La Belle Nice: District by District
Volume XX, Issue 40
Over the years we have come to know Paris and Nice like the back of our hands. Each neighborhood in these cities has its own distinct character, vibe, and style. In yesterday’s Nouvellettre® we focused on Paris, in today’s French Property we’ll walk you through Nice. Let us help you explore these cities like a local.
Nice is France’s fifth-largest city (after Paris, Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse) with a population of close to 350,000. It is the second-largest city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille, is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département and the second biggest city of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region after Marseille. Nice is thought to be one of the oldest settlements in Europe, named by the Greeks after the goddess of victory. Once part of Italian dominion, it became part of France in 1860, hence the heavy Italian influence over the city and region.
They say “Nice is nice,” and others call it “Nice La Belle.” I have to agree. It’s the hub of the entire Riviera with an international airport and international residents as well as part-time residents, particularly the aristocratic English families who first came in the second half of the 18th-century. Artists such as Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall were attracted by the clear air and soft light. Temperatures are mild through the winter months and the holiday season is long—from May through October.
Tourism is central to the city and region as it’s the second most visited city in France after Paris, with four million tourists every year and has the second largest hotel capacity in the country. The airport is the second busiest in France after Paris. It is, for this reason, that we view Nice and its environs as one of the best property investments one can make in France—with prices about half that of Paris.
To enjoy the city as a part-time or full-time resident to the fullest, we recommend being as central in Nice as possible.
Old Town (Vieux Nice)
Nice’s historic Old Town is a magnet for tourists and property buyers alike. Full of lively bars, gastronomic restaurants, Provençal boutiques, and oozing with atmosphere, the Old Town is undoubtedly one of the most popular areas of the city.
The Old Town, or Vieux Nice, as the locals call it, dates back to the 16th-century and is bordered by the Promenade des Anglais, Castle Hill, and Boulevard Jean Jaurès. The Promenade de Paillon, the beach and the Tramway #1 stops are all within five minutes of anywhere in the Old Town, making it an ideal location for vacationers.
Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau) is the former site of a once-great castle that has panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. Demolished in 1706, the site and adjacent grounds now contain a large park, playground, cemeteries and monuments, a waterfall and many areas from which one can enjoy spectacular views of Nice, the Port, the Promenade des Anglais and the long beach that winds itself around the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels). If the 213 steps to the top seem daunting, one can take the public elevator for a token fee.
Vieux Nice is a traditional Medieval village characterized by narrow, winding streets and buildings that date back to the 16th-century. There are many traditional shops selling Provençal fabrics and Niçoise gourmet foods, such as Socca, a pancake made from chickpeas and olive oil. The Salade Niçoise is also a local favorite, featuring prominently on restaurant menus in the city. In the evening, the Old Town comes alive with an abundance of fine restaurants and late-night bars, from French Brasseries to Irish pubs, from Indian restaurants to Provençal gastronomy. The Palais de Justice (the courthouse) is the major landmark, linking the Cours Saleya—a street filled end-to-end with shops, restaurants, and cafés, which is famous for its daily markets, with the more typical narrow streets north of rue de la Préfecture. Nice’s Opera house, an architectural masterpiece, is in the heart of the Old Town and has regular performances throughout the year.
Apartments in the Old Town are varied and unique. From small studios to former palaces, they range greatly in price, size, and quality. Investing in property in the Old Town capitalizes on the strong demand by tourists in a resort that is fast becoming a year-round destination. It is easy to be charmed by the Old Town and fall in love with the unique atmosphere that can be an oasis from the hectic pace of their lives at home.
Apartments in Nice’s Old Town often need some level of renovation, which is frequently reflected in the prices. The traditional style of most buildings in the area and the fact that they are classified and protected by planning laws means that elevators and terraces are rare. There are some magnificent former palaces in the Old Town, some of which contain some exquisite apartments that come on the market from time to time. The Palais Lascaris, today a museum, is a fine example of the grandeur of some of these palaces.
