Paradise Found During a French Riviera Weekend.
We all have that one place that never truly leaves us. For me, that’s the Côte d’Azur, that little strip of France that runs right to the Italian border. I grew up in part on the seashores of St Jean Cap Ferrat, a tiny peninsula nestled between Nice and Monaco, but hadn’t been back since graduating from university. So in November, I splurged on a last minute French Riviera weekend. I spent two days in Nice and one in St Jean, the subject of my next blog post. This was hardly enough time, but it reminded me just how much I love the Côte d’Azur.
If you’d like a touch of glamor sprinkled onto your coastal break, I definitely recommend a getaway to Nice. Here are some of my top spots in Nice if you decide to book a French Riviera weekend – or a longer stay!
Where to Stay in Nice
My favorite hotel in Nice is the West End, a gorgeous Belle Époque building right on the Promenade des Anglais. Walk out of the hotel’s palmeraie (palm garden) and you’ll be facing the Mediterranean. The hotel was one of first built on the esplanade. It’s so easy to imagine the Baroness de Rothschild having tea here, as she did in the 1870s.
I fell in love with my room the moment the bellhop opened the door. White marble floors, neutral finishes, gold accents. A large window overlooking the Musée Masséna and Nice’s tiled rooftops, all the way to the foothills of the Alps. And, as a nice touch, a copy of Vogue on my bed.
Each morning, breakfast was served in the open air restaurant on the ground level. Buffet style, with everything from fresh croissants to scrambled eggs. You will not go hungry, but you do need to dress up.
Nice’s Waterfront and la Promenade des Anglais
If you’re visiting in the fall like I was, you won’t be able to swim, unfortunately. Unless you are one of those resilient locals who gets a daily dip no matter the temperature. You can, however, go for leisurely stroll on the Promenade des Anglais.
The crescent-shaped esplanade winds along Nice’s foreshore. There are restaurants and bars right on the sand (okay, pebbles), so you can stop and grab a coffee or drink as you watch the waves roll in. The Promenade des Anglais stretches from the Colline du Château all the way to the airport, but tourists can catch the main sights if they just stop at the Negresco (a famous Belle Époque hotel with an iconic cupola roof).
Les Cours Saleya, the Flower Market and Vieux Nice
Cobblestone streets, 15th century churches and narrow laneways make up the Old Nice, which is also home to bars, clubs, restaurants and cafés. Just off the Promenade des Anglais, you can access the Vieux Nice by going through the Cours Saleya’s famous flower market. Stop here to pick up scores of lavender-scented souvenirs, spices, soaps and, as the name leads one to believe, an endless selection of flowers to brighten up your hotel room.
Old Nice’s main arteries are often mobbed by tourists, rain or shine. But if you venture up the smaller streets leading towards the hills, you can reach quiet avenues where locals live. Stop in the shops or grab a panini to go. Don’t leave before you’ve sampled some chocolate treats from Patisserie Lac! Seriously. Their confections are to die for!
Place Masséna and Shopping in Nice
I always love shopping in Nice. Head over to the Place Masséna for Nice’s Galeries Lafayette, the high end department store where you can find the latest of every label under the sun, including limited edition collections. And when you’re ready for a break, go up to the top floor’s panoramic terrace for views over the square and out to sea. If boutique shopping is more your thing, wander down the side streets sprouting off Avenue Jean Médecin. For the ultimate in luxury shopping, plan to spend a day in Monaco.
Nice’s Best Sunset Views
As you know from my first trip to Amsterdam, I’m a sucker for a good view. So I made my way up the stairs to the Colline du Château. This hill, once home to the city’s citadel, is now a large park with pathways, waterfalls, playgrounds and many lookouts at different heights and angles.
It was late afternoon, so on my way back down, I probably snapped close to 300 shots of the setting sun over the Mediterranean. Walking back towards my hotel, I caught it all: from the first glimmers to radiant fuchsia taking over the horizon. This was one of the first times I was a bit disappointed with my photography: even my best shots could hardly capture the beauty of a French Riviera sunset.
When should you book your French Riviera weekend?
I’ve visited the French Riviera during pretty much every season, so I could safely say that you can plan a trip throughout the year, but you may want to avoid January, February and early March, as it can be quite cold and rainy.