Four full days in Nice( including day trips to Eze/Monaco and Villefranche)! Part of my two months in Europe series.
After a super early flight we took the airport bus into the city and got into our Airbnb around 10 in the morning. Our host was amazing and let us check in super early. This was my favourite Airbnb so far, it was a big loft/studio with two juliette balconies overlooking the city. After setting up a bit we headed out in search of food and the beach.
We ended up just picking up quick sandwiches at Dorre Brioche and then continued down the main road to the water. We really wanted to spend our first day just relaxing at the beach and were very torn between the public and private beaches. Public beach= free but busier, no one to watch your stuff when you swim and you have to sit on the rocky beach, private beach= often $$ but safe and comfy and have umbrellas which is necessary with my skin. We decided to walk down the Promenade Anglais to scope out prices and had almost given up after seeing the crazy prices some private beaches charge ( 20EU?!). But then we stumbled upon Florida Beach Club at the other end to the beach that did sunbeds( and a water bottle) for 9EU, which considering the price of water along the beach was a huge steal. They were super nice here and even let us in early despite the fact that the deal didn’t start until 1pm. The beach beds were so comfy ( so comfy we both fell asleep), the place super secure to leave yourself and they had nice bathrooms( also a steal because all the public washrooms on the beach also cost money). The water on this end of the beach was a lot wavier but still super nice.
After reading, swimming and napping on the beach we decided to head home and figure out dinner. We walked back through town, popping into some stores and picked up groceries ( and great cheap rose) at the big Monoprix. After fixing ourselves a snack of camembert and rose we settled in to find a good restaurant for dinner.
Food in Nice can be quite expensive as most restaurant cater to tourists so we wanted to make sure we did our research to find the best, affordable restaurants in the city. As it was a Sunday night a lot of the smaller, family run places were closed but we decided to go to Chez Pipo in the Old Port area of Nice. Chez Pipo serves socca which is a Nice speciality which is like a chickpea flatbread. We were both unsure how much we would like a dinner of socca as it seemed like more of a snack food but it was so good and so filling!! The socca is super light and fluffy and they had some fun flavour options here. We also got artichoke and roasted red pepper/ tomato tapenade which was also great. This dinner was surprisingly filling and delicious and super super cheap! We even scored a table outside, which was lovely.
Step Count: 24,122
Today we decided to take the train to Villefranche-sur-mer, a cute fishing village turned beach village just 8 minutes away from Nice. I had seen photos of Villefranche online and it looked beyond beautiful. Apparently, it is one the top five most beautiful bays in the world. Villefranche was a literal dream come true. All the houses were variations of pastel pink, yellow and peach perched on a hillside overlooking a stunning bay with a huge beach. The town is full of winding back alleyways with beautiful flowers hanging on the walls. I actually don’t think I have ever been to a prettier town.
We spent the morning wandering around the town and popping into the different little museum exhibits housed in the citadel and taking in the views of the bay. I would definitely recommend walking up to the citadel, it is completely free and full of a bunch of fun art and history exhibits.
After this we headed to the Good Mood cafe down by the water to try Pan Bagnats, a local Nice dish which is pretty much a salad nicoise in sandwich form. This was the largest lunch I had ever seen in Europe I would definitely recommend splitting it between two people. The sandwich is the size of a baguette and overfilling with fillings, and you get chips and salad. The sandwich was great, it was so just way too much food for me.
We continued onto the beach. The beach here is much less rocky than Nice and more small, soft pebbles. We walked around the opposite side of the beach as it was much less busier. This beach is beautiful. The small pebbles are super comfy to lie on and because we were at a small inlet area of the bay with only like 3 other families it was super safe to leave our bags on our towels when we went in. The water is crystal clear and way less wavy than Nice so perfect for just floating.
After feeling sufficiently sunned we head back into a town for an ice cream (can’t remember the name but I think the sign said Glacier and its on the main path from the train into town) before heading to our train. We both got passionfruit because we heard it was supposed to be amazing and it definitely did not disappoint. The ice cream tasted so fresh, almost like a sorbet but still super creamy. We then headed back to the station to take the super quick train ride home.
Once back we rested up a bit before journeying out of dinner. We went back to the old town for dinner, first trying Chez Palmyre, which is consistently ranked as best budget meal in all of Nice but it was packed. We then made a reservation for the next day’s lunch, as all the dinners slot this week were booked up. We took this as a sign that it is as good as the hype. We headed down the street to another restaurant we heard was a good, affordable find- Restaurant Gesu. They had a huge patio underneath a beautiful church, which is where we sat. Restaurant Gesu is more Italian than French but still very Mediterranean. They have a huge assorted of pastas and pizzas from 10EU and we got 1/2 litre of rose for 8EU. The pasta was good, not great. We also got courgette beignets aka deep fired zucchini and a peach tart which were both great.
Step Count: 15,931
Today we decided to do the Castle Hill Walk, which is just a short walk up a hill right over the water in Old Town Nice. If you walk to the Old Town side of the promenade you will see Castle Hill and the staircase that takes you up it. It was a super easy walk totally in the shade in the morning with amazing views over the ocean and Nice. There are tons of places for photos and at the top there is a park, cafe, waterfall and some ruins from the old castle. This was a ton of fun to wander around and soak in the 360 views of ocean, town and mountains.
After the walk we wandered into Old Town to walk through the Cours Saleya market. This market is super cute and full of beautiful flowers, soaps, candies and fresh produce. Its not very big but they pack a lot of good things into each stand.
