It’s “A Sunny Place for Shady People”
You might have heard the phrase, the Cote d’Azur is a, “Sunny place for shady people.” It was coined by British author, playwright and scandal-maker himself, W. Somerset Maugham, who owned a villa here for nearly 40 years. If you’re wondering if Nice France is safe to visit, I’m here to tell you it’s not safe, and the Cote d’Azur is a dangerous place to visit. I’m also going to dispel a few myths.
Much of the start of this article is tongue in cheek. I do answer honestly toward the bottom.
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You might be interested in What to do with a Weekend in Nice.
Read my 14 Reasons I love Living in Nice France Pros and Cons for more information about what make me happy and really ticks me off!
Scandals of the Cote d’Azur
The Cote d’Azur has long been rumored as a hideout for the rich and famous, the corrupt and scandalous. And it is…
Well-to-do British, American and Russian aristocrats littered this region for decades with well-known scandals, indiscretions and litigious situations.
Even Maugham himself was sued by some woman’s husband for breaking up their marriage. The reputation of this area has been tainted for years! But that all leads to its allure, no?
Below is a great book written by a friend of mine in Nice about the Cote d’Azur, called Dangerous Pity – such a fitting name.
First off, the Casinos are rigged!
Back in the day, there were vicious feuds between the casino owners of Nice and Monaco vying for clients. They’d go to great lengths to smear the names of one another.
The Nicois are said to have planted dead bodies in random places around Monaco. Then, the newspapers would claim these poor, dead souls killed themselves because they lost all their money in the Monaco Casinos!
That meant you had better chances of winning in Nice! Whoa…. nasty! Meanwhile, none of it was true. But at one point, Nice was winning in tainting Monaco’s casino reputation.
Casinos are in business for making money, not to make you rich.
Every time someone visits who’s never been here before, I take them to try out a few machines at the Cafe de Paris in Monaco. It’s a great way to spend an hour. One time, my friend and I decided to play $20 maximum. I happily hopped on a, ‘Sex and the City’-themed machine and won $60. My friend won $90 and then we blew it on a great brunch with wine at the Fairmont Hotel in Monaco. Not all lost. And not nice at all. Always set your limit and have a great time.
Check out my Travel Resources page here for what I use to book hotels and travel.
Nice is Dangerous on your wasteline!
The cuisine in Nice is not French
Well, no wonder, when you consider much of the Cote d’Azur was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia! In Nice, you will come across a multitude of excellent restaurants that are not French. Nope! You’ll be pigging out on everything!
You find many Italian, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese, and Sushi restaurants, and many other cuisines to keep your taste buds entertained. Nice is not safe on your waistline!
Nice was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia until 1860, so there is a lot of Italian influence in Nicoise dishes.
You’ll find local specialties such as Pissaladiere, which is a baked onion tart; Socca, which is a pancake of chickpea flour; Daube, which is like beef stew over pasta; Ratatouille, which is slow cooked vegetables; Salades Nicoise, and Merda de Can, which translates to Dog Shit. Yes, you read that right.
Merda de Can is a dish of gnocchi using green leaves of blette (like spinach) that are formed into oblong dog turds. They then put a cream sauce over them. Seriously, would you order dog shit off the menu? You’ll gain a ton of pounds by sampling all the local treats that you think won’t amount to many calories.
Any way, Nice is a melting pot nowadays of different cultures and flavors. If you want traditional French food, head up north.
The hotels in Nice are dangerous on your wallet
Particularly if you stay on the Promenade des Anglais that faces the stunning Mediterranean Sea. The same goes if you come in high season.
BUT, your wallet is safe on the Cote d’Azur if you book your travels from late September to the end of April. Then you’ll find the best deals on otherwise unaffordable hotels.
The weather in late fall and early spring will be pleasant and sunny. You can enjoy the city with fewer tourists. We locals love this time of year because we can easily get into our favorite restaurants without making reservations and the staff are more relaxed. We have our town back.
