36 Hours in Nice, France

(Photo by Richard Nahem)

We took a trip last month to Nice in the south of France. The hub for visiting the charming villages of the Cote d’Azur, Nice is as much of a city as it is a resort. From the Promenade des Anglais to the unique regional Nicoise cuisine (a blend of Italian and French) to the high hills overlooking the city, Nice is a diverse destination with much to see and do. 

Day One

We take a flight from Paris at 8:15 a.m. and arrive at the Nice airport an hour later. A new tram delivers us directly to the center of the city in 25 minutes for only €1.5. The ride is quiet and comfortable, with part of it coasting along the Mediterranean.

We drop our bags at the Hotel Negresco, as we can’t check in until later in the day.

Late Morning- Cours Saleya Food and Flower Market

Known as one of the greatest food markets in France, Cours Saleya is a treasure. Located in the Old City of Nice, the market spans several blocks. Under blue-and-white-striped awnings, smiling vendors proudly display and hawk their produce, Nicoise olives, local honey, prepared Nicoise foods and milled soaps. We stop at a stall called Chez Teresa, which specializes in socca, a flatbread prepared with ground chickpeas, cooked every few minutes. We sample the warm bread and love it. 

We circle the flower market with beautiful seasonal flowers, including deep-purple hydrangeas and pure-white peonies. 

Cours Saleya market is open from Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m.-1: 30 p.m., and on Monday it becomes an antique flea market. 

After the market we stroll through the narrow passageways and streets of old Nice, which are painted in colors of pale blue, sun-drenched yellow and blush pink. 

Overwhelmed by the food selection at Cours Saleya and now hungry for lunch, we head to Chez Palmyre, known for one of the best salad Nicoises in Nice. That bold claim was true, even after we tried a few others around the city. The classic salad lived up to its ingredients: green beans were crisp, potatoes tasty, anchovies salty, and the canned tuna with olive oil moist (please note that a true salad Nicoise has canned tuna, not fresh tuna). 


Seeking to get some beach time in, we head to the Place Beau Rivage Beach Club for a few hours. Spanning the beach in front of the five-star Beau Rivage Hotel, the beach club has attractive blue-and-white-striped chairs along with white parasols. We rent two lounges for a half-day fee of €15 per person, plus another €5 for an umbrella and towel rental. A double lounge is available for couples. The sun is hot, but the cool sea breeze keeps it pleasant, and we swim in the warm, Mediterranean water not wanting to leave. Finding it hard to maneuver the rock-laden beach with bare feet, we have to buy rubber shoes to protect us. Place Beau Rivage has light food served at the lounges, along with drinks. There is also a more formal restaurant with seating and a full lunch-and-dinner menu. 

Early Evening 

We finally check in to the Negresco Hotel and are given a lovely sea-view room. Sized at 325 square feet, the room is spacious and airy, done in a cheerful mid-century style with a color palette of mustard yellow and aqua blue, finished with a graphic black-and-white-patterned wallpaper. We learn the intriguing history of the Negresco and how it was the first luxury hotel to open in Nice in 1911, built by Henri Negresco from Romania


Dinner is at Le Sens, a popular boite highly recommended by locals. We start with a traditional, south-of-France soup with fresh seafood in red broth, served with croutons and garlic paste. Our whole grilled sea bass, cooked in a salt crust and served with caramelized fennel and artichokes, is a masterpiece. Just when we thought our dinner couldn’t get better, a hazelnut cookie served with roasted peaches and ices, and a caramel mousse for dessert, sends us swooning. 

Late Night 

At about 11 p.m. we decide to check out a recommended jazz club in the Old City, Le Shapko. It’s a relaxed and laid-back place, and a jazz trio does a bang-up job playing a tribute to Miles Davis

Day Two 

Morning- Villa Kerylos

We embark on an excursion outside of Nice, hopping a fast 12-minute train to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, a sleepy beach village. A 10-minute walk from the station takes us to Villa Kerylos, a stunning Greek-style villa built for French archeologist Theodore Reinach and his wife Fanny Kann, a wealthy heiress. It took six years, from 1902 to 1908, for the villa to be built. It's a faithful reproduction of a Greek noble home, incorporating some of the latest state-of-the-art features of the time, such as indoor plumbing, electricity and heated floors. 

Every inch of the villa is executed with exquisite details, including magnificent mosaics, wall etchings and murals, marble bathrooms, carved-wood furniture and hand-painted, wood-beamed ceilings. Wrapping around the villa is a terrace overlooking the rugged, mountainous coastline beyond. 

Late Afternoon

After our half-day excursion in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, we head back to Nice to Le Meridien hotel. A late-afternoon drink is in order, so we take the elevator to the 10th floor. We are seated on the terrace, where we are knocked out by the commanding view of the sea and points beyond. We order the cocktail of the moment, an Aperol spritz, and savor our last few hours in Nice, sipping on the bright, red-orange liquid served in oversized balloon goblets. 

Chez Palmyre
5 Rue Droite, 06300

La Sens
37 Rue Pastorelli, 06000

Le Shapko
5 Rue Rossetti, 06300

Le Meridien Nice
1 Prom. des Anglais, 06046

Villa Kerylos
Impasse Gustave Eiffel, 06310

Hotel Negresco
37 Prom. des Anglais, 06000

Place Beau Rivage Beach Club
107 Quai des États-Unis, 06300

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