If you’ve already visited Nice several times, and have strolled along the Promenade des Anglais, perused the stalls of fromage and charcuterie at Cours Saleya, and explored the winding alleys of the old town, here are some alternative ideas for things to do in and around the French Riviera resort. Some are closed currently due to COVID-19, but will hopefully reopen later in 2021.
1) La Coulée Verte – the city’s green space
One of the main reasons to visit Nice is the gorgeous warm weather, so why not head outside and bask in the delicious Cote d’Azur sunshine? The coulée verte (green river)in the heart of the city is otherwise known as the Promenade du Paillon, a 1.3 km-long urban park situated between two parallel streets, Avenida Feliz Faure and Boulevard Jean Jaurès, running from the Theatre National de Nice and MAMAC (Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain), all the way down to the seafront. It is perfect for running, walking, cycling, having a picnic, cooling off in summer – or just hanging out.
In a novel take on art installations, reflections and outside space, a vast 3km2 “water mirror” creates visual plays with the urban landscape. Featuring 128 water jets, it is also the scene of son y lumière spectacles. Children will love the water sprays, perfect for playing on a hot day, and the marine-themed playground. As well as the native pine, cypress, olive and fig trees, you can see orange and lemon trees, phoenix palms, and coral or flame trees with their bright red flowers. Floral exhibits include carnations, for which Nice was famous in the 1950s and 60s.
Towards the beach end, you’ll arrive at the smaller Jardin Albert 1er, where you can find the Théâtre de Verdure, an outdoor venue which holds concerts, shows and movie screening in the spring and summer. A newly restored 18th-century bandstand, Kiosque à Musique, hosts the municipal orchestra. A bottle of wine, some bread and cheese, as the melodies float on the balmy evening air…
2) Palais Lascaris – the music museum
Music lovers shouldn’t miss this baroque palace, which houses a collection of more than 500 musical instruments from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as art works. Originally built for the aristocratic Lescaris-Vintimile family, the palace-museum is adorned with paintings, tapestries, furniture and ornaments – expect lofty painted ceilings with rosy-cheeked cherubs, elaborate carved gilt tables, sweeping staircases, and grand canopied beds.
But the outstanding draw is the bequest of Antoine Gautier – you can see extremely rare 17th-century baroque guitars, harps, two types of viola, da gamba and d’amore, an 18th-century harpsichord, and the wonderfully-named tenor “sackbut”, a type of trombone.
3) Parc Phoenix – the animal park
Flora and fauna abound at this seven-hectare space in the west of the city, complete with a 25 metre-tall biodome. You can meet 75 species of animals, from lemurs and wallabies, flamingos and parrakeets, to tiny Falabella ponies, Göttingen mini pigs, and fluffy Silkie chickens. In addition, there are 2,500 types of plants, including exotic ones but also a mini-vineyard and kitchen garden.
4) Las Chaises Bleue s – the blue chairs
These iconic seats, in a vivid shade of turquoise, are a symbol of Nice, and of the Cote d’Azur. In the 1940s, the seaside city wanted to line its main seafront promenade with chairs so that visitors could enjoy the views towards Antibes.
The earliest armchairs, in white wicker, had a fee to sit on, but then blue aluminium ones were added. The current wood and metal design from 1988 is by French architect and designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The seats are fixed to each other in groups and to the ground (and are now free to use). This emblematic chair is even represented in a sculpture by Sabine Géraudie, La Chaise Bleue de SAB on the promenade, near the Jardin Albert er; you can also see them depicted on many souvenirs. In 2020, some chairs were painted with the colours of the Tour de France jerseys.
Every visitor to Nice should sit on a chaise bleue – it’s all part of the “blue coast” experience!
5) Cimiez museum – life in the Roman town of Cemenelum
This is located next to the Matisse museum – an energetic uphill stroll, or short bus or taxi ride, from the centre of Nice. Officially called the Musée Archéologique de Nice-Cimiez, it houses tools, coins, pottery and jewellery dating from prehistoric times up to the Middle Ages, each explained in its own context (in French), and features a good diagram showing how Roman baths worked.
Outside, you can explore the Roman town of Cemenelum, capital of the Alpes-Maritime province, complete with streets, houses, arena, 5,000-seater amphitheatre (divided into two sections, with separate entrances), market square, temple, and three bath complexes (the largest in France). The town was initially founded as an army staging post in the 1st century CE, and the remains you can see are mostly from the 3rd and 4th centuries; there is also an early Christian basilica from the 5th century.
Interesting fact: Queen Victoria used to stay nearby at the (now closed) Excelsior Regina Palace hotel.
And… Hotel Le Meridien rooftop bar – for cocktails with a turquoise view
Everyone knows the landmark Le Negresco hotel on the Promenade des Anglais, but for the best views of Baie des Anges, head to Le Méridien’s rooftop bar and restaurant, La Terrasse. On the 10th floor, it’s one of the highest roof terraces, offering a fabulous view of the old town and the beach. Order a cocktail and gaze out at the perfect Mediterranean vista.
At Paris-Nice Vacations, we match travellers with luxury apartments located throughout the city of Nice, so that your day spent exploring this beautiful city always finishes in appropriate style and comfort.