The area of the Old Town between Cours Saleya and the sea known as Les Ponchettes includes two 19th-century vaulted halls. It’s one of the most sought-after locations in Nice. When you consider the glorious sea views, the beach on your doorstep, and a medieval village behind you, it’s not difficult to imagine the phenomenal demand associated with this area of Nice.
Special Note: Keep in mind that Old Nice is one of the toughest spots to find good property. Old buildings tend to be run down and in need of costly repairs. Few have elevators to the top floors, which is the only answer to finding light and views, because of the narrow streets. Bars and restaurants on the narrow streets create noise and potentially sleepless nights. Thievery is higher here than in other parts of the city. There is limited access into Old Town by car. All these factors make it a challenging investment while great for tourism, but not for full-time living.
Le Carré d’Or
The Carré d’Or (Golden Square) is prime Nice real estate and the city’s most expensive district. The area is a vibrant, cosmopolitan sector characterized by chic cafés, restaurants, bars and designer shops. Bordered by Boulevard Victor Hugo to the North, Place Masséna and Avenue Jean Médecin to the East, Boulevard Gambetta to the West and the Promenade des Anglais to the South, the Carré d’Or is a favorite area for North American buyers.
With the Carré d’Or, it’s all about Location, Location, Location. Every apartment here is no more than five or seven minutes walk from the beach and even less to the pedestrian areas of the district. Rue Masséna, which runs from Place Masséna to rue de France, is completely pedestrianized and is lined with bustling cafés, international restaurants, and chic designer shops. Apartments with views over this street are some of the most rentable properties in Nice.
Rue de France, which begins at the pedestrian area and runs for two kilometers parallel to the Promenade des Anglais is a much sought after location for holiday-makers, property buyers and investors alike. Other popular streets in the Carré d’Or area include rue de la Liberté, rue Meyerbeer and rue de la Buffa. Boulevard Victor Hugo, the northern boundary of the area, is a grand French boulevard lined with large trees and adjacent to two tranquil parks—the Jardin Alsace Lorraine and Jardin Moreno Jean.
The famous Hôtel Negresco and the Villa Masséna (Musée Masséna) are both key landmarks of the district. Along the Promenade des Anglais are Nice’s most luxurious hotels and casinos. The East-West Tramway #2 line that now connects the airport with the Old Port services the Carré d’Or at two station points: Avenue Jean Médecin and Le Jardin Alsace Lorraine.
This is the best investment in Nice one can make even though the price of property here is higher than in other districts. Not only is it easily accessible to the beach, but it’s within a short walking distance to the car rental companies, the tramway, the train station, and all the finest shopping. A walk to Old Town is less than 10 minutes away, so it’s easy to visit Old Town and then go home to where the district is safer, quieter and classier.
Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais is one of the best-known seafronts in the world. From John D. Rockefeller Jr. at the turn of the 20th-century to Elton John and many more celebrities today, the Promenade des Anglais continues to mesmerize visitors with its seven kilometers of walkway along the Baie des Anges, tall palm trees and elegant hotels.
Commissioned by an Englishman in the middle of the 19th-century, the construction of the Promenade des Anglais heralded the arrival of the British aristocracy on the French Riviera. They were joined by the Russian and European elite at the turn of the 20th-century, all attracted by the beautiful light and exceptional climate of the appropriately-named Côte d’Azur.
Properties on the Promenade enjoy sweeping sea views of the Mediterranean, while central Nice is on your doorstep with all the facilities and advantages of a cosmopolitan city. The Negresco Hotel on the “Prom” (as the locals call it) is the enduring symbol of the elegance and class that the French Riviera represents today. The pink dome, typical of the Belle Epoque period, was commissioned by the architect Gustav Eiffel. The interior of the hotel is reminiscent of a museum, with numerous famous artworks and statues.
