Our twelfth interrail stop, we had just a short 24 hours in Nice.
That being said, looking back I’m surprised how much did fit, particularly as I made sure we spent a significant sunbathing by that perfect blue sea!
Nice was the perfect place to slow down, relax and recharge before our last few stops. And although the city didn’t really blow me away, I’m glad we included it.
It also meant I got the chance to attempt to use some of my G.C.S.E French. And I should probably emphasize the word attempt – it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped…
Our hostel, Villa Sant Exupery Beach, was about 2 minutes from Place Massena so we decided to start our Nice adventure there.
Place Massena is in the heart of Nice, close to Promenade des Anglais, the beach, the old town, and the train station. It makes this impressive square the perfect place to start any trip to the city.
Make sure you don’t just rush through it on your way to somewhere else though.
Whether its art, architecture or simply people watching you’re after, it’s all there in this one square.
From Place Massena, we headed down Promenade du Paillon.
This green space in the heart of Nice is home to impressive water features, children’s play areas and of course plenty of shaded benches to relax.
It’s hard to imagine that this perfect little oasis was once a bus station and a multistorey car park!
Our first planned stop of the morning was the bustling markets in Cours Saleya.
A trip to Nice would not be complete without a wander around the markets. With everything from fresh flowers, vegetables, fruits, spices and even pastries available. You could spend hours taking it all in. But a word of warning, unless you’re heading there super early be prepared for big crowds and lots of hustle and bustle.
Oh and if you’re going with other people maybe figure out a place to meet if you get separated. Mark and I managed to lose each other more than once in just half an hour…
After our fill of the markets, we grabbed a couple of pastries from a stall for €1.50 each. The headed down towards the seafront to find a quiet spot to eat them.
We sat on the edge of the promenade and looked out over that gorgeous blue sea eating French pastries in France. In was pretty special.
When you visit Nice it’s pretty impossible to avoid Promenade des Anglais. This is probably the most famous stretch of seafront in France. I guarantee you’ll end up spending most of your time in the city along this iconic promenade.
At one end, along with the rather cheesy I love Nice sign, are a set of steps leading up to Castle Hill. There’s also an elevator you can use that was unfortunately closed while we were there.
Just a short way up is the most incredible view point. The perfect photo spot. I would definitely recommend a trip up for a chance to see Nice from above.
For some reason, we decided not to go any further but at the top of the hill is Castle Park. It’s the sight of the old Castle and among the ruins, you can find cemeteries, waterfalls and even a kids playground. Skipping out on exploring this part of Nice is probably my biggest regret when it comes to our time there.
Since the sun was well and truly shining we decided to spend some of our afternoon relaxing at the beach. So it was off to the hostel to get beach ready.
From the hostel, we headed back to Promenade des Anglais.
A few friends had been to Nice a couple of months beforehand and they recommended hiring Velo Bleu Bikes and cycling along the promenade. So before we settled down on the beach we decided to go for a cycle.
Honestly, this was my favourite thing from our time in Nice. If you do one thing, make sure it’s this. There is no better way to see the world famous Nice seafront than whizzing past on a bike.
The bikes themselves were a bit confusing to figure out and took a quite a bit of googling so I’ll try and explain how it all works here:
We found that the easiest way was to sign up and register your banking details by calling 00 33 4 3000 3001 while at a Velo Bleu stand. Enter your card details when asked and that’s it, you’re done. Both mine and Mark’s phone plans allow free calls within the EU, so make sure you double check your own otherwise it could cost.
It costs €1.50 to rent a bike for a day. You get 30 minutes free at a time. After that, it costs €1 for the second half hour and €2 for every hour after that. That basically means once you’ve hired a bike if you return it to any stand within half an hour you don’t pay anything extra. If you don’t, you pay more. A good tip is simply to return the bike your on within half an hour and then immediately take another one and you won’t be charged. You can do this as often as you want within a day.
Once registered you can hire a bike straightaway. To use the terminal turn it on using the blue button in the corner, they take a while so turn on a couple in case one isn’t working. Select the ‘rent a bike’ option. Call the number on the screen, this will always be free since no one answers. Select the bike you want, there’ll be up to 3 attached to the terminal, remove the cable and take the bike. If there’s only one attached you’ll still need to select the right number to remove it. Finally, make a note of the lock combination that’ll appear on the screen.
To return the bike, simply turn on the terminal, select the ‘return’ option and insert the cable into whichever port it tells you (1, 2 or 3). Make sure you wait until confirmation appears on the screen which will also tell you the time and cost of the rental.
For more information including a map of terminals and availability download the Velo Bleu app or head to the website.
There are some horror stories online of people trying to rent the blue bikes but don’t let these put you off. The only problems we had were a couple of broken terminals and locks. Which of course can be easily solved by using a different one.
Please don’t let these reviews put you off hiring one! I had the best time.
There is a dedicated, two-lane cycle path on the promenade. So you don’t have to worry about avoiding people or bikes going in the opposite direction. It was the best way to see all of the promenade without having to walk the entire length in the midday heat. I mean who doesn’t want to cycle along the picture-perfect French Riviera on a little blue bike!
Once we reached the end of the promenade we returned our bikes to the nearest terminal and headed to a nearby cafe. Another chance to practice my French we ordered drinks and a cheeky plate of fries to share.
Once back on our bikes, our next mission was to find the perfect spot along the beach for a bit of sunbathing.
Unfortunately, there are no sandy beaches in Nice so you have to make do with the pebbly one. Although, that incredible blue sea more than makes up for it.
Dinner that evening was a quick pesto pasta at the hostel. All before heading back out to the promenade for evening drinks.
Was Nice was favourite place? No, probably not. I did enjoy my time there but mainly because of a chance to just relax and do not an awful lot. I can’t tell you what it was about the city, I just don’t think it was very me. Whatever that means.
That being said, maybe we didn’t make the most of our time there. We could have gone up to Castle Park or spent the afternoon exploring the old town. But honestly, sometimes travel isn’t about that. It’s about slowing things down, taking time out and just enjoying your surroundings. And name me a better surrounding that a beach on the French Riviera in 30° heat?
I probably won’t be rushing back to Nice anytime soon. But maybe I could just bring a slice of that sea back to the UK instead?
All my love,