My Five Favourite Neighbourhoods In Nice
Over the years – since I started calling the Beautiful City home (at around the time I started a small, intimate restaurant that I called JAN) – the city has become an inseparable part of me. After almost a decade, Nice has never stopped surprising me, and I keep making new discoveries, falling in love with this town just a little bit more every time I peel back another layer and find a whole new dimension to a city I thought I knew so well. In JAN the Journal Volume 9, we celebrated the city and its treasures – its people, places and one-of-a-kind cuisine – in way we haven’t done since the first issue, but this time, I compiled a city guide that we included as a special supplement to Journal 9, filled with all my favourite places, from eateries and cafés to my favourite markets and cookware shops. As a companion to my travel guide, I thought a breakdown of the city and its neighbourhoods was needed to help you get a better lay of the land.
When we investigated the history of the city in Journal 7, we discovered that people first settled here about 400,000 years ago. The city is old. Very old. And that means you can never know everything about her – no matter how long you live here. Every neighbourhood developed slowly, at times razed to the ground when the city suffered an invasion, at other times sculpted and chiselled so that millennia after prehistoric humans first settled here alongside woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos and giant elk, the city of Nice acquired the name, Nice la belle – the beautiful.
Today, Nice is a mishmash of historic neighbourhoods offset by thriving districts dappled with modern, angular architecture. As with most seaside cities, the neighbourhoods nearest the placid Mediterranean coastline are the most affluent, with an array of shopping and dining options. But the city is also uniquely balanced, with vast green spaces rising out of Belle-Époque-era apartment blocks and perfectly manicured parks running parallel to the tram lines that connect the city’s main centres. Let the exploration begin!
THE OLD TOWN (VIEUX NICE)
Even if you don’t have anywhere specific to be, the narrow streets and alleys of the Old Town are some of the best in the world (in my opinion) for wandering around aimlessly and exploring until the last rays of sunlight no longer cast their photogenic shadows on weatherworn walls. The eateries in this bohemian hood are amongst the best in the city – as are the weird and wonderful artisanal merchants, boulangeries, aromatherapy shops and interesting finds. A highlight at the edge of the Old Town, of course, is the Cours Saleya, possibly my favourite market in France.
Even if you only have a basic knowledge of Nice, you would have heard of the Promenade des Anglais. If it reminds you of similar British seaside promenades, like the one in Brighton, you’re not far off. During the 1800s, it was fashionable for English high society to while away their summers in the balmy climate of the Mediterranean, and Nice was all the rage. The result is an interesting mix of Belle Époque and Victorian style architecture lining the promenade all the way to the Gambetta neighbourhood that’s more or less unique to the city. A stroll on the prom – winter or summer – always puts me in a great frame of mind.
QUARTIER DU PORT
Broadly also referred to as the Vieux Port, this bohemian neighbourhood is home to Restaurant JAN, as well as a slew of my favourite eateries in Nice. Popping down to the port at sunset for an Apérol and good conversation remains one of my favourite pastimes, and more often than not, turns into a lekker kuier on the waterfront involving pizza and drinks. The hill leading up to the site of the Chateau de Nice also flanks the harbour.
JEAN-MÉDÉCIN (NEW TOWN)
In Nice, leaving the lived-in streets of the Old Town and the Port behind needn’t lack charm. Not by a long shot. The Jean-Médécin neighbourhood is where you go to get your fashion fix, whether looking to see what Zara or H&M just got in or perusing designer stores like Chanel, Hermés, Cartier, Isabel Marant, or Lacoste in the side streets leading off the high street. It’s a jaunt on the city’s more commercial side, with grand boulevards, museums, boutiques and restaurants lining every sidewalk, and the perfect neighbourhood for people watching.
Home to one of the city’s best markets for fish and seafood (Marché de Libération), this is also one of Nice’s most affluent and family friendly. You’ll find many of the city’s more specialised shops here, like wine shops selling underwater-aged wine, artisanal chocolatiers and specialist food shops, particularly at Place du Général de Gaulle. The food here is great, but the area is also well known as one of the city’s hot spots for nightlife.