Fancy some down time satisfying your cultural taste buds? Having a history of occupation by Spain, Italy and France, the fifth largest city in France is the place to indulge in art, history, food and architecture. The relative lack of expense that the experience costs, making it the ultimate holiday location for any budding ‘culture vulture’.
Initial costs, flights and accommodation, are easily minimalised by travelling towards the end of the summer holidays. The best deals for travel are found with EasyJet, who fly from both London Stansted and Gatwick. In September prices range between £66 and £160, the higher of which tend to be on routes involving departures on either Mondays or Fridays. Similarly, September makes for very reasonable hostel fares, depending mainly on location. Hostels such as Hostel Smith in the Vieux Nice (Old Town) will cost £30 per person sharing a three bed private room whilst those is the newer areas of the city (further away from prime attractions) cost £20 per person sharing a three bed private room at Hostel Belle Meuniere.
As a city, Nice leaves little unwanted. The suburbs are leafy and quiet, the industrial areas neatly tucked away, and the centre fuses of cosmopolitan France and the atmosphere of the Riviera. Narrow cobbled streets turn off high streets with all the big high-street names. The many town squares give a sociable vibe to Nice and help this modern city retain its traditional French edge.
The museums which Nice plays host to are not to be missed. The top three – Musée Mattisse, Musée Chegall and Musée d’Art Moderne – are all free. Whilst the Musée Mattisse is a fair walk from the city centre, it is well worth it. It not only exposures you to the suburbs, but the Musée is situated in an olive tree park, perfect for a chapter or two of a holiday read, and next to the city’s roman ruins (entry free).
The bulk of the ruins are scattered around, making it not an uncommon occurrence to stumble across an ancient wall as you pop to the boulangerie. Accompanied by a map, from the entrance to the archaeological Musée, stroll along grass footpaths in and out of what was once a city centre and bathhouses.
Another unexpected experience surrounding the museums is the courtyard outside the Musée d’Art Moderne which regularly hosts a low key display of local break dancers. Whilst the exterior of the museum is an unfortunate sample of 1960s architecture, the museum itself hosts a mixture of multi-media installations, contemporary pop art and Expressionist-inspired pieces.
Old Town itself is a wealth of beauty due to the many hidden baroque churches and Nicoise locals, the latter best observed from a corner cafe behind a good novel and a strong espresso. The area is riddled with narrow streets lined with shops, eateries and surprise frescos. Don’t miss Fennochio’s, the ice-cream parlour which provides 94 flavours of the finest, or the multiple sweet, biscuit and chocolate shops which are more than willing to give out free samples. The ‘gem’ of this area is the market Cours Saleya which by day sells local produce and by night is lined with the best bars and restaurants.
The seafront can be traditionally enjoyed by a stroll along the Boulevard des Anglais or from one of the beach cafés. The beaches themselves are pebble, but not too uncomfortable as long as you bring something to sit on.
Further along, the harbour is worth a visit, despite a slightly grotty atmosphere. The main attractions here are the delicious seafood restaurants, the stunning Église Notre Dame de Port and swanky yachts.
With so much to offer and much to be discovered at a reasonable price, Nice is the perfect destination for any student wanting some quiet time, good food and a grand dose of culture. ML
In photos – LD