in 1917 and died there 37 years later. Nice was Matisse’s favorite town in which he wintered until his death in 1954. He was buried here as well.
Matisse and his heirs donated a part of his artistic legacy to the city of Nice. At present the artistic heritage found in the museum consists primarily of works created during the artist’s stay in Nice. In addition to the permanent collection, visitors may also appreciate the museum’s temporary themed exhibitions.
The museum may be regarded as the museum of his biography as the entire exposition represents not only his paintings but also some of his favorite personal belongings. This is why when visiting the museum you are bound to feel like a guest of the great French artist.
In addition to the works it houses, you may also appreciate the aesthetics of the museum building itself, which comprises an airy 17th century villa surrounded by a picturesque olive garden.
A fascinating Mediterranean port of call, Eze is a fine medieval village located on the French Riviera. Situated halfway between Monte Carlo and Nice, Eze offers a great destination for spending a couple of hours on the French Riviera in Nice, Cannes or at the Monaco harbor.
The view of the Mediterranean Sea from the hillside village of Eze is breathtaking. The village is perched like an eagle’s nest on a large rock situated 400 meters above the sea. A trail down to Eze-sur-Mer will have you hiking for more than an hour down to the sea from the village on high.
Brace yourself for a steep climb from the parking area up the narrow winding pathways to the top of the rock on which Eze is found. Go slowly along the narrow stony paths up to the Jardin Exotique garden located at the top of this rock. Even without a guide, you should be able to find this garden easily.
All paths that go uphill eventually lead to the top at which this panoramic garden is found. You can also take your time and meander along the small streets as you find your way up to the garden. Once you arrive at the garden, the view will be well worth the strenuous ascent.
The garden is full of different varieties of cacti, as well as other exotic plants. If you visit during spring, you will find many of the plants blooming. Wander around the garden to rest from your uphill climb as you marvel at the unusual variety of flora. Do not miss out on the panoramic views from the top of the garden.
Walking along the paths of Eze will quickly reveal that the village once surrounded a fortified castle dating from the 12th century. The castle was torn down in 1706, but the village remains forming a circular pattern around the castle’s base.
The villagers have done a great job of restoring the old buildings. Most of the residents are now artisans and you can spend a lot of time wandering in and out of their cave-like shops. There are also several perfumeries and a wonderfully aromatic selection of spices available for sale here. Visitors can also purchase water colors of Eze done by local artists to serve as a visual reminder of your time in Eze.
From Eze, consider visiting the medieval French village of Saint Paul de Vence, which is situated inland from the Cote d’Azur. Just like Eze, Saint Paul sits high on a hill, although it doesn’t offer sea views.
9. Vieille Ville
Vieille Ville is the old town of Nice, which makes for a wonderful area to indulge in sightseeing and great tasting local cuisine. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the beautiful neighborhood of Vieille Ville boasts the buzzing markets of picturesque Cours Selaya, historic architecture and made-from-scratch Italian favorites like ravioli and gelato.
Old Nice is the beating heart of the French city, with the odd Baroque palace sitting on its outskirts. Within the old town are narrow streets that open onto squares dominated by glorious well-preserved churches.
The original occupants of Vieille Ville continue to live here, including servants and fishermen, to dressmakers and shopkeepers. These are the folks who kept the new arrivals at old Nice in the style that they aspired to.
Vieille Ville is overrun in July and August, but during spring, fall and winter, the neighborhood settles back down to a slower pace of life with neighbors meeting to gossip in the streets. You can enjoy a leisurely chat with the shopowners about the meat, cheeses, clothing and textiles they are selling.
Vieille Ville is situated within an area bordered to the south by Quai des Etats Unis, then up from Boulevard Jean Jaures past the Promenade du Paillon and the station to Place Garibaldi. The old town is closed off to the east by the large Colline du Chateau or Castle Hill, while its triangular area comes back down south by the sea to the Quai Rauba Capeu.
Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the old town, or simply wander on their own through the maze of streets. It doesn’t really matter if you get lost as the area is quite compact. If anything, you will be well orientated by the various churches you encounter within the main squares and their spires that reach up to the skies.
