A party on the French Riviera, you’d better believe Nice embraced the Rugby World Cup
Halt your stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and you never know who you might spot. The whole Welsh squad might stroll past you; former England and Japan players could be soaking up the sun; Wait is that ex-Wallaby Drew Mitchell falling off a paddleboard, into the turquoise waters?
And yet the vibe: always chilled.
That’s Nice all over, and what’s more it’s infectious. As Nice hosted Rugby World Cup action, we were lucky enough to sample the local hospitality and take in a game. But while elite sport is a part of life here – and there is certainly a party atmosphere here in the South of France – it is compellingly twinned with an easy-going nature. If athletes competed in sunglasses here, you’d understand it.
So even when we arrived for a game at Ma Nolan’s Irish Pub in old Nice, it’s heaving, but good natured. There’s room, there’s hospitality. There’s match action.
It continues into the stadium too.
Match action at Stade de Nice
The tram runs through town, past the airport and on the way to Stade de Nice – a ludicrously simple journey. But the atmosphere on that sojourn into the ground is convivial and, at risk of over-using a word, chilled.
As you see the shops ringing the ground spitting out happy Welsh and Portuguese fans, for them to mix on the pavements and soak up that last little bit of sun, song and refreshment before heading in to watch their teams do battle, you get a sense of the best of rugby.
Respite from this can be found in the National Sports Museum which is actually at the side of the stadium, and boy do they have an impressive collection of sporting artefacts and memorabilia. But on the other side of the walls, live sporting theatre is taking place.
Home to OGC Nice, this ground is purpose built for elite sport. But this town loves its rugby anyway – Toulon have also played at the ground, while the city is the home base for the Scottish national team and the local club, Stade Niçois, has a partnership with the Scots. What could be more romantic that Kilts on the Riviera, hey?
In the ground, you can definitely hear the noise and the passion. But back into town, you can just as easily again forget what you’re in the area for. That’s the beauty of the options here: you can embrace, live and breath the rugby the whole time, or it can dissolve away as you enjoy the other offerings of the area.
Of course, this is just life through the lens of a rugby fan. What you’ll find in our other pieces about Nice is the cultural and culinary side of the city, as well as the broader attractions of the area. Keep your eyes open for those.