The oldest still-standing neighborhood, Vieux Nice, is a world away from Nice’s broad seaside boulevards and spacious squares like Place Masséna. It’s an exciting tangle of narrow alleys, cobblestone streets, shops, restaurants, crêperies, cafes and “glaciers” (ice-cream shops). The tall ochre-painted, shutter-covered apartment buildings resonate a strong Italian vibe. Though naturally, there are a few tourist traps, the neighborhood is beloved and visited by tourists and locals alike. The environment still breaths a great deal of authenticity. The Old Town is an excellent option of what to do in Nice.
Cours Saleya is the main pedestrian street running through the heart of old town which opens up to the sprawling daily local food market. Opened from 6 am to 1:30 pm, the market boasts the best ingredients from the region. Trail the stalls enjoying samples of cheeses and charcuterie. Make sure you make a quick stop at a socca (a chickpea flour crepe) stand to try this the regional specialty. Definitely, the best place to visit in Nice for gourmet buffs! While the sale of fresh produce finishes around lunchtime, the adjacent flower market (one of the best in the whole of France) stays open until 5:30 pm.
The Promenade des Anglais (English Walk) runs along the pebbly shore of Nice's seafront; It nonchalantly skirts the clear blue Baie des Anges (the Bay of Angels). You can follow it from the Old Town and Quai des États-Unis in the east all the way to the airport in the west. It’s not only a stunning place for a walk but also a great way to get started on your sightseeing. As it dates to the 18th century, the promenade is the embodiment of Belle Époque architecture. Hence, many of the city’s landmarks line the edges of the promenade. Indeed, Promenade des Anglais is one of the best places to see in Nice.
Its origins can be traced to the Gallo-Roman ruins of Cimiez located in the hills up the boulevard of Cimiez from downtown Nice. Cimiez also has a monastery and several museums. However, today, most of its inhabitants live much closer to sea level. Interestingly, in the past, Nice actually formed part of the Italian Duchy of Savoia and later the Kingdom of Sardinia. It became part of France only in 1860 as a result of a rigged ballot, very much against the will of the population.
Hence, Nice is the perfect place for lovers of both French and Italian cultures. To this day, the Italian influence is palpable all around the city. You can enjoy the Italian vibes in the old city center peppered with tall-shuttered, ochre-colored buildings as if brought in straight from Portofino; in the form of specialized fresh pasta shops on almost every corner.
Nonetheless, before anything else, Nice is all about the Mediterranean climate and the sea. These two aspects made Nice a top tourist destination in the 1700s, long before tourism became a thing. As you stroll along the waterfront, you will be soaking in the same views that attracted European aristocrats during the belle-époque. Nothing quite compares to days spent on the beach, relaxing and people watching. Although the beaches in Nice are mainly pebbles that don’t stop people from enjoying swimming in the clear blue waters. So, if you are heading to the beach, make sure to bring sandals along with your towel or mat. In any case, whether you're busy skating, swimming, kayaking, suntanning on a beach lounger or taken by the sunset over the Med, leisure in Nice happens by the water.
Nice’s views, landscapes, and the light didn’t just charm the European aristocrats but also many artists. For instance, Henri Matisse came here to recover from severe bronchitis and ended up falling in love with Nice so deeply; he lived here for 37 years. Other great artists such as Picasso and Renoir also had a soft spot for Nice which later became home of the influential avant-garde École de Nice. If you are interested in art, peek inside the Museum Matisse, Museum Chagall, and Museum of Modern Art.
If you are still looking for things to do in Nice, turn your attention to food. Bann diets from the realms of your mind and indulge to your heart’s content. For an exceptional culinary experience, come down to the Vieux Nice’s Saleya market. Here, the small farmers and producers from the foothills of the Alps sell their incredible fresh produce. You will find top chefs from local restaurants rubbing shoulders with tourists, shopping for the best of the best. To get an authentic taste of the city try local specialties like socca (chickpea pancakes sold as street snacks) air the tasty pissaladière (caramelized onion tart). Countless local bistros serving local delicacies are ready to welcome and pamper you.
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