I’ve been lucky enough to have taken a few city breaks this year to many amazing European cities, but there’s one thing I’ve quickly realised – city breaks are exhausting! With so much to see and do, you’re constantly on the go, and even then it’s still impossible to see everything. Having just got back from a weekend city break in Nice with my sister, however, I don’t feel exhausted at all. I actually feel utterly and completely relaxed.
Nice is the capital city of the French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur), situated on the south east coast of France. The city offers the perfect balance of cultural sightseeing, for example Castle Hill (Colline du Château), the Musée Matisse and Palais Lascaris, as well as the opportunity to chill out, relax and recuperate. It’s one of France’s most iconic cities, definitely one to keep on your Europe bucket list!
Here are my 8 tips for rejuvenating yourself with a relaxing city break in Nice:
1. Take a walk (or jog!) along the Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais is the main promenade that stretches along the coast of Nice and the Bay of Angels (la Baie des Anges). It is the main route from the airport, so if you take a bus or taxi into central Nice, it will be one of the first things you experience.
As a keen runner, I noticed straight away the amount of people pounding the pavement along the promenade, the heat not putting them off. And who can blame them? With such stunning seafront views to keep the motivation going, I was starting to wish I’d brought my running gear so I could join them!
If running is not your idea of a relaxing time, the Promenade des Anglais provides a safe path to walk, cycle or skate along the coast and enjoy the magnificent views.
2. Bask in the Mediterranean sun
Okay, this one is up for debate as Nice has a pebbly, rather than sandy, beach, so it’s not the most comfortable for throwing your towel down and sunbathing. However, no city break in Nice would be complete without a visit to the beach. You can rent a sun bed, however, or other sunbathers were using lilos – where there’s a will, there’s a way! With the sea having the most incredible beautiful turquoise tone, it really is worth putting up with a stone or two to go in for a dip, breathe some therapeutic sea air and catch some rays.
3. Taste a true French delicacy
A visit to any French city wouldn’t be complete without indulging on a delicious patisserie (with a café au lait too, of course). There was a gorgeous little café called Déli Bo on Rue Bonaparte with an outside seating area surrounded by a pretty trellis, which provides shade from the midday sun – it’s the perfect quiet, secluded haven to chat to family or friends, or to have some quiet time getting lost in a book. Any good city break in Nice is going to involve a lot of eating, so don’t be shy! The gym will be waiting when you get home.
4. Discover the quaint Nice old town
Wandering around Nice old town (Vieille Ville) is an absolute must. There are plenty of authentic restaurants, shops and markets to discover, all hidden among charming narrow streets and architecturally stunning buildings. The buildings are all fairly tall meaning you also get some much needed shade. Whether it’s food produce, fresh pasta, loose tea, scented soap, jewellery or souvenirs you are looking for, you will find them all here. The long Sunday morning queues for rotisserie Chicken and fresh pasta is testament to the quality of the fresh produce, with locals stocking up in preparation for their evening meals.
5. Watch the world go by with an ice-cream
As you walk down the old town streets, every so often you will discover a lively square, surrounded by restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlours – and plenty of outside seating. Place Gariboldi, which is close to the tram line, and Place Rossetti, looking out at Nice Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate), are perfect for taking a break from exploring, and sitting down to relax with an ice-cream. Warning – with so many sumptuous ice-cream flavours to choose from, you may suffer from feelings of indecisiveness, jealousy and regret, but this can be easily remedied by having two or three scoops. My favourite was the chocolate orange flavour, delicious!
6. Dine on authentic French cuisine
Unlike some experiences I’ve had in other cities, there was absolutely no pressure from any restaurant staff when looking at menu boards trying to decide where to dine for an evening meal. With lots of authentic places to choose from, such as those offering Niçoise specialties or Italian cuisine (being so close to Italy, there is a heavy Italian influence in food), you will end up walking up and down the same streets a few times before being able to make a decision!
Dining out is a chilled affair. You don’t feel like you have to rush through your courses or leave as soon as you finish. A friendly French couple who were sat on the next table even started chatting to us, which leads nicely on to the next tip…
7. Practise your French – “Je ne comprends pas!”
It was over 15 years ago that I learnt French at school, and I can understand a little (je parle un peu), but at best it’s still pretty limited.
One afternoon I came across a couple chatting en Français, I caught the odd word or two, and understood the gist of the conversation, but trying to find the appropriate reply was not so easy… After a few broken sentences, nervous laughs and a lot of head nodding (all from me), the conversation came to a natural close, I think, and I hoped I’d said the right thing.
For the rest of my trip I tried to offer as much French as possible, such as when talking to wait staff or purchasing something from a shop. The locals really do appreciate the effort, and it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. Give it a go!
8. Wind down for the evening with a few drinks
Having a few evening drinks doesn’t have to be a raucous or expensive affair in Nice; there are bargains to be had with happy hours and glasses of Prosecco for €3.50. So whether your favourite tipple is a sophisticated cocktail, sparkling wine or a refreshing beer, there are plenty of bars to discover. Nabulio on Rue Bonaparte is a cosy bar playing disco / funk music, where you can enjoy a couple of drinks in a dimly lit, cave-like crypt chilled out on sofas. Because after all, when you’ve had a peaceful day there is nothing better than a quiet drink before you call it a night.
From the moment you arrive in Nice, it’s hard not to be captivated by the beauty of the city. From the calming effect of the sea to the delights of the old town, it is the perfect location to relax and enjoy some good food, sun and culture. I will be returning as soon as I can!