You will appreciate particularly in this itinerary :
• The colorful markets
• The eclecticism of museums
• Parks and gardens
• The charm of cities and old villages
You will discover the towns of Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat et Vence
Start your first day with the unmissable visit of Old Nice. Lose yourself in its maze of winding streets, wander through its lively little squares, admire its colourful facades and push open the door to shops selling local products and crafts. On the Cours Saleya, you will be intoxicated by the sweet smells of spices and flowers that float in the alleys of this market, classified among the exceptional markets of France. Every day except Mondays.
Then take the time to visit the Palais Lascaris, its monumental baroque staircase decorated with frescoes and its luxuriously decorated lounges. Classified as a Historic Monument, the museum focuses on art and music: prints, paintings, tapestries, furniture, objets d'art and musical instruments from the 17th and 18th centuries. Its main interest is that it is the only civil baroque palace that can be visited in Nice.
Leaving this jewel of the Nice baroque, let yourself be tempted by an artisanal ice cream on the beautiful Place Rossetti. A true institution in Nice, the Fenocchio glacier will delight you with its refreshing products to be enjoyed on the terrace or to take away. Will you dare to try one of its original flavours with southern tastes, such as thyme, rosemary or tomato basil?
Finally, will you resist the call of the Big Blue? The colour of the water is irresistible and invites you to have lunch with your feet in the water, on the terrace of a beach restaurant.
You can also buy a piece of pissaladière, farçis, socca or a pan-bagnat in Old Nice and picnic on your towel, just like the people of Nice do! Sea, sun and socca, the credo of Nice to experiment without delay!
On the Place du Palais de Justice, the book market takes place every Saturday. You will enjoy browsing through old books, original works, rare editions, as well as old postcards.
On Mondays, it is the flea market which settles on the Cours from 7 am to 6 pm, except the day before holidays.
Now take a step up and visit the hill of the Château de Nice. The panorama is superb, the vegetation and the waterfall refreshing!
On your way down, head towards the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC). With nearly 1300 works by more than 300 artists (César, Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Klein, Arman), the MAMAC covers a vast period from the end of the 1950s to the present day: the School of Nice with the New Realism, Pop Art, Fluxus, SupportsSurfaces... Yves Klein and Niki de Saint Phalle, major figures of 20th century art, form the heart of the permanent collections. From the roof, enjoy a circular panorama over the whole city.
Finally, take a stroll through the gardens of the Promenade du Paillon. This 12-hectare green corridor in the city centre is a paradise for walkers and families. You will appreciate its 2,800 m2 water mirror equipped with 128 jets, its mist tray (900 misters on 1,400 m2), its areas dedicated to children, its central grassed area and its themed botanical areas.
To end the evening, head for the Vieux-Nice or Garibaldi Square to dine in a typical restaurant. The establishments that have been awarded the Cuisine Nissarde label guarantee the quality and respect of the recipes from Nice. You will also enjoy strolling between the stalls of the night market which takes place, in summer, on the Cours Saleya. You will find handcrafted creations, regional souvenirs and artistic compositions. The atmosphere is very pleasant, ideal for a digestive stroll.
Take a leap to Asia! Start this new day with a visit to the atractive Museum of Asian Arts, at the western entrance of Nice. Its remarkable marble and glass architecture, set on a lake sheltering water birds, is the work of Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. The originality of this museum's collection is based on a selection of emblematic works evoking the spirit of Asian and Hindu cultures (in 4 major currents, China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia). A Zen and exciting visit in perspective!
Close by, you will begin a completely different journey, that of Wonderland! On 7 hectares, the Phoenix Floral Park offers you its twenty or so theme gardens, a real "naturoscope" with a script. Its large glass pyramid (one of the largest in the world) will impress you with its plant diversity. Discover the exuberance of the equatorial forest, the fascinating world of orchids, the garden of Southern Africa in the Natal desert, or, in a very humid atmosphere, the tree ferns whose ancestors rubbed shoulders with the dinosaurs. Finally, escape to the aquarium gallery before shivering in front of the insect vivariums... Your children will be conquered, and so will you!