The Negresco Hotel was divided some twenty years ago; the rear was converted into a private residence with apartments, while the front remained as the hotel. The old entrance to the hotel is now the main entrance to the private residence, leading into a magnificent hallway and sweeping staircase to this unique part of the history of Nice.
Some people love to have a sea view, but unfortunately, an apartment on a lower level overlooking the Promenade des Anglais can often experience noise and fumes from the cars and motorbikes, as it’s an active thoroughfare, however, that has been rapidly changing thanks to new roads to redirect traffic and the East-West Tramway. Apartments are highly rentable, but visitors may prefer a quieter location. In the past, there had been an abundance of properties for sale along the Promenade for this reasons, but as plans continue to lesson the traffic, these properties could make an excellent investment for their future growing appreciation.
Old Port (Vieux Port)
The Port, a gentrifying area of Nice, has an interesting combination of a local French atmosphere and the opulence of the numerous yachts and high-quality restaurants that line the harbor front. The Port extends from Place Garibaldi to the West, rue Barla to the North and the prehistoric Terra Armata Museum to the East. Apartments on the Port front have superb views of the Port area, the yachts, and the Mediterranean Sea. Due to this, they tend to command top prices, only slightly lower than the Promenade des Anglais.
Yacht owners who dock their boats in the Port often stay in the Port area, which is reflected in the increase in top quality local entertainment facilities. The Port front has some superb apartments with panoramic sea views, Michelin star restaurants, and exclusive bars. The historic Yacht Club de Nice, founded in 1883, is located on Boulevard Frank Pilatte, to the East of the Port area.
It is just a few minutes walk from the Old Town, but it has a far greater chance of finding elevators, sun basked French windows, and some outside space, making the Port area a good alternative to the Vieux Nice.
The Port area of Nice has an authentic charm similar to that which can be found in the Old Town. The history of the Port can be seen in the Terra Amata museum to the East of the area and by the Genoese architecture illustrated by the arches on the buildings on the Port front.
The Quai Rauba Capeu by the Chateau, which translates from the local Nicoise dialect as “where the wind steals your hat”, divides the Port area from the Promenade des Anglais. On the East face of the Chateau lies the war memorial which honors the French war dead from World War One and World War Two. Place Garibaldi, named after the famous Italian revolutionary, is undergoing major renovations designed to bestow the square to its former glory.
Rue Catherine Segurane, and the area around it, has been described as Nice’s Notting Hill, due to the concentration of antique shops in the quarter. Boulevard Frank Pilatte to the East is one of the most exclusive areas of Nice and apartments here command high prices, mostly due to their breathtaking sea views.
Investment potential is high here, with a combination of capital appreciation and increasing popularity as a weekly letting location.
FPI on Old Port:
Old Port can make a perfect spot depending on if the property has a view of the port or if it has easy access to Old Town via Place Garibaldi. The east side of the port is difficult for vacationers as it is less accessible to the main beaches. But, property is less expensive and if you can get lucky to find a property near the Place, it could prove to be a very wise investment as well as very enjoyable. Plans by the city to convert a parking lot to a pedestrian destination, will also great improve the value of the property near the port.
Central Nice, the area to the East of Avenue Jean-Médecin and North of the Old Town, is a typical French area mostly off the tourist radar. Here, one may find authentic Niçoise buildings and be almost certain that your neighbors are all French.
Avenue Jean-Médecin is a shopper’s dream with Galeries Lafayette, the world-famous department store, the Nicetoile shopping center, and a plethora of other shops offering bargains galore. The street is made up of mostly commercial and profession liberale (doctors, lawyers, etc) properties, which translates into a short supply of residential apartments on this street.
Nice’s new tramway system runs from the northern suburbs and goes straight through Avenue Jean-Médecin to Place Massena, the heart of Nice. Other tramway projects in France and around the world, such as the LUAS tram in Dublin, have resulted in a marked increase in capital appreciation in the cities concerned and particularly for properties within a short walking distance of a tramway stop.
