Nice is the largest city in the south of France. While today it is known as the "Queen of the Riviera", it is also one of the most ancient cities in the area. It was founded by the Greeks, but by the 19th century, Queen Victoria led the charge of the wealthy British upper class and Russian aristocrats that helped make this city the place of luxury it is today. Of all the major French resort towns in the south of France, Nice is the most down to earth. They place high emphasis on fine dining and high culture without all the snobbery that comes with towns like Cannes or St Tropez.
Creativecommons.org/ Metro Centric
There is a reason that fashionistas flock to Nice when they aren't busy enjoying Milan or Paris. The city has the densest concentration of fashionable French labels on Rue Massena and Avenue Jean-Medecin. While shoppers can find international designer labels in places like place Magenta, rue de Verdun and rue Paradis, there is a huge price difference between French fashion and international fashion. For those that have the extra cash to throw around, the city has quite the selection of international labels, but the French fashion is surprisingly affordable compared to most other cities.
For foodies that are looking for an edible souvenir, Nice is accommodating. Shops like Nicola Alziari go back to the city's Greek roots by offering goods like high quality olive oil, olives and anchovies. Visitors can even indulge in a professional olive oil tasting before they buy. For those in the market for wine, Caves Caprioglio in rue de la Prefecture is the shop to visit. They specialize in rare Provencal wines and famous Bordeaux vintages. Any bottle from the shop is sure to impress educated wine palates.
Aside from food, wine and fashion, there are more practical souvenirs around Nice that visitors will want to browse. The usual tourist souvenirs are gathered in the Old Town district, but there is nothing particularly thrilling there. Instead, visitors should head to Le Chandelier on Rue de la Boucherie, where they can find designs of the region's best known producers of cloth, Les Olivades and Valdrome. Alternatively, Atelier des Cigales is where visitors can find beautiful high quality hand-painted pottery and ceramics from across the province. While linen and pottery are two can't-miss souvenirs, soap is also a popular souvenir. It travels well, lasts for a long time and it is perhaps the nicest smelling soap that shoppers will ever experience. The best place to find the finest soaps in the city isn't in a particular store, but from the stalls at the local farmers markets like Cours Saleya.
Wine Bars and Wine Tastings
Creativecommons.org/ Lori Branham
Naturally, the thing to do while in any French city is to experience some French wine. There are tons of wine bars and a few quality tours that will make sure visitors experience the best vintages.
For those looking for an organized tour to taste the best the city has to offer, the Tour de France of Organic Wines heads to some of the most prestigious tasting rooms around the city to sample pristine local vintages, including several rare Bordeaux bottles. However, they primarily specialize in the vins naturel trend that travelled down for Paris and became quite popular in the city. These wines are organic or at least biodynamic with minimum chemicals and sulphites. The tour comes in both public and private varieties. The private tour can be customized to what visitors want to experience, while the public tour is non-negotiable, but quite educational about wine in general.
For those that don't want to fuss with the formal wine tour experience, there are a number of wine bars in the city where visitors can find exactly what they want to sample. Curious drinkers that want to sample the fruits of the vins naturel trend can find it at the well stocked La Part des Anges that hosts bottles from the country's best wine producers. However, wine loves should also pay a visit to places like the knowledgeable Vin/Vin, the hip La Cave de l'Origine, or the long established Cave de la Tour.
Touring from the Water
Creativecommons.org/ Lori Branham
The beaches of Nice are a bit pebbly, so the discerning visitor will want to skip the crowded beachfront and take to the water instead.
Down in the ports, visitors will be hard pressed not to find boats that they can charter to head out along the coast, to Italy or to a number of scuba diving spots. However, for the discerning visitor there is no better option than onboard a private yacht. Lux Yacht Cruises is the premiere company in Nice for the rich and famous to experience the French Riviera. They have a large number of pre-planned cruise options that private parties can take advantage of, but visitors can also plan a customized route. Each tour comes with their own personal skipper to steer the boat as visitors sip Champagne, tour seaside towns or even go to some of the best snorkel spots in the Mediterranean. This is an excellent way to turn an average vacation in Nice to an outstanding one or even add a little bit of romance into the mix.
Creativecommons.org/ Paul Downey
The French Riviera boasts more Michelin stars that any other area on the planet. While high quality excellent eateries are scattered around the city, visitors should avoid the careless offerings of the Old Town district. They beckon to the average tourists, while more reputable restaurants lurk in the other areas of the city.
Chantecler has been a long time staple in Nice and has become a showcase of luxury in the French Riviera. The restaurant hosts beautiful 18th century wood boiserie complete with Aubusson carpets that matches the design of their host building - the Hotel Negresco. Although this restaurant has been playing a long game of musical chefs for the past few years, they have attracted some major talent. Currently, diners can enjoy the creations of Chef Jean-Denis Rieubland, who is not afraid to challenge the local traditions with his unique flavours. Diners can enjoy his roast duckling with peaches, hazelnut and turnips glazed in honey, braised thighs with verbena or the crab and mango cannellonis. Of course, their wine cellar has a vintage to match any dish with over 15,000 different bottles.
L'Aromate is a newcomer to Nice, but under the helm of the ambitious young Chef Mickael Gracieux it has earned its fair share of fame as a chic modern bistro. The menu is constantly changing with local seasonal ingredients which provide diners with opportunities to sample dishes like their beef tenderloin or crab in ginger jelly with a tart cream sauce. More stunning than the flavour of the food is perhaps the creative visual way that it is presented. The visuals wet the palate just as well as the flavours do.
Creativecommons.org/ Curt Gibbs
While Nice has a large number of hotels, not all of them are gems. It is a "get what you pay for" sort of town. When it comes to finding a fine hotel, it is best to head to the seaside to start that search.
Home to aforementioned Chantecler restaurant, the Hotel Negresco is not just a fine place to get a meal but a wonderful place to stay. This white stucco hotel with its antiques, elegant and unique styled guest rooms and beautiful old-master paintings is a lot like staying in a museum. Although it provides the classic Riviera experience, it has reinvented itself over the past few years with recent renovations with modern touches and has renewed its dedication to magnificent service. With modern Italian marble bathrooms and lighter decor in lieu of its former stuffiness, the Hotel Negresco has ascended past a good stay to a great one.
The Boscolo Hotel is located right by the beach but doesn't focus on the normal beach-style design. The hotel is actually a Belle Epoque gem with Louis Quinze armchairs, mod tables and skylights in its high ceilings. Visitors can enjoy the teakwood walls, 1950's kidney-shaped sofas and black and white chandeliers in their rooms - all with an otherworldly view of the seaside. The white-on-white colour scheme of the hotel makes for a sun-soaked experience that essentially just screams luxury at those that stay there. While it may be tempting to just lounge on the terrace and enjoy the sea air, there is also a top-notch spa in the basement of the hotel.
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