Insight Guides: Explore Nice & the French Riviera (Insight Explore Guides) (2015)
The French Riviera’s nightclubs and casinos are all part of the south of France’s hedonist image, but there are plenty of cultural attractions to suit more highbrow tastes as well.
Between them, Nice, Cannes, St-Tropez and Monte-Carlo offer a comprehensive all-year cultural programme, from early music to modern theatre, casinos, nightclubs and international pop. To find out what’s going on, look out for free brochures in hotels and tourist offices. Other good sources are The Riviera Times, The Riviera Reporter and the cultural pages of daily newspaper Nice Matin available from newsstands. For more information, click here.
Fast cars at the Casino de Monte-Carlo
Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications
The leading venue for interesting modern theatre is the Théâtre National de Nice, which is dedicated to presenting contemporary drama and known for the number of new plays it premieres. Founded in 1969, the theatre moved into its premises on the promenade des Arts in 1989. Other venues in Nice include the Théâtre de la Cité, as well as offbeat fringe productions at Le Bar des Oiseaux. Also worth checking out are the small yet dynamic Antibea Théâtre in Antibes and Grasse’s striking modern Théâtre de Grasse, which puts on a multidisciplinary mix of theatre, dance, music and circus by visiting companies.
Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
The most prestigious dance company is the Ballets de Monte-Carlo, descendant of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The company has regained its avant-garde reputation under choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot, and now performs in the Grimaldi Forum (www.grimaldiforum.com) or the Casino terrace when not touring internationally. For works by visiting French and international choreographers, the biennial Cannes dance festival (www.festivaldedanse-cannes.com) is a must, while hip-hop, flamenco and contemporary dance also feature at Nice’s Théâtre Lino Ventura.
ROCK AND POP
Big names of French pop and international rock perform at the Acropolis and Palais Nikaia in Nice, the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, and the Sporting d’Eté and Sporting d’Hiver in Monaco, with a smaller, more intimate setting for jazz and blues at Black Legend in Monte-Carlo (www.black-legend.com). Nice’s Théâtre Lino Ventura focuses more on recent urban and electronic music trends. There’s also an active pub rock scene, mainly catering to the large Anglophone expat crowd, with bands playing venues like Ma Nolan’s pub in Nice (for more information, click here), Monaco’s La Rascasse (for more information, click here) and the bars of Vieux Antibes.
CLASSICAL MUSIC AND OPERA
Opulent red velvet, gilding and chandeliers are all part of the experience at the Opéra de Nice and Salle Garnier opera house in Monaco. Big gala-style opera productions are staged at Nice’s Palais Nikaia, the Opéra de Nice (home of the Orchestre Philharmonique) and Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum. Look out for the Ensemble Baroque de Nice (www.ensemblebaroquedenice.com), which performs in the Baroque churches and chapels of Vieux Nice and nearby towns. It aims to give authentic interpretations of 17th- and 18th-century music performed on early instruments and has a reputation for rediscovering forgotten pieces. Experimental contemporary music is the focus of the CIRM institute, which organises the Manca festival (www.cirm-manca.org) in November.
The Théâtre National de Nice
The Riviera itself stars in numerous films, whether it is James Bond at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, car chases along the Corniches or the French comedy Brice de Nice. With France home to the largest film industry in Europe, cinema-going is a major activity here, with an appetite for everything from homegrown films and Hollywood blockbusters to Middle Eastern cinema.
For non-French films, check whether they are screened in VO (version originale - original language with French subtitles) or VF (version française) dubbed into French. All year round the Cinémathèque de Nice puts on themed seasons and retrospectives. Open-air cinemas are popular in summer, such as those at Villefranche-sur-Mer and Monaco, with a different film each night in VO on a giant screen.
During Cannes’ Film Festival, many Parisian clubs migrate south for special parties; in summer, party-goers head for Juan-les-Pins and St-Tropez, where in addition to hard-to-get-into clubs, there are also more relaxed lounge bars and a party scene on the resort’s private beaches. Nice’s nightlife is more centred on lounge bars and there is also a gay club scene, led by Le Glam. The Riviera is also famed for its casinos. Leading the glamour stakes are the Casino de Monte-Carlo and Croisette casinos in Cannes, while more staid casinos, dominated by slot machines, are found in Beaulieu and Menton. Spanning the discothèque-casino spectrum are La Siesta, on the beach east of Antibes, and Cannes’ Palm Beach.