In the summer of 2019, we spent two weeks in Europe. We decided on keeping our trip simple and focused on spending more time in fewer cities rather than rushing around to see all the tourist spots. We decided on Paris, Nice, and Venice. During our 5 days in Nice, we discovered so many amazing restaurants, cafés, and boutiques. We booked a quaint Air BnB in the heart of Old Town Nice which was walking distance to the shops, the eateries, and the beach.
One of my favourite things about Old Town Nice was that you could find a spectacular restaurant pretty much around every single corner. The many restaurants all have their tables lining the narrow pedestrian passageways in Old Town. The maze of narrow walkways, the beautiful pastel colours of the buildings, and the incredible energy of the Old Town are truly something that everyone should experience. I loved it so much, I am hoping to go back for a longer stay sometime soon and use Nice as our home base to also visit some of the smaller coastal towns.
Within the heart of Old Town Nice, you’ll find the bustling open-air Cours Saleya Market which is filled with fresh local and organic produce, cured meats, cheeses, olives, teas, herbs, flowers, honey, and soaps. It is truly a Mediterranean market and is full of life. The market is open daily, except Mondays and Sunday afternoons, and we loved being able to pick up our local produce and food each morning. The Cours Saleya actually hosts four different markets; the most well-known is the Marché aux Fleurs. The fresh local produce was so incredible. I loved visiting the market every single day. I totally recommend finding a place to stay in Old Town so you are within walking distance.
In the lazy summer evenings, the market transforms into an open-air dining spot where the local restaurants expand their seating into the market area. It’s a bustling scene filled with energy in the evening while people dine and enjoy live buskers and the warm breeze of the Mediterranean.
The Marché aux Fleurs was the first wholesale cut flower market in the world and was opened in 1897. Fresh cut flowers were shipped from Nice to cities all across Europe every day for almost 100 years. Today, the market is a wonderful gathering place to socialize with the locals, browse the many vendors and pick up your food and produce for the day. This is perfect for anyone planning a longer stay in Nice, and for anyone who loves fresh, organic, local foods and loves to cook. We love to dine out when we travel, but having the option to make some of your own meals is definitely great on the travel budget.
Of course, regional specialties like bundles of fresh dried Lavender can be found at the market along with handmade soaps (Savon de Marseille) which are very popular as well. However, in my opinion, it was the fresh, organic produce, local cheese, meat and seafood, and freshly baked goods that kept us coming back every single day. I love to cook and it was so great to have a market within walking distance from our apartment. I recommend bringing your own market bag with you and brush up on your French so you can chat with the locals and the market vendors. The Niçoise people are very friendly and often happy to chat with travelers.
Fresh Menton lemons from the region are an essential part of the heritage and history of the Côte d’Azur. The Menton lemon is juicy, rich, and very fragrant. The lemons are cultivated by hand and not treated. Menton, which is very close to Nice, is the perfect region to cultivate lemons because of its mild climate.
There is a famous festival in Menton, La Fête du Citron, which is held every year from the 13th to 28th of February (the festival is currently postponed until 2022). The festival celebrates the annual production of specialty lemons and other citrus fruits in Menton.
Authentic Savon de Marseille French market soaps can be found throughout the market as well as in artisan soap shops throughout Nice. These artisanal soap bars are traditionally made, triple-milled, and contain pure ingredients and as pictured below are packaging-free. Bonus for the environment!
We picked up some A L’Olivier extra virgin olive oil to use during our stay. It was totally delicious! The company produces olive oils, infused oils, vinegar, and other specialties.
We discovered a quaint artisan confectionery, Le Roy René, which is a family-owned business that was founded in 1920 and specializes in traditional confections from Provence. You can find many different flavours of Calissons, nougat from Provence, as well as a collection of artisan chocolates, candied fruits, jams & spreads, and other sweets.
