If, like me, you’re used to grey skies, biting rain, sleet and snow in February – going to the Nice Carnival is the nicest possible shock to your system. I arrived from Paris at Nice train station wearing a coat, gloves, scarf and hat. Within minutes they were off and so was the jumper I was wearing. It was a balmy, sunny day, the sky was azure blue, the air was warm. People were wandering about in what I class as summer clothes.
It was my first time at the famous Nice Carnival and I arrived on a Sunday morning just before the afternoon parade was scheduled to take place.
A feel good humdinger Carnival that lifts your spirits
I met my friend Caterina who lives in Nice and we headed into the old town for lunch. There’s something wonderfully uplifting about sitting out in the sun sipping a chilled glass of rosé and scoffing a delicious plate of tasty grub in the middle of winter. By the time we finished, the streets were starting to fill up with people. The air of excitement was palpable and the low boom boom boom of music reached my ears as we walked up to the famous chequered Place Massena.
This isn’t the sort of carnival that roams round the streets willy nilly. Its much more organised than that. You can buy tickets to sit in the stands at the colourful Place Massena and watch the whole thing unfold right in front of you.
Street performers, dancers and the most incredible floats pass before the crowds to the sound of cheering. Drums beat a hypnotic rhythm, there’s loud hooting and whistling. Dance teams egg the crowd on, they rush up and down the stairs in their shiny costumes, grinning, clearly loving every minute. The upbeat music is so loud that you can feel the energy of it inside you. Confetti flies through the air, and not just a handful either – there are bucket loads of the tiny pieces of coloured paper. I felt like I was taking part in a live kaleidoscope. I was finding bits of confetti in my handbag weeks later when I was back in the cold and grey weather of home, and every time, in my head, I was back in sunny Nice.
It’s impossible not to feel happy at the Nice Carnival, it’s a feel good, real good, joyful and crazy humdinger of an event.
When to see the Nice Carnival
The carnival takes place over 15 days of mayhem, colour, flowers, floats, singing, dancing, entertainment and fun.
Details can be found here: en.nicecarnaval.com
What’s on in Nice while its carnival time
In between carnival processions there’s loads to do. My top five not to be missed when you’re in Nice for the carnival:
Markets – Cours Saleya is a large square, home to a daily market and lined with gorgeous mansion houses and cafés and restaurants galore. On Sunday there’s a flower market, Monday – antiques market, the rest of the week its food and fabulous.
Musee Matisse – the artist Matisse lived and worked in Nice for many years. At one time he lived in a house on Cours Saleya, later he moved into a hotel. The museum…
Eat! There are too many fantastic restaurants to mention here, but let’s just say, the Nicois love their food. (Authentic great value and delicious restaurants).
Enjoy a cocktail at: Negresco, an iconic hotel….
Wander: The old town is magnificent, a labyrinth of winding narrow streets, shops, restaurants, bars, galleries, museums and houses. Go in the summer and you can hardly move. Go in the winter and you’ll almost have it to yourself (in the sun).
Nip to the Menton Lemon Festival which takes place at the same time. It’s easy to reach by train or bus from Nice.
More on Nice
10 great things to do in sunny Nice
Nice City Guide
Place Massena Nice
Palais Lascaris Nice
Nice Tourist Office for lots of ideas for what to see and do in the sunny city all year round.