Christmas in Nice: Hidden Holiday Treasures

Christmas lights in NiceEveryone knows about the Christmas Village at Place Massena, the giant Winter Ferris Wheel, and Christmas eve Midnight Mass in Old Nice (…which actually starts at 11pm, btw), but here are a few little local holiday gems that you might not know about:

Discover the 400 quirky nativity scenes (creches) hidden in every nook and cranny in the charming medieval village of Luceram. It’s just a 1-hour drive from Nice, (or take bus 340/360).  An easy, fun and unique day-trip.

For a pretty impressive nativity scene closer to home, check out the almost hidden Eglise Sainte Rita in Old Nice, which features a fascinatingly vast creche inside, with hand-made santons representing every profession in the village.  The deceptively discrete church entrance can be found just off Cours Saleya on rue de la Poissonnerie.  The kitschiest scene can be found at Place Rossetti, and features oversized automated animals.

Don’t miss the pheasants and fowl that festoon the Boucherie St. Francoise for the holidays, along with the traditional wild boar sitting right out front. Rue Pairoliere in the Old Town.

All the local Christmas Villages have miniature ice rinks for the kiddies, but did you know that one of the most spectacular outdoor ice skating rinks in the world is in Monaco?  In the winter, Monaco’s Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool becomes a huge fabulous ice skating rink.  Where else can you ice skate under the sun with views of super-yachts, the Royal Palace, Monte Carlo, and the Mediterranean sea, all for for less than 7€?

For holiday thrill-seekers, did you know that the rinky-dink Luna Park winter carnaval set up outside the Acropolis actually has a massive indoor amusement park inside the Palais des Expositions?  With all sorts of gravity-defying stomach-churning fun, the 25€ all-ride pass presents a unique solution for a rainy winter afternoon…

If out for an evening stroll in the Old Town to see the holiday lights, don’t miss rue Droite, where the magnificent Eglise du Gesu throws its massive doors wide open every night until midnight.

Check out the free Christmas concerts coming up in Nice…

  • Saturday, Dec. 16 at 4pm, Cantori Libri at the Eglise Saint Francois de Paule (across from the Opera), free.  At at 3pm at the Theatre de Verdure there is a free Christmas concert especially for kids.
  • Sunday, Dec. 17 at 3:30pm, the Orchestra d’Harmonie at the Eglise du Port at 3:30pm, free
  • Thursday the 21st at 7pm the excellent Cafe Zimmermann at the Cathedrale Sainte Reparate in Old Nice (not free, but tickets start as low as 11.80€).  Line up early for this one!
  • For kids, there are free Christmas concerts/plays and shows every day at 3pm from Dec. 23-Jan. 1 at the Theatre de Verdure.

…And on New Years Day, the best of all is the free and fantastic concert with the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra at the 2400-seat Acropolis theater at 11am.  There are no tickets or reservations this year, so just line up early…  

See related page What to do in Winter in Nice 

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