Its own mayor described has Nice as “the most British” city in France, but in truth the whole world flocks to one of France’s most liveable cities. It also happens to have just about the best weather in the country. But what of the property in Nice, and where should you look to buy?
Nice and its surroundings have long been a favourite for holidaymakers and long weekenders from Britain. You’ll also hear plenty of American accents along the Promenade des Anglais (especially in May, when a direct Los Angeles to Nice Air France service will operate during the Cannes film festival), but it’s a city that the French love to visit themselves too.
The very name is synonymous with glamour, glitz, the “in” crowd, sunshine and the good life, and it has been for close to 200 years. The current prom was named the “Camin dei Ingles” as early as 1824 and Brits have been going to Nice to soak up the luxury atmosphere of a beautiful French town on the Riviera. In those days it was “the” place to go in the winter, helped by its superb weather that was seen as a cure for TB. Queen Victoria came often, and it’s been popular with the artistic and literary sets. It’s frequently been associated with gay writers, incliuding Somerset Maugham who owned a home here, and James Baldwin.
It’s still a popular expat and holiday home location. There are some wonderful villages within easy reach of Nice to visit and plenty to do for all ages.
Nice old town
Nice was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2021. The old town is just charming. You can wander through the little lanes safely day or night, stopping for a coffee or aperitif in one of the lovely little cafes or browsing in the quaint shops. There is an excellent market at Cours Saleya selling fresh foods, flowers and knick knacks from where you can see the sea. One particularly lovely square is Place Rossetti from where you can spy the Cathedral Sainte Reparate. There is also a super fish market each morning as well as some superb individual food stores.
The Promenade des Anglais is a must see. It spans the beachfront on the Bay of Angels and runs right from the airport to the old town. Here you will find plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants and it has come to be a bit of a showcase for those who wish to be seen and admired – a little like the passegiata in Florence or Rome.
Take a dip from the beach – the water here really is azure – and rent a deckchair to soak up the sunshine. The Promenade is still very popular and plays host to numerous cultural and musical events such as the Nice Carnival, Battle of Flowers etc. Although memories of the tragic terrorist attack on a summer’s evening in 2016 linger, the stretch is well protected now and your biggest risk is from a tourist on a hired bike.
Nice is rich in culture. There are several museums well worth visiting, especially that of Marc Chagall, an easy walk from the town. There is also a museum for Matisse, Fine Arts, Modern and Contemporary Art, as well as the cathedral and a stunning opera house. Then of course there is the casino.
A key benefit of Nice is its superb weather. Average sunshine hours per years are over 2,500, which is around 500 more than Toulouse, on the same latitude (and 1,000 more than London).
The city is sheltered by the mountains to the north and you can be swimming in a warm Mediterranean well into November without looking odd! The average sea temperature in winter is still around 13 Celsius.
Yet it is rarely too hot either, kept temperate by the sea, so that average highs in summer are 24C and in winter 14C.
Beautiful villages around Nice
A good tip is to buy a day bus pass in Nice which will allow you to visit some of its stunning surrounding villages. Highly recommended to visit are:
Eze is a gorgeous hilltop village around 12 kilometres from Nice. It is filled with some very picturesque buildings, some dating back to Medieval times. Plenty of pretty restaurants, boutique shops and hotels as well as the Jardin Botanique, well worth a meander.
From the centre of Nice you can walk along the seafront cliffs and bays to Villefranche-sur-Mer and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The later is a well known and very popular village set on a peninsula. There is an extraordinary villa, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild with a simply wonderful garden open to the public. There are also some fabulous beaches.
St. Paul de Vence
This is another very well known village and one of the oldest medieval villages in the French Riviera. It has for many years attracted the rich and famous, amongst whom artists Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and the writer Jean-Paul Sartre. In the time of the swinging sixties many French actors stayed here as well as the American writer James Baldwin. You will find some lovely cosy romantic restaurants and pretty little shops nestled amongst the honey coloured buildings here.
A lesser known but still lovely village, this is close to Monaco which can be seen easily from the village. Through a superb medieval stone gate, you will be faced with some charming small medieval streets with an array of colourful plants as you go through to the main square at its centre surrounded by pastel coloured houses.
This is another village perched on top of a hill. With its cobbled streets, fountains and flowers and gardens, it is one of the prettiest in the Cote D’Azur. There are some outstanding views across the verdant countryside from Mougins and at its centre are some great little restaurants and bars as well as art galleries.
Property in Nice
Nice has a strong expat community and a long history which consistently attracts people to invest in property here. The majority of homes for sale in and around Nice are modern apartments and houses.
As for prices, it is one of the most expensive parts of France in which to buy. With its rich history, beautiful coastline, fantastic climate, proximity to Italy and Monaco, you really cannot go wrong here and any property will likely be an excellent investment. You will need to dig deep in your pocket however as this really is prime location.
The sky really is the limit when it comes to price with properties up to around €20 million for a large beachfront home. There is plenty of choice in between, and of course, the closer you are to the sea, the higher the price will be. At the other end of the scale, you would need at least around €300,000 for a very small apartment. However, the rental market is strong year round and property prices tend to rise here more than in many other parts of France.
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