Nice is on fire! With the second largest capacity of hotels in France, Nice attracts around 4 million visitors every year! Busy beach life, wild parties and the charming old town are the triggers which make travellers pin Nice onto their European bucket list. To make the best out of your Côte d’Azur travels, get to know some surprising facts you can’t find in any ‘neat and lovely’ travel journals.
I travelled to Nice with my boyfriend as a part of our annual summer holidays. When you’re in a relationship you should, (actually you really have to), find some time for couple travels too. So exactly one month after my San Sebastian solo trip me and my boyfriend went on a voyage to France!
Why Did we Travel to Nice
This won’t be very poetic, no story about lifelong dreams coming true. Actually, Nice had never been one of our dream destinations, in fact, neither was France. We’d planned visiting turtles in Seychelles or seeing the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco but we had some passport issues (of course, it wasn’t a problem with mine!) and we had to stay in Europe (again).
I spent days and days hunting for any European destination which would fit the chosen dates, would offer some nice beaches, tasty food; ideally a country where we hadn’t been yet. After horrendous weeks of exchanging our travel opinions I just decided to google the cheapest flights matching the strict days we had (try to guess if it was me) and the ones to Nice were the biggest bargain!
In the height of travel fever and in need of having ‘couple holidays’ to spend some quality time together, I booked the flights without thinking any further and felt a big weight fall from my shoulders.
Things to Know Before Travelling to Nice
So there we were, travelling to the Côte d’Azur, the fancy French Riviera with cyan waters studded with the white sails of luxurious yachts, delicate Moules-frites and mouth-watering French wine…
Halt! I’d have to be an idiot to think you came here to read a story about our romantic couple holidays in the French Riviera (however, it really was romantic, apart from that day when my boyfriend got burnt and dehydrated!).
Let’s get back to business, Nice travel cats! I wrote you this ultimate list of the most important things you should know about Nice (yes, just Nice, not all of the Côte d’Azur!) before you fly to the very south of France yourself and get shocked! (OK, I am exaggerating again).
What to be prepared for when travelling to Nice?
1. Nice is Pretty, as well as Pretty Expensive
There really have to be many reasons why is Nice one of the most visited cities in France. Yes, it’s got the sparkle, a perfect combination of all the factors which a travel city destination could ever have. A wonderful cosy and charming old town which smells like fresh fruits, pastry (think of crunchy pan d’ chocolate, croissants and a million other tender treats!), scents of fresh French herbs and delicious Niçoise food.
And there is the long beach with sky-blue waters, beautiful city views from the Castle park, an even more stunning panorama visible from Mont Boron, the cute port, relaxing parks, museums & galleries free of charge, uncounted bars and restaurants, wild parties… All this is on offer in one city!
And this my dears, this has its price and the price is the price: Nice is expensive! Get ready for the fact that if you want to enjoy the delicate Mussels & Fries and the divine French wine you will have to pay for it. Twenty euros per drink is a regular price and if you’re two for dinner, you can easily spend more than 80 bucks in an average quality restaurant. And it’s not just dining which costs you money.
On the other hand, it’s worth it to be able to enjoy this ‘La vie bohème’ because dining in Nice is spectacular. You feel like a queen or king being constantly pampered by the waiting stuff pouring you drinks and bringing you fresh bread with butter. French dining is slow, it’s an experience!
Note that even in Nice you can find less expensive places, those are mostly kebab shops or food stalls with dishes other than Niçoise cuisine. The places which say (basically lie) that they offer Niçoise dishes and have suspiciously low prices are low in quality.
2. When it Gets Hot There, it Burns Like Hell
Heat waves in cities are nothing other than a pure excruciating hell. Me and my boyfriend were unlucky enough to catch one of these heatwaves smack bang in the middle of our holidays in Nice, a city where the shadows wake up only at night. It was 40 degrees during the day and the temperatures started rising pretty early in the morning and didn’t calm down before 9pm.
Exploring the city was more a form of punishment rather than a joy. But the city has the famous beaches and cyan water, doesn’t it? You’re right! We tried to spend most of our time by refreshing ourselves in the lovely Niçoise sea but the water wasn’t cooling enough. It had been just too hot for too long a time, so the sea got warmed up really quickly during the heatwave of June 2019.
If I ever come to Nice again I will definitely choose a different month for my visit. The place has to be lovely in May and September, but there is no chance in the world that I’d travel there during the height of summer again.