Boulevard Debouchage, the continuation of Boulevard Victor Hugo, is another grand, tree-lined boulevard with some fabulous Art-Deco and Bourgeois buildings. The area between Debouchage and Avenue Felix Faures is undergoing some development at the moment with developers flocking in to renovate old apartments and construct new-builds. This area has a multitude of furniture shops and bookstores, while there are also French-language schools and a private business school.
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, located close to Place Garibaldi, offers numerous exhibitions throughout the year from such luminaries as Yves Klein. Across the road, the Acropolis is a large conference and exhibition center which draws many businessmen to the Riviera. The Treaty of Nice was signed here on the 26th of February 2001. The museum and conference center are built on the site of the former river which ran through Nice and historically divided the old, medieval town from the newer 19th and early 20th-century Belle Epoque areas. But, it won’t be here for long as the city plans to demolish it and continue the Promenade de Paillon, turning it into another beautiful and pedestrian-friendly green space. Property along this new park will surely increase in value and become highly desirable.
The Niçoise style of architecture is prominent in central Nice, and this is characterized by green window shutters and ample balconies. Prices in central Nice are slightly lower than areas like the Musicians Quarter but are very popular with local French and foreign expatriate buyers.
FPI on Nice Centre:
This is Real Nice—less touristy than the Carré d’Or, but every bit as accessible to all Nice has to offer. Less expensive, too, this district can be a good alternative.
Quartier des Musiciens
Characterized by an abundance of beautiful Art Deco, Belle Epoque, and grand Bourgeois buildings, the Quartier Musiciens (Musician’s Area) is one of the more residential sectors of Nice. Situated between the bustling Avenue Jean-Médecin to the East, the main SNCF train station to the North, Boulevard Gambetta to the West, and the ever-elegant Boulevard Victor Hugo to the South, this area is central, well-kept and perfect for those who want their apartment in a stylish residential quarter.
Although similar in ways to the Carre d’Or, property in the Quartier Musiciens offers greater square meters for your money. One can expect to find long French windows, high ceilings with elegant bourgeois coving and original parquet floors throughout Belle Epoque and Bourgeois style apartments. Art Deco style buildings often boast apartments with ample terraces, stylish building entrances, and modern design.
Located on the western edge of the Musiciens is the Jardin Alsace Lorraine, a peaceful public park where one can unwind. The quarter takes its name from the fact that its streets and squares are named after famous musicians, such as (rue) Verdi and (Place) Mozart. The Musiciens is one of the most popular areas in central Nice for the French middle classes, and the market here is consistently strong due to robust demand from locals and foreigners alike.
FPI on Quartier Musiciens:
The closer to the Carré d’Or and the farther from the train station, the better the property. But yes, this is a great alternative to the Carré d’Or at lower per square meter prices and almost as convenient. The architecture in this district is some of Nice’s finest.
Quartier des Fleurs
The Quartier des Fleurs (The Area of the Flowers) is a sector relatively undiscovered by foreign buyers up until recently when people began to see the benefits and the value for money in this district. Located just West of Boulevard Gambetta, the Quartier des Fleurs is bordered by the Promenade des Anglais to the South, rue Frederic Passy to the North and Boulevard Grosso to the West. Its proximity to the beach and tranquil ambiance lead many to believe this area will be the next Quartier des Musiciens.
The buildings in the Quartier des Fleurs area are a mixture of Bourgeois, from the Belle Epoque period at the beginning of the 20th century, to the modern, with some residences built in the last few years. The Quartier des Fleurs is more residential than the Carré d’Or area and prices here are much more competitive.
Streets such as Avenue des Fleurs, which is the continuation of Boulevard Victor Hugo, and Avenue des Orangers offer many grand and well-kept buildings with an abundance of trees and greenery lining the streets. Noise is low in the Fleurs area, which suits our clients who are looking for that oasis in the center of town.
