escape, travel guide

Travel Guide: two days in Nice

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Nice is, well, very nice. I headed there for work a couple of weeks back and couldn’t resist extending the trip over the weekend for that last little bit of sunshine before the darker evenings and misty mornings kicked in. With its long, sweeping pebbly beach, stretching along the Promenade des Anglais to the picturesque Old Town (known locally as Le Vieux Nice), it’s the perfect getaway for a mixture of culture and relaxation.

I often get a little restless on beach holidays, keen to get up and go explore, wander around art galleries, sample the local cuisine or simply walk around aimlessly soaking up the atmosphere. Nice is definitely a place for art and design lovers, not only does it have some of the best contemporary art galleries and collections outside Paris, there’s a host of cultural gems outside the city centre just waiting to be discovered. You can see Matisse’s chapel in Vence, Jean Cocteau’s murals at Villa Santo Sospir in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, or Eileen Gray’s modernist masterpiece E-1027 and Le Corbusier’s Le Cabanon Retreat around the coast at Roquebrune Cap Martin.

I wanted to share a couple of tips and places we loved in a Nice travel guide, so here’s how to spend two wonderful days in the beautiful French Riviera capital.

Day 1, 9am: Walk along the Promenade des Anglais

Get up early and walk your way along Nice’s lifeblood overlooking the Baie des Anges. Grand hotels such as Le Negresco look onto the pebbly beach full of striped umbrellas, sun loungers and tanned bodies. You’ll notice the signature blue seating on the promenade faces both towards and away from the sea: this is a place to people watch and take your time.

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10.30am: Explore the Old Town

After the long walk along the Promenade, the cool, narrow, sheltered streets of Vieux Nice are something of a relief. Look up at the pretty pastel-shaded buildings and stop off at one of the many bars and cafes spilling onto the tightly crammed alleys. A trip to the old town isn’t complete without a visit to Fenocchio’s, which has been serving up gelato on Place Rossetti since 1966. There’s dozens of flavours, from the more traditional to the more unusual – cactus, olive or beer flavour anyone?

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Doing my instagram thing, you can’t take a blogger anywhere can you?!

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2pm: Brocante shopping

Pick up some treasures at one of Nice’s brocante markets to take back home. On Mondays there’s antiques and collectibles at Cours Saleya (open from early morning until 5pm) or there’s a market every third saturday of the month at Place Garibaldi.

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Day 2, 10am: Take a trip a little out of Nice

As I mentioned before, there are so many great little day trips just outside of Nice along the French Riviera. We decided to head out to the medieval walled village of Vence, perched high above a hill to the north of Nice (about a 45 minute bus ride for a bargain €1.50 each way). Here you’ll find the peaceful Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, a small, quiet church decorated in 1949-51 by Henri Matisse at the age of 77. Inside, the cool white space is decorated with three murals – black paint drawn on white tiles – and intense yellow, green and blue stained glass windows (unfortunately I can’t show you because no photos were allowed inside) that cast magical shadows on across the space. It’s magical, a must-see.

Find out visitor information here. Or you can read a fascinating article on the chapel by my Blueprint colleague Herbert Wright and see some archive photos of Matisse at work here

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Day 3, 2.30pm: Visit the Matisse Museum

Once back in the city, head to the Matisse Museum for another dose of the great French artist. He lived in the city from 1918 until 1954 after finding inspiration during a stay at the Hotel Regina on the Promenade des Anglais. The museum is housed in a beautiful seventeenth century villa on the hill of Cimiez and holds a vast collection of works left by the artist and his heirs.

If you have time, stroll back down the hill to the MAMAC (Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain) for an altogether different take on art.

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And before you jet home? Have a drink in one of the beachside bars overlooking the water and vow to come back again one day. Santé!

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All images Cate St Hill