929km (577 miles) S of Paris; 32km (20 miles) NE of Cannes
Nice is known as the “Queen of the Riviera” and is the largest city on this fabled stretch of coast. It’s also one of the most ancient, founded by the Greeks, who called it Nike (Victory). By the 19th century, Russian aristocrats and the British upper class—led by Queen Victoria herself—were sojourning here. These days, however, Nice is not as chi-chi as Cannes or St-Tropez. In fact, of all the major French resorts, Nice is the most down-to-earth, with an emphasis on fine dining and high culture. Indeed, it has more museums than any other French city outside Paris.
It’s also the best place to base yourself on the Riviera, especially if you’re dependent on public transportation. Getting around is now easier than ever. From 2020 a new tram whizzed from Nice Airport right into the city center and Port. Also from the airport, which is the second busiest in France, you can travel by train or bus along the entire coast to resorts such as Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, and Monaco. It’s also possible to catch a train to San Remo, a glamorous town over the Italian border, have lunch, then return to Nice by nightfall. Day trips to expensive destinations like St-Tropez and Cannes are also in the cards.
Because of its brilliant sunshine and liberal attitude, Nice has long attracted artists and writers, among them Dumas, Nietzsche, Flaubert, Hugo, Sand, and Stendhal. Henri Matisse, who made his home in Nice, said, “Though the light is intense, it’s also soft and tender.” The city averages 300 sunny days a year.