Nice and Monaco are ideal places to visit for a weekend. We went there to enjoy delicious food, wine and beautiful views of the Mediterranean.
Located in the famous Côte d’Azur, Nice is a perfect place for a quick or long escapade. Nice is bathed by the Mediterranean Sea and is at the foot of the Ligurian Alps. This makes it the perfect spot for relaxation, but also for some outdoor activity. Nice has also a strong cinematographic culture. The Victorine cinema Studios built in 1921, were an attempt to create a Hollywood style environment. During the Second World War, many actors and directors fled the German-occupied French areas and settled Nice.
Nice has a blessed weather that offers about 300 days of sun. Moreover, the sea conditions are ideal for diving or swimming. Just by driving along the coast you find great spots to do so.
Founded by Greeks around 350 BC, Nice was named Nikaia, after Nike- the goddess of Victory. The city was part of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and only became French in 1860.
Nice’s architecture is also a beauty to enjoy. From its Mediterranean orange roofs, to distinctive villas belonging to the Belle Époque period. The majority of the villas were painted cream and white so they could stand out in the sunshine and look like small castles. As years passed by, they now transmit certain nostalgic greatness from another time.
Why Nice & Monaco?
We wanted to escape for a weekend, to visit France for the food and wine, and saw that flights to Nice, a place we hadn’t been to yet, were leaving at a good time. As we explored Nice’s location, close to Monaco, we took the chance to go there as well. As Nice is by the Mediterranean, it sounded like a good spot to check out.
When? How is the weather in May in Nice?
Nice is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, enjoying hot summers, mild winters, and moderate rainfall. Temperatures in winter average 15oC and they reach an average of 27oC in its hottest months of July and August. We went in May and the weather was perfect, not too cold or too hot, around 20oC. You could easily walk in a t-shirt and shorts, we even sunbathed.
How to get around?
Walking around Nice is enough to see core of the city. If not, there are local buses and trams that take you around. We used local buses to go from Nice to Éze and Monaco, for 2.50€ each way, and the route was quite scenic.
Day 1 – Arriving in Nice
We left Dublin after work on Friday and arrived late at night in Nice. We tried to take a local bus to the city center, but after walking around for a while we couldn’t find the right stop and decided to grab a taxi instead. Not sure if that was a good idea, as it cost us 50€. The airport is not far from the city center. We checked in at Hotel Helvétique, our stay for the trip. It was nice enough hotel, centrally located, rooms were clean and the staff was friendly and spoke good English.
We left our things, and decided to go into the city to check it out. The temperature was pleasant and there were a lot of people enjoying their Friday night out. We converged into a street of bars, restaurants, and bistros. The buildings were the typical architecture you find around Nice and in other French cities as well.
We managed to grab a table outside at Les Distilleries Idéales, a local place we found in FourSquare. The atmosphere was lively, youthful, and bourgeoise. With our broken French we were able to order some wine and a cheeseboard. We were hungry! It was simple but delicious, just what we needed.
The bread, along with different cheeses and jam made a perfect match with the House’s red wine. One, two glasses, some more bread, and we were full. The decoration of the place is something that you expect in France and that you can only appreciate it when you go there. Even the simplest decorated café looks as authentic and gives you a feeling, of uniqueness or belonging. We strolled around and saw the beautiful orange painted walls and windows embedded in them. These are a bit different than other styles, as they swing from their casements, which gives it a cool effect when you look from below to the top. We took some great shots at night from them.
Day 2 – Nice Vielle Ville (Old Town)
Time to explore the city. We woke up and set out on a hunt to find a boulangerie, to get ourselves some delicious croissants. The craziness of sweets in a French bakery gives you a sugar coma just by looking at it. The day was sunny, and it was easy enough to find a place to sit. Walking around the old town, we saw some very picturesque buildings and streets. We stumbled upon a big open-air market, just next to the sea. It had a bit of everything: fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, you name it. Something to make anyone’s mouth salivate. We felt like summer was already there.
Promenande des Anglais
We strolled down the iconic Promenade des Anglais (the Walkway of the English), a 7km promenade that stretches along the coast, where people come and enjoy the sea and do all sorts of activities. This promenade is at the city’s core. On the one side, there’s the Mediterranean with its blue immensity and on the other the old town with its well-preserved architecture (a mix of hotels and local residences) that brings you back to the 50s.
There, we saw locals jogging, street dancing, juggling with skateboards, and roller skaters showing off impressive moves. Financed by the British aristocracy in the 18th century, this promenade is now a central place where everyone meets, both tourists and locals.
Artists come here to get inspired by the intensity of the colors and landscape around them. The blue chairs (chaise bleu) are there for people to sit on them; the palm trees that oscillate with the wind. It is a place where one can witness an intense brightness of all the whiteness that is present in the surrounding buildings. This light has inspired many painters like Matisse, Picasso, and Chagal that came and visited Nice.
Castle Hill and sea views
As we continued walking we saw a place at the top that offered a great view of Nice, the Colline du Château, or Castle Hill. We climbed up the stairs and took great pictures along the way. At the top, there was a manmade waterfall, very refreshing, and a panoramic view with a 360-degree angle of the coast.
