While no one would deny that Nice is a great choice for a summer vacation —after all, it’s a famed retreat for celebrities, supermodels and well-to-do Parisian families on holiday. However, this lovely seaside town on the Cote d’Azur offers something truly special in the winter months. As anyone who has wintered in the French Riviera knows, there’s a certain charm to Nice in its slower-paced off-season. Aside from a more tranquil atmosphere and more personal space, the town also guarantees a refreshing, cool climate and more availability for accommodations.
1. The French Riviera has a pleasantly warm (and sunny) climate
Some European destinations, especially those in the north, experience cold, damp winters with grey skies and regular snowfall.
In the French Riviera, however, daily temperatures in winter can reach into the mid-50s, and clear, blue skies are the norm. Forget the hat and gloves — all you’ll need is a light jacket or heavy sweater. But since the region is more likely to experience rain than snow in the winter months, it’s a good idea to carry an umbrella with you, just in case.
Nice’s Mediterranean climate also ensures that the town’s lush flora doesn’t wither and fade away. Strolling along the fabled Promenade des Anglais, which stretches almost five miles along the coast, you’ll see rows of healthy palm trees. The Promenade du Paillon, too, features dozens of mature palms and beautiful flowering shrubs. The region is home to olive, lemon and orange trees as well. Enjoy year-round greenery in public spots located throughout the city, including the Jardin Alsace-Lorraine, Parc Vigier near the Old Port and the sprawling Parc du Mont Boron.
2. The low season means less competition for space on the beachfront.
Nice’s distinctive pebbled beaches draw thousands of sunseekers in July and August, the high season for tourism. During these hectic months, finding a spot to lie out can be a challenge, as almost all of the space on the beachfront is claimed. But once temperatures drop and vacationers return to their big city lives, the beaches clear out and transform into a serene place to stroll and take in salty breezes and the soothing sound of waves washing over rocks. Small groups of friends gather along the beachfront to enjoy the ocean views. It’s not uncommon to see winter sunbathers lying out to catch some rays.
Wake up early to watch the spectacular sunrise, or enjoy the magic of sunset, when hillside dwellings twinkle off in the distance.
3.There’s more availability for accommodations.
Those who venture to Nice in the winter months are in luck. Because this is considered the off-season, there’s not as much competition for rooms as there is in the busy summer months, driving nightly rates down considerably. For those who want to have their pick of accommodations and save a few bucks, the winter months are hands-down the best time to visit.
Consider making this well-appointed one-bedroom apartment your home away from home in February or March. In addition to a remodeled kitchen with Italian touches and a comfortable bedroom with luxury linens, the apartment boasts two balconies with sweeping views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. And the best part? This updated dwelling is located just 10 minutes on foot from the beach (or a five-minute bus ride).
For something slightly larger, make this sumptuous two-bedroom, first-floor apartment your vacation pad — it features a queen bed and two twins, plus sliding glass doors that let in the sights and sounds of the city. The beach is just 10 minutes away, and restaurants and shops are easily accessible on foot.
4. Nice is a jumping off point for some of the season’s best events and activities.
Nice serves as the perfect base for events and activities taking in and near the city in wintertime.
The snowcapped French Alps and the ski resorts that occupy their slopes are within just a few hours by car. Chief among the resorts are Isola 2000, one of the highest within the mountain range; Auron, featuring 135 kilometers of ski runs; and Valberg/Beuil, with a historic trail highlighting the fascinating history of the town. Smaller, more intimate resorts are scattered throughout the region, many of which offer well-priced lift passes. All in all, the region lays claim to 465 peaks reaching 2,000 meters and six soaring up to 3,000 meters — quite a selection for ski fans. It’s even possible to skip the rental car and arrive by bus. Check with local bus companies for their special winter ski routes.
In January, join excited spectators in nearby Monaco for the Monte Carlo Rally, a must-do for lovers of high-speed races.
Every February, revelers gather for the Nice’s most beloved and publicized event: Carnival. This historic pre-Lenten celebration has been taking place for hundreds of years — in fact, it is believed to be the one of the earliest recorded Carnivals, harking back to the year 1294. Nowadays, the two-week event boasts flower-filled processions with a whimsical, playful vibe. Those who purchase tickets to watch the parades from the Place Massena will have a front-row view of the over-the-top floats, which follow a new theme every year.
Head to nearby Menton (less than an hour from Nice by car) for the Lemon Festival, taking place each year in February/March. Created in 1935, the event dazzles with parades and eye-popping displays composed entirely of the citrus fruit. Think ornate sculptures and recreations of historic buildings, all in various shades of yellow and orange.Winter is perfect for romantic evenings in cafes and clubs.
5. Winter is perfect for romantic evenings in cafes and clubs
Fewer tourists, a cooler climate and a more subdued atmosphere make Nice an undeniably romantic place to vacation in the wintertime. Set out every evening on foot and soak in the marvelous architecture, music and culture of the town.
Stop in at jazz clubs like Le Shapko or Le Cave Romagnon to hear live music and sip cocktails by candlelight. Venture to pedestrian-friendly Rue Massena and take your pick of covered sidewalk eateries, complete with quintessential Parisian cafe chairs (unlike in North America, locals here aren’t deterred by cooler climates — they embrace outdoor dining any time of year).
Window shop at high-end boutiques, or simply stop for coffee and a savory crepe. Away from the commercial strip, the seafront promenade ensures an idyllic experience, especially at dusk, when historic hotels like Le Negresco glow against the darkening sky.
Book that trip now – weather is good, eat wonderful food inside or out and enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail while watching the sunset.