We continued our strolling into the backstreets of Old Town stopping into stores and taking pictures until it was time for our lunch reservation at Chez Palmyre, Chez Palmyre is a small family run restaurant that has been around since the 1930s. The decor is vintage rustic and the only thing on the menu is a three course meal which offerings change daily. The restaurant is acclaimed for amazing, local home-cooked Provencal food and now I think this has beaten Tapeo ( or tied, I still can’t tell) for my favourite meal of this trip. The food is simple ingredients done right. For appetizer I had a haricots salad with walnuts and speck, my main was back of cod on the fluffiest mashed potatoes with a roasted veg sauce ( sweet red peppers, salty olives and crunch celery) and for dessert I had stewed apricots with chantilly cream. Everything was light and summery but with a myriad of textures and flavours. Each stage of the meal had four options, all which sounded great. The restaurant is quite small so if you go as two you will probably be sat at a communal table. We shared our table with these two friends from Ireland who had been coming back to this restaurant for 6 years. The communal table experience was a ton of fun as it was great to chat with new people, these two men were SO nice and it was great swapping travel stories with others.
After our very leisurely lunch we set off to do some window shopping around Nice, popping into Berskha, Nice Etoile and other stores along Avenue Jean Medecin. We then rested up at the Airbnb, hand washed our laundry ( ughhhh) and started planning for Eze and Monaco tomorrow!
We found a place for moules frites for dinner and then finally made it to Fennochio. Fennochio is a famed ice cream place in Nice. They have 59 flavours from Tomate Basil to Fig to Salted Caramel. The ice-cream is supposed to be amazing and we can definitely vouch that it was! I tried Fig and Confiture au Lait ( a type of vanilla with condensed caramel) which were both so good! And my friend got chili chocolate and honey with pine nuts which she also both loved!
Step Count: 21,841
For our last we wanted to make the day trip to Eze and Monaco. Getting between Eze and Nice is a bit of a mission. There are two main options: a bus that runs from Nice Vauban infrequently or train to Eze-sur-mer and then wait 45 minutes for a bus or do an hour hike to the top. Because we really hate waiting and like views we decided to do the walk.
So while the walk really isn’t that hard or that long is is about an hour of going straight uphill, mostly on very uneven stairs. And in 27 degree heat that feels like a lot, especially when you are wearing sandals and a dress. If you are going in the summer and don’t really like hiking this may not be for you. But if you are going on a cooler day or you really like walking the trail ( Nietzsche’s footpath) has stunning views over the sea and villages below.
Once we arrived at the top we proceeded to simply get lost in the many dead-end streets of this medieval, mountain top village. The entire town looks like a preserved castle with cobblestone and flowers everywhere. The town is filled with art studios and restaurants ( one very fancy one in particular with 2 Michelin stars!). There is also a nice church and the “Exotic Gardens” which overlook the sea below, as well as a perfumery. Try to get here early as even at 10:30am there were a number of tour groups filling up the town. After sufficient wandering and picture taking ( we didn’t have time for the gardens thanks to the crazy bus schedule) we picked up crepes a emporter from the Cactus restaurant ( really good!) and found the bus stop.
The 112 bus runs from Nice Ville to Monaco with stops in Eze but it only runs once every 2-3 hours so it is super inconvenient if you miss a bus. The buses also often run early or late ( ours was late) so just be patient. But after a windy bus ride through the hills we descended into Monaco, specifically Monte Carlo. The bus dropped us off by the casino and we wandered past a bunch of very fancy stores as we made our way to the castle.
The castle is perched on a hill on Monaco ( though not as large as the mountain we conquered earlier). Tickets for entry were only 4EU for students and included a free audio book. To be honest this was probably the only thing I really liked about Monaco so I was very confused why it wasn’t busier as the castle is beautiful and the audio tour super interesting. It is also really cool to know that it is still a functioning castle and official residence. We walked around the castle grounds and then proceeded to both realize that crepes were not sufficient sustenance for hiking up a hill and collapsed at the closest ( not exorbitantly priced) restaurant for lunch. Nothing to write home about, perfectly average, reasonably priced for the area and filling pasta from a place just around the corner of the castle.
Afterwards we walked back down the hill to the marina to gawk at the yachts but a Longines event blocking a lot of marina so we did our best to admire the boats from afar.
To be honest I was very underwhelmed with Monaco as a whole. It could be it was a cloudy day, we had just come from a beautiful medieval village or maybe you don’t see the nice parts unless your a millionaire but Monaco looked kinda run down. It was a weird combination of beautiful but faded old buildings in contrast with often quite ugly new buildings, had an absurd amount of cars all over the streets and in general lacked the glamour I had expected. I am happy I went to see the castle but I won’t be rushing back anytime soon.
After a long day we trained home from Monaco to Nice and started packing for our journey to Cinque Terre tomorrow. We went to explore the Old Town for our last night in Nice. Since it was the summer solstice there was a best festival ( la fete de al musique) downtown. There were street performers, DJs and marching bands all over the streets. We settled down for a Pissaladiere ( local Nice onion tart) from Rene Socca to soak in the atmosphere before deciding where to go for dinner. We finally settled on a very cute place for meats and cheeses and were slightly overwhelmed by the amount of incredible food put before us. We decided our favourites were the creamed cheese ( still not sure what this is 100% but it was great) with fig jam and the pork rillettes. We listened to the music enjoyed our house wine and feast of food, and then somehow still had room to get Fennochio ice cream one more time.Today I got fleur et almandes which might have been my favourite flavour.
Step Count: 23,677
Villefranche-sur-mer, the most beautiful seaside town. Beautiful town, great beach, good food!
Chez Palmyre- OMG this was so good! The amount of incredible food you get for this price is amazing (especially if you can get a dinner slot). This meal made me fall in love with Provencal food and the communal eating experience is super fun.
The train system here is amazingly convenient and cheap so do not be afraid to use it for day trips. Besides Eze maybe I feel the train system is way more convenient than having a car as it takes you found downtown to downtown and there is no need to find parking.