The Top 10 Best-kept Secrets of Nice

Photo of Megan O'Hara
9 February 2017

As the stunning capital of the Alpes Maritimes department of France, the European city of Nice attracts around 4 million visitors a year who come to enjoy its beautiful coastline, thriving nightlife and rich cultural heritage. And if you’re wanting to escape the tourist traps and experience Nice as a true local, we’ve narrowed down the top 10 hidden gems begging to be uncovered in the city. From unknown vineyards to the area’s best party streets, here’s a list of Nice’s best and most coveted attractions.

Nice I | © Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr

Château de Bellet

Not many people know that the North of Nice is home to its own tiny wine region which produces three unique forms of wine; braquet, folle noire and rolle. The Château de Bellet vineyards have over 70 years of winemaking experience in the region, and were set up by the Barrons of Bellet, a family granted nobility in 1777 by the King of the Sardinian states. The rare grape varieties and sulphurous terrain of this part of the French Riveria make for unique and rich flavors, so wine lovers can be sure to find a new favorite vintage on a visit here. Just a 20 minute drive from Nice city center, visitors to Château de Bellet can enjoy a tour of the stunning vineyards, wine cellar and the historical Bellet chapel which lies within its grounds. The intimate tasting sessions allow guests a full exploration of Château de Bellet’s professionally made products, and make for a charming French afternoon in the countryside.

Château de Bellet, 482 Chemin de Saquier, Nice, France. +334 93 37 81 57

Rue Bonaparte

One of the most fashionable and cool areas of town just by the Place Garibaldi, Rue Bonaparte is a hub of bars, restaurants and cafés brimming with stylish customers enjoying an after-work aperitif. Having come to be known locally as ‘Le Petit Marais’ after the famous LGBT area in Paris, this glamorous strip of venues is the place to come to avoid the tourist trap of the larger beachside bars and clubs. Eat out at PINXCHO, a homely French restaurant with an eclectic atmosphere evoked by the mismatched lamps, ornaments and artworks strewn around the brick-walled interior. For visitors looking to dance the night away, Rue Bonaparte is one of the liveliest streets in the area, featuring venues such as the lively Gossip Bar, famed for its cool modern deco and loud pop music, and Bar L’Alchimiste, a trendy cocktail bar serving some of the best mixes in town.

Les Distilleries Idéales

Bar, French, $$$
Map View
Tucked away down some quaint side streets in the old city, Les Distilleries Idéales is an atmospheric bar displaying a typically French layout in which guests can truly experience their European location. With tables facing out onto the street it’s a perfect spot for people watching, and the rustic, brasserie-style interior is a stylish setting in which to soak up the buzz of one of Nice’s most architecturally and historically significant areas. Aside from its unique ambience, Les Distelleries also offers one of the best selections of local and international beers in town, both on draft and in bottles. The charcuterie and cheese platters are delicious options to nibble at alongside an aperitif, and for wine lovers there is also a vast selection of reds, whites and traditional Niçoise rosé wines available.

Galerie Eva Vautier

This cozy art gallery is situated in the Liberation area of the town center and avoids the overbearing crowds of Nice’s larger galleries and museums. A contemporary space hosting up to six innovative expositions a year, owner Eva aims to showcase the work of local, often self-taught artists such as Sandra D. Lecoq and Simone Simon. Bright and airy with a number of colorful and compelling works on show, Galerie Eva Vautier is an expertly selected hub of creativity and style which includes light installations, videos, ceramics and photography. For those wishing to take away a non-traditional souvenir from Nice, the Eva Vauter store sells a compelling collection of artworks and photography to suit all art lovers.

Galerie Eva Vautier, 2 Rue Vernier, Nice, France. +336 07 25 14 08

La Grande Corniche

La Grande Corniche is a coastal road which runs all the way from Nice to Italy, and it is here where many of the scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief were filmed. Make like Grace Kelly and rent an open top convertible to truly enjoy the scorching summer weather here, as well as some of the most dramatic scenery in the world. The route, which leads from Nice city center to Menton on the Franco-Italian border, runs through a variety of the South’s most beautiful towns, from Eze to Beausoleil, and even offers a breathtaking birds-eye view of Monaco. With the glittering Mediterranean waters stretching almost impossibly high on the horizon, visitors can be sure to take some of the most jaw-dropping photographs of famously beautiful towns and mountainsides when they cruise along La Grande Corniche.

