by Anthony Peregrine, The Telegraph, February 2, 2018
Follow in the footsteps of the Victorians now that Riviera season is here.
The sun is low in a big sky. Its light spangles the sea, promising high-resolution times riveting for those from the vague, grey north. Thus were attracted our noble Victorian forebears to Nice. Winter was Riviera season then, January and February host to well-dressed decadence. This should still be the case, the carnival a fine excuse for sybaritic excess from Feb 17-March 3, almond blossom and mimosa enhancing the illusion of douceur.
Backed into Castle Hill, La Pérouse (1) has outstanding views across the Bay of Angels, four-star rooms and a patio restaurant in private Provençal gardens. A few blocks back from the front, the Villa Rivoli (2) wears a smart, feminine air (doubles from €53).
Hotel La Perouse Nice, Côte d'Azur, France
9Telegraph expert rating
With its dramatic clifftop setting, La Perouse drinks in the big blue stare of the Med like no other hotel on the Côte d'Azur. It oozes four-star fabulousness with subtlety and panache - what's not to like? Read expert review. From £148per night. Check availability. Rates provided by Booking.com.
The Promenade des Anglais (3) is the most elegant urban seafront in France, perhaps in Europe. Stroll, then cross the Cours Saleya into the Vieux Nice (4), narrow streets crammed with arm-waving commerce. This is the city’s raucous Mediterranean heart.
Out by the airport – take a 9 or 10 bus, stop “Arènes” – the first-class Parc Phoenix (see its tropical plant house) hosts the Musée des Arts Asiatiques (5). Small but perfectly formed in contemporary fashion, this celebrates Asian culture, holds tea ceremonies every Sunday at 3pm and, until March 25, has a temporary show exploring samurai (free).
Segways, the motorised pogo sticks, provide a spiffing way to get around the sights (mobilboard.com, 2 Rue Halévy; €17 for 30 minutes, but €30 for an hour is a better bet).
Nice’s key shopping experience is the flower, fruit and veg market (6) on Cours Saleya every morning bar Monday. It’s an effusion of colour and raw commerce, aromas and rampant fertility. If you insist, big-ticket fashion items congregate on Avenue de Suède (7) and Rue Paradis (8).
In the newly cool zone between Place Garibaldi and the port, the Comptoir Central Électrique (9) at 10 Rue Bonaparte is as hip as any. Around €9 for cocktails.
A step or two from tourist circuits, the Voyageur Nissart (10) is my favourite trad Nice restaurant: not much décor but the local food – lamb in herbs, red mullet, petits farcis (stuffed vegetables) – is ace and the prices low. Three-course menus start at €17 (19 Rue Alsace-Lorraine).
Off the map
Henri Matisse lived in Nice from 1917 until his death in 1954. The Musée Matisse – up Cimiez Hill at 164 Avenue Arènes-de-Cimiez – offers a vertical tasting of his life’s work. Take buses 15, 17, 20 or 25 to the Les Arènes stop. The €10 charge gets you into all Nice’s other municipal museums for 24 hours.