The largest city on this stretch of coast, possesses true star quality.
Compared to the yachts and casinos in nearby Monaco and Cannes, a more demure sense of style prevails, with Art Deco architecture and some of the best museums and parks outside Paris.
Best of all, you can have breakfast in London and be on the Place Garibaldi in time for a glass of fizz and some impeccably fresh seafood for a languorous lunch.
‘The flashbulbs, glitter and pizzazz may pop and fizzle further down the Cote d’Azur, but Nice, the largest city on this stretch of coast, possesses true star quality, writes Rob Crossan. Pictured is Nice cathedral in the old town
Where to stay
Don’t let your perception of hostels as being full of fleas and flip-flops put you off. Hotel Ozz is part of a new breed of ‘sharing hotels’, though you don’t even need to do that if you take one of its small en-suite double rooms bathed in soothing blue tones. Complimentary round-the-clock hot chocolate and coffee is a generous touch. B&B doubles from £46 (hotel-ozz.com).
Hotel Saint Gothard
Roman baths, olive groves and shuttered villas give a serene feel to the Cimiez neighbourhood, formerly home to Henri Matisse (there are Matisse and Chagall museums here). Less than a 15-minute walk away, Hotel Saint Gothard has rooms in muted grey and blonde tones, a breakfast room with a vaulted ceiling and a hotch-potch of street art. B&B doubles from £70 (hotelstgothard-nice.com).
Hotel Le Geneve
Easily the most centrally located budget hotel in the city, Le Geneve is just off Place Garibaldi, on the edge of the old town. The downstairs bar/restaurant Cafe des Chineurs is a riot of retro flock wallpaper and mismatched furniture. The rooms are all in charcoal tones and have modish furnishings. B&B doubles are from £87 (le-g-chineurs.com).
Hotel Villa Rivoli
This white stucco villa, just two blocks from the seafront, looks like the kind of place in which W. Somerset Maugham or Evelyn Waugh might have holed up to write. Louis XIV furniture, Toile de Jouy fabrics, a piano in the salon and a pretty garden combine to create a period-era beauty with contemporary comfort. B&B doubles from £87 (villa-rivoli.com); prices can fluctuate.
What to see and do
See the MAMAC
The Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) deals with the contemporary charms of Chagall and Matisse (£9.10, mamac-nice.org). Look out for the sprawling blue ball gown made out of plastic bottles by Enrica Borghi, and the huge outdoor sculpture of the Loch Ness Monster by Niki de Saint Phalle.
Walk the Prom
The Promenade des Anglais, above, is the ultimate spot for an afternoon saunter
The Promenade des Anglais was built, as you would expect, by the small British community based here back in the 1820s.
Its wedding-cake buildings on one side and cyan Mediterranean on the other make it the ultimate spot for an afternoon saunter. Look out for the pink dome of the Le Negresco hotel, built in 1912, and a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Climb into history
Once the home of a castle demolished by Louis XIV, the Parc de la Colline du Chateau is where Nice began. The summit of the 300 ft hill offers stunning views — an ideal way to work off the socca (or there’s a lift if you don’t fancy the hike).
Buy a Riviera Pass
If you’re keen to hit the main museums, the French Riviera Pass is good value, but be aware that not all museums are included (£34.50 for 48 hours, en.frenchrivierapass.com). It also includes a boat trip in the bay of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and day hire of a bicycle.
Wander in Vieux Nice
There’s still an intense joie de vivre in Nice’s old town. Bar-hop your way around local favourites such as YOLO (10 Rue du Marechal Joffre) for a glass of the Chateau de Bellet, or sip some microbrews at Au Fut et a Mesure (aufutetamesure.fr), where you buy a swipe card and refill your glass from the draught taps at your table.
Where to eat
Somewhere between pizza and polenta on the taste scale lies socca, the French Riviera street food dish made from chickpea flour (stock image)
Somewhere between pizza and polenta on the taste scale lies socca, the French Riviera street food dish made from chickpea flour. Chez Theresa has been at the Cours Saleya market for almost a century; a huge slice of socca with a glass of rose is £7.70 (cheztheresa.fr).
Le Neuf Cinquante
The clue is in the name at this Italian bistro: the mains cost, yep, €9.50 exactly. A cosy, stone-walled joint, dishes are incredibly high quality, from gnocchi with rabbit to grilled swordfish and a mean salade nicoise. Address: 8 Rue Lascaris.
Lou Pilha Leva
The popularity of moules frites, made with creamy, saffron sauce and priced at just £8.15, means a queue is likely at this hole in the wall in the old town — but it’s worth the wait. The kitchen also serves slabs of socca, courgette tarts and sardine fritters. Address: 10 Rue du Collet.
Order a pizza for £9 and you’ll be relieved when, as is customary here, only half (still the size of a Michelin tyre) is served to you (maison-cresci.fr).