Anyone who knows me knows that even if it’s a business trip, I will milk every last drop out of a travel opportunity. So it’s not surprising that my visit to Nice en route to an advertising function in Cannes was no exception – but the visit itself was exceptionnel. And because this part of the trip wasn’t on the company dollar, I made my dollar go as far as possible, so I thought I’d share what I learned with these 6 tips for saving money in Nice.
1. Go for Location, Location, Location (not luxury rooms)
With only a small amount of time, and an even smaller amount of money thanks to a major house renovation, my husband Henk and I had to make our decisions wisely as to what to see and do in Nice. Fortunately, the city is lovely and compact, and by staying in the pedestrian centre known as the Zone Pietonne, (on Rue de France/Rue Massena), we were within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and bakeries (Hello croissants!) in one of the most convenient and liveliest parts of town.
Going the cheap and cheerful route, we booked a room at the Hotel Felix Beach, which although basic, was more than comfortable and with a price that was ridiculously low for its location (we paid less than $90 CDN although that has gone up to around $120 in 2016), breakfast available for a small fee, and free wifi, we couldn’t ask for more. (Did I mention our room’s cute little balcony that gave us a front-and-centre view of the passing streetscape below?) Local cafes and restaurants were within a wine cork’s throw, and we even took advantage of that balcony to enjoy our own bottle in our room and watch the world go by one evening.
2. Browse, Don’t Buy
Shopping was everywhere in Nice, especially in our central location, but this trip was more about browsing than buying – and a great place to enjoy a little eye candy (and ice cream, actually!) is the market of Cours Saleya in the Old Town. Here produce and beautiful flowers bring this busy and colourful street market to life with an infectious energy that is present day and night, and it costs nothing to enjoy. Even the ice cream was an affordable treat that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
3. Eat the Prix Fixe
We found that the daily special menus offered by the sidewalk cafes were actually quite affordable, and gave us several courses which was usually more than enough food for us. Of course, the meals would have been even more affordable without the beer or the wine, but this is a vacation after all, and when in Nice… (Fun Fact: Henk didn’t realize that a ‘salade niçoise’ means salad ‘nice-style’ until the light bulb went off one day at lunch!)
4. Going to Saint-Paul de Vence? Use local transportation!
For a different kind of eye candy, we decided to make the day trip to a well-known artist’s community called Saint-Paul de Vence, a picturesque medieval town perched on a hilltop about an hour away from the city, and one of the most popular destinations for visitors to this part of France. Fortunately for us, and on the advice of some great guide books, a few blocks away from our hotel we could catch a city bus (#400) that would take us right to the town. Costing a mere 1.5 Euros each, we had a stress-free and practically cost-free option that allowed us to see a bit of the country along the way to this charming town.
Even if you don’t end up purchasing any of the wonderful art from the many galleries that line the cobbled and mosaic-decorated streets, Saint-Paul de Vence is well worth sharing with the many tourists who flock there. The architecture is charming, the variety and quality of the art in the many galleries makes for some enjoyable window-shopping, and the views are incredible where the narrow streets spit you out to the town’s ramparts.
Here we found a small cafe with a big view, so we sat down to grab a bite and enjoy a cold beer before heading back to Nice that evening. Total cost: less than $20!
5. Go to Church
Day 3 we decided to seek out an unusual local attraction, the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral outside of Russia – St. Nicholas Cathedral. Beautifully and authentically Russian, albeit somewhat unexpected in France, the church’s exterior and interior are both stunning and absolutely free to enjoy.
6. Stretch your legs, not your dollar!
And finally, no trip to Nice would be complete without a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais on the waterfront, or a sunset climb to the Chateau de Nice (Castle Hill) overlooking the entire bay, so we decided to do both on our last night. Our cost: a little exercise.
Getting the most out of our weekend in Nice didn’t mean spending a lot of money, yet neither Henk nor I felt we had missed out on anything even though we had spent little – in fact, we might have gotten more out of our time in Nice because of it.