While the wings of your plane brush through the coastal winds, a shiver or a complete muscle looseness from the mesmerizing sheer of natural beauty might captivate your entire self. Landing at the Nice Côte d’Azur runway that reaches out into the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean with its ochre-hued rocky coast and the snowcapped Alpine peaks in its backgdrop is indeed the “most scenic airport landing in the world”.
The magnetizing mirage of paradise was not lost, at least not along this part of the Mediterranean, but prevails defeating the human whims.
View of the Old Nice
Imagine a Matisse painting – the “clear, crystaline, precise and limpid” light of these Southern French shores, that the arist created during his pre-mortal years at the stately Belle-Époque Hôtel Regina. Now a residence crowning the Cimiez hills, it is near to the tangerine-painted Musée Matisse dedicated to the impressionist maestro. A stately legion of surviving Roman ruins around the museum documents the historic ties of the region with what is today Italy.
One of the founders of this celebrated country, Giuseppe Garibaldi, was born in Nice and scored an enviable cobblestoned central square to his name. The Place Garibaldi today is a host to plenty of cultural events and gatherings including an antique market. I always wonder that it must be ceaselessly interesting to peak out from one of the shutter windows of the pastel-coloured houses bordering all of its four sides.
Musée Matisse in Nice
Since Nice was once a highly popular holiday destination for the European elite, from dukes to English kings and Russian tzars frequenting its sunny shores, it is rich in mesmerizing villas dotting the hills best positioned for the endless sea vistas of the sea. One of them is Baumettes also housing the Musée des Beaux-Arts in a sprawling villa. A Rodin’s scuplture finds an ideal situation in front of a window letting plenty of light caressing its oblique body with a miraculous emphasis on its perfectness. On display here are mainy local artists such as Jules Cheret, but also impressionist gems by Pierre Bonnard and Duffy. Musée Chagall is another treat for your eyes, with a mosaic and vitrages by this Russian born jewish artist that found his artistic muse in Nice, it is a must see cultural treat.
Painting at Musée Chagall in Nice
Contemporary art found its imposing and highly frequented shelter inside the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, known also simply as MAMAC. Designed by the French architects Yves Bayard and Henri Vidal, who planted the seeds of the modern Nice’s urbanism into the exotic utopia of the Belle Epoque of the old town (Vieux Nice) and the Promenade des Anglais that embroiders the beches all the way up to the airport. Inside the museum’s natural light–filled premises, one can ponder over the French New Realism as a replica of the American Pop Art by Yves Klein, Cesar, Arman, Niki de Saint Phalle, Christo, Dufrêne and others that redifined the modern French art scene. The works shown are provocative, but not ridiculous. Hike up to the open roof to be rewarded with the views of the Italianate architecture penetrating the heart of Nice [see top image above].
modern art at MAMAC in Nice
The pastel facades of the Vieux Nice gleam from its maze of tightly knotted streets, that wind like a bundle of fishing nets haphazardly wrapped around the Western foothill of Colline du Château.
From its peak the best views of the entire Baie des Anges (The Bay of the Angels) can be savored all year around.
View of the Bay of the Angles in Nice
The bay is laced with a flexing string of Promenade des Anglais, build in 1820 on demands of English travellers to the South of France. In the 19th century tourism in Nice started blooming like the impressive pellet growing into a paper napkin at some Asian restaurants. Many of the European and Russian royal families and high class travellers brought along the aristocratic charm still adorns the city’s hills and most of the sea-bordering promenade.
The kiss sculpture by Rodin
The most comfortable luxurious hotel in Nice is Palais de la Méditeraée. Managed by the international Hyatt group, it is also situated on the Promenade. Its spacious modern rooms offer confort unparalled on the riviera if value for money is considered. The best views are from the higher floors, while the 12 seaside suites offer a real pasture for the eyes – long, Miami-like beach, a treskling blue sea dotted with fishermen boats, cruising  yachts, and the landing planes like giant brids descending on the horizon – entertain for hours. For more excitement rooll the dices at the historic Casino Ruhl at the nearby Le Meridien hotel.
The city’s finest restaurant, the two-Michelin stared Chantecler inside the centenarian Belle Epoque Negresco hotel, whose green dome and opulent architecture are impossible to miss on your stroll along the Promenade des Anglais. The rooms are a bit worn out, some rooms shock with sparkling blue bathtubs, and the flamboyant halls are more like a museum than a tastefully decorated hotel. The eclectic art collection and perhaps the kitchiest dining room in France inside the hotel’s more casual La Rotonde, are worth peaking in. The classiest room in the building is the wooden Bar Le Relais, where on weekends a live jazz band makes your cocktails swing.
Hotel Le Negresco facade
Nice has also plenty of more economic while charming places to stay like the authentic four-star Hôtel Ellington. A typical Niçoise townhouse tucked inside the town, but a few minutes walk to the bustling beaches, offers an alternative to the much more touristy zones of the town.
For the most striking sunset vista take a taxi, cross the Old Port, and get off at La Réserve de Nice. Here, allow to be seduced for an aperitif of a local white or rosè wine, while observing the two tips of by-sea-washed horn – the Cap d’Antibes in the Cannes direction, and the ultra-luxurious Cap Ferrat towards Monaco – enclosing the stunning wide bay.
Sunset overviewing the bay of Nice
As the sun tiptoes to its its bed you face a choice either to return to your hotel, have a light halthy snack and wake up rejuvenated the next morning or, if the owl in you rises for the night’s outing and your rambling belly announces the innate desire to eat and indulge, there is plenty to choose from.