Imagine you’re wandering through the winding narrow streets in the old town of Nice. The sun is beating down, the sky is a deep spirit-lifting blue. You stop at Cours Saleya market to buy a snack – maybe socca, the local speciality, a pancake made from chick peas. Perhaps a punnet of sweet smelling strawberries, a pan bagnat (local sandwich) or a baguette and some filling. The beach is just a few yards from the market, the perfect location for a picnic.
Sure, Nice is famous for its glitz and glamour and for being the playground of the rich and famous. Just about everyone from the Queen to world leaders and billionaires come here to play, party and soak up the sun that shines more than 300 days a year. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle went for a winter sunshine break.
But what if you’re not a millionaire? Is it possible for those of us without huge bank balances to visit Nice and have a great time without breaking the bank? Well yes, absolutely, and in fact, it’s not at all hard to live on a budget here and enjoy life to the full!
Nice on a budget
Most people wrongly assume that Nice makes for a very expensive holiday – but it doesn’t have to be. Search and you can find local accommodation at an excellent value price. There’s a hostel in Nice too, though you do have to share rooms to make the best savings (there’s a supplement for a room to yourself).
Eating out in Nice
The food market at Cours Saleya is an experience in itself. It’s surprisingly reasonable, thanks to the abundance of fruit and vegetables grown in the area and neighbouring Italy, just 20 minutes’ drive from Nice. There is also the Liberation Market (Av Malausséna – Place du Général de Gaulle Liberation tram stop) Tuesday – Sunday. This is where most locals go as it’s less touristy. Buy supplies and head off for a picnic in the sun.
And, if you want some wine to go with your picnic or to drink on your balcony watching the sun set, head to Les Caves Caprioglia (16 Rue de la Prefecture). Take an empty water bottle (size your choice) and buy direct from the 700l casks of wine that line the wall. Choose from white, red or the locals favourite rosé. A litre of the red will set you back a shade over 2 euros.
Authentic and great value restaurants in Nice
Self-catering is terrific, but you also want to experience the wonderful local cuisine. There are loads of affordable and scrumptious restaurants in Nice. Food is really important to the locals, it’s part of the heritage of this place. The street food is amazing, delicious socca, Pissaladière (a tasty onion tart) pastries and snacks are plentiful and at just a few Euros a piece, you won’t need to spend much.
Plenty of restaurants don’t charge sky high prices and one of the best for local Nicois dishes is A Buteghinna (11, rue du marché). It’s only open for lunch but the three lovely Nicois ladies who run it, cook up a storm in a tiny kitchen. You won’t each much in the evening after one of their huge and tasty dishes! And, check out their snack bar for take away heaven!
After a day of exploring or lazing on the beach, it’s time to indulge in an aperitif at a local bar. There are hundreds of restaurants in Nice but most visitors head to the old town or round the harbour for the ambiance and views and to listen to free music, whilst people watching. For a truly outstanding selection of restaurants head to the Garibaldi district, just on the outskirts of the old town. Restaurants like Sentimi (2-4 Place Garibaldi) and Influence (31 Rue Bonaparte) are where the locals go and offer great value for money and memorable dishes.
Free things to do in Nice
The beach at Nice is stony. That’s fine for most people but if you want a comfy sunbed or a sandy bit, you’ll have to pay for it. You could though hop on the bus and for just €1.50 head to the sandy beach at gorgeous Villefranche-sur-Mer close by. (Get transport details from the tourist office).
Walking is of course free, and Nice is one of the nicest places to wander. There are parks, grand squares, the gorgeous streets of the old town and distinctive styles of district. Head to castle hill, via the free lift – or climb the steps if you’re feeling energetic. The views from here are stunning, there are shady areas perfect for a picnic plus beautiful gardens.
Stroll along the beach front, wander in the Cours Saleya market. Cool down in La Promenade des Paillons, an enclosed urban park of 12 hectares. Here you’ll find fountains, bands, street food and somewhere to sit in the shade of a tree, on a bench and simply chill.
Okay, not quite free but excellent value – for a few Euros you can pick up a ticket from the tourist office that gives you access to all museums and galleries in Nice. It’s valid for 24 hours and includes the fabulous Matisse museum – a great saving.
And, if you want to get a bit further afield, local transport is good. The tram and bus service go to key destinations in and around Nice. Pick up a transport pass for 1 day or 7 days rather than buy tickets as you go.
Nice is the perfect place to wander and wonder. It’s a town in which you can relax, chill, eat, drink and enjoy the joie de vivre in the sun. And no, it doesn’t need to break the bank to live like a millionaire here.
More on Nice
Visit to the Mattise Museum in Nice
Discover the market of Nice – if you thought Cours Saleya was the only one, think again!
10 things to do in Nice
The legendary Hotel Negresco
Palais Lascaris, the hidden gem of Nice