To Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport (00 33 489 88 98 28; en.nice.aeroport.fr) is served by British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) from Heathrow and Gatwick. Aer Lingus (0871 718 5000; aerlingus.com) from Dublin year round; Flybe (081 700 2000; flybe.com) from Southampton (from May 1, 2015) and Exeter (from May 2); Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) from Leeds-Bradford (from May 2) and Manchester (from April 2).
EasyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com) flies from Gatwick, Luton, Liverpool, Bristol and Stansted year-round, and from Edinburgh (from March 30, 2015), Belfast (from March 31) and Newcastle (from March 30). Monarch (08719 405040; monarch.co.uk) flies from Birmingham (from March 28) and Gatwick (from March 29).
Finally, Norwegian (0843 3780 888; norwegian.com) flies year round, Gatwick to Nice - and is often the cheapest option.
From Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport (00 33 489 88 98 28; nice.airport.fr), a taxi to the city centre will cost you €23-€31 by day, depending on where you want dropping off, or €28-€33 between 7pm and 7am. There will be extra charges for a fourth person, and luggage.
If you wish to book a taxi ahead, telephone 00 33 493 13 78 78. The shuttle bus is cheaper (€6 one way – but the ticket is valid for the next 74 minutes on all Nice buses and trams), and easy as pie.
Jump on either the No 98 or No 99. One or the other leaves about every 30 minutes, serving both airport terminals. The 98 ends up bang in the city centre, the 99 at the main railway station. If you’re without children and much baggage, you could use the motor-cycle taxi service (00 33 648 246409; mototaxi-sophia.fr) from the airport to Nice centre. The fare is around €30.
Nice is served by two ports – the city’s own, and that of Villefranche-sur-Mer in one of the Med’s loveliest bays just round the corner. In Nice, ships tie up at the port, where tourist office staff will be waiting with information. It’s a pleasant 20-minute stroll to the old town and city centre. If that sounds too tiresome, taxis are available and, in high season, shuttle buses are laid on.
If Villefranche is your port, arriving in the bay is a glorious experience – enfolding mountains, sea, sun, sky and the little town nestling in among it all. This is a tender port, so the boat will anchor and you’ll be shuttled ashore. If time is tight, I’d settle for Villefranche itself. It’s a fine old Mediterranean seaside spot with ample sights and shopping to keep you occupied for a couple of hours – or more, if you want a decent lunch or dinner. If you’ve more than a couple of hours, head for Nice.
There are taxis at the port – though it’s almost as easy, and much cheaper, to get to Nice by bus (12 minutes; €1.50) or train (seven minutes; €1.60). The tourism office at the port will tell you where to catch them. Services are frequent throughout the day.
Nice centre is easily walkable. Indeed, if you’re doing the Old Town (Vieux Nice) it is only walkable. The streets are barely wide enough for a donkey, never mind a bus. But some things you’ll want to see – the Matisse Museum, the full length of the Promenade des Anglais – will involve a tidy amount of leg-work, which you may care to avoid. Fortunately, Nice has a first-class public transport system.
Buses and trams
For a place thick with billionaires, these are commendably cheap. And the (relatively) new tram system is an elegant delight, studded along its course with art-works. The price per journey - a Solo Ticket - rose in May 2013 by a hefty 50 per cent, but it’s still only €1.50. This entitles you to 74 minutes’ travel (don’t ask), including one change. It’s operative not only on the full city network of buses and trams but also on buses throughout the Alpes-Maritimes département (county).
However, you can’t use the same ticket for a return journey, even if it’s within the 74 minutes. Wherever you’ve got to, you must buy a new ticket to come back. Nor may you use the €1.50 ticket on the Nos 98 and 99 shuttle buses to and from the airport.
Should you wish to go beyond Nice, buy a Ticket Azur - also €1.50 - and it's operative not only on the full city network of buses and trams but also on buses throughout the Alpes-Maritimes departement (county). If you are going to make lots of trips, or are in a big party, the 10-trip multi-ticket may be the best bet, at €10. Meanwhile, a one-day pass is €5, a seven-day pass €15.
Overall it’s a brilliant scheme. Not only is the Matisse Museum within €1.50’s range, but so are Cannes, Monaco and Antibes. Buy tickets at bus or tram stations, from bus drivers or the agencies at 3 Place Masséna and 29 Avenue Malaussena. Remember to validate tickets each time you get on a different tram or bus. Forget, and you’re in for a €29 fine. Details: 00 33 810 06 10 06; lignesdazur.com.
