Winter in Nice

Winter in NiceIt’s a bit counter-intuitive, but winter can be one of the best times to come to Nice.  Not only are apartment rentals half-price in winter, but the town is filled with locals instead of tourists, and everything is easy and uncrowded, from restaurants, markets, museums, and concerts, to local transport for much easier day trips.  Here are a few ideas to make the best of Nice in winter:

Sunny Lunch on the Beach: Nice has 300 sunny days a year, so whereas you might get a few days of rain, you are much more likely to hit a week of winter sun.  Three beaches can often be found open for lunch even in the winter:   Beau Rivage, Lido Plage, and Blue Beach.   Obligatory selfie to make all your Facebook friends green with envy.  Here’s an up-to-the-hour webcam view from the Prom.

Wave watching: Alternatively, during the occasional winter storm, head to the second story of the bars fronting the beach for a hot spiced wine with a ringside seat.

Orchestrating: Every Sunday at 3:30pm the Orchestra d’Harmonie gives a free concert at either the Notre Dame church on (tram stop Jean Medicin) or the Church on the Port right across from the Port tram stop.  Click here for this week’s program.

Ice Skating:  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€?

Thrill Seeking: Did you know that the rinky-dink little 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…

Bird’s Eye View: Take in the panorama from the top of the giant Winter Ferris Wheel, then sip hot spiced wine in the Christmas Village.

Evening Walks: 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.

Shopping: Everything must go during the Massive Annual French Winter Sales… like Black Friday, but goes for 6 weeks.

Go to the Snow… it’s just 90 minutes away!  Spend a day in the mountains with the bargain-priced 4€ SnowBus:  It’s an easy day-trip with the feel of a mini-vacation.   Non-skiers can explore Valberg, soak up the alpine ambiance, play in the snow, warm up with raclette for lunch, hike or snowshoe the Planetary Trail in the afternoon (a multimedia GPS guide is available at the tourist office), and sip hot spiced wine in a warm chalet before napping on the ride back.

SkiBus:   Skiiers can take the SnowBus to Valberg, or three other Ski Express Buses to three different ski resorts, Isola 2000, La Colmiane and Auron… so really you can ski in a different resort every weekend of the month and your transpo costs are only 4€ each way!  Here is a one-stop shop website (in English) covering all aspects of the 15 mountain villages accessible from Nice.

Favorite Winter Cafés: Tucked away in the little chocolate shop just off Place Palais du Justice, L’Art Gourmand, you’ll find a little upstairs mezzanine Salon d’Thé that is not only warm and cozy, but has the aroma of chocolate.   Perfect for a coffee on a chilly winter afternoon.

Favorite Italian-style hot chocolate.  This amazing rich pudding-like beverage can be found at Brulerue des Cafés Indien, but is also sprouting up at other cafés around town.

For suggestions on the best events, festivals and happenings for specific winter months, click here: Things to do in Nice by Month

Christmas in Nice:

Christmas lights in NiceThe holidays on the French Riviera are kind of magical, between the amazing lights, the old French traditions, and all kinds of activities…  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the Cathedral Saint Reparate in Old Nice (actually starts at 11pm; get there early for a good seat so your view won’t be blocked by the marble pillers).
  • 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 and the town-wide display goes from December 1st until the first week of January.
  • 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 nativity scene can be found during Christmas week at Place Rossetti, and features oversized moving automaton farm animals.
  • Check out the pheasants and fowl that festoon the Boucherie St. Francoise in Old Nice, not to mention the wild boar sitting right out front.
  • Sip hot spiced wine in the Christmas Village at Place Massena before taking a ride on the giant ferris wheel.
  • Take an after dinner walk to admire the over-the-top lighting display at Place Massena, then head down the Promenade des Anglais lined with 400 illuminated palm trees, finishing with the Eglise du Gesu church on rue Droite in the Old Town, which is open every night until midnight.
  • Check out the many holiday concerts given in Nice’s Baroque Churches. If you are lucky, catch the 1000-year-old Occitane Christmas carols sung acapella by Corou de Berra, or the Cafe Zimmerman concerts at the Cathedrale at Place Rossetti.
New Year’s in Nice:  
  • It must be an Italian tradition to come to the Riviera for New Year’s, because the town fills up with dapper Italians dressed-to-the-nines with furs, high heels, impeccable make up and big hair.
  • Corks a-poppin’ non-stop on the Promenade at midnight.
  • The Nice Philharmonic give a fantastic free New Year’s Day concert at the Acropolis, 11am New Year’s morning (no tickets or reservations this year, just line up early)
  • For a whole week after New Year’s, savor the delicious almond cake Galette des Rois, …just don’t chip a tooth on the feve!
And in February:  Carnival!  …which gets a whole section to itself, so click here to read more.

Photo credits: Christmas in Nice and Winter in Nice by Best of Nice Blog,  Monaco Ice Rink by Frantz Chavaroche et Florence Lisita, courtesy of Nice-Matin; Ski Lift courtesy of Nice-Properties apartments in Nice.

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