La Grande Corniche, Nice, France.

Coco Beach

The preferred beach amongst locals, this hidden gem is vastly unknown about by tourists who flock to the larger and busier sections of the pebbled Nice coastline. Tucked in amongst the rocks, and a five minute walk away from the packed main beaches, Coco Beach is an almost tropical haven, with many flat rocks to lie on and a small, enclosed beach area on which visitors can set their towels. The surrounding rocks make for excellent climbing and diving, and the clear turquoise waters offer excellent chances for snorkelling and exploring the local marine life. Pack a picnic or visit the Coco Beach Restaurant for lunch, an eatery established in 1936 and boasting almost 80 years of experience in providing locally caught seafood. The view from this restaurant is truly spectacular, with the terrace stretching across the coastline and providing a panoramic view of the yachts and larger boats sailing to Corsica.

Coco Beach, 2 Avenue Jean Lorrain, Nice, France.

St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral

The beauty of the St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral sneaks up on its visitors, who can one minute feel like they are in France, only to turn a corner and be transported into a scene from Moscow or St. Petersburg. Otherwise known as the Russian Cathedral, St Nicholas was established in 1912 and funded by Tsar Nicholas II, back in the time when the French Riviera was a favorited holiday destination amongst Russian nobles. Designed in the opulent, intricately ornamented style of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, this cathedral claims to be the largest Russian Orthodox place of worship outside of the geographical and political confines of Russia. Colorful, imposing and almost dreamlike as it sits within its typically French surroundings, the building is a triumph of 20th century architecture, and features a tranquil interior which provides a pretty place for silence and reflection in the city center.

St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, 2 Avenue Nicolas II, Nice, France. +339 83 94 71 55

Café du Cycliste

Cafe, Coffee
Map View
Coffee lovers will adore this trendy concept store and café, a venue which serves artisan coffee, tea and hot chocolate in an undeniably cool setting. Situated right on the port and looking out over the yachts parked in the bay, Café du Cycliste is a bright, minimalistic warehouse-style establishment exuding a sense of style and originality. Also selling top-quality cycle gear and bicycles, the crowd that frequent the venue tend to be super-fit locals who gather to read cycling magazines and enjoy a much-needed revival coffee. Also selling fresh croissants, pain au chocolate and a few light bites, guests can stop in here for a pick-me-up in a truly unique venue, oozing an exciting and urban vibe. Café du Cycliste, 16 Quai des Docks, Nice, France.

Bar des Oiseaux

Quaint, cozy and only known amongst locals, Bar des Oiseaux is a restaurant and bar serving authentic French fare in the heart of the old city. Wander down the winding cobbled lanes here before stopping off at this fabulous eatery, which was founded in 1961 and has been passed down from mother to daughter over the years. Defining itself as a ‘haute pasta maison’, and classically decorated with a distinctive vintage feel, diners here can enjoy a menu of crêpes, pasta dishes, seafood and broths, all made by talented and dedicated chefs. The wine list is an impeccable selection of local vintages, with the rosé being a particular summer favorite, a sweet and fruity choice which compliments any of the restaurant’s delicious meals. With weekday theme nights ranging from jazz to French music evenings, this is also a fabulous place to enjoy a low-key, cultural drink in the evening before heading out on the town.

Bar des Oiseaux, 5 Rue Saint-Vincent, Nice, France. +334 93 80 27 33

Palais Lascaris

This lavish palace building, the Palais Lascaris, was constructed in the 17th century and was once the home of the Lascaris de Vintimille family, an aristocratic brood established through the marriage of William Peter I, Count of Ventimiglia, and Eudoxia Lascaris, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Theadore II Laskaris. A powerful family and once one of the most eminent in the country, their home was bought by the city of Nice and reinvented as a museum before being opened to the public. Today the building houses an exhibition of over 500 historical and modern musical instruments, including a collection of the nineteenth-century Niçois musician and collector Antoine Gautier, who bequeathed his instruments to the city after his death. Guests can explore the regally decorated mansion and marvel at the original Baroque architecture here too.

Palais Lascaris, 15 Rue Droite, Nice, France. +334 93 62 72 40

By Megan O’Hara

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