3 Days In & Around Nice
When Mike - my boyfriend - and I booked this trip, we knew we wanted to head to a coastal town with a lot of options for things to do and places to see. The sapphire blue waters, rich culture, open-air markets and beautiful buildings that Nice offers made it an easy choice and gave us the most amazing three days.
DAy 1: Arrival // Castle Hill // Port
We flew in on a Monday, arriving at around 1PM. We were slightly jet-lagged but the excitement of finally being there (after a layover in London) kept us going. We stayed all three nights at this small but convenient (and super cheap!) Airbnb right next to the Port while technically still being in Old Town. Our host was great with introducing us the area, giving us restaurant and transportation recommendations. After he left and gave us the key, we quickly got changed and headed to Le Port. On the right side of the Port (same side as Old Town), we took the stairs up to Castle Hill, following the well marked signs to Chateau (French for castle). The path up had multiple points where we could either choose between a left and right path, but it all went to the same place. This "castle" is just ruins of what once was, but still is really cool to see.
I love going to a high point like this in a new city because it really helps me to orient myself. It becomes easy to understand where everything is in relation to one another. Plus the views are always incredible!
Castle Hill for sure did not disappoint and was worth the trek up. We went down the other side of the hill to the beach at the Promenade des Anglais. We knew going into this trip that the beaches were pebbly. But to be honest, we didn't anticipate how uncomfortable it actually was, and even our jet-lagged selves couldn't settle in to take a beach nap. But it was still such a crucial part of the experience, laying there next to all the blue and white umbrellas that define the Nice beaches.
By this point, I was craving gelato, so we ventured into the Old Town and found a Fenocchio gelateria, which I had read so much about before going. Honestly, I was a little disappointed in the fact that we couldn't try any of the flavors before choosing! I got the lavender, because Provence, which was refreshing, but I probably would have opted for something else had I tried it first. Happy with our gelatos, we continued exploring. The way the quaint and charming streets of Old Town intertwined was like a maze. We walked around / got lost there before stopping at Distillerie Ideologies for a happy hour and our first glass of Provence rosé (only 3 euros!). Getting hungry, we walked back through old town and got a quick bite to eat at a window shop (Spinata Bolognese), hit the grocery store in old town for some breakfast stuff for the morning, and headed back to our Airbnb to get ready to go out.
Before stopping for a drink, we walked around the Port, which was super pretty with all the yachts and boats lit up. We had little to no expectations and just wanted to sit somewhere with a good view of the port, a nice vibe, and some easy drinks / food, which that night happened to be La Shounga for a mojito (5 euros) and a charcuterie platter. We were pretty exhausted so after about an hour or so we called it quits.
day 2: vespa rental // eze // bar hopping
First thing in the morning, before the heat set in, we got a workout in by running our route from the day before, sprinting up and down Castle Hill, doing some plyo's at the top (just a couple miles total). Getting a workout in like that first thing always starts the day off on the right foot and wakes me up. Plus, I think that a little bit of an endorphin boost is the best way to beat jet lag. After our workout, we showered and headed to the Port to rent a vespa from The Riveria (more on that here). It was such a painless process and only took about 20 minutes total. The guy there was super nice too and gave us great directions to Éze and Monaco.
The route was incredibly scenic, winding in and out along the coastline. It was the most amazing way to see the French riviera and the Med. On our way up to Éze, we stopped at the beach at Villefranche. The smaller pebbles on this beach were so much more comfortable, and it was the cutest town! There were less tourists and the village was cute, colorful and right along the sea.
We could have spent all afternoon here, but we wanted to make sure that we gave ourselves enough time to explore Éze. And for good reason: the enclosed medieval city on top of the mountain was straight out of a storybook. With the cobble stone streets and flower-lined buildings, I hadn't seen anything like it before. (See this post on our afternoon here!) After spending a couple hours here, we continued driving towards Cote d'Ail and accidentally ended up in Monaco. We had plans to see it the next day, so we tried to just turn around and head back the way we came. Definitely make sure you check where you're going first, because we ended up making a wrong turn and ended up basically on the French equivalent of the autobahn. We literally had 18-wheelers flying by us on our 50 cc vespa. Since we took that wrong turn we had to come back through the metropolitan area of Nice, which happened to be bumper-to-bumper rush hour. We obviously made it back safely, but it was definitely a tense experience with two people on a little scooter. Would not recommend. At least it made an interesting story :)
As soon as we got back to old town, we were pretty tired and stopped at the first place that looked decent for a drink and some tapas. Paneoli had unlimited tapas (breads, meats and olives) with a drink purchase, so that was an easy sell. After we went to Master Home in Old Town for an American soccer game, and then basically walked in and quickly out of Wayne's Bar, which is famously (infamously?) an American bar / club. Think people dancing on tables to *NSYNC. We decided we had seen enough of the bar scene, and walked down the Promenade to check out the night view and headed back to the Airbnb.
Day 3: promenade // Flower market // Monaco
First thing in the morning, we returned the scooter to the Riveria. We were so shocked / impressed that it only cost us 2 euros to fill the gas tank back up, which made the scooter rental all the more worth while. After returning everything we went on a quick 3-4 mile jog along the Promenade. We got there early enough for this to be enjoyable, as it wasn't super packed with tourists yet.[As a side note: apps like Nike Run Club still work in airplane mode if you open them while you have Wifi. So if you care, you can track your distance without using data.]
Straight from our run, we walked along the Flower Market and settled in at this well-rated crepes place Pop-o-Thym. I was a little skeptical at first because it sits right next to the market - one of the biggest tourist attractions - so I thought it might be a tourist trap. But we couldn't leave France without getting a crepe, and these ended up being really good and cheap! They had this brunch special where you could get 2 crepes (one savory and one dessert - aka 2 meals) and an espresso drink for only 11 euros. After eating, we walked around the market more and picked up some lavender soaps for our parents, which I absolutely recommend as a souvenir because they are unique to Provence and really easy to pack.
We set aside the afternoon for visiting Monte Carlo, Monaco. Despite our little spoiler the day before, we were excited to walk around this city and honestly, do a lot of people/luxury car watching. It was super easy and cheap to get there on the TER from the Nice-Riquier stop (buy train tickets at the stop). A quick search on Google Transit gave us everything we needed in terms of train times, durations, and stops. In Monte Carlo, we didn't really have an agenda and just wondered around checking it out. It was so cool to see how basically everything was built into the cliff. As a result, there were a lot of unique bridges and lookout points that were fun to stumble upon.
At one point, we ended up in a casino (not the famous one) and had to play some slots, just to say we gambled in Monte Carlo ;) Five or so hours of browsing around the city and shops were enough for us, so around 6PM we headed back to Nice. Instead of going to the Riquier stop, we went to Vieux Nice which was downtown and gave us a chance to see some of the spots of the city that we hadn't gotten to yet, including Place Massena and Fountaine du Soleil. We had (a bad) dinner at La Storia (1/5 stars..) in downtown Nice. After our great experience with the crepes that morning, I guess we got a little cocky about tourist traps but this whole experience took multiple hours for mediocre food. Lesson re-learned. We had an early flight to Porto, Portugal the next day, so after dinner we just walked around Nice more, and soaked in the last bit of the old and narrow streets, watched the sunset, and headed back to our place.
Best things to do:
- Rent a vespa to check out Éze and Monaco
- Browse the Flower Market after walking on the Promenade
- Hike up Castle Hill
- Lay on the beach at Villefrance