Visiting the capital of the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera) by train is always a Nice idea (sorry, we couldn’t resist)! All railway stations are close to the seafront, which means you can get a certain taste of the Mediterranean immediately upon arrival: a pissaladière (onion and anchovy tart) on Promenade des Anglais. with a side of lapping azure. Whether winter or summer, it’s always sunny in Nissa la Bella. The Cimiez Roman ruins, Matisse Museum, Russian Cathedral Saint-Nicolas, and the shimmering Baie des Anges and buzzing Old Town are only a 4h40 train journey from Milano and Lyon, or 5h30 from Paris.
Nice-Ville is the city’s main railway station, located in the south of the city centre. A 10-minute walk west leads to the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint-Nicolas, a masterpiece of Russian architecture built in 1903. Around the station, other striking buildings include the gothic 19th-century Notre-Dame Basilica and its stunning rose window portraying the Assumption of Mary – you’ll find it on avenue Jean Médecin. Grandiose Place Masséna is the beating heart of the city; it marks the entrance into the Old Town with impressive red ochre facades that echo Nice’s Italian past, as well as being home to oodles of restaurants, stores and shops.
The multicoloured buildings of nearby Place Rossetti are lined with ice-cream parlours, cafes and the 17th-century baroque Cathedral Sainte-Réparate; next to the pretty square, on Cours Saleya, the flowers and vegetables of the outdoor markets simply scream Provence. Take a 10-minute walk north east of the Old Town to visit the must-see Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Housing pieces by the likes of Andy Warhol and Niki de Saint Phalle, it’s also close to Place du Pin, a square sprinkled with antique shops and trendy bars.
Feeling hungry for local cuisine? Then head down towards the sea. Port Lympia boasts great restaurants, including Chez Pipo, famous for its excellent “socca”, a chickpea crepe from Nice. Overlooking Port Lympia to the west is the beautiful park of the Castle Hill and its waterfall – and to the east, the Mont Boron, dotted with Belle-Epoque villas. Both offer stunning panoramic views of the city and the Promenade des Anglais. The iconic Promenade connects the Old Town to the Baie des Anges and is dotted with beautiful monuments, like the Opera and the Masséna Museum. And let’s not forget the incredible beaches adorning its eastern side, like Beau Rivage and Castel.
Out west, Marseille and its rocky, heavenly Calanques await. They can be reached by train in 2 h 40 min from Gare Saint-Augustin, the station located at the west end of the promenade.
Departing from Chemins de Fer de Provence station, near Nice-Ville, the Train des Pignes explores the surrounding countryside and stops in charming villages like Entreveaux. Before leaving, the hill of Cimiez, a 30-minute walk north east of Nice-Ville is a must-see. Home to Chagall and Matisse museums, a Roman archaeological site (arenas, thermal baths, museum, park) and the Cimiez monastery (9th century), it’s also surrounded by gardens with panoramic views of the city – another opportunity to see the sea.