We spent the past week in Nice thanks to my mother-in-law who had invited us for a holiday at her rental apartment by the port.
October is a lovely time of year to visit the Côte d’Azur since tourist season’s over yet it’s still warm enough to bake on the beach or amble along the city streets in flip-flops.
Nice is an ideal destination for young families, and our brood enjoyed soaking up its mix of modern metro hustle and old world charm.
Here are our top picks for things to do with kids under five in Nice:
Hit the beach*
Nice is blessed with gorgeous coastline and on any warm afternoon, you’ll find bronzed bodies in fashionable bikinis piled up along the shore. We were strolling distance from Castel, a popular beach with a chilled out restaurant/bar, just along from the port. Nice beaches are mainly pebbly so you don’t have to worry about sand in their eyes (and every crevice), but do tread carefully coming out of the sea onto slippery stone. Follow the cyclists, joggers and rollerbladers further along the Promenade des Anglais to Plage du Neptune, a private beach that has a play area and optional supervision for kids aged 3 and up.
Catch up with Matisse
This area is a big draw for art lovers as several masters – Picasso, Chagall, Matisse – found inspiration and made their homes on the coast. Be sure to check out Matisse Museum, where some of the artist’s best known works are housed in a villa with splendid views out back. The free museum is pushchair friendly with lift access to all floors and attendants to help down any stairs. It’s also small enough that the kids don’t get worn out. Outside is a shaded olive garden where you’ll find families picnicking or playing petanque (French bowling game) – we even spotted some cricketers. Jed and I went for a whirl on the mini carousel (€2 per child, adults free) before we all had a snack at the small outdoor cafe. A really lovely, non-commercial excursion that’s a must for families.
Explore the Old Town
No trip to Nice would be complete without a visit to Vieux Nice, the infamous Old Town. You could get happily lost amid its winding alleys and bustle of shops, galleries and bars. Don’t get too seduced as many of the wares and price tags scream ‘tourist trap’, but you can still find treasures if you keep your eyes open. This part of town boasts several grand chapels as well as the stunning Palais Lascaris. The baroque museum is a bit of a trek up and down with a buggy, but its art collection is well worth a look.
Dine at Cours Saleya
In the centre of Vieux Nice is the city’s main market that’s blooming with flowers and fruits in the morning before the restaurateurs take over. Grab a socca (popular Nice snack of chickpeas in flatbread) from the famous Chez Theresa or settle down at a table for one of the various lunch specials on offer. Most restaurants have kid-friendly fare such as moules (mussels) or steak frites or of course, delicious thin-crust Nicoise pizzas. Cours Saleya also offers space for Daddy to take the minis on a stroll around with their pushalong toys while you sit back with a glass of rosé and people watch.
Climb the Colline du Chateau
The castle’s in ruins but it’s still a good walk up to this well-liked hillside park that features spectacular waterfall, views across the city and a children’s playground. Sadly we didn’t make it quite that far, as the threat of torrential downpour stopped us lugging the pushchair any further. We took a detour half-way up into an atmospheric Catholic cemetery and then raced back down to avoid the rain. Apparently there’s a lift (from Rue des Ponchettes) that will take you to the top if you can’t face the schlep.
Shop till it’s trop
In the Old Town and Cours Saleya, you’ll find anything from antiques and art deco to modern art prints, Provencal perfumes and soaps to pick up as gifts or souvenirs. Pop into l’Atelier des Jouets, an old-fashioned toy store with plenty to delight les bébés. If you’re serious about spending head to Nice Etoile mall on main shopping street Avenue Jean Medecin or nearby department store Galeries Lafayette. Yummy mamans deck their little ones out in beachside chic from Bonpoint or Petit Bateau. And of course there are loads of kids’ boutiques dotted around town where you can spend a pretty centime on clothing, toys or things for the nursery.
Heading to Nice? Check out Friend-in-France, the premier support service for English speaking visitors on the Côte d’Azur