Nice is excellent cycling and rollerblading terrain, especially along the long, long Promenade des Anglais. As soon as you arrive, you’ll notice that everyone is at it. You might like to join them.
You can hire bikes at Holiday Bikes (00 33 493 82 27 00; loca-bike.fr) at 4 Rue Meyerbeer near the seafront, and bikes and blades from Roller Station (00 33 493 62 99 05; roller-station.fr) at 49 Quai des Etats-Unis – the extension of the Promenade des Anglais. . A bike will cost from €14-€15 a day, rollers €8 a half-day, €9 a full day.
If that sounds a lot, try Nice’s own Vélo Bleu bikes (00 33 493 72 06 06; velobleu.org). There are 1,750 of them parked at some 175 stations about the city and surrounds. Right of access costs €1 a day. After that, the first 30 minutes hire are free; from 30 minutes to an hour you pay a further €1, and €2 for every subsequent hour. You may book online or simply show up at one of the bike stations with your banker’s card and mobile phone. Ring them on local number 04 3000 3001, give them your card number and they’ll ensure it it unlocks the bikes.
Don’t ignore, either, the possibilities of Segway travel. Segways are a bit like big pogo sticks, but with electric engines. You hop on and speed off and it’s a blast. They’re banned in public in Britain but certainly not in Nice.
An hour’s hire, and guided tour, is €30, two hours €50. Contact Segway Mobilboard at 2 Rue Halévy (04 93 80 21 27; mobilboard.com).
If you’re in Nice for a short city break, forget all about cars. In common with most big cities, Nice is a nightmare for driving, parking and anything else connected with private motorised transport. Being near Italy, it can also display a cavalier attitude to minor bumps and scratches, an attitude which your hire-car company may not share.
Even if you’re staying longer than a short break, I’d not bother with a car. As mentioned above, bus connections with almost the entire Côte d’Azur, not to mention the inland bits of the Alpes-Maritimes, are good and cheap. If you really insist, Nice airport has a full range of car-hire companies.
If you don’t fancy the bus, take the train – not much more expensive and one of the unsung joys of the region. The track hems the coast, allowing views you’d never get from a car. A train will also haul you up into the mountains behind, affording relaxation rather than the white knuckles associated with driving in these parts. In summer time, from June through September, consider buying the Zou Pass, which entitles you to unlimited travel on all trains in the Alpes Maritimes départment for one day for €15pp. Meanwhile, families might try the Carte Isabelle. This gets you unlimited travel on Côte-d’Azur trains for €35 for a family of up to four, including two children under 16. Three days for the family costs €80.
Know before you go
Nice is covered by the British Consulate in Marseille: 00 33 491 15 72 10, 24 Avenue du Prado, Marseille. Open Mon, Wed, Fri, 9am-12h30.
British Embassy, Paris: 00 33 144 51 31 00.
Emergency services: Dial 112.
Nice Tourist Office: from UK 00 33 892 70 74 07; nicetourisme.com), 5 Promenade des Anglais.
Telephone code: Dial 00 33 for France. French telephone numbers are almost all 10-digits, starting with “0”. When calling from abroad, knock of this initial “0”.
Time difference: + I hour.
Flight time: London to Nice is around two hours.
Local laws and etiquette
French law requires that you always have personal ID about your person, so keep your passport on you.
If driving, you must have a fluorescent yellow bib in the car. It’s to be put on should you break down on a busy road and need to be visible to other motorists – and it’s a legal requirement.
When introduced to someone, shake him or her by the hand. All that cheek-kissing comes a little later (considerably later between men), when acquaintance has been struck up.
Note that, when offered something (a fill-up of your wine glass, more bread, a minor treat), simply saying “Merci” indicates refusal, as in “No, thank you”. This is quite different from British practice, where saying a simple “Thank you” implies acceptance, as in “Yes, thank you”. So, if you want your wine glass filled or more bread, don’t say “Merci”. Say “Oui, s’il vous plait.”
Round-the-clock snacking is far less common in France than in the UK – as is eating or drinking in the street. French practices are loosening, but you’re still unlikely to draw admiring glances if you’re walking along at 4pm with pizza in one hand, a can of beer in the other.