A Nice Trip to France
In the coming months, we'll be putting together guides to some of Europe's top destinations. First up, we'll start with a dream trip to the French Riviera.
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Located on the Côte d'Azur in the south east of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the fifth largest city in France with a population of around 1 million. The city was founded by the Greeks (of Massilia) in around 350 BC, who called it Nikaia, after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. For several centuries, ownership of Nice swung between France and Italy. It was only in 1861 that Nice finally became part of France.
This city has three main areas of interest - the seven kilometre promenade, Vieille Ville (Vieux Nice/Old Town) and Port de Nice (Port of Nice).
Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly direct to Nice and you can pick up return flights in mid-September for as little as €100 return. From the airport, you can hop on the number 98 or 99 bus which take you into the city and main train/bus station (Gare de Nice Vile - great to make yourself aware of if you plan on a train/bus trip to Monaco or Cannes) in about 20 minutes.
You really can't go wrong by staying close to Gare de Nice, Vieille Ville (Vieux Nice/Old Town) or anywhere in-between. If you're looking for something new and super-clean, check out: IBIS Styles Nice Centre Gare. For something with a spectacular view, check out: Hotel la Perouse or Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée. But with 5 million visitors each year, there are lots of great hotels to choose from and the main bus/train station is only a 15 minute walk to the beach, so it's all very walkable.
The first thing you should do (on any holiday) is a walking tour of the city - to get your bearings, see the landmarks, a little bit of history and often some insider knowledge from the guide. You can avail of a Free Walking Tour, Bicycle Tour or Segway Tour. Enjoy a journey through the charismatic old town, the street-food stalls, ancient buildings and the stunning views over the promenade and port from Castle Hill.
There are so many fantastic food options, from local cuisine and street pop-up to seafood and oversea-influences. There is an exciting and bustling food market in Old Town six days a week (replaced by an antiques market on Mondays) which begins early in the morning and finishes at around 2pm six days a week - try the Nice speciality Socca, a chickpea pancake and some ice-cream from one of the many 'les glaceurs'.
I'd certainly recommend a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and dedicating at least one day (weather-permitting) to the beach. You can secure a sunbed for the day for around €20 (umbrella, towel, food and drinks are extra) and even pop up to the market for some lunch before settling down to relax again. Check out Castel Plage - splash out on the food and drink there, or sneak off up Castle Hill for a picnic.
While you're there, why not spend a day in the luxurious Monaco? It's only a short train journey from Gare de Nice Vile (will cost about €8 return) and there's so much to see in the 2km-squared state. Walk along the coast and I'd certainly recommend checking out Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Prince's Palace and Musée Océanographique. The Little Train Tour is well worth the €9 too, especially if you want to check out the other landmarks you'd like to see, such as the Monte Carlo Casino or some of the many Formula 1 points of interest. You can take the scenic route to Cannes or Monaco by boat too.
Tips: The sea is great for a swim, but the beaches are mainly stone, so pick up a pair of swim shoes as getting in and out of the sea is quite sore on the feet - you'll pick up a pair for about €10 (it also gets deep very quickly, you won't be able to touch the seabed standing after about five paces).
If you're on a budget or would just like to make use of the many lovely picnic settings (like atop Castle Hill), pick up a baguette and some fabulous (and cheap) wine from the local Marché U (supermarket).
The Apollo statue is a great meeting point - it's at the bottom of the main shopping street (Avenue Jean Médecin), just north of Old Town and a short walk from the beach.
If you need to catch a GAA game or a Premier League match (and a pint), Ma Nolan's is a great place to cool down and enjoy the game with like-minded individuals.
There is also lots of great shopping, from the street markets to pickup handmade soaps, chocolates and souvenirs in Old Town, to high-street where you'll find well-known and designer brands.
If you have any great tips or recommendations for Nice and the surrounding area, please do so in the comments below