A local look at Nice, France

My first guest post comes from Christine, a fellow travel blogger living her dream in France. I missed out on the chance to share a liter with Christine at Oktoberfest this year but enjoy her daily posts about life in France and her travels through Europe. She offered to help me out and give me some tips on how to travel in Nice on a budget and still hit all the must-sees.

The French Riviera tends to conjure up images of sunkissed celebrities, luxury yachts and never-ending champagne toasts. While it’s a destination for the rich and fabulous, Nice is also the perfect base to experience the best of the Cote d’Azur without breaking your budget. The fifth-largest city in France, Nice is laid-back, unpretentious and heavily influenced by its proximity to Italy. Here are the must-sees:

Get bronzed: The rocky beaches of Nice and glaring sun can be a bit unbearable. If you’re going to get some sun on the French Riviera, do it in style. Splurge on a private beach with a chaise lounge and an umbrella (it’ll run you 15-20 Euros for the day).

Go back in time: Vieux Ville is where true Niçoise culture comes out. Start your morning with a stroll through the famous open-air Cours Saleya market (Cours Saleya 06300, Tuesdays-Sundays 7 a..m-1p.m.). You can find the typical fruits and veggies, brilliant flowers, a variety of cheeses and fresh bread, but there is also the Provencal herb mix, homemade nougats and delicious jams.  Meander through the ruelles to find the best food in Nice: homemade pasta shops and “street” food like petit farcis, zucchini flower beignets and socca. Don’t miss Fenocchio, which features the biggest selection of fresh ice cream in Nice.

Take a hike: If you’re looking to burn off those croissant calories, head up Castle Hill. Don’t miss the cemetery or manmade waterfall, but the panoramic view of the port and the Promenade des Anglais is what makes the incline worth it.

Grab a drink: Les Distilleries Idéales (24 Rue de la Préfecture 06000) is where the locals go for typical French service and the perfect people-watching terrace. If you’re looking to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime experience, have a cocktail at the bar at the Negresco (37 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice).

Swipe your card: If you’re looking to shop, Avenue Jean-Medicin is home to the main chains: Galeries Lafayette, Zara, H&M. Rue Massena (the pedestrian shopping zone) features smaller shops, while Rue Longchamp has the higher-end boutiques. If you want to head home in true Cote d’Azur style, pick up a pair of Tropezienne sandals.

Stop and see the paintings: The Chagall Museum was founded by the artist to showcase an assortment of biblically-themed and vividly-hued pieces he gave to the French State in 1966. It’s a super interesting museum—and only takes about an hour to see. While the Matisse Museum in Cimiez doesn’t house the largest or most well-known Matisse works, it’s still worth a visit. Don’t miss the small room that shows photos of Matisse’s life in Nice, including his house that still overlooks Cours Saleya. I’d dare to say that the best part of a visit to the Matisse Museum is the rose garden next door: on a sunny day, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art features many artists with close ties to Nice, as well as a rooftop terrace with great views of the city. The best part: the museums are often free for students!

See a bit of Russia: While the inside of the church isn’t worth paying 3 Euros, the extravagant exterior of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral (17 bd. Du Tsarevitch, off bd. Gambetta. Open daily 9 a.m.-noon and 2:30-6:30 p.m.) is simply stunning. Nice was the vacation destination of choice for Russian nobles, and many headed here after they were exiled in 1912.

Don’t hesitate to use public transportation: bus and tram fares are always just 1 Euro each way, even if you head out to Cannes or Monaco. The bus ride to Monaco is worth the Euro just for the striking views over the Mediterranean as you twist around the cliffs.

Christine is currently living in Nice, France, working in an Irish pub and soaking up sun on the beach as much as possible. She blogs about life on the French Riviera at C’est Christine and tweets at @camorose. Christine’s first trip to France was at age 11, where she fell in love with pains aux chocolat, modern art and Galeries Lafayette.