Nice, the largest city on this stretch of coast and known as “The Queen of the Riviera” is the 5th largest city in France. Having been before and done all my pre-trip research I was well aware of its reputation for superb culture, shopping, eating and drinking mixed with crime, graffiti and horrendous traffic. I loved it last time I visited, I loved it just as much now. By the 19th century aristocrats including Queen Victoria were flocking here. These days it is not quite so glamorous as Cannes or St Tropez but I think it is much more down to earth.
There are more museums here than any other French city outside Paris but we didn’t venture indoors on our visit. For us it was all about exploring the city streets and taking in the views.
Only 50 minutes by train from Cannes and a gorgeous journey with sea views, we pulled into the railway station and found it a world away from Cannes. Very busy with a gang of dodgy looking geezers hogging the ticket machine, we held onto our bags a little more tightly and realised instantly how much edgier and gritter Nice was.
A short stroll down a boulevard full of shops and we found ourselves in the Place Massena – the glorious centre piece of the city with rococo buildings, bubbling fountains, palms and exotic flowers. It is pedestrian only and just so pretty.
The floor is paved with black and white tiles like a huge checkerboard, I loved all the grand statues and views from every angle.
Son loved the fountains of the Albert Park, great fun with fine mist sprays and ideal for cooling down on what was a super hot day.
The wide, spacious park is named after a Belgian king and was actually a river that flowed through the centre of Nice and on occasions flooded the city. Someone had the clever idea to cover it over to keep the city safe and provide a new space.
We easily found the Hop On / Off bus in this area, climbed to the top level and didn’t bother with any hopping off. We basically sat for the whole 75 minute circuit enjoying spectacular views of the city and the sea, dodging many tree branches on the way.
This was a great way of looping around Nice without much effort. The English language commentary (on headphones) was very good and my favourite part of the trip was around the headland and past some very posh villas.
We got some great views around the city too but actually Nice is very walkable and no point of interest is much more than a ten minute walk from Place Massena. Had I realised that I think we would have skipped the bus and just walked all day. Son was relieved I discovered all this after our bus ride.