Day 1. Exploring Nice on the Côte d’Azur

It had been thirteen years since our last visit to Nice so we were long overdue a return trip.  Our week long stay back in 2010 was memorable in more ways than one as it coincided with the Icelandic ash cloud grounding all flights resulting in a prolonged stay of an additional seven nights.

Gate at Heathrow airport for flight to Nice
Waiting at the gate in Heathrow Terminal 5 for our flight to Nice

Returning to the present, the previous day we had taken BA flights from Manchester via London Heathrow to Nice Côte d’Azur airport arriving early evening.  After reclaiming our luggage we caught a tram from the airport into the city centre (tickets €1.50 valid for 74 minutes including connections).

Adagio Aparthotel, Nice Centre
Our one bedroom apartment at the Adagio Aparthotel

Our accommodation for the next 8 nights was at the Adagio Aparthotel Nice Centre, just a five minute walk from the Acropolis tram stop.  We were warmly greeted by a friendly receptionist and within a short time were taking the lift up to our one bedroom apartment on the 5th floor.  The spacious accommodation comprised a lounge dining room with a well equipped kitchen in one corner, a separate bedroom, bathroom and ample storage space.

Adagio Aparthotel, Nice
Our spacious apartment

The following morning we popped across the road to a conveniently located Carrefour supermarket and stocked up on groceries not forgetting a selection of croissants and pain au chocolat for our breakfast.

Liberation Food Market, Nice
Liberation Food Market, Nice

Shopping stored away and breakfast consumed we were then ready to embark on a day exploring Nice so we headed back to the Acropolis tram stop where we bought 7 day travel cards from a machine on the platform which cost just €15 each.

Place du General de Gaulle, Nice
Place du General de Gaulle

Our first stop was to Place du General de Gaulle where a huge open-air food market was taking place.  Here we wandered around the colourful stalls watching locals stocking up on their fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese and olives.  The Liberation Food Market (Marché de La Liberation) also features an indoor market hall which has now been transformed into a popular foodie hotspot with numerous stalls offering mouth-watering dishes.

St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Nice
The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

Leaving there it was then a 20 minute walk to the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on Avenue Nicolas II.  This exquisite building has been recognised as a national monument in France.  It was built by the Royal Family for the Russian community exiled to the French Riviera and is considered to be one of the most important orthodox churches outside the Russian federation.

Interior of the Russian Orthodox Church, Nice
The lavish interior of the church

Our morning walk then took us along Jean Médecin, the city’s main shopping street and among the stores we came across the Notre Dame Basilica, a neo-gothic masterpiece with two square towers reaching 65m and a distinctive rose window above its entrance.  The church is noted for its excellent acoustics and is the venue for numerous musical events.

Notre Dame Basilica, Nice
The Notre Dame Basilica, Nice

Continuing along this road we soon reached the vast Place Massena, Nice’s central square which connects the shopping area, old town and seafront.  The square is characterised by its black and white tiled pavement.

Place Massena, Nice
Place Massena

Towards the middle of the square is the grandiose Fontaine du Soleil consisting of sculptures symbolising the planets with a huge statue of Apollo in the centre.  Another interesting feature of the square is the 7 Buddha statues set on high poles symbolising the continents of Planet Earth.

Fontaine du Solei, Place Massina, Nice
Fontaine du Solei, Place Massina, Nice

A short distance further on and we had reached the old town and the Place du Palais de Justice with the imposing neoclassical palace on its western side.  Close by in the beautiful Rossetti Square stands Nice Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church built between 1650 and 1685.

Nice Cathedral
Nice Cathedral

On stepping inside we gazed in awe at its Baroque architecture with its magnificent dome decorated with mosaics of green and gold.  Outdoors, standing next to the cathedral is an impressive, freestanding 18th century bell tower.

Interior of Nice Cathedral
Interior of Nice Cathedral

Moving on, we passed through the scenic Cours Saleya Square where another large outdoor market was taking place.  Alongside fruit and vegetables including huge red tomatoes and juicy large oranges we spotted olive oil, spices, bread, preserves and honey all displayed beneath brightly striped awnings.  This square is surrounded by colourful yellow and orange houses and situated just a few steps from the sea.

Cours Saleya Square, Nice
Cours Saleya Square

We had now reached the Promenade des Anglais which runs for 7 km from Castle Hill to Nice airport.  We enjoyed strolling along this famous palm tree lined seafront admiring the Belle Époque architecture to one side and Nice bay to the other.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice
The Promenade des Anglais

Not far from where we had joined the promenade lies Le Parc de La Colline du Chateau located on a hill overlooking Nice old town.  It takes its name from the military fortress that overlooked the bay from the 11th to the 18th centuries.

Lift and path to the Parc de La Colline du Chateau, Nice
Lift and path to the Parc de La Colline du Chateau, Nice

It’s possible to either walk up the steep path to the castle or make use of the free lift.  We decided to take the lift which is accessed through a tunnel in the rock.  From the summit, there are some beautiful views in one direction overlooking the old port and in the other, over the bay of Nice.

Views of Nice Bay from the Parc de La Colline du Chateau
Views of Nice Bay from the Parc de La Colline du Chateau

After taking in the stunning panorama and viewing the ruins of the castle’s military citadel we strolled down the steep ramp for a wander along the harbourside where we gazed at the gleaming white super-yachts moored in the marina.

Nice Port, (Port Lympia)
Views from the hilltop down to Nice Port, (Port Lympia)

After touring the quayside awhile we then caught Bus 15 to Villefranche-sur-Mer which was included in our one week travel card, otherwise single tickets are €1.50.  It took only 12 minutes to reach the charming small town 8 km to the east of Nice and after alighting from the bus we followed a steep path down to its scenic bay.

