Imagine arriving in Nice (the regional capital of the French Riviera) and only having 24 hours to see the city. What would your priorities be? What would zoom to the top of your must-see list? Is it even possible to get a feeling for such a multifaceted city in so short a time?
Why not give it a try? I did. And it wasn’t so bad (though I did want to stay).
This is how I see a perfect day going in the Cote d’Azur:
A good start
Whether you’re on a budget or can afford to stay at the super-duper luxurious Hotel Negresco, make it a priority to indulge in a delicious breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. Can you think of a better way to start your day than watching the city slowly wake up while you enjoy orange juice, muesli, freshly baked bread with homemade marmalade, and a steaming-hot espresso? After all, you’ll need your energy for the action-packed day that lies ahead.
Get an overview
After your petit déjeuner, take in the atmosphere next door at the Cours Saleya street market, taking time to savor the colorful flower arrangements and tempting food stands.
Buy ingredients for a picnic and take off toward the Colline du Château (Castle Hill) between the old town (Vieux Nice) and the harbor. Even though the namesake castle is long gone, you can still check out the Roman ruins, a beautiful waterfall, amazing greenery, and a panoramic view of the city and the Mediterranean. Don’t forget your camera!
Feel the city pulse
The walk up to the Colline du Château involves some serious exercise (if you don’t take the lift), so when your legs demand a rest, roll down to the beach for a bit of relaxation before hitting the city center. Visit Place Masséna, the main square, with its characteristic black and white tiles and futuristic human sculptures by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.
If shopping’s your thing, pop into Galeries Lafayette, a famous French department store, to check out all the latest trends. There are many restaurants in the area, but I recommend the excellent Boccaccio for fresh seafood. Remember to save room for dessert. Their crème brûlée is extra large and super tasty. (Nope, it doesn’t come in a smaller serving. I asked.)
Nice boasts two museums dedicated to famous French painters – Chagall and Matisse (who lived in Nice for an extended period). Both display some memorable paintings by the masters and are must-sees for art aficionados.
If “Nice in 24 hours” isn’t a big enough challenge, take a taxi or train to nearby Grasse, the word’s perfume capital. Here the Fragonard Historic Factory (one of the oldest parfumeries in the village) offers free admission and guided tours. If you have read the book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind (or seen the movie based on it), then you might recall that part of the story takes place in this town.
When this eventful day finally comes to an end, take a leisurely stroll down the boardwalk Promenade des Anglais. If you are traveling with children, look for the charming double-decker carousel nearby. It’s more than 100 years old and still up and running. As soon as the hunger kicks in, head back toward Vieux Nice to choose among the many excellent seafood eateries and settle in for a fun night out on the town.
Looking back at this immensely eventful day, one can conclude that 24 hours might be enough time to see many of the important landmarks Nice has to offer. But why limit yourself? Take the time to enjoy this beautiful city — in your own way and at your own pace.
Hanna Snarberg (a Swede) and her partner, Alex (a Ruskie), share their wanderlust on their travel blog, Sam and the Dunes (“Sam” is their lovable pooch).