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“Nice, the Beautiful” goes the well-known anthem for this city - and how fitting it is! This Mediterranean city in France’s stunning Côte d’Azur region enchants travellers old and young with its palm-fringed seaside boulevards, sun-drenched beaches, Baroque churches and mouth-watering Provençal food. Also around this ancient city are several scenic roads that make for some spectacular drives to the most beautiful locations in Southern France.
Who to Book With
Most of the car rental offices in Nice are conveniently located in and around the city centre. International car hire outfits include Hertz, along Avenue de Suède, and Europcar, along Avenue Gustave. Gare de Nice-Ville, the main railway station here, also boasts several car rental firms, including both local and international firms like Avis, Citer and ADA. Make sure you check out the latest deals and prices by comparing rates online.
Best Time to Go
Fronting the Mediterranean, Nice has a very mild climate, with low rainfall mostly occurring in winter, which stretches to around March, after which temperatures begin to rise. Summers are sunny and dry with temperatures of around 20°C-27°C making this the perfect time to visit.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting the vehicle you hired, it’s necessary to bring the following:
- A driving licence (International Driving Permit for non-EU resident)
- A passport as proof of identity
- A credit card
- Printed booking confirmation
To access the city from the west in Cannes or farther west from Aix-en-Provence, you can take the A8 autoroute passing past Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport after you cross the Var River. This is the same highway to take if you’re coming from Italy’s northern coast. From either approach, the drive is indeed quite lovely, as the highway hugs the coast. It’s best to anticipate traffic jams in the city centre at high season. The southern coast of France is infamous for accidents and mad drivers, so needless to say, utmost caution is advised when driving here.
Getting to Nice on long-distance trains or buses are very easy. There are frequent and direct connections from nearby cities, such as Paris and even as far afield as London. Cabs tend to have quite high fares, although they are certainly convenient. Hiring a car is recommended, as the region is an excellent place to move around at your own pace.
Nice has a train station, Gare de Nice-Ville, whose rail services are run by the SNCF. High-speed trains (TGV) arrive direct from Paris, taking about six hours and costing around €100. There are also frequent services between Nice and the nearby cities of Cannes and Monaco.
Visitors are advised to pick up taxis at queues outside the train station or at major hotels such as Le Meridien. Cab fares tend to be expensive as many drivers try to charge exorbitant prices. It may be necessary to insist that the driver use the meter. Fares within the city should be nowhere above €25. From the airport, they should be around €35.
The main bus station in the city is the Gare Routière, located along Jean Jaurès Boulevard. Fares are cheap, starting at around €1.50, which will take you to stops within Nice and the surrounding region. Long-distance buses are available and are provided by Intercars. The company has services, not only to other French cities, but also to London, Amsterdam and Brussels.
Fares for buses both local (Lignes d'Azur) and inter-urban (Transport Alpes-Maritimes) are integrated into a single system for travelling in and around Nice. A bus pass costs €1, covering any distance and within 74 minutes, affords you a free-of-change connecting service (non-return). For those taking the Airport Express, a pass costs around €4.
It is not a secret that this region of France has some of the most stunning drives in the entire Mediterranean. Along the roads, visitors will find small seaside towns in addition to the lively cosmopolitan cities. From Nice, holidaymakers can take drives either east to Italy or west to the foothills and the beach towns along the way.
Menton - This is a beautiful seaside town found east of Nice, right by the French-Italian border. The drive along the A8 affords the travellers panoramic views featuring the three mountain ledges of Basse, Moyenne and the highest one, Grande. The Grande Corniche rises up to 1,600ft.
Grasse - Reachable from Nice by driving west along the A8 past Antibes. This town is beautifully perched on the side of a hill, with views of the coast including the cities of Antibes and Cannes. Grasse is associated with the best perfumes of France.
Villefranche-sur-Mer - This is a quieter beach location, lying closer to the city centre of Nice. The beach is nicer here as it has fewer rocks, and there are only a few resorts, as most of the area is occupied by residents. The town is also home to quiet waterfront restaurants.