Begin your tour in Opera de Nice at the south west corner of the old town. The Opera is situated between Rue Saint Francois de Paule and Quai des Etats Unis. Constructed in 1776 but then destroyed by an 1881 fire, the Opera was rebuilt as an imitation of Palais Garnier, the famous Opera House of Paris.
Opposite the Opera House stands the Church of Saint Francois de Paul. Also worth a look is the Hotel de Ville with its Neo-Classical exterior and Art Deco interiors. The Hotel only became the town hall in 1860. Before that it served as the church’s seminary and then as a hospital and barracks.
Turn to the right and you will arrive at the Palais de Justice, a grand building that is suitably impressive. This structure was built between 1890 and 1892 in grand Neo-Classical style.
Then head south to the famous Cours Saleya which is dominated by the Misericorde Chapel that dates from the 1740s. It is well worth going inside the Chapel to admire its rich decorations.
That said, most visitors go to Cours Saleya for its daily market that’s characterized by a riot of scents, colors and flavors. Filling the square are stalls offering flowers, fruit, vegetables, olives and cheeses, while around it people sit at little pavement cafes and restaurants all day long.
At the center of the old town is the delightful Place Rossetti which is filled with old houses painted in rich ochre shades, with balconies full of flowers, a Baroque cathedral and pavement cafes.
To the north east in the Rue Droite you will come across the Palais Lascaris, one of the glories of Vieille Ville. Designed much like the palazzi that fill Genoa, the Palais’ façade serves as a glorious example of Baroque exuberance. For the full Baroque effect, go inside and view the frescos, chandeliers, wooden floors, and about 500 old instruments on display in a setting of tapestries.
At the furthest point to the north is the Place Garibaldi, a square with grand doorways and deep red façades. Colline du Chateau borders Vieille Ville to the east. Visitors can walk up or take the elevator to view the ruins at the top, as well as enjoy the splendid view over the sparkling Mediterranean.
Vieille Ville is a great place to shop in Nice. Some of the best shopping can be had along the Cours Selaya flower and produce market and at the Monday antiques market. Just around the corner you will find an arts and crafts market. Another great spot to shop is around the Rue Saint Francois de Paule at which you will find inviting shops that sell truffles, olive oils and milled French soaps among others.
To enjoy the Cours Selaya markets, you may want to get up early before the crowds gather there. During peak tourist season, it may be difficult to peruse the market stalls here.
10. Saint Paul de Vence
Saint Paul de Vence is a charming fortified village that rests on a hilltop in Provence. Filled with art galleries and sidewalk cafes, it’s difficult to find something not pretty about this quaint little village.
Take a walk through Saint Paul de Vence’s winding streets to uncover elegant fountains, vine-covered stone walls and statues tucked into nooks inside the walls. Visitors can also enjoy breathtaking views of the sea and mountains. Even the ground is attractive here, with cobblestones laid into the shapes of flowers.
The fortified village is itself an attraction, with medieval fortress walls surrounding the city. The village entrance was put up during the 1400s and has a canon muzzle that dates from 1544.
As you wander through this village of Saint Paul de Vence, be sure to look up such that you don’t miss out on some of the interesting artworks embedded into the walls. These include religious statues and a variety of other adornments.
Take a stroll towards the southern side of the village and climb up the steps to the view that overlooks a beautiful cemetery, surrounding mountains and hills. On the western side at Bastion St. Remy, you can have a glimpse at the sea. At Saint Paul you will see the snow-covered Alps on one side, and the glistening Mediterranean Sea on the other.
There are several places to eat in Saint Paul, which offer a mix in quality. And you can’t really take a few steps in Saint Paul without happening upon an art gallery, so just step inside to admire the different artworks.
An artist’s village, Saint Paul is also full of artworks in the form of different crafts. The costume jewelry you find on sale at numerous stores is unique. All through town, you will also find creative and interesting knick-knacks for decorating your home. There are also various Provencal fabrics available for sale, in addition to local gourmet delicacies such as wine, olive oils and fruit liquors.