A snack bar will allow you to quench your thirst or have lunch on site.
At the beginning of the afternoon, set sail for Cagnes-sur-Mer, not far away. This town owes its charm to its elegant seaside and its medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes whose Grimaldi castle-museum dominates the town. Its fortress-like silhouette contrasts with its refined interiors, which are the result of the embellishments of the Baroque period. The Grimaldi Castle-Museum houses the Olive Tree Museum, the Solidor donation and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. Afterwards, enjoy a refreshing drink on the terrace, in the pleasant and lively setting of the Castle Square.
On the same square, visit the Museum of Contemporary Jewelry - Espace Solidor, which enabled the town to obtain the prestigious "Ville et Métiers d'Art" label in 1995. With its three annual exhibitions and its unique collection acquired over the years by the city, this museum space has become a reference in the field.
On the way back down to the seaside, don't miss the visit of the Renoir Museum. You will plunge into the intimacy of the painter by discovering his house with its period furniture and his studio. You will stroll through the park planted with more than 2 hectares of century-old olive trees, a veritable oasis of greenery, flowers and fruit that inspired the master during the last eleven years of his life. Finally, you will succumb to the 14 paintings by Renoir exhibited on the walls and the 25 sculptures created in collaboration with Richard Guino. Around fifty works by artists who were close to him complete the exhibition. From the park, you will enjoy a magnificent landscape with the old village as a backdrop.
Now it's time to eat. The seaside and its numerous restaurants will allow you to spend a charming evening. Push your stroll to the small fishing port of Cros de Cagnes. On Friday evenings in July and August, about fifty local artists and craftsmen exhibit their creations from 6pm to midnight. Jewellery, hats, hand-decorated scarves, decorative objects... Which object will you fall for?
Cagnes-sur-Mer also offers you its horse races, real shows that attract horse lovers and turfists but which are also an opportunity to spend an excellent evening as a couple or family. Numerous events punctuate the summer season in the exceptional site of the Hippodrome de la Côte d'Azur.
It is in the charming little seaside town of Villefranche-sur-Mer that we bring you today. Due to the majestic curve of its shoreline, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, but also due to its 16th century Citadel, classified as a historical monument, its colourful facades and its beaches, Villefranche-sur-Mer is a city highly prized by painters and artists, film directors, cruise passengers and visitors from all over the world. You too will be delighted to discover its narrow streets, its Rue Obscure, its Chemin de Ronde, its Darse and its picturesque little fishing port, its green theatre with its rose garden and its free museums in the heart of the citadel.
The most famous (and our favourite) is the Volti Foundation Museum. You too will surely fall in love with the harmonious works of this world-famous contemporary sculptor, who lived most of his life in Villefranche-sur-Mer. This figurative artist was very inspired by the female body, which he sought to magnify with generous forms. Perfectly staged in the exceptional setting of the military fortress, these sculptures as well as his sketches and drawings will not leave you indifferent. Some of his works are also to be discovered in the streets of Villefranche-sur-Mer, as well as in Nice, Paris (Place Théodor-Hetz Paris 3), Angers, Orléans, Colombes...
"What enchants me about a woman's body are the rhythms and the volumes". Antonuicci Volti (1915 - 1989)
The walls of the Citadel are also home to :
The Goetz-Boumeester Museum which contains about a hundred works by these two artists who formed one of the most complementary couples in modern art,
The 24th B.C.A. Remembrance Hall Cantoned in the Citadel quarters from 1876 to 1939, the 24th B.C.A., heir to Napoleon III's foot battalion, was the last army corps to occupy the monument.
The Arlette Roux Collection which presents several hundred figurines, thousands of hours of work and love, the work of a lifetime that takes us through the daily life of women and men of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Leaving the Citadel, let's go down to the marvellous Saint-Pierre Chapel, entirely decorated in 1957 by Jean Cocteau as a sign of friendship towards the local fishermen. The interior murals evoke the Mediterranean and episodes in the life of Saint-Pierre, patron saint of fishermen. It was classified as a historical monument on 27 December 1996. You will soon understand why!