3. Niçoise Cuisine is Pretty Much Like Italian
This was one of the things neither of us expected. We were excited at the thought of wonderful French food, craving mussels and delicate pieces of tender meat, but what grabbed our attention was the huge similarity between Italian and Niçoise cuisine. The restaurants’ menus were filled with seafood and meat dishes, as well as lots of tortellini and other pasta plates.
I know, we are probably a pair of history ignoramuses. After we both realized how extremely close we were to the Italian border and after we finally got the fact that Nice was ruled by Italy until 1861, it all made sense! (Embarrassing).
Can you imagine what happens to French cuisine which is heavy influenced by the Italian one? Yes, it’s ‘nebicko v papulke’, as we say in Slovakia, which translates to something like ‘a divine taste sensation’ (or close enough) in English.
4. It Can Get Crazy at Nights
This might be one of the reasons you chose Nice as your next travel destination. We’d known in advance that the night life was probably very busy in Nice! It was, and even more than we expected.
We visited Nice at the end of June and the night we arrived there was some kind of freaky music festival on all around the city. Oh man, that was really crazy. All the streets and corners of the city were packed with partying people. All the sandy beaches of Nice got swamped with colourful crowds of youngsters having fun.
And it really didn’t change afterwards. There are hundreds of possibilities of what to do with your night in Nice, but we mostly headed to the beach area. There you can find many nice bars with cool balconies facing the relaxing sea (though you have to come pretty early to take one of those seats). Although the beach itself changed with the falling sunset to a pretty cool unlimited party space too! This was the ‘bar’ we enjoyed the most.
There are a few kiosks nearby when you can buy beer for ‘just’ 7 euros but you’re very welcome to bring your own bottles of wine to watch the pink-purple sky disappearing into the dark of the night.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that most people actually cleaned their mess from the pebble beaches and nobody got extremely crazy-lazy. It was that nice way of having night beach fun, filled with music, people dancing and singing, or sitting on the beach stones and talking and laughing.
5. The Beach is Stony and it Hurts
They say there are just two types of beach people. Those who love sand and those ones who can’t even stand the idea of being covered in those tiny golden crystals. Yes, sand is like lifeless bacteria spreading around without being invited and it can take weeks and months to fully get rid of the very last grain.
If you’re in the second group, let’s call it the Sand Haters Club, we’ve got some good news for you: There is no sand on the beaches of Nice! All the coast around the famous party bubble of the Côte d’Azur is made up of pebbles and medium sized stones.
The bad news is that it hurts, and the stones get sizzling pretty quickly. Moreover, if you plan to explore the less busy beaches and possibly coasts away from Nice, we really recommend you get some water shoes to avoid any scratches and cuts on your beautiful feet.
6. You Can Get Almost Everywhere by Bus
If you prefer staying in quieter areas or you just prefer saving money on accommodation you can easily stay outside the city centre. Local transport has a really good and frequent infrastructure (at least in my opinion) and you can easily travel within Nice itself, as well as between surrounding towns and villages, by bus. It’s also a convenient way to get to the Airport.
You’ll appreciate the infrastructure and the cheap tickets for €1.50 per journey right after you discover that Uber is not such a bargain in Nice. Be aware that the amounts charged by Uber and Taxi drivers differ from one area to the next. The closer to the city centre, the more expensive the ride is.
7. Nice is Safe, even for Solo Travellers
We all experience some amount of fear when on our travels. Especially in busier cities and places where ‘something big’ happened. Nice is still branded by the terrorist attack which happened in July 2016 and many people might be still frightened to visit the place. Unfortunately, the same can be said about other many of the world’s metropolises like New York, London, Berlin, Paris and so on.
There is nothing I can say to you to change your mind, there is no real advice for people avoiding these places and we never know with any certainty when and where this kind of thing is gonna happen, it’s out of our hands.
Despite this, Nice is considered to be a safe city in general, although there are some possibilities of pickpocketing (especially around busy areas like La Promenade des Anglais). As in all bigger cities, there are always some dodgy areas, so check the place where you plan to stay in advance. For example, I never like staying next to bus or train stations. As we all know, those are the places where all the weird people tend to hang out.
Nice is also a lovely place for solo travellers. Even though I travelled to Nice accompanied by my boyfriend, a friend of mine – an experienced female solo traveller Domika – was staying in Nice all by herself. She really enjoyed her stay, met many new wonderful people and felt nice and safe in Nice. I recommend you to read more about safety in Nice, and I especially like the Safearound website.
Stay brave in your heart and brave on your travels and I’m pretty sure that your lucky star will protect you on your journeys.
These are 7 the most important things you should know before travelling to Nice. Now you’re fully ready for the Nice breeze and busy streets of this most popular city of the luxurious Côte d’Azur.