The South of France Has a New Luxury Hotel — With Panoramic Views of the Mediterranean Sea and Southern Alps
The new Anatara hotel sets Nice, France, up as a major luxury player in France’s Côte d’Azur.
There’s no better place to appreciate Nice, France’s idyllic location between the sea and the mountains than from where I’m standing on the sixth-floor rooftop terrace of the new Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel. 360° vantage point: I can see down the hillsides of the north to the Southern Alps, and the terracotta roofs from Old Nice.Vieux Nice, en Français) and across the still Mediterranean Sea toward Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and beyond.
My line aligns perfectly to the runway as it juts out into water. As a result, I can see an airplane landing on the runway. Another. As France’s second busiest airport, after Paris’s two combined, there’s always plenty of traffic. In 2021 more than 6.5 million passengers passed through.
Yet while Nice may be the touchdown point for most arrivals to the Côte d’Azur, luxury travelers treated Nice as little more than a stopover destination. The colorful scenery is not the only reason to visit Nice. Le Negresco hotel, there’s a surprisingly small luxury hotel footprint in Nice, nudging travelers instead toward the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel, or Monaco’s collection of glamorous Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer resorts, and Cannes’ legendary beachfront strip.
But this sophisticated opening, which also happens to be Anantara’s first foray into France, is all set to change that. The launch marks the arrival of luxury hospitality in the city, after a four year renovation of the majestic, 492-foot-long Belle Epoque building. It is separated from the waterfront by Jardins Albert 1er.
Traveling with my two young daughters from our home in nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer, I was excited to be one of the earliest guests in January 2023. We snuck into cupboards and opened drawers in our junior garden on the third floor and the sea view suite. The smell that I was most attracted to was freshness.
The hotel officially opened in mid-December 2022, although it’s been a soft launch of the 151 rooms. The same can’t be said of Seen by Olivier, the top-floor bar and restaurant by Portuguese chef Olivier da Costa, which has seen a brisk trade from locals who, like me, have been curious to experience the latest chapter in this storied address for themselves.
Dating back to 1848, in its first life as the Hotel de France, this was the spot to see and be seen for the wealthy Europeans who visited when winter was the high season — a period of history that has recently seen the city awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. It has been a hotel since its inception, but it was recently part of the Italian Hotels Group. Boscolo Group portfolio.
Camilla Coburn Davis, Anantara Europe’s cluster director of public relations, tells me over lunch that buildings with a rich history are one way the Bangkok-headquartered brand has been able to anchor itself in Europe. The neoclassical beauty of the building is a clear example. Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel Oder the Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel, with its ground-floor New York Café that has long been a hub of the city’s art and literature scene.
It doesn’t matter if you are at one of the resorts in Maldives, or in a European city, you can expect a memorable experience that connects you to the destination. I’m immediately struck by the touches that are not only representative of Nice, but move beyond its well-worn clichés, like the delicate mignardise presented on a miniature version of the Ferris wheel that I can see through our window and the plush toy eagles — the emblem of the city — left on the pillow for my daughters to cuddle.
The corner suite features four Juliette balconies, and views across the street to the palm trees in the public gardens. On the other side, the sunlit frontages of Vieux Nice mirror the rich yellow of the hotel’s façade. The space feels sophisticated yet simple. Soft neutral colors are complemented by details like the Thai silk bedheads. Reflective surfaces from mirrors to glass cupboard doors ensure the space is flooded with the region’s famous light. The large stained glass windows of the Cathedral inspired the design of the geometric carpets. Musée National Marc Chagall on the city’s Cimiez hill.
As I enjoy a massage, the girls join coaches Dylan and Paul for a Niçois Olympiad. Just over an hour later, while I sip on a green Anantara Garden juice (a reinvigorating mix of celery, bay leaves, and a herb-based syrup) after finishing the spa’s signature revitalizing magnesium treatment, they bounce excitedly back in. When we arrive at Seen, they are still talking animatedly about the completed obstacles and other challenges.
The signature cocktail selection proposes a voyage across Anantara’s global locations, but I can’t go past the “Socca sour”: bourbon infused with aquafaba (chickpea water) and a smoky paprika syrup. It’s the first time I’ve seen socca, Nice’s classic street food dish, as inspiration on a drinks menu.
The inventive twists on the city’s traditional dishes continue in the restaurant where les petits farcis NiçoisStuffed miniature peppers or eggplants are served with roasted bone marrow, and small cubes of panisseThe fried chickpea fritters are accompanied by a delicate drizzle of Menton’s black garlic and lemon. Mix and match fresh sushi with zesty ceviche tacos, and then wash it down with the house wine: a blend from local grapes. Rolle (vermentino), and chardonnay specially prepared for the Anantara Plaza Château de Crémat, one of the nine vineyards that comprise Nice’s little known Bellet wine appellation.
Executive chef Denis Gamard hails from Nîmes near Montpellier and has become a keen student of Niçois Since moving to Nice, flavors and ingredients have changed. He stops by to introduce us to our favorite purveyors as we go to the Cours Saleya fruit markets the next morning. Chez Theresa For fresh-from the-oven Socca Zielinska bakery Bread made from forgotten local flours In the hotel kitchen, he takes the girls through an interactive cooking course: They make dough and then knead it. pissaladière, an onion pizza type; prepare a bright dish salade NiçoiseMix Swiss chard with pastry cream and make tartlets. tourte aux blettes. Before they know it, they’ve cooked their own three-course lunch.
Gamard’s market tour and cooking class is set to become one of Anantara’s Nice Signature experiences, along with a vineyard tour of Château de Crémat and a city walking tour and drawing class led by a local artist. The annual event will see the launch of high tea at Les Colonnades lobby. Nice Carnival Celebrations in February Summer will arrive by the time guests can cross the road to sun loungers and/or travel to the chic. La Reserve de la Mala in Cap d’Ail to enjoy the hotel’s private beach club offering.
It’s an exciting time for France’s fifth-largest city, as Nice bids for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2028: car lanes are being dug up to be replaced by leafy bike paths; dated buildings are being torn down to extend the Coulée Verte, or the “green lung” that runs through the city; its Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, or MAMAC, is undergoing a much-needed facelift. And now, there’s a stunning new hotel beckoning luxury travelers to base themselves here.
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