Ex-Parisian, Eric Tenin fell in love at first sight with Nice. After living there for some time, he gladly accepted to share the reasons why he loves this city so much.
Words by Eric Tenin | Extract taken from February's 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Being a typical Parisian, I have to confess that I didn’t think much of Nice and the Riviera. I was convinced that it was a place for retirees and jet-setters and that there was nothing to get so excited about. And then I spent some time there… Never in my life have I been proven so wrong! Nice is a stunning city, with a fascinating history, beautiful architecture and a very active cultural life. Today, the city is a cosmopolitan blend of French, Italian, and Russian influences, with a vibrant arts scene and a rich culinary tradition. No wonder it is now the most visited city in France, after Paris, with about 5 million visitors per year.
You will have heard of La Promenade des Anglais, the walk named after the English tourists who helped to popularise the city in the 19th century. This iconic seven-kilometer stretch of road and pavement running proudly between the Mediterranean Sea and the city deserves its fame and popularity. Whether you look to the city side where your eyes will undoubtedly spot some elegant Art Déco buildings, or to the seaside, you will never grow tired of it. Neither do the locals who run, bicycle, walk their dog, enjoy the sunrise or sit on one of the many benches and chairs that are at the disposal of passers-by.
I love the promenade, but my favorite place is undoubtedly the old town of Nice, Le Vieux-Nice, or simply “Le Vieux”, as the locals call it. This enchanting neighborhood that started as a Greek trading post called Nikaïa (yes, you guessed it right, that’s where the city got its name from!) is now a bustling area filled with narrow, winding streets, colourful houses, and some of the city's best restaurants, bars, and markets - don’t miss the Cours Saleya and its Marché à la brocante (flea market) on Mondays and flowers and food the rest of the week. Even if I’ve walked down these streets dozens of times, I always enjoy strolling Le Vieux and its notable landmarks, like the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate, a beautiful Baroque-style cathedral, and the Place Rossetti, a lively square lined with outdoor cafes and street performers.
Don’t go thinking that Nice is only about the past. It’s also a living city, always reinventing itself and turning the old into new. Hence the recently created Promenade du Paillon, a magnificent park that separates the old town from the modern one. Here young couples like to amble hand in hand and parents play with their children right in the middle of the city. I love it in every season, but most particularly during Christmas and a bit later, in February for Carnival when this area turns into a magical and festive ground where everybody meets for a moment of joy.
Likewise, the Port area, once considered rough, is now a new up-and-coming place to hang out and enjoy a drink or two among the young crowd. On the way back to town, I never miss the magnificent Place Garibaldi, a square built in 1773 surrounded by ochre facades, beautifully renovated - including incredibly realistic trompe-l’oeil that adds to the magic of the place. Beauty is everywhere in Nice… In the streets, but also in the museums. If you enjoy indoor activities, head over to the magnificent Marc Chagall National Museum. As colourful, but quite different from the ceiling of the Paris Garnier opera house, here you will get a glimpse of his unique Biblical-themed paintings, drawings, sculptures and stained glass… of this multi-talented artist. I personally love the inside as much as the outside of this venue; a true spiritual journey.
If you’re more of a modern art person, plan a visit to the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, also known as the MAMAC. A stunning collection of modern and contemporary art awaits you there, including works by artists such as Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, in addition to the temporary exhibitions of course.
Last, but not least, another great advantage of Nice is that it is the perfect gateway to neighbouring hot spots such as the highly perched village of Èze, the incredible Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the superb Saint-Paul-de-Vence village, the cute town of Menton or even Monaco. All this is very easily accessible by bus or tramway for a very affordable price…
These are just some of my favourite things to see and do in Nice, but there is so much more... Oh wait, did I mention the food?
Air Malta operates regular flights to Nice. More information on airmalta.com