New Years, Carnival and Easter timeframes will still be busy times, but if you book well in advance, you’ll still find good deals versus waiting last minute. And there are a variety of good options the more you move away from the Mediterranean and into town. There are reasonably-priced 3*Hotels that won’t break the bank any time of year. You can also find a variety of Airbnb options allowing you to experience the charm of living in Nice like a local. But it will be dangerous if you don’t plan ahead to get the best deals to visit Nice and the Cote d’Azur.
You’ll waste money buying things and experiences you don’t need
The Cote d’Azur boasts more than 300 days of sunshine a year, and the ambiance is known for being stylishly chic. Before you know it, you will be investing in a few more pair of must-have, large-framed Jackie O sunglasses, a wide-brimmed sun hat, some jeweled sandals, a French market basket, Hermes-inspired swimsuit cover-ups, and sundresses appropriate for St. Tropez. And you’ll spend money on once-in-a-life-time experiences!
You’ll come home with a new summer wardrobe, and broke! Nice is so unsafe! Really annoying! And very dangerous on your wallet.
The Cote d’Azur is flooded with Gold Diggers
I wish this one wasn’t true, but it is. But you’ll be happy to know being a gold digger isn’t gender-specific! It goes both ways, and you don’t need to be wealthy.
There are plenty of opportunistic people here. In my opinion, there’s a huge misconception that everyone on the Cote d’Azur is wealthy.
People come here thinking the streets are paved in gold and there are plenty of high-paying jobs.
The fact is, there are a lot of people and companies willing to take advantage of you if you don’t pay attention. Restaurants will happily screw their employees by making them work a shit-load of extra hours and not pay them overtime. This will reflect on their service to you.
Then, there’s the waiter/ess who ‘forgets’ to bring back your change when you pay the bill. Note: Waiters/esses don’t rely on tips for a living, so they don’t care if they provide you good service or not. They make a standard wage.
Some of these books about Nice and the Cote d’Azur might come in handy.
Everyone on the Cote d’Azur is rich…
Maybe in Monaco, Cannes and St Tropez!
To dispel the myth, the general salary on the Cote D’Azur is low compared to other parts of France. By low, I mean $1200-$1500 in your pocket per month! That’s not a huge salary, but people manage to get by, just…
These are general salaries that equate to about $10/hour, or the minimum wage. You can try and negotiate a higher salary, but with so many seasonal people floating in and out, the boss will surely find someone willing to work long hours for shitty benefits.
Then consider they pay around $550-600 for a bed in a shared apartment, plus meals, phone, going out. It doesn’t leave much left at the end of the month.
If there’s a way you can ‘supplement’ your salary by sponging off someone else, they will.
I’ve met women taking care of ‘boy-toys’ only to discover that when they turned off the money spigot, so was he and he was gone…
And the same for women… I know women who are/were ‘call girls.’ Their apartments were paid for, and a living stipend was provided for, by some rich dude simply wanting a spread available when he was in town – meanwhile the wife’s at home.
Yes, I know this happens all over, but the towns along the Cote are quite small with Nice being the largest at 340,000, and people talk. You hear a lot about people, whether you want to or not.
That said, for tourists coming to visit Nice and the Cote d’Azur, you’re here on vacation and the prices can be quite reasonable. You’re unlikely to run into these types unless you are here for awhile.
All the souvenirs in Nice are overpriced
Touristy, souvenir shops are rife and overpriced in Nice. You don’t want to go there, so I’ll let you in on where to head for quality gifts to take back home.
First, start at the olive oil king in Nice, Nicholas Alziari, which began in 1868 in Nice itself. You’ll find the ‘Gran Cru’ of infused olive oils and vinegars crafted using the same techniques you’ll find in producing quality champagnes, wines, coffee and chocolates.
There are a variety of original oil and vinegar infusions along with spices, jams, fois gras, seafood products, honeys, ceramics, olive wood and even cosmetics. You can even take a free tour with tastings at the original mill on Boulevard de la Madeleine. 14, rue St François de Paule.
Even if you forgot to pick up some Alziari Olive oil in Nice or at the duty free shop, you can still get some sent home. Check these out. I love their olive oils.