“Since 1920, the know-how of the Confiserie le Roy René has spanned the ages, without being lost, and perpetually aspires to improve. Passionately crafting sweets that pay homage to Provençal traditions, his creations are based on ancestral recipes whose gestures are passed down from generation to generation. Nougat makers and calissiers repeat the same meticulous and precise movements allowing the creation of exceptional sweets.” – www.calisson.com
The traditional nougat from Provence is a popular Christmas dessert. Today, the collection of nougat at Roy René also includes a variety of flavours including organic with lemon, orange peel, pistachios, raspberry, and blackcurrant. The tradition and art of nougat and calisson making has been passed down from generation to generation since 1920 to keep the original recipes and reputation of the first small factory of Roy René. The Calisson d’Aix has remained unchanged since its creation in 1454. The Calisson d’Aix is a pointed oval-shaped cookie made of finely crushed almonds, candied melon and orange peel. I loved learning that the Calissons are manufactured in Aix-en Provence, which is close to where I spent a year studying at University over 25 years ago. We picked up a little bit of everything to bring home with us and enjoy.
Exploring Old Town Nice is an adventure in itself. I love aimlessly wandering through the streets and loosely planned itineraries. I find this kind of slow travel always leads to finding hidden gems, discovering local treasures, and really taking in the culture, environment, and feeling of the city.
The narrow pedestrian-only streets in Old Town Nice are a colourful, magical maze filled with galleries, restaurants, cafés, shops, and historic tenements, churches, and squares. It’s incredible to turn a corner and stumble upon a large cathedral that is tightly nestled between the buildings. Vieux Nice lies below Castle Hill and borders the famous Promenade des Anglais. You’ll discover many gourmet food shops, wine shops, vintage clothing boutiques, fromageries, and épiceries (spice shops) scattered throughout Vieux Nice. We picked up a variety of specialty salts as well as some dried Moroccan roses to bring home with us.
A definite ‘must-see’ in Nice is the elegant Hotel Negresco which is a gorgeous century-old hotel on the Promenade des Anglais overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The Hotel has an incredible history and hosts a mixture of contemporary artists, masterpieces, and sculptures, and is decorated with spectacular furnishings. The hotel has been a favourite destination for many famous celebrities, royalty, millionaires, and politicians throughout its history.
We spent a leisurely couple of hours enjoying some signature cocktails on the patio while people-watching and enjoying the sun setting over the Mediterranean. Afterward, our server took us inside for a quick tour of the stunning lobby, lounge area, as well as The Chantecler restaurant, which is a Michelin-starred restaurant. Since we were traveling with our 10-year-old daughter, we didn’t book a dinner there, instead choosing to enjoy drinks and snacks on the patio. The washrooms by the main lobby are delightfully decorated, and probably the nicest washrooms that we found throughout our trip. (just sayin’)
Lastly, right outside the doorstep to our Vieux Nice apartment, was this cute bakery/kitchen, The Marinette, located at 13 Rue Colonna d’Istria. The coffee and breakfast were absolutely delicious. This cute bakery was always packed, and it’s located on a very quiet street in Old Town. I definitely recommend stopping by here for brunch.
Of course, the other main reason to go to Nice is to enjoy the beaches and the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle. It was so hot when we were there in mid-July, so we were super happy to be so close to the beach to go for a morning or late afternoon swim. The beaches in Nice all have rocks, so be sure to bring your water shoes.
Have you discovered my quarterly photographic print collections? My first collection contains 11 images from our trip to Paris, Nice, and Venice. Subscribe to my email to view the catalog and the first collection which is available until March 1st, 2021.
A special shout out to my friend Eleanor Dath from Vision Travel Solutions who specializes in culinary, wellness, and cultural travel experiences. Eleanor gave us some incredible tips for our European trip and we look forward to our next foodie travel adventure. If you are looking for an incredibly knowledgebale travel agent, I highly recommend Eleanor.
HEY THERE, I’M JEN
I’m a photographer, creative director, and brand consultant. I help entrepreneurs and businesses shine by creating images for their brand that will beautifully tell their brand story. I create art for your business, your life, and your home.
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