Narrow passageways down to the beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer
Narrow passageways leading down to the beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer

The pathway led us through a 13th century arched passageway known as Rue Obscure (Dark Street).  This used to be a protected walkway that ran beneath a row of harbour front houses and was used by soldiers.

The scenic harbour at Villefranche-sur-Mer
The scenic harbour at Villefranche-sur-Mer

The deep water bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer is absolutely gorgeous as it is surrounded by historic medieval buildings clustered around the shoreline, many of them now waterfront cafes and restaurants.

Chapelle de St. Pierre, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Chapelle de St. Pierre

Wandering back up the hill from the harbour we paused to admire the beautiful Chapelle de St. Pierre.  This ancient Romanesque chapel dedicated to St. Peter, patron saint of fishermen was restored and decorated by the renowned French poet and artist Jean Cocteau in 1956.

The town centre of Villefranche

Villefranche had been the perfect place to end our first day on the Cote d’Azur as this small picturesque seaside town nestled between the Cap Ferrat peninsula and Nice waterfront is an idyllic spot to enjoy a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

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64 thoughts on “Day 1. Exploring Nice on the Côte d’Azur

  1. Nice was so much fun, when we climbed the hill, there is a park that had live music going on that day, we didn’t stay there very long, we wanted to see the cemetery which was closed. It was also on top of the hill. We said we will come back another day and never did. Which is another reason to visit Nice once again.
    After Nice we went to see the village of Eze and Monaco in one day. Eze was a lot of fun, Monaco was just okay. I wanted to see it because my student told me I had to LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know Nice and the Côte d’Azur, but I wish I did. Your beautiful photos (despite the weather) give an enticing snapshot of how to explore the best of Nice. The St Nicolas Russian Orthodox Church looks particularly impressive. I love to walk, so I would enjoy spending time in Nice and the surrounding area.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice port and bay look stunning! I would LOVE to visit one day, it’s definitely on my list. I had no idea Nice had so much amazing architecture, an added bonus if I ever go. Great photos too!


  4. Nice looks lovely, Marion, it must have been nice to return there after so many years. You really managed to see a lot on the first day. I do love how walkable the city seems to be, as in my view that’s the best way to explore a place. Villefranche-sur-Mer is so charming and the Jean Cocteau decorated facade of Chapelle de St. Pierre is a visual delight.


  5. It’s always nice to return somewhere you’ve been before. Sounds like you made the most of your first day in Nice and got a lot of walking in! The views over the bay and port are lovely. This spot is on my list. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Similarly, it’s been years (over 16, to be more precise) since I last visited Nice: despite living in France for several years since that trip, I never made it back there. It’s a beautiful city, regardless, and despite the seemingly overcast visit you had, the beaches (and especially the Promenade des Anglais) are picturesque!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, I wouldn’t have minded staying an extra 7 days in Nice 🙂 . I can see why the Russian Orthodox Church is a national monument in France – it’s beautiful. And the same goes for the interior of Nice Cathedral. And of course your views of Nice Port are lovely – I enjoyed your stroll through the narrow passageways. Looks like you guys had a great time … can’t wait to read more about your visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your welcome thoughts on the start of our holiday in Nice. Despite a lack of sunshine we had a lovely day exploring the area. Yes, when the ash cloud left us stranded, we were so lucky to be somewhere nice! Raining here again today, I bet it’s sunny with you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha 😄, yes it’s sunny (but a few clouds are coming over now). We are still in shorts and a sun dress. Apparently it’s going to rain a bit later tonight, but from tomorrow it’s sunshine again for the rest of the week … I doubt there’s ever winter in this part of South Africa!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have memories of blinding light and suffocating heat on the Promenade des Anglais in the summer, certainly exploring the city earlier in the season lessens the drawbacks. Thanks for sharing this beautiful setting for a few days of recreation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words and interest in this post featuring Nice. The Côte d’Azur is beautiful and I hope you enjoy the rest of the series too. Have a lovely weekend. It’s an extended one here for May Day but do far it’s dull and gloomy,

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your post is the first one I’ve seen that highlights Nice. What a beautiful city and such wonderful history. As always, I love following your around on your travels, and I look forward to seeing more of your visit to the Cote d’Azur.


  10. Lots of memories Marion. We have been very fortunate to stay in this area on three visits, the first in 2011. It is a delightful place with so much to see and do, good food and good wine. What month were you there? It looks a bit greyer than on our visits. Have a great Thursday. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How lovely that you used to visit Nice on business even if you were working during the daytime you still had time to enjoy the city and coastline. We had a great time even if it wasn’t all that sunny at the start of our trip! Thanks so much for your interest and welcome thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Gcroft

    Thanks for sharing. Nice holds a dear place in my heart. We stayed in Villefranche for a wedding up the steep hills many years ago. Very fond memories and nice to walk down memory lane through your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi there…Wow, what beautiful architecture and photographs! Thank you. We visited France several times and loved Honfleur and Paris, of course, but didn’t get as far as Nice. How swiftly the years fly by…But we have some great memories! Enjoy it all! Hugs x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. These are such beautiful photos, Marion, and they bring back wonderful memories from our trip to Nice a few years ago. I loved exploring Nice and it has some wonderful opportunities for a stroll, not just along beautiful walkways and seafronts (the Promenade des Anglais) but also around Old Town, through ancient Roman remains, past museums with wonderful art and along the pedestrian avenue in the heart of Nice. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

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