Vieux Nice

Address: The Old Town, Nice, 06000, France

- Free


Where the action is, and always has been.

Here’s the pulsing heart, where the Niçois reclaim their city from centuries of foreign influence in the interests of commerce, eating and making a lot of noise in very narrow spaces.

If you hadn’t already guessed, the jammed-in ochre buildings and wrap-around exuberance would tell you that Italy was close by, in both time and space. Streets were built when the only traffic was donkeys, and thin ones at that. Try to walk three abreast and one of you will end up in the butchers.

Dried cod and brushes

Naturally, the labyrinth is now overcome with visitors – but open-fronted emporia selling dried cod, socca pancakes and floor-brushes still find elbow-room among the T-shirts, print frocks and bijou art galleries.

And, on the even tinier non-commercial streetlets, you can still get a feel for the tough times, when the sea was a source of work and menace, rather than a leisure facility.

As you amble the old town, look out for:

Cours Saleya. All old town life finally bursts out into this lovely space trimmed with large Italianate buildings, bars and fish restaurants. Key attraction is the morning flower market (every day but Monday), a localised explosion of colour and aromas covering the whole Cours.

It’s the essential Nice shopping experience, best undertaken with a slice of socca pancake in hand. Buy one from the street seller. Then, if you really want to annoy the folks back home, arrange to have flowers sent to them. (Most of the stalls do foreign delivery.) It will make them as jealous as hell.

If you’re in the Cours on a Tuesday afternoon, don’t miss the Chapelle de la Miséricorde on the square's northern edge. It’s Nice’s most arresting baroque chapel - and shut the rest of the time.

Other high-points in the Old Town include the Palais Lascaris, the Eglise du Gésu,  Place Rossetti, Rue St François-de-Paule and Place Massena. Please see the separate entires for all of them.

Value for money

Expert tips

Trying to follow a set course through the Old Town is frustrating. The tangle of tiny streets will defeat you. I'd just amble aimlessly and be happy with wherever that takes you.

The Old Town has a world-beating collection of restaurants - and bars of particular appeal to lively international youth. That's either your thing, or it isn't.

Best time for Old Town shopping is early-ish morning, when the flower market is on in Cours Saleya, and the streets are fresh.

Recommended for

  • Culture vultures
  • First-time travellers
  • Foodies
  • Shopping