Why Nice is the top spot in France for home hunters?

Nice is the top spot in France for house hunters

Nice enjoys mild winters and it’s a good time to explore the city’s galleries and museums without the crowds of the summer months. A trip can be made to the nearest ski resort in 90 minutes in time for lunch on the slopes; or you can enjoy a trip up into the pretty perched villages like Saint-Paul de Vence and Eze. Even if we get a chilly Christmas, people wrap up in their coats and sit on the terraces of the pedestrian zones to watch the people go by.

That Nice is a year-around destination offering many of the things that buyers look for has helped it achieve our most searched-for French location on our Best Places to Buy Abroad 2024 index. We want our holiday homes to work harder for us, maybe suited to remote working, but certainly easy to reach and with plenty to do.

In Nice, everything is within easy walking distance. Of course the new tram line directly from the airport to the city centre for €1.70 doesn't hurt. As Phillip Temple of agent Med in Heaven points out: “A lot of buyers prefer to come in Spring and Autumn as the Summer is too hot for them, and even during the months that are considered "off season" the bars and restaurants are busy here.”

Nice has a great public transport network but you need to be feeling very lazy to use it. You can walk from one end of the heart of the city centre to the other in under 20 minutes. Its long beach in easy walking distance, a Port area ringed with restaurants, and the historic Old Town is full of little boutiques and nightlife.

The city buzz is not for everyone. Being a city means that it is far from one of the most affordable locations in France, nor the most peaceful. “Those that want to buy in Nice tend to "get" Nice, and why they want to spend time there,” says Temple.

Nice has got Nicer

The city has undergone significant development in recent years with major renovation projects enhancing the public realm, from the creation of the greenbelt, the redevelopment of the Promenade des Anglais, the introduction of the tramway, the renovation of the Port de Nice area, and the makeover of the Liberation district.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

The locals are incredibly proud of their "new" city. The building of the two tram lines led to a huge regeneration of everywhere it touched, says Phillip Temple.

Place Massena and Place Garibaldi used to be dirty car parks, rather than the spectacular piazzas they are now. The second tram line led to the abolition of bus lanes from most of the city, converting them to bicycle lanes and greenery. Not forgetting the construction of the "central park" of Nice, which goes from the sea front all the way to the Théâtre National de Nice.

He says the park is being doubled in size, a new train station is being built at the airport, and a new conference centre is being built in the Port.

Nice, France

The city already holds various sports and cultural events, like the Iron Man and it will be the finish for this year's Tour de France, all of which contribute to the vibrancy and tourism. The Nice Carnival is a month or so away and the event, that started in 1872, is one of the biggest festivals in the world.

Nice has always enjoyed strong connections with the British, as the name of its most famous beachfront walk, the Promenade des Anglais, might suggest. Queen Victoria first visited the city in 1895, the first of five winter visits, and she is commemorated with a statue in front of the Hotel Regina-Excelsior in Cimiez where she stayed, and there is also Avenue Reine Victoria.

British buyers in Nice  

Benjamin Mondou of Century 21 says many of the agency’s British buyers have a strong connection to the French Riviera. “Yet they appreciate the traditional French elements, savour the gastronomy, and value the culture. They share a special bond with our beautiful region. They buy to enjoy its charm.”

He says that foreign buyers like investing a lot in the Promenade des Anglais, the Golden Square (Carre d’Or), in the Port area, and Mont Boron, a wooded hill that stands to the east of Nice, offering traditional villas that have superb views across the old port and the village of Villefranche-sur-Mer and the Cap-Ferrat peninsula.

“Along with British and French buyers there are Scandinavians, Americans, some Chinese, and always Russians and Ukrainians,” he adds.

A closer look at what buyers want

According to Phillip Temple there are three main areas the British want to buy in Nice: the Old Town, the Carre d'Or and the Musicians Quarter. “The Old Town tends to be a lower budget, €250k-350k, for a classic pied-a-terre. Buyers tend to younger couples and it's often a first purchase in France. Most are looking for a nice one-bedroom apartment as a base to explore Nice and further afield from.”

For the Carre d'Or the budget is more in the range €300-500k, the lower end being a one-bedroom flat, and at the higher end a two-bedroom one. “Features people are often looking for are a classic French style building, high ceilings and large bay windows, and if possible some outside space like a balcony. This is more a mix of holiday homes and also investment properties with AirBnb potential,” he says. Buyers seeking to target AirBnB rentals must check that an individual building permits this.

The Musicians Quarter attracts an older clientele. It's a nice quiet residential area a five-minute walk from the Carre d'Or and 10 minutes to the beach characterized by its gorgeous Art Deco, Belle Epoque and Bourgeois buildings.

“The budget here tends to be €500k-800k and buyers are looking for an elegant building, high ceilings and original wooden floors, and a much larger size than buyers in the other two areas,” adds Temple.

Most British buyers in Nice are seeking second homes, although some might be looking to retire there in a decade or so. Some are lucky enough to work from home a lot of the time and are able to split their time between UK and Nice (being careful of the 90-day rule).

French buyers have also grown to love Nice since Covid. Says Benjamin Mondou: “After the pandemic, we received numerous requests from our Parisian buyers who wanted to have an apartment on the French Riviera, specifically in Nice. This trend continues today; this clientele is seeking sunshine and outdoor spaces. Nice appeals to them greatly because, much like Paris, it offers a vibrant cultural and sports life. The airport allows them to reach it without difficulty.”

Search here for a property in Nice, read our French buying guide, or find out about visas in France.

Liz Rowlinson