You don't go to Nice for a cheapo time, any more than you go to Baghdad for the beer. But the image can be misleading. As my Nice Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Nice section points out, it is possible to do Nice on an ordinary mortal's budget. And there are ways of saving a bob or two along the way. Here's a handful of suggestions.
For quick snack lunches on the hoof, look out for bakers’ shops or stands selling pan bagnat. This is effectively a salade niçoise in a round bun, usually quite delicious and shouldn’t cost more than three or four euros.
Alternatively, go for a chunk of socca pancake, made from chickpea flour. There’s a good stand selling it by the Cours Saleya flower market. And, down near the port – where budget eateries tend to gather – Chez Pipo (13 Rue Bavastro; www.chezpipo.fr) has been specialising in the surprisingly tasty item since the 1920s.
Or you might like to try another lunch-time tack. As throughout the Côte-d’Azur and, indeed, France as a whole, posh meals are invariably less expensive at midday. So if you’re planning to push the boat out, do so for lunch rather than dinner. Then devote the afternoon to a siesta.
While you’re there, take a look at the local Nice Matin newspaper. Most neighbourhood bars will have a copy freely available for customers. This will save you buying your own to find out ‘What’s On’.
Use buses and trams, which cost one euro a go, rather than taxis which cost a great deal more than one euro. Please see my section on How to get around Nice for more information.
Go to the museums. They are almost all free these days – and certain of them are terrific. My preferences would be, in order: 1. Matisse Museum (146, Avenue des Arènes; www.musee-matisse-nice.org); 2. Musée Masséna for the history of Nice (35 Promenade des Anglais; www.nice.fr); 3. MAMAC Contemporary Arts Museum (Promenade des Arts; www.mamac-nice.org); 4. Fine Arts Museum, (37 Avenue des Baumettes; www.musee-beaux-arts-nice.org); 5. Asian Arts Museum (405 Promenade des Anglais; www.arts-asiatiques.com).
Get hold of a Nice Riviera Pass. This gains you access to Nice museums or cultural sites which aren’t already free. Look out for the Marc Chagall Museum (Avenue Dr Menard; www.musee-chagall.fr; usually 7 euros) and the Russian cathedral (Avenue Nicolas II; www.acor-nice.com; usually 3 euros). It will also let you onto the open-topped bus tour of Nice’s greatest hits – which sounds a bit uncool but is a useful way of getting an overview. And then it opens the door to other sites along the Côte-d’Azur. Among them are the Picasso Museum and the Marineland sea-world show at Antibes, plus spots in Eze, Monaco and Biot.
The pass also bags discounts in a good number of shops, and a free glass of champagne in certain restaurants. It costs 24 euros for 24 hours, 36 euros for 48 hours and 54 euros for 72 hours. Buy it at the airport, the Tourism Office (5 Promenade des Anglais; +33 892 707407; www.nicetouriseme.com). Or online at www.frenchrivierapass.com, which also has full details.
A final thought, though it's nothing to do with money-saving ... Should you want to see a film, but doubt that your French is up to following the plot, look out for showings marked “VO”. This means that the film is to be shown in “Version Originale” – or its language of origin. So, if the film is British or American, it will be in English.
If, on the other hand, it’s Swedish, it will come at you in Swedish.
Cinemas showing some VO films include the Rialto at 4 Rue de Rivoli, the Mercury at 16 Place Garibaldi and the Pathé Massena at 31 Avenue Jean Médecin. The Cinemathèque at 3 Esplanade Kennedy has a fine policy of showing VO classics like The Godfather and A Clockwork Orange.