One of the loveliest ways of passing an evening in Nice is simply to walk the Promenade des Anglais (above). The air is calm, scented and still warm. A band may be playing somewhere in the distance. The promenade lights make a necklace for the sea.
If you cannot fall in love here, then I don’t fancy your chances anywhere.
But, you will argue, you can’t spend every evening just walking. Actually, I can – but I take your point. And, as you insist, Nice has what it takes. It’s France’s fifth city and premier tourism spot. It caters for everyone. Here’s my selection.
(10 Rue de la Loge; +33 493 808737; www.leffervescence-nice.com)
Nice’s only champagne bar is the place to saunter for a spot of early-evening sparkle. Slotted into the Old Town, it’s as chic as you like and so not really suitable for, say, stag parties. The stone vaults and wooden tables are suffused with red tones – and Happy Hour (6-7.30pm) will get you your second glass of champers half-price.
Suggest to the loved one that he or she might find pink champagne the most romantic. (It’s the cheapest on the list, bottles from 34 euros.) Food comes as simple platters of sushi or charcuterie – and as verrines, those snacks-in-a-glass thingies. Cheapest food formula is 17 euros. It’s good, and quite adequate to keep you drinking.
(10 Rue Défly; +33 493 623075; www.nicesmarties.free.fr)
A small and nicely-relaxed cocktail bar, with a suggestion of the 1970s in the air. Certainly, I’ve not seen such swirls-in-frames since about 1978. Then again, electro-music brings the atmosphere more up to date. And the cultured clientele is noticeably short of bell-bottoms. Service is friendly and skilled, and the place doesn’t do hurly-burly, which I appreciate very much.
High Club / Studio 47
(45 Promenade des Anglais; +33 616 957587; www.highclub.fr)
Two clubs in one for what may be Nice’s hippest, hottest spot. The High hits a younger age group – 20s-30s, the ones who appreciate crowds and well-dressed pandemonium, and who can tell one DJ mixer from another. It’s large, lively, crassly classy and has all the big screen and lighting effects that the modern age demands.
Studio 47, meanwhile, is mildly more tranquil, with leather armchairs and similar, in what looks surprisingly like a TV studio. If you’re over 35, I’d head here.
(25 Rue de la Croix; +33 493 800874; www.ensemblebaroquedenice.com)
Here’s a belting idea: the staging of baroque music as if it were jazz - in a jazz club setting and ambiance. Once or twice a month, from October to June, the Nice Baroque Ensemble decamps to the vaulted cellar of its premises to get it on, jazz-style – quite as if they were on the Left Bank in Paris.
Drinks are from the baroque epoch, like mulled wine and, between pieces, discussion and atmosphere are animated. I can’t think why nobody thought of this before. Get details and dates from the website. Entry is 10 euros, including a drink.
(4 Rue du Pont Vieux; +33 493 138435)
Probably Nice’s leading real jazz club…in a real jazz cellar. There’s live music every Friday and Saturday in the said cellar. Upstairs, the music menu is more varied – covering funk and soul and that kind of thing – but the feel is 1950s cool, with surprisingly little of the associated 1950s jazz exclusivity. I’m no great lover of jazz, but have felt quite comfortable here.
Cave de la Tour
(3 Rue de la Tour; +33 493 800331; www.cavedelatour.com)
Bit of a cheat, this one. It’s mainly a wine bistro for solid local eating among solid locals. But it’s also a bar with as good a selection of regional Provençal wines as you’ll find in town. It’s been in the same family since 1947 and hasn’t, I’d say, changed enormously over the intervening years.
There are basic tables underneath the red awning on the pavement – and, inside, other tables dotted among the wine cases and sagely-accumulated clutter. It’s all one-in-the-eye for the techno age – and open from 7am, if you’re desperate. It shuts at 8pm.
(15 Rue de la Préfecture; +33 493 134699; www.waynes.fr)
Indisputably the leading British bar in the old town. It majors on wood, sweat and beers. There’s live music every night from 10pm, then a DJ through to 2am. The pub grub – beef and Guinness pie, fish and chips, chilli beef (from 11 to 15 euros) – is eminently edible, and a bracing change from all that healthy Provençal malarkey.
And the place draws just about every young person available in Nice. By the bar, you will find bouncing girls from Birmingham, Berkeley and Brisbane. If you can’t get in – and you might very well not be able to: the place packs out later on – there’s another pub, The King’s Head, next door.
(6 Rue Halévy; +33 645 220797/+33 493 168726; www.leklub.net)
The entry is unpromising. Squashed under a block of flats in a city-centre side-street, it appears to herald an abandoned shop. Inside, though, Le Klub has what may be the coolest underground music, and underground atmosphere, in town. If you can tell the difference between tech house, deep house, tribal, minimal and electro, then this is the spot for you. And if you’re gay, you won’t feel a bit out of place.
Gay or not (Le Klub is by no means exclusive) you’ll need stamina. Operations start at 11pm and run on to 5am and beyond.