FPI on Quartier des Fleurs:
An equal in importance to Nice Centre, this is another good alternative to the Carré d’Or and life here as a tourist can be close to perfect—particularly the closer the property is to the beach and shopping districts.
The oldest areas of Nice, it was founded by the Romans and was originally a rival to the Greek city of Nikaia until the two cities merged in 850AD to form what we now know as Nice. Cimiez is a very affluent area, having attracted the likes of Queen Victoria in the 19th century when she chose the fabulous Hotel Regina as a winter retreat.
Cimiez has a rich history and much evidence of this history remains to this day. The city was the only Roman centre in Southern Gaul at the time and was equipped with structures such as an amphitheater, an arena, a Basilica, and thermal baths. The Archaeological Museum at the site offers visitors the chance to see collections ranging from the Bronze to the Iron Age to the Dark Ages.
Cimiez flourished in the 19th century, like other areas of Nice at the time, appealing greatly to the European aristocracy who came and built magnificent winter residences. The Hotel Regina, one of the most stunning examples of Belle Epoque architecture in Nice, is now a private residence where buyers can own a part of Nice’s history.
Property in Cimiez mainly consists of apartments, although there are some villas and houses tucked away behind the many parks and gardens that are dotted around this area. Consistent with other affluent areas of Nice, one can find high-quality property in Cimiez, while the neighborhood is both safe and clean. Panoramic views of Nice can be enjoyed due to the high altitude of this elevated suburb, with some apartments in Bas Cimiez (Lower Cimiez) offering views of the glorious Mediterranean Sea. Ornate Bourgeois apartments, some of them exceptionally large, have prices similar to the Quartier Musiciens—€4,000 to €6,000 per square meter.
Although transport links to Cimiez are good, with a regular bus service taking you to the center of town in ten minutes, a car is normally required as there is a minimum half an hour walk to the beach. This is an ideal location if French suburbia—with the beautiful tree-lined boulevards and immaculate buildings—fits your elegant taste.
FPI on Cimiez:
The downside is only the distance from the beach, but otherwise, this is one of the city’s prettiest locations, more suburban than central Nice and lush with vegetation. Vacationers who really know the city are happy to reside here, but with prices comparable to more central locations, from an investment point of view, Cimiez may not prove to have quite as good a return on investment.
Mont Boron, known as the Hollywood Hills of Nice, is one of the most exclusive areas on the French Riviera. Stunning sea views, exceptional properties, and the convenience of being less than 15 minutes from a major international airport appeals to many stars and international businessmen, some of whom already have properties on Mont Boron.
For recreation, the Park Forrestier du Mont Boron is a protected national park offering wooded trails with some spectacular views. There is little commercial activity on Mont Boron, although a small retail area recently opened to service local customers, so a visit to the center of town is no longer a necessity. Located between Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer, many properties in Mont Boron enjoy views of both glorious bays. There is an abundance of exceptional apartments offering panoramic sea views, outdoor space and secure parking. A gentle sea breeze moderates the summer sun, while the generous foliage offers protection from the city noise. Prices start from around €400,000 for a quality one-bedroom apartment.
Mont Boron also appeals to villa buyers, offering a central location on the Riviera, with proximity to both Nice and Monaco, while retaining traditional villa features such as glorious views and privacy. Villa prices range from €1,000,000 to €5,000,000 for some exceptional properties.
FPI on Mont Boron:
Gorgeous! If you swoon for views, this is the spot, but more for full-time residents than tourists as access into Nice is mostly by car rather than public transportation.
While we’ve tried to give you a good overview of these neighborhoods, you’ll get to know them best by experiencing them in person. We hope this gives you a starting point and that you’ll be visiting Nice soon!
Adrian Leeds Group®
Adrian in Nice
P.S. Adrian returns to writing her regular newsletters next week. If you want to hear about her travels to Columbia and New Orleans, be sure to subscribe to her Nouvellettres® TODAY!