The French Riviera easily embodies the idyllic European summer holiday – bright blue waveless water, striped umbrellas, rocky beaches and lazy days spent in ultimate relaxation mode. This is totally different to what most Australians would associate with a beach holiday and it is so fun to experience the local norm. As the stomping ground of the rich and famous, this stretch of coastline is a perfect mix of fancy and casual, allowing for you to shape the vacation around your interests in the coastal jewel of Nice. I nearly skipped this stop on the Hop-On, Hop-Off network last year, but once I had a chance to explore, it became one of my favourite beach destinations in Europe.
Wouldn’t It Be ‘Nice’
When I first arrived in Nice, I walked down the esplanade and instantly knew why so many people had fallen in love with this city before me. Arriving in the afternoon, the squad and I freshened up and had the chance to explore just before the sun started to set over the water – another foreign and beautiful experience for an Aussie that is used to ocean sunrises and mountain sunsets. We walked towards the Castle Hill and trudged up to the lookout point for the most amazing view of the bay. The gradient of the water from dark to light blue is so obvious from that vantage point, and the setting sun cast the most glorious glow over the red-roofed buildings. This is the perfect sunset spot, however we rudely found out that the area closes at 8pm, after Jordan and Wes got locked inside the gates. Alternatively, we enjoyed the rest from the ledge behind the “I <3 Nice” sign, which still delivered the Insta-worthy shots.
As we walked back down the esplanade, it was bustling with activity – pedestrians, people on skateboards, rollerblades, bikes, and the entrances to the beachside bars that are dotted along the walkway. However, this was nothing compared to the next night, which happened to be the FIFA World Cup semi-finals between France and Belgium. The stakes were high, as the squad had a €10 FIFA sweepstake, eventuating in Jordan backing France, and Wes betting on Belgium. A jazz festival was taking place in the city at the time, so there was a stage and barricades set up, and everyone congregated inside wearing mostly blue, white and red flags and jerseys (though there was a small minority in red and yellow – including Wes) to watch the game on the big screen. Faith and I went to the front of the crowd with the hardcore supporters, roaring and chanting (well, trying to in French) with all of the France supporters when they won the game. Afterwards, the party, cheers and conga line continued on (and in) the Apollo Fountain, then at Wayne’s Bar for a boogie. What a night!
French Riviera Fun
Nice may be the biggest city in the area, but there are so many beautiful little towns along the French Riviera. Last year, I got on the train and explored the cute coastal strip in Menton, with its famous rows of colourful houses. A highlight was the medieval village of Éze, which features a 12th Century castle, breathtaking views over the Mediterranean Sea, and houses a variety of strange free galleries and museums. Further down the coast is Monaco, the second smallest country in the world and the stomping ground of the rich and famous. If you’re looking to laze the day away sipping coffee or cocktails, watching the world go by and dipping in and out of the water, then I’d recommend checking out one of these smaller towns, as it’s a welcome change of pace from Nice. A few things that are still left on the bucket list for me, even after two visits, is taking a day trip to Cannes, and hiring a boat to see the beautiful landscape from the water. At least there are a few good excuses to come back!
This time, I got to explore the coastline in an even cooler fashion – taking to the roads on an e-bike with Nice Cycle Tours. I’d never ridden an e-bike before, but was so grateful for the extra help when I was making my way up the hills between Nice and the gorgeous Ville Franche Sumner. The town itself is stunning, with its bright, warm coloured buildings overlooking the water. We made our way to the sandy beach and ate the best fresh baguette and croissant that we’d picked up earlier, before having a swim in the crystal clear water. On the way back to the city, we stopped at a couple of beautiful lookouts looking over Nice, and onto the other side where you can see the coastlines of Monaco and Italy.
Au Revoir, Nice!
This part of France is not only idyllic and incredible, but also has so much to offer. If you’re looking for some uninterrupted relaxation, then spend your days swimming and sun baking on the stone beach. If you’re after some retail therapy, you can easily spend your time in the cute boutique stores down the winding streets in the old part of town. If you want culture, then hop along the adorable towns along the French riviera, each with their own unique charm. And if you are seeking some fun, then the nightlife is vibrant, with plenty of top notch cuisine and bustling bars tucked into the winding streets. I’ve had the chance to enjoy it twice now and have fallen in love with this city even more. Whatever it is that you’re after – don’t miss out on a really ‘Nice’ time in this stellar part of the world.
The Recommended Hostel: Hostel Villa Saint Exupery Beach
Nice is such a walkable city that staying at the Busabout recommended hostel really sets you up for a great time. Only a few minutes walk from the old town, the main town square or the beach, it makes it super convenient to see all of the great sights that Nice has to offer. This hostel will ensure you get a good sleep, as it’s nice and quiet, the rooms here are spacious and some of them have single story beds instead of bunks (which is so nice when you’ve been traveling for a while!) and you can wake up to a nice continental breakfast in the bar downstairs. The squad really enjoyed our stay here, as it was a great base to explore from.