We enjoyed it there for a while, absorbing all the colors and some very much needed vitamin D. We descended back down to relax at the beach and lay down in the stones. Nice’s main beach, where we were doesn’t have any sand but stones. It’s a bit hard on the feet so don’t remove your shoes straight away, wait until you find a place to lay down. The sea was calm and people were swimming.
Try the delicious seafood
We checked for places to eat close to the sea and found Le Safari, specialized in seafood. This restaurant had a great space to sit outside and with a warm day like that, it felt the perfect spot to eat. Also, it was close to the market and the staff spoke perfect English.
We grabbed some fried calamari accompanied with white sauce, some fresh Tuna salad with egg, tomatoes, lettuce, and other greens, and a glass of fresh white wine. The mix of food, weather, and the sun was just perfect. As you already noticed from our trips, every time there is a trip to a sunny place, we appreciate the Sun because there’s not enough of it in Ireland, for sure not.
Day 3 – Èze & Monaco
We check in the map the day before and saw how close Nice is to Monaco, just 1h more or less by bus away. We asked in the hotel reception how to get there and they also told us to visit the medieval city of Èze. This is a cute little town that is on the way to Monaco, also about 30 to 40min away from Nice. Because we had the whole day to ourselves (our flight was only late at night), we visited both places. Crazy to think that in the morning, we were enjoying a sunny, warm place where people spoke French, and on the same day in the evening, we had rain and cold weather and people spoke English. How these two things can change your human experience and mindset is insane to think about.
First stop, Èze. A well hidden medieval town, located by the sea overlooking a high cliff of 427metres. From the top, you have a beautiful view of the Mediterranean and surrounding cities. The name Èze owns its origins to the ancient Egyptian goddess, Isis. Over time, the city changed hands between Greeks, Romans, and Moors and currently it hosts 3000 inhabitants. It is only accessible by foot. We arrived by bus from Nice that left us at the bottom and then walked up about 2h. We entered the city through the double 14th-century fortress gates into a labyrinth of narrow streets.
The streets were very picturesque and there were several paths that we could choose from to take us to the top. Along the way, we found cozy handicraft shops, cafés, and restaurants. At the top, we found Le Jardin Exotique d’Èze or the Exotic Garden that harbors plants from all over the world and a giant 13-meter cactus in the center of it. The garden was built on the ruins of an ancient castle in 1949. To enter we had to pay 6€ each. From the top, you can enjoy a gorgeous view of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the coast. There’s a lot of history behind Èze’s walls and buildings that you can get infatuated with, especially if you are into history.
Our next stop was Monaco, a 2 km square country located on the shore of the Mediterranean and with a population of ca.39 000 people. Similar to Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, Monaco is a relic of Medieval Europe and a tax haven for businesses. It has no income tax and tourism, finance, and commerce are some of its strong economic activities. In 2014, roughly 30% of its population was made up of millionaires.
With the Euro as a currency and French as its official language, Monaco is highly densely populated and also has a high concentration of buildings and boats in a small area. You can feel the luxury and wealth of the place when you arrive there. As we weren’t interested in casinos or shops, we decided to explore and discover the old town area as well as the palace where current Prince Albert II lives.
The architecture around looked quite similar to Nice, but at a smaller scale and the buildings didn’t look as worn out. Narrow walking streets filled with restaurants and cafés, it was easy enough to navigate around and find our way to the Prince´s Palace of Monaco. We walked to the top and saw some beautiful views over the two main ports: Port de Fontvielle and Port Hercule.
We walked around for a while in the palace surroundings, taking some pictures from the view and enjoying the shops and restaurants we found along the way. It was a shame we weren’t able to stay there until evening, as we read that the night-time illuminations make the place special to take pictures of.
Last dinner in Nice
Monaco is not your typical country to visit and to be honest, it is not somewhere we were dreaming or wanted to go. But it is interesting to visit it for a day when on a trip to Nice, to check out how luxury and nature meet in one place. Combine this with Èze and it makes it a very nice day spent out. In total, we spent 2h in Monaco and decided to catch the bus back to Nice, as we wanted to enjoy one last meal there before returning home.
We found ourselves a nice Italian place to eat at Nice´s port, called La Goélette that served delicious pizzas. We stayed there until the sunset, we were tired but didn´t want to go back. Side note: if you ever go to Nice, don’t have any restrictions on time, you can extend your trip by catching a ferry from there to Sardinia and Corsica, both beautiful places to visit.
Going Back home
It was time to head back to the airport. We were almost unlucky as we realized that the bus we thought we had to catch from where we were wasn’t operating that route anymore. 2 things didn’t work: first google maps, second the bus info that was in the bus stop. That´s the thing in France, things are not as well organized as in other places, so even though at the bus stop it said the bus we needed to take was going through there, in reality, it wasn´t. As time went by, we asked a bus driver from another bus and they told us we had to go elsewhere, to take it. One bus later, we managed to grab the right bus and for 2.50€ arrived at the airport in 40 minutes.
À bientôt Nice!
No need for a visa if you are from the EU.
Hotel + Flights for 2 people: 166 € + 169.88 €. Overall, we found Nice food prices to be reasonable . It might not be the budget destination, but it is very doable.
Food to try
Socca (chickpea flour flatbread) – it consists of delicious chickpea flour made with olive oil, water, and salt, made in a frittata style way. You can find them everywhere in Nice and freshly made in the central market in the city. Also, try the seafood, if you like it, it was delicious.