Nice: the glamorous Riviera favourite

Nice: the glamorous Riviera favourite

The southern sun rises on an era of eco architecture, environmental transport networks and new green spaces as Juanita Viale introduces us to the bright future of Nice

Historically touted as a small sleepy fishing village that housed the bourgeois elite, celebrities and inspiring artists who yearned for a warm and sunny climate, the city of Nice (called Nissa in the native Niçois dialect) has redefined itself in the last few years as an eco-friendly city of style… the nouveau Nice.

Ranking in fourth position below London and above Singapore, Nice has made the top five smartest cities in the world in a recent analysis by Juniper Research (17 Feb 2015) that bases its rankings on each city’s capacity for environmentally sustainable and technological initiatives.

If you haven’t visited Nice recently you will be in for a big surprise, as there are new tramlines as well as additional ones scheduled to be put in that will connect the centre of town to the airport and the new Allianz Riviera stadium.

The extension of the tram network is part of an initiative to make it easier to travel around Nice and get to the airport, as well as to reduce the impact on the environment by reducing traffic in and out of the city. Once you are in the city, visitors and residents can whizz around on the Vélo Bleu bicycles that are available for public hire, as well as have access to publicly rented and electric Auto Bleu cars, of which there are 182 throughout the city along with 63 stations.

The healthiest way, of course, is to get your daily amount of exercise by walking or jogging on the famed Promenade des Anglais that skirts the Baie des Anges. You can walk from the airport all the way to the port and over to the Cap de Nice, and this is the most popular place to take a seaside stroll, run or cycle or simply relax in an iconic chaise bleu.

One of the most visually noticeable changes in Nice is the new central green corridor called the Coulée Verte. The new park runs from Place Massena all the way to the Museum of Modern Art and features water mirrors and misters, a walking path on either side and fun structures for children to play on. This ambitious project by the city of Nice has certainly paid off as it is now one of the most beautiful aspects of the centre, and also one of the most photographed both during the day and at night.

Attention rugby and football fans! There is also a new eco-friendly stadium called the Allianz Riviera that is now home to all the football and rugby matches.

Besides the exquisite restaurants and cafés, Niçois and Belle Époque architecture, enchanting farmers’ markets on the Cours Saleya and shopping on the Carré d’Or, there are some 20 museums and galleries in addition to numerous private art galleries. A real feast for your eyes.

Steeped in history and inspired by art, some of the most popular museums are the Musée Matisse, Musée d’Archeologie de Nice in Cimiez, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée des Arts Asiatiques, Marc Chagall National Museum and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, most charging a modest €10 entrance fee.

For music lovers, the Opéra de Nice offers a full season of classical concerts, ballet and special performances in the majestic opera house that was built in 1885 in the old town of Nice. The famous jazz festival also takes place each year in July and has done so since 1948. The event is held in two open-air theatres with performances given by world-renowned artists.

As the metropolitan capital of the French Riviera, Nice offers a strategic location and is a transportation hub with the second busiest international airport in France after Paris. There are flights to 105 destinations and the airport is scheduled to undergo a large renovation in 2015 that will focus on passenger comfort and efficiency.

Nice is also a major sea port with daily ferry crossings to Corsica, Sardinia and Elba, and it is a delightful pastime strolling along looking at all the yachts and colourful small fishing boats.

The newly renovated train station services high-speed TGV lines as well as the new Italian rail service ItaliaRail, which offers direct train services from the French Riviera all the way to Milan, so there’s plenty of opportunities for fun-filled day trips. You can have your petit déjeuner in France and your lunch in Italy.

The key to finding a good property opportunity in Nice, whether an apartment or villa, is the condition that it is in. Older, more outdated homes that require renovation will be lower in price and have more room for negotiation.

If you find a property you like that needs renovation, it is important to have a renovation expert visit the property with you to give you a clear idea of what work will be needed and to help you avoid any unexpected surprises. They can also highlight any potential issues that could delay your project such as existing building regulations.

The good news is that you will generally be able to get in at a lower price and plan your renovation according to your budget. You will also be able to offset the cost of the renovation by either reselling it with a justified higher property value or earn it back through holiday letting.

New-build apartments on the other hand do offer the advantage of a newly built property adapted towards modern living, but they tend to be slightly more expensive although they usually offer more amenities. There are actually few houses in the centre of Nice; most detached homes are located on the hills around the city, with prices from around €650,000.

When you consider all the world-class events held on the coveted Côte d’Azur such as the Nice carnival and Cannes Film Festival, and major sporting events like the Ironman Triathlon and the Tour de France, not to mention the fact that the closest ski station is only a 45-minute drive from Nice, it comes as no surprise that properties in this area are considered to be safe investments. In this niche property market, properties not only retain their values but also offer a considerable return on investment thanks to Nice’s appeal as a year-round tourist destination.

The key here is to find the right opportunity and in the right conditions. For example, being able to take advantage of locking in a strong British pound currency exchange rate will yield big savings, especially if you have factored that into your whole financial plan including any retirement pensions.

Combine that with the right type of property choice for your needs and, voilà, you will be able to enjoy the splendour by the sea and make it work for you at the same time.

At the end of the day, the French Riviera is about pure enjoyment and a unique lifestyle. This is a place to live at the heart of the action and enjoy a sun-filled lifestyle with exceptional dining and delightful weather. The azure Mediterranean is your backyard, the perfect to place to relax and enjoy that glass of rosé.

When thinking about buying property in the south of France, Nice is one of those places that is naturally a holiday property and rental investment haven. It also carries the myth that you have to be a millionaire, which obviously is not true. Although the Côte d’Azur is one of the most expensive areas in France in comparison to other areas, you can still find properties for smaller budgets.

Since 2013, property prices have eased which has resulted in a renewed optimism among buyers, especially from the UK as the pound has steadily held its value against the euro. The real estate landscape is diverse and full of different property offerings from historical Belle Époque apartments to modern new-build condos, homes with sea views and Provençal-style homes in the Niçois countryside.

A typical one-bedroom apartment in the Carré d’Or, which is one of the most sought-after areas in Nice and walking distance from the beach, markets for €210,000 to €380,000 depending on the type of building, the street it’s on, proximity to the beach and its situation within the building.

Nice Vieux is about the same in price, but this area is a very competitive market as it’s always sought out by tourists and is very busy. The area that does offer new opportunities is the one facing the new green corridor, with beautiful park views.

Nice has many surrounding hills that offer the advantage of more sea views and are only a few minutes from the centre of town. Areas such as Fabron, Corniche-Fleurie and Mont-Boron are all nice residential areas filled with apartments with stunning city and sea views. A one-bedroom apartment in these areas ranges from €230,000 to €595,000 and generally offers more space or amenities, such as pools and tennis courts.

Juanita Viale from Nice Properties Real Estate is a member of the Riviera Alliance, a private network of English-speaking professionals on the French Riviera

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