Place Massena

Nice’s main square offers opportunities for shopping, delightful cafés dotted around the edge and some of the best people-watching in the city.

Place Massena is the main square in Nice. The large plaza lies between the Old and New Towns, and is lined with shops and restaurants. It sits at a crossroads of several main boulevards, including the grand Avenue Jean Médecin. Locals flock here on their way to school and work. Stop for a coffee at one of the cafés dotted around the edge of the square and take in the action. The tramway runs through the center of the plaza, but otherwise it’s pedestrian only.

The old buildings surrounding the square have all been painted red with blue shutters, which are typical of the area. Large stone archways lead to shops and restaurants, including Galeries Lafayette. Shop for perfume and designer clothing at France’s celebrated department store.

A fountain in one corner of the square depicts several stories in Greek mythology, with a 22-foot (7-meter) statue of Apollo at the center. Sit on the edge of the fountain for another prime people-watching spot, or join the tourists having their photos taken in front of the statues.

A modern art installation by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa is most eye-catching at night, when the seven statues are lit up in bright colors. Tall poles along the tramline hold up statues of kneeling men, who represent the seven continents. The fountain and buildings surrounding the plaza are also lit up at night.

Events take place here year round. In December, an annual Christmas Market is held, and the square is filled with tents, a Christmas tree and a Ferris Wheel. Come for the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14, when there’s a military parade and fireworks.

It’s a short stroll from the square to the Promenade des Anglais, and 10 minutes walk or two stops on the tram to the main train station. Wander down any one of the nearby streets for boutique and designer shopping.

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