Editorial note: This article was originally published on September 15, 2014.
When people think of the South of France, usually images of celebrities, yachts and glamour come to mind (hey, Bey and Jay), but there’s more to this glitzy region of the world that can be discovered in just 24 hours.
I’d just finished up an exhausting few days prior to arriving in Nice. I was living in London at the time and recently completed my grad school dissertation, which I followed up with some post-dissertation partying, and capped off with a 3 a.m. trek to Gatwick Airport. Needless to say, I passed out almost immediately on the plane and woke up bleary-eyed and momentarily confused by the beach and sunshine that greeted me through the window.
Once I realized I was officially in the South of France, I knew I had to hit the ground running. I only had a day in Nice before I moved on to Eze, a small French town further down the coast, and then on to Monaco and, lastly, Paris.
My first stop after checking into my hotel was the Old Town, a quaint area of Nice with a cozier vibe than the rest of the city. Older buildings and outdoor restaurants crammed into narrow pathways make you feel as though you’re in a different time and place. After walking around and window shopping for a bit, I made my way over to Chez Palmyre for lunch. I read about this place on Chowhound and knew that reservations were strongly recommended, regardless the time of day.
One of the perks of traveling solo was being able to snag a seat without a reservation across from another solo diner—an elderly French man, who I ended up chatting with throughout our three-course meal. The lunch was well worth the visit and left me ready to head out for more exploring.
Next up: a leisurely stroll through Cours Saleya, a well-known market in the Old Town and a great place to buy gifts for family and friends. There were a ton of fresh produce, bread, sausage, flowers and everything else you need for a relaxing French picnic (a great alternative to the three-course lunch).
The market also happened to be close to Nice’s main attraction: the beach! But before heading to the beach, I decided to get a panoramic view of the city from Colline du Chateau aka Castle Hill, an elevated park that’s accessible either by lift or climbing the stairs (go for the stairs!). Once you’ve reached Castle Hill you can explore the park, check out the waterfall or just appreciate what makes Nice such an appealing place – the beautiful aquamarine ocean plus the French town feel.
Then the time finally came to check out the beach! Every picture I had seen of the French Riviera cannot capture what it’s like to actually be at the Riviera, taking in the bright colors, sunshine and general gorgeousness of my surroundings. I didn’t have my swimsuit on, but I did walk by the water before sitting down for a seaside cocktail at one of the beach’s many bars. A few hours of relaxing in the afternoon sun was the perfect follow-up to all the walking and stair-climbing I did earlier that day.
Later that evening, after I left the beach to return to my hotel, I headed back out to do some more exploring and ended my time in Nice with an inexpensive but classic meal: a crepe.