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WHY GO NOW?
The ancient city on the Med looks best when bathed in the brilliant sunshine of high summer. Nice is also gearing up for its annual Jazz Festival, 18-25 July, which will feature 500 different acts from around the world, including Katie Melua and Isaac Hayes. Tickets start at €35 (£24). For details see www.nicejazzfest.com.
New for this summer are flights from London City airport on CityJet (0870 142 4343; www.cityjet.com), on behalf of Air France. Other links include British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) from Heathrow and Gatwick; easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyJet.com) from Belfast, Bristol, Luton, Liverpool, Gatwick, Stansted and Newcastle; Bmibaby (0871 224 0224; www.bmibaby.com) from Birmingham; Flyglobespan (0871 271 0415; www.fly globespan.com) from Edinburgh; FlyBe (0871 700 0123; www.flybe.com) from Exeter and Southampton; Jet2 (0871 226 1737; www.jet2.com) from Leeds/ Bradford and Manchester; and Bmi (0870 607 0555; www.flybmi.com) from Heathrow.
Nice-Côte d'Azur Airport juts into the Mediterranean at the western edge of the city. Bus 98 drops you at the central bus station (1), bus 99 at Nice-Ville train station (2); both serve a number of stops on the way to their final destination. The single fare is €4 (£2.70). A taxi into the city will cost around €20 (£13.50).
By rail, Eurostar (08705 186 186; www.eurostar.com) has links to Nice-Ville from London Waterloo via Paris or Lille, from £109 return.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
First settled by the Greeks in 4BC, Nice is squashed between the Mediterranean and three hills, the beginnings of the Prealps. The palm-lined Promenade des Anglais, built in the 19th century by the British who wintered in Nice, stretches for 5km along the gentle curve of the Baie des Anges. It may be tattier than in its heyday, but as you progress eastwards you can still admire the lavish Belle Epoque palaces that line it.
At the junction with the Avenue de Verdun you pass over the underground Paillon river, the invisible boundary between the old and new towns. At the east end of the promenade is Vieux Nice, the city's most atmospheric quarter, with a tangle of streets and alleyways lined with houses in hues of faded ochre and mustard. Beyond the bulk of the Parc du Château is the Vieux Port (old port), cluttered with super-yachts. The main tourist office (3) is at 5 Promenade des Anglais (00 33 892 707 407; www.nicetourisme.com). In summer it opens 8am-8pm daily (9am-6pm Sundays).
The Hôtel La Perouse (4) at 11 Quai Rauba-Capeu (00 33 493 623 463; www.hotel-la-perouse.com) is set at the foot of the Parc du Château – close enough to the city for convenience yet offering seclusion and a pool. Doubles start at €265 (£179); breakfast is €20 (£13.50). Hôtel Le Grimaldi (5) at 15 Rue Grimaldi, (00 33 493 160 024; www.le-grimaldi.com) is a small hotel spread across two Belle Epoque townhouses with doubles starting at €90 (£61), without breakfast.
A good low-budget choice is the central Hôtel de Verdun (6) at 49 Rue de l'Hôtel des Postes (00 33 493 622 410; www.hotel-verdun.com), where doubles start at around €60 (£41), without breakfast.
TAKE A VIEW
The castle that bestowed the name may have gone, but the Parc du Château (00 33 493 856 233) is the best venue for panoramic views of the city and surrounding coastline. This was the first spot settled by the Greeks, and the leafy expanse was a regular haunt of Nietzsche while he was writing Thus Spoke Zarathustra. If you can't face the steep climb via the lung-busting stairs you can opt for the lift (7) at place du 8 Mai 1945.
TAKE A HIKE
Start at the Jardin Albert 1er (8), the city's oldest garden. Cross the fountain-strewn Place Massena (9), which has just had a major facelift, and continue along the Promenade du Paillon until you reach the Place St-François (10), where you will find the city's bustling fish-market (every day except Monday). Submerging yourself in the shady streets of Vieux Nice, turn right into the Rue François and veer left into the Rue Droite. Further along the street, pop your head into the opulent baroque Palais Lascaris (11), which is a museum housing a fine display of musical instruments – this is also the only palace in this style that is open to the public (daily from 10am-6pm, closed Tuesdays). Along the street you will come across the Church of Jesus (12). Built in 1607, this was the first parish church founded in the old town. Finish your stroll among the fragrant chaos of the Cours Saleya market (13), a riot of colourful local life, with countless stalls laden with seasonal fruit, vegetables and flowers. It opens 6am-5.30pm daily except Mondays, when the produce gives way to an antiques market from 7.30am to 6pm.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
Join the queues at Bar René Socca (14) at Rue Miralhéti (00 33 493 920 573; closed Mondays) and pay around €2 (£1.40) to sample some fast food à la Niçoise. Socca is a large, thin pancake made from chick peas and cooked in a wood-burning stove. Or try another speciality, pissaladière, an onion tart with anchovies and olives.
