The South of France is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in Europe, but it can also be rather expensive to stay there. That’s why I decided to stay in Nice, which offers the perfect base for exploring the French Riviera by train or bus, while offering a number of inexpensive hostels and accommodation options.
In Nice I stayed at the Villa Saint Exupery Gardens Hostel, which has been voted in the Top Ten Hostels worldwide five times in five years. The hostel is inside a converted monastery, and is situated in a private garden. I spent 5 nights at this hostel, which gave me enough time to explore Cannes, Antibes, Juan Les Pins, Villefranche, Cap d’Ail, Eze Village and Monaco.
One of the highlights of the hostel is the impressive Chapel bar with its colourful stained glass window. The Chapel Bar is a great place to socialise after a day of sightseeing, and serves Happy Hour cocktails for €3.50 from 6-8pm. It’s pretty lively and fun in the evenings, and there’s plenty of space to hang out and chat to other backpackers.
Eating out can get quite expensive when you’re backpacking, so it was good to know that the hostel serves cheap on-site meals, and that you don’t have to worry about finding food after a long day of sightseeing. Next to reception you’ll see a board with the dish of the day on it, and if you don’t fancy that, the hostel also serves stone baked pizzas and fresh salads. You simply go up to the bar, order your meal and then present your ticket to the on-site chef. I had some great meals, including home-made Coq au Vin with boiled potatoes.
In the morning there is a FREE breakfast, with lots of different cereals, toast, spreads, tea, coffee and juices.
Above the Chapel Bar on the Mezzanine there is a TV area and plenty of computer work stations. Computers and Wi-Fi are free at Villa Saint Exupery Gardens, which is one of the most important things for me! Give me free WiFi and I am usually happy!
I stayed in a 5-bed all-female dorm with an en-suite, and it had a beautiful view from the window.
The hostel isn’t in the centre of Nice, but there’s a free shuttle bus that runs to and from the tram stop. From the train station in Nice you take the tram to Comte de Falcon, and from there the hostel shuttle bus picks you up from outside the supermarket. The tram runs frequently from 4:25am to 2am, so if you go on a big night out you might want to wait till the first tram in the morning. If you’e worried about the location and you’d prefer something closer to the beach in Nice, you can stay at the sister hostel Villa Saint Exupery Beach.
All in all this hostel is pretty unique and provides and inexpensive base for visiting other towns on the French Riviera. Don’t forget to try their fantastic brownies too!