Across the pedestrian street from Nicholas Alziari you’ll find A L’Olivier (7 Rue Saint-Francois de Paule). Again, you’ll find traditional and infused olive oils, vinegars, olives, tapenades, basil pesto, honeys and flower confits. They have all sorts of lovely small gift packs that will easily fit in your suitcase. The company first started in 1822 in the Marais section of Paris, and Nice is its Mediterranean anchor.
Instead, local gifts from Nice make great souvenirs
For unique hand-made jewelry you’ll find no where else in the world, head to StatuQuo at 14 Rue Delille, just on the other side of the Theatre National de Nice.
Since 1984, this family-run business has been making all their stylish jewelry in their studio onsite. You’ll find reasonably-priced necklaces, earrings, bracelets and unique items for the home in silver and gold with precious stones, glass, enamel and pewter. This is my go-to place for excellent jewelry gifts for my friends. This is a safe place in Nice for finding local-made jewelry.
If spices, teas, salts and peppercorns are your thing, find your way to Girofle et Cannelle. This shop, located at 4 Rue Pairolere in Old Town, started by importing salt pearls from Djibouti.
It’s owned by Ciro Forte, whose family have been in the spice business for more than 50 years. You’ll find salts from Persia, the Himalayas and Hawaii, along with spice mélanges ready for meats, fish, seafood vegetables, and sauces. Easy to pack in your suitcase.
The drinks are dangerously expensive in Nice
But only if you head to the wrong place! The safest place in Nice for the best Happy Hour prices are in Place Garibaldi. You’ll typically pay $2.75 for a glass of excellent Provence wine, or $5.50 for a pint of beer.
Our standard stomping grounds are Giuseppe’s, Cafe de la Place, and Campo Cafe.
You can also go to Pane et Olio for an Italian Happy Hour, which offers a drink for $11 and you get all-you-can-eat appetizers of bruschetta, pasta and pizza nibbles. Otherwise, you can have a $14 glass of the same wine on the promenade, if you like paying for the view.
Is it safe in Nice to ride the tram?
One other thing I would say is the new T2 tram line out to the airport is a magnet for thieves. They purposely look for awestruck tourists to be off guard in a crammed tram.
I’ve also seen them going up and down the escalators in the new tram stations. So many people cram onto the slow escalators and it’s easy for thieves to pick your pocket – or worse, scan your credit card.
The tram is cheap at $1.85 per ride, so it’s affordable to anyone. But chances are the thieves didn’t buy a ticket in the first place.
The areas around the train stations and port can be risky at night.
Just keep your wits about you.
Is Nice France Safe to Visit?
Generally, yes. We were hit with a shitty situation a few years ago and we are still recovering.
The city has done lots by way of blocking pedestrian areas to car traffic, and they’ve stepped up their security at every major event in town.
It’s quite annoying, but if it makes people feel better, then fine. You’ll need to open your bag to some random security guy at most security check points, or you go through security gates.
We’ve also seen an increase of street people and beggars from outside of the Euro zone.
Place Garibaldi can be a magnet for drunken brawls amongst themselves which is unnerving. And we now have a new wave of immigrants that made it through the Italian border to Nice who are living on the street. While probably not dangerous, it may make you feel uncomfortable.
I’d say petty theft is probably the worst crime down here.
While this has been somewhat tongue-in-cheek toward the Cote d’Azur, there are many alluring qualities about this little piece of paradise. You should absolutely visit Nice and the Cote d’Azur. Just keep your wits about you.
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2 thought on “Is Nice France safe to visit? Dispelling myths”
Thank you for a 2019 account of Nice , France. My son and I are travelling to the Cote D’Azur region after our stay in Paris. I haven’t been to Nice since 1986 so your thoughts are much appreciated.
J. Marc St. Pierre
Hi Jean Marc, Thanks for your comment. How long are you going to be in Nice for and when are you coming? I lot has changed since ’86. A lot has changed in the 10 years that I’m here. Will be interesting to hear you thoughts once you’ve been here. You might be interested in what to do with a Weekend in Nice, which you can use for anytime. Or if you have time, you might want to scoot over to Italy for a Day trip. Any rate, keep me posted. Would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a line and I’ll meet you guys for coffee.