Nice's retail therapy is focused around the Avenue Jean Médecin, where you find department stores like Galeries Lafayette (15). More upmarket shopping can be found around the Place Massena (9) and the Avenue de Verdun and the Rue de la Liberté. The streets of Vieux Nice are also lined with independent shops. If you bring home one souvenir from Nice, make it a signature yellow-and-blue tin containing some Niçoise olive oil from Alziari (16) at 14 Rue St-François-de-Paule (00 33 493 857 692; www.alziari. com.fr). A half-litre tin costs about €13 (£9.30).
TAKE A RIDE
Hop on bus 81 from the bus station (1) for a half-hour, €1.30 (90p) scenic jaunt out to the chi-chi Riviera town of St-Jean Cap Ferrat. The bus runs every 45 minutes or so, Monday to Saturday; see www.lignedazur.com.
Nowhere quite sums up the extravagant Belle Epoque style than the Hôtel Negresco (17) at 37 Promenade des Anglais (00 33 493 166 400; www.hotel-negresco-nice.com). The hotel was designed in 1912 by Edouard Niermans for the Romanian hotelier Henri Negresco. Take a seat at the Bar le Relais and order yourself the only appropriate drink in this temple to high living: a kir royale, for €16 (£11.40).
DINING WITH THE LOCALS
Les Pêcheurs (18) at 18 Quai des Docks (00 33 493 895 961) is best for the seafood staples of bouillabaisse and bourride (another fish stew), in rustic surroundings in the heart of the port. La Merenda (19) at 4 Rue Raoul Bosio does not take bookings (unless, possibly, you call in, in person) or accept credit cards but is an institution and the place to go for authentic renditions of Niçoise cuisine such as stuffed courgette flowers and stockfish on a Friday.
SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH
During its golden age, Nice was a playground for the Russian aristocracy, and a legacy is the Orthodox Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas (20) at Avenue Nicolas II (00 33 493 968 802). It was inaugurated in 1912. The six glittering onion-domes make for a spectacular, if slightly incongruous, sight in the bright Mediterranean sunshine. The cathedral is closed on Sunday mornings when services are in progress, but the exterior is what you have really come to admire. To see the interior, call in 9am-12noon from Monday to Saturday, or 2.30pm-6pm daily.
OUT TO BRUNCH
Take a seat at the Le Grand Café de Turin (21), 5 Place Garibaldi (00 33 493 886 020; www.cafedeturin.com) and order a grand crème and a pastry and watch the world go by. It opens daily from 8am-11pm.
A WALK IN THE PARK
The well-heeled suburb of Cimiez climbs up the gentle slopes of the hills behind Nice. Take a stroll through Le Jardin du Monastère de Cimiez (22). Here among the flowers and pergolas you can survey the lavish villas that dot the hillside.
The roll call of artists who flocked to the Côte d'Azur is long and distinguished. After your walk in Cimiez visit the Musée Matisse (23), 164 Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez (00 33 493 810 808; www.musee-matisse-nice.org), just reopened after a renovation. It opens 10am-6pm daily except Tuesdays, admission €4 (£2.85). A new exhibition, Henri Matisse-Vence: l'espace d'un atelier, opens today and runs to 28 September. While in the area, also visit the Musée National Message Biblique-Marc Chagall (24), Avenue du Dr Ménard, angle Boulevard de Cimiez (00 33 493 538 720; www.musee-chagall.fr), which offers a beautiful selection of works from this long-time Riviera resident. It opens 10am-6pm daily except Tuesdays, admission €6.50 (£4.65). Admission to most of the city's museums and galleries is free on the first and third Sundays of every month; otherwise, you could invest in the seven-day Nice Museum Pass (€6).
THE ICING ON THE CAKE
The French Riviera is all about the beach and although Nice may not be home to one of the most dazzling examples, it would be a shame not to work on your tan for a few hours. There are public and private beaches and one of the ritziest of the latter variety is the Castel Plage (25) at quai Rauba-Capeu (00 33 493 852 266; www.castelplage.com), where you can lie next to the young and beautiful on a sun lounger for €10 (£7.15) per half-day. Or, if you'd rather slum it with the hoi polloi, the Beau Rivage (26) is a good public option.