Relaxed and beautiful Nice is an easy city to visit with a long heritage of welcoming tourists. Once you've learned a few tips and tricks it's even easier. As a long-term resident of Nice, here are some of the habits I and my friends have developed to get the most out of this fascinating and diverse city.
Use public transport to get around town
Now that Nice has revamped and modernised its public transport system, there's absolutely no reason to hassle with a car. Parking is a nightmare and navigating the network of one-way streets is stressful. Trams go back and forth from the airport and connect all four corners of Nice. Where trams don't go, buses do. The network is run by the Lignes d'Azur. Rather than using the website, I recommend downloading the Lignes d'Azur app (available on Apple or Android) which allows you to plug in your arrival and departure points and get the most efficient route. Get a discount by buying a 10-pack of tickets or, even better, download the Lignes d'Azur Tickets app (available on Apple or Android)and carry the tickets on your smartphone.
Locals never take taxis if there's any possible way to avoid it. Nice taxis are notoriously expensive and drivers are always looking to scam passengers. We take Uber for short journeys. If public transport from the airport doesn't work for you, I recommend Sun Transfers which handles all types of airport transport at a reasonable price.
Get the Allo Mairie app
Toilets. Where are the public toilets? It's important information when you're out for a day sightseeing. Sure, you could duck into a bar or cafe and plead for mercy (or, buy a coffee) but there are clean public toilets throughout Nice. The free Allo Mairie app (available on Apple or Android) comes with a map showing exactly where they are. There are also free water fountains dispensing clean, potable water throughout Nice where you can fill up your water bottle. The in-app map shows you exactly where they are. There are also other useful features such as emergency numbers, webcams of road traffic, handicapped parking places and more. You can even upload a picture of anything that seems illegal or just unpleasant.
Prep for the beach like a local
Locals go to the beach in the morning when the water is clean and calm. We avoid afternoons when beaches are much more crowded. Nice beaches are pebbly, not sandy, making proper watershoes essential for comfortably entering and exiting the sea. There are a number of stores in the old town and and along the rue de France that sell watershoes or you can order watershoes online.
Unfortunately, stinging jellyfish (méduses)can be a problem. They appear for a few days and then inexplicably disappear for days or weeks. We check the méduses map before heading to the beach and then ask around if we see that the sea is suspiciously empty.
Watch for the bike lanes
A busy bike lane runs the length of the Promenade des Anglais. Between local bike clubs whizzing down the Prom and electric scooters breaking the sound barrier, crossing a bike lane can be perilous. Pedestrians do not have the right of way at crosswalks except in a few places where the crosswalks are painted blue instead of green. Mom's advice to "look both ways before crossing the street" should be followed.
Book ahead at beach restaurants
Nothing beats dining al fresco at one of Nice's private beach restaurants. Sipping a cold rosé by the sea is Mediterranean living at its finest. Reservations are wise anywhere in Nice but at a beach restaurant in summer an advance booking for lunch or dinner is essential. All the beach restaurants have a lounge area for cocktails which does not need to be booked in advance. Still, it's best to call ahead to make sure the entire restaurant and lounge hasn't been booked for a private evening which happens frequently on summer weekends.
Save money by buying a pass
Most locals have a residence-based museum pass but there are great passes for visitors too. Nice museums cost from €5 to €10 each which makes Nice's special 3-day pass for €15 a great deal. Buy it online here or at any museum. Note that the popular Chagall museum is not included. The French Riviera Pass also offers a great deal, offering free admission to some excellent regional museums and many attractions including bike rentals, boat tours, watersports, and even a football match. Prices are €28/40/59 for one/two/three days.
Buy fruits and veggies in local markets
Be proper on the Prom
The Niçois are generally relaxed about dress codes but yes, you do need to be actually dressed. Promenading on the Prom in a bathing suit is very much interdit. You probably won't get a fine (although you could) but you will certainly draw hostile stares. The Prom is also not the place to uncork that bottle of rosé which would lead to a fine. Theoretically, it's forbidden to drink alcohol on the beach as well but that rule is rarely enforced.
Look for weekday lunch specials
Many, but not all, restaurants offer special formules for lunch which is usually a two-course meal at half the price of a dinner. It can be a great way to master your food budget. Don't look for these special deals in beach restaurants, in the Old Town or in a celebrated Michelin-starred restaurant. Note that these special deals are only available Monday to Friday. Here are some of my favorite lunch deals:
Indian Lounge €10
Asian Factory €12.50
Le Sens €19
Le Tire Bouchon €20
Les Epicuriens €21
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