"When I open my window on one of the most beautiful roadsteads in the world, the Saint-Pierre chapel, just below, gives me the wink of an eye complicit in its candelabras from the Apocalypse" Jean Cocteau. (1889 – 1963)
For lunch you will find many restaurants along the seafront or in the streets of the old town. Some will propose you a table with an exceptional sea view...
Not far away, on the road to Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, the elegant Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and its 9 themed gardens (French, Spanish, Florentine, lapidary, Japanese, exotic, Provencal, rose garden, de Sèvres) await you. Covering 4 hectares, these are classified among the most beautiful gardens in France. Take the time to stroll in the alleys and smell the scent of the flowers. (cover photo)
A little hunger or a great thirst? Settle down for a gourmet break in the tea room-restaurant of the villa. At lunchtime, the tea room serves light meals. You can also sit under the orange trees on the terrace and enjoy the charm of this beautiful day on the Riviera!
The interior of the Renaissance-style house (one of the most beautiful houses on the French Riviera) can also be visited. You will find reception areas and the apartments of Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild (1864-1934).
In July and August, the site also opens its doors at night, on Monday and Tuesday evenings (from 7:30 pm to midnight)! Music, fountains, a bar and candles are on hand for a romantic and glamorous visit of the villa and some of its gardens.
Today, take a step up in the pretty town of Vence and discover another "Côte d'Azur". In its natural setting and leaning against the foot of the Baous, the medieval city will transport you by its authentic aspect. Stroll through its narrow streets and browse the lively stalls of its fruit and vegetable market (every morning except Mondays) on the Place du Grand Jardin. Breathe, listen, look... All your senses are awakened.
Among the many attractions of Vence, its 24 fountains that attest to the presence of two water sources. Each of these fountains has its own history or particularity: for example the Basse Fontaine, place Antony Mars, immortalized by Raoul Dufy. The best known remains the Peyra Fountain, renovated in 1822 and listed as a historical monument. Don't forget to visit the smallest cathedral in France and its collections. A Chagall is also to be admired within its walls.
The painter Henri Matisse stayed several years in Vence. Within the Château de Villeneuve, on the ramparts of the historic city, the Musée de Vence - Fondation Emile Hugues - pays tribute to him in its permanent collection. You will also appreciate this museum for its modern and contemporary works, its temporary exhibitions presenting the greatest names in 20th century painting (Matisse, Dufy, Chagall, Dubuffet...).
The other witness to Matisse's passage to Vence is the Chapel of the Rosary, a little out of town and discreet from the outside. The interior decoration was entirely carried out by Henri Matisse, from the architecture to the furniture and stained glass windows. The Dominican Sisters welcome you to visit what Matisse considered to be his masterpiece.
You can also immerse yourself in the intimacy of Witold Gombrowitcz, in the museum space dedicated to him in his former Polish apartment in the sublime Villa Alexandrine (free admission).
Afterwards, you might want to take advantage of some of the 200 kilometers of marked hiking trails that the Vence countryside offers to hikers? From the Tourist Office where you can get information, start the Baou des Blancs walking route. So named because the brotherhood of the White Penitents of Vence went up there annually in procession, this promontory overlooks the city of Vence at an altitude of 673 meters. From its summit, you can enjoy a vast panorama from Cap Ferrat to the Esterel. The views are breathtaking. Your gaze escapes from the sea to the mountains, crossing, with a little luck, the flight of falcons and swallows.
Carpe diem! You are in Nice Côte d'Azur, capital of the art of living. If a few days are not enough to satisfy you, it's up to you to come back again (and again)...
Photo credits: OTM NCA/ JM/ J. Kelagopian / Alain Issock / Métropole NCA / Ville de Nice / Ephrussi de Rotschild / Culturespaces – Eric Spiller/ Lisa Del Sol / Hippodrome de la Côte d'Azur - B.Sidler / Jean-Jacques Giordan