From Paris to Provence, Franco-philes find a reason and a destination to visit France at all times of the year, but what is it that keeps drawing tourists, French holiday-makers and property buyers alike to the alluring south-east Cote d’Azur coast and the 5th largest city in France, Nice?
The Provence Alps Cote d’Azur region as a whole is the most popular region for owning holiday homes with over 415,000 people already doing so and with over 10 million visitors a year to the Cote d’Azur, Nice and the surrounding towns are the second most popular tourist destination in France.
– Outdoor life
You can’t visit Nice without taking a stroll along the famous Promenade des Anglais, indeed many will only live in Nice if they can achieve this prime real estate location adjacent to the sea front and the Baie des Anges. Established in 1822 by British ex-pats (hence English Promenade), this fairy-light adorned walkway along the coast is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere, you go there to see and be seen.
Of course if walking is a little to slow-paced for you then hire a ‘velo bleu’ bicycle from one of 90 stations and imagine yourself as Lance Armstrong speeding down the cycle paths, well perhaps the Tour de France is one step too far for the regular customer but it certainly is the ideal way to get around town and take in the sights, for as little as 1 Euro per day. The bikes are self-service, just register online to give you 24-7 access to the velo bleu and as the popularity of this mode of transport increases so is the number of bikes with 175 stations being rolled out amounting to 1750 bikes available for hire (www.velobleu.org).
You can’t visit the coast without a dip in the sea, especially in the hot summer months. Adrenalin junkies can hire jet skis, parascend, dive, water ski and paraglide on the Mediterranean coast in Nice. Plus with 9 Blue Flag beaches in Nice alone (74 in the Provence Cote d’Azur region in total) you can be assured the amenities and cleanliness are excellent making the beaches perfect for the whole family too.
Back on dry land the markets are the perfect French shopping experience aside to the huge Nice Êtoile shopping mall. The cours Saleya in Nice is home to the flower, food and antiques markets held on different days of the week but the buzz and vibrancy is always the same. There is also the Cave de la Tour for traditional wine tasting and buying.
– Food lovers heaven
France is renowned for its delicious cuisine, inspiring chefs and top class restaurants worldwide but you can’t imitate the real thing. When in France eat French and what a choice there is for the hungry foodie. In Nice you can sample Michelin stars at the Chantecler restaurant serving classical cuisine and for the smaller pocket, who can resist the smell of a freshly baked baguette, a flaky croissant and the rich aroma of ripening cheeses.
To wash down your meal head to Vieux Nice, the old town, made up of winding passages and walkways packed full of bars and cafes. Sample a perfect pastis, the anise flavoured alcoholic drink in the 18th Century surroundings.
– Seeing the sights
With so many events, exhibitions and festivals on at any one time in Nice there are two free publications dedicated to keeping residents and visitors up-to-date with the cultural, sporting and musical activities available, the Nice Rendevous and Cote d’Azur en Fêtes, plus another weekly paper the Semaine de Spectacles.
A highlight of the cultural offerings are the museums and galleries. The Musée D’Art Moderne Et D’Art Contemporian (MARMAC) houses the likes of Andy Warhol’s 1965 ‘Campbells’ Soup Can plus you can’t go to Nice without admiring the Musée Matisse. Henry Matisse moved to Nice from Paris in 1917 to recover from bronchitis and never left; just walking around the city you can take in the same sights that he described as the ‘radiant colours and luminosity of daylight’.
For music lovers the likes of U2 visited this summer, Nice is a touring stop for most A-list groups but on the other end of the scale there is the Opera de Nice to enjoy.
Taking you back in time, there is the ancient Roman city of the Cemenelum to explore where ruins are on show. In 154BC the Romans were second to settle in the area after the Greeks who had named the colony Nikaia to commemorate a nearby victory – nike in Greek.
– Interesting property
From ancient homes to the modern and sought after properties on the Promenade des Anglais… despite the world economy, real estate on the Promenade des Anglais remains in demand due to the finite number of properties offering those breath taking sea views. Kirkor Ajderhanyan, MD and owner of Agence 107 Promande comments, “prices have stayed relatively stable and in the more affluent segment of the market prices are already starting to see a rise; as always good quality properties with that location, location, location, are ever popular. Many of our clients are seeking their bolt-hole in the sun, but we also find that a large number are investing in property in Nice because it is a ‘safe’ market and they see returns from their purchase from rents and capital gains.”
Ross Elder MD of holidaylettings.co.uk states, “Accommodation enquiries are up 40 per cent year on year across the board, demonstrating growth in the ‘book direct with owner’ market where space, privacy, freedom and value prevail.” France is one of the top performing destinations for what is being coined the ‘self-catering explosion’, where people are choosing privately owned properties to rent for their holidays instead of the more expensive hotel options.
Buying your Promenade apartment doesn’t have to cost the earth either, for example, you can purchase a well presented 2 bedroom apartment of 49sqm in a prime seafront location offering a living room, balcony with panoramic sea views overlooking the Baie des Anges, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, bathroom and an allocated parking space for €285,000.
For those with a larger budget this contemporary apartment of 96sqm situated in an Art Deco building on the Promenade des Anglais offers 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, 2 bathrooms plus a large 8sqm terrace with spectacular sea views. It is on the market for €648,000.
– Good access
Nice is one of the most accessible locations in the Cote d’Azur, the international airport services Nice and surrounding area, visitors come by car, boat or even helicopter. 18 low cost airlines alone service Nice International Airport from over 42 destinations, this coupled with the 73 destinations reached with the traditional airlines, all 33 of them, air access isn’t a problem. And unlike many smaller destinations in Europe and beyond, having such an established air service is reassuring for home owners who are not threatened by airline closures or reduced services like so many minor locations.