Nice’s Old Town, or Vieux Nice, is the historic heart of Nice dating back to the 16th century. The colourful narrow winding streets are full of galleries, markets, and boutiques selling everything from clothes to local produce. As evening falls the cafes, bars and restaurants are abuzz with people enjoying themselves or simply watching the world walk by. It is little wonder that this area is the hottest rental spot.
When buying in the Old Town, you are buying into a piece of history. It is blessed with beautiful surroundings, it is the centre of all the cultural and gastronomic life, and it lies perfectly between the beach and the city centre. On holiday you will be spending most of your evenings there, if not afternoons as well. All this helps property buyers and holiday makers forgive its three major flaws: no lift, narrow streets can mean poor light, and no balcony.
The first two drawbacks are linked: the higher the floor the brighter the apartment, but the more stairs you have to climb to get there. This is true on a number of the principal roads, such as Rue Droite or Rue Benoit Bunico, but with plenty of piazzas and some wider boulevards it is not a hard and fast rule. In general up to the fourth floor is acceptable, but stair-wells vary. We have apartments where you can reach the fourth floor without breaking a sweat, others where you feel you should get an Olympic medal for reaching the second. The best method is to try and find your own personal level of acceptable.
You never know what is behind the front door of a building until you open it. It may be a humble entrance way, or it may be an ancient palace or monastery. If you are an American or Russian there is a good chance you may be pretty shocked at the state. Despite a flurry of foreign buyers and gentrification, a lot of the communal areas can still best be described as ‘dingy’. There are two reasons this should not necessarily be a problem. The first is that it will not really affect rental value, where holiday-makers are more concerned about the circuit beach-bar-bed. It is rare a tourist will email a property management company asking for a photo of the stair-well. The second reason is that the communal areas will get refurbished eventually, even if no guarantees can be made as to when. Despite being a famous international hot-spot, many of the residents were born in the same apartment they now live retired. Every year residents vote on whether to refurbish the common areas, and the old generation are steadily being replaced with the new who are used to a higher standard of living.
You can expect to pay around €200,000 for a nice one bedroom apartment around 35sqm in a good location, and around €280,000 for a two bedroom around 70sqm. Prices can be as low as €150,000 for a one bedroom and €120,000 for a studio. If you have a budget of up to €300,000 then purchasing an apartment in the Old Town of Nice is one of the best investments you can make. Even a small one bedroom will rent for €500/week. An investor cannot beat this area for maximum yield for minimum outlay. It also is an excellent area for a pied-a-terre, especially a first purchase, giving easy resale and a healthy profit when you want to upgrade. With a budget of over €300,000 we would recommend looking more towards the Musicians Quarter or the Carre d’Or, unless the Old Town property has a special feature such as an open view over one of the main squares, one of those rare balconies, or a sea view.
One additional bonus of buying in the Old Town is remarkably low tax and monthly management charges. The yearly Taxe Fonciere, or council tax, is around €400/year as opposed to an average €1,200. Monthly charges are around €40-80 per month compared to €80-120 per month in the city centre.
The Cours Saleya, sometimes known as the flower market (or antiques market on Sunday), is a long pedestrian stretch that runs just behind the beach and is lined with cafes and restaurants. Each morning there is a local produce market, and both tourists and locals mingle through-out the stalls selling fruit, vegetables, olives, herbs, and cheeses.
The Palais de Justice, with the Place de Palais in front, is the largest square in the Old Town and is overlooked by the imposing court house. Impossible to miss, the steps and the fountain are often used as a convenient meeting point.
Place Rossetti is the square that lies in the heart of the Old Town. Overlooked by the beautiful Saint-Réparate cathedral, it is actually best known for Fenocchio and its huge array of flavoured ice-creams. Despite a slew of imitators, it is still often referred to by locals as “the ice cream place”.
Place St Francois lies the other side of the Old Town near Place Garibaldi. Famous for the morning fish market and eternally popular Chez Francois butcher, it may lie a few more minutes walk from the beach but the roads behind are some of the quietest Nice has to offer making it a pleasure to live.
Of course there are dozens of smaller roads, all of which we know intimately, so do not hesitate to ask for the pros and cons of any road in which we suggest a property.