Warmth, limpid light, wine, sparkling sea... Nice is wonderful in winter, as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been discovering. The couple embarked on a romantic New Year getaway to the French city – with reports suggesting they flew out on a BA flight on Sunday (and even opted for economy class).
To visit Nice in winter is to honour the traditions of rich and noble Britons. Our aristocratic forebears frequented the place through to April, and reinstating the practice seems entirely sensible. Here’s the Med without the summer squeeze, if a little nippy at the edges. One may eat outside at lunch, but it will probably be woollies by nightfall. No matter. France’s fifth city, throbbing with museums and galleries, also has the restaurants, bars and clubs to see you through cool nights.
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France's - Europe's? - greatest carnival, which explodes into the city centre, this year on the theme of space - as in stars, planets and rockets to the moon. Not that you'll notice the theme, amid the giant floats, dancers and musicians by the hundred, flower battles and local neighbourhood carnivals. February 17-March 3 (nicecarnaval.com).
In the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC – mamac-nice.org). The Cote-d’Azur’s best contemporary art gallery is putting on a Liz Magor show until May. Liz Magor? She's a Canadian visual artist whose sculptures address themes of history, shelter and survival. The German filmmaker Harun Farocki, meanwhile, is being celebrated until January 14. Otherwise, the MAMAC majors on Euro-realism and pop art. Look out for Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski and Ellsworth Kelly.
Have a hot chocolate...
At Antonia Cafe on Place Rossetti, bang in the centre of Vieux Nice. The drink’s so substantial that, at a pinch, one cup would do two of you. Excellent home-made glaces also, should you fancy a bit of fire and ice.
At a glance | Why you must visit Nice
Wrap up and walk...
At the Promenade du Paillon. It's 30 acres of greensward bang in the city centre, where the river and, later, traffic, once flowed. It’s a brilliant bit of in-town landscaping and leads to the Promenade des Anglais, than which there is no finer, or longer, urban seafront in Europe. Alternatively, take a walk to a bus stop for the service 95 (or "football specials"), ride out to OGC Nice's home ground, the new and striking Allianz-Riviera stadium, and take in a match. The Niçois lads are presently sixth in France's First Division. They have home games on Jan 13 and 21, Feb 3 and 17 (ogcnice.com).
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Enjoy a cosy evening...
In the groovy zone between Place Garibaldi and the port. Nice doesn’t do cosy, not in the sense of grannies and antimacassars. But it will likely be warm in the Rosalina Bar, a former Renault garage on the previously downtrodden Rue Lascaris. There is glass, metal, school chairs, canteen tables, ample intimacy and first-rate cocktails. Not far away, the Maison Gusto (maisongusto.fr), also on Rue Lascaris, has a Serious Mozzarella Bar - providing, unsurprisingly, a pantheon of mozzarella dishes, alongside burgers and salads. It's pretty groovy, too. There are a zillion other bars punctuating this zone and also - should the proximity of Italy really get to you - Le Local, whose pasta dishes feed Nice's large Italian population as Mamma would, if Mamma could cook this well. It's at 4 Rue Rusca.
A photo posted by tidou (@tidou) on Feb 24, 2015 at 10:38am PST
What else is on this winter?
Winter season, Nice Opera House
Nice's Italianate opera house is one of the city's joys; the 2018 calendar does it justice. Highlights include The Marriage of Figaro (Jan 19-25), Norma (Feb 16-22) and Romeo and Juliet (March 21-27). Tickets start at a tenner (opera-nice.org).
Dorka Raynor exhibition, Musée de la Photographie
Recently established in new premises - on Place Pierre Gautier - Nice's first-class photo spot kicks off the year with a show devoted to Dorka Raynor, who captured French rural and urban life in the Sixties (until Feb 25), museephotographie.nice.fr).
Top 5 | Things to see and do in Nice
My favourite winter hotel
The finest views over the winter-sun spangled Bay of Angels? Good food on the inside-outside terrace suitable for sunny lunches or cooler dinners? Five minutes from Vieux Nice? Sharp snap of feminine style throughout? Head for the Hotel La Pérouse, a luxury labyrinth backed into the hillside on the Rauba Capeu headland.