'Voulez Vous Danser Avec Mois?' The French Riviera's 10 Best Clubs
By Becca Blond
Denver Local Expert
Some nights you just want to dance. And when you have the urge to cut loose in the club, Nice and it's French Riviera neighbors like Cannes and Monte Carlo more than indulge. Nightlife in this region, especially during the summer season, is in abundance and offers options for all types of after dark enthusiast. If you're just looking for a low key place to dance between shots at the bar, then check out one of the town's excellent British pubs like Wayne's or Big Ben, which offer live music but also spots to just chill out should dancing not be everyone in your party's mission. And then there are true A-list clubs like L'Ambassade and Les Trois Diables, which attract the city's social set and don't get going until nearly midnight. For something in between, try long-lived mainstay bars like Akathor Pub and Bar des Oiseaux, which have a mix of dancing and seating and a great local vibe. While most of our picks are in Nice, we've also included two options in Cannes. The city, famous for its celebrity guests and film-festival, has some of the hottest exclusive nightclubs on the French Riviera, and should you want to party with royalty, billionaires and movie stars, it's imperative to at least try to gain entry at La Baoli in Cannes.
Another authentic feeling British pubs in Nice, Big Ben offers a much more relaxed atmosphere than most of the others in town. If you want to avoid blaring lights, booming music, and gyrating bodies and instead want to relax with a cold pint in a traditional, friendly atmosphere, then this is the place to do it. That said, there is also live music and dancing some nights, so it also makes for a good compromise bar when traveling in a group with mixed ideas for nightlife. There is long beer list as well as a range of whiskeys and traditional cocktail options. Good food is available, as well, including English-style favorites such as steak tartare and a variety of pastries, teas and coffees. Come between 5:30pm and 7:30pm to partake in happy hour. (04-93-80-09-74)
Located in the nearby town of Cannes -- just 10 minutes by train from Nice -- Zoa is a hip fusion sushi restaurant serving some of the best cuts of raw, fresh fish in town by day and early evening. But long after the sun has set and the final dinner plates have been cleared away it turns into an intimate late-night lounge where the beautiful people come to party well into the early morning hours, dancing to the DJ spun beats or chilling with a bottle of bubbly on the terrace. Look for Zoa just opposite the Palais des Festivals. (33 4 9330 0030)
It is not easy to get into this club and should you be deemed cool enough to get past the armed bodyguards manning the door, once inside expect to have a very big night out. Still, if you want to party with actual royals, Hollywood royalty or billionaires with yachts moored in the harbor, this is where to go. Right on the famed Croisette, it has minimilist decor inside a beautiful space where the lines between the outdoors and interior are blurred. There is a VIP lounge and top notch DJs play nightly. Should you be hungry, small plates are also served. (33 04 9343 0343)
Walking inside Wayne's you'll forget you are in France -- it feels exactly like a raucous pub in London with an inviting dark wood interior. As such, it is the most famous English pub in Nice and has a reputation with English-speaking tourists and students as the perfect place to come for a pint and a good time. It's also popular with sports fans, showing every type of sports match popular in former British colonies (from cricket to rugby to Aussie Rules) on giant TVs. But if you'd rather dance than watch a game, it also features live music nightly. Finally should you need to eat, there is a good pub grub menu. (04-93-13-46-99)
This ornate, over-the-top bar and club has been drawing huge crowds since it opened thanks to attentive service (door people, bartenders, and even valets) and its chic Baroque decor. The door policy leaves many people outside, which has added to the club's mystique. Friday and Saturday are called "Extravaganza Nights," when the management pulls out all the stops to keep the party going until late. Sundays bring guest DJ's from around Europe, and Tuesday is "Surprise Night," so you never know what will happen, but can usually expect a good time. Don't show up before midnight as the club doesn't even open until 11pm and doors don't shut until 6am. (04-93-92-92-91)
Bar des Oiseaux
Tucked away in a far corner of popular Old Nice, this bar may be difficult to find, but it is worth searching for. Comedians and entertainers frequently take the stage to amuse uproarious crowds at the bohemian favorite. There is live music most night from jazz to cabaret to other musical acts like chanson francaise (French songs). The unique decor complements the off-the-beaten-path feel of the bar, named for the birds that inhabit the surrounding area. There is a cover of around 5 euros when there is entertainment. Should you drink to much and need to soak up the alcohol, there is a full menu for lunch and dinner. (04-93-80-27-33)
On the main tourist strip in Old Town, this international pub is known for its party atmosphere and live music scene and has been a player in the Nice nightlife scene for nearly 20 years. It attracts huge crowds during the season, both tourists and locals of varying generations, who come for decent bands and other acts like comedy performances in English. Check their website or Facebook for what is going on when you visit. The pub sprawls over two floors - bands play upstairs nightly starting around 10pm - and has a cool ambiance inside. There is also a daily happy hour from and a hot and cold tapas menu is served throughout the night. (04-93-62-49-90)
This club does not cater to the rowdy young backpacker set, but offers great music, ambience and dancing to a classy, sophisticated crowd. Wear your best, for the locals and visitors here are typically high fashion and dressed to the nines. The door policy is somewhat restrictive, but once inside, you will find the decor is a colorful, high-tech visual treat. Evenings usually start pretty mellow with guests mingling on loungers and couches and the music is kept low. The energy gets kicked up at 10pm, when the music changes in volume and genre and the dance floor fills up with Nice's beautiful people. (04-93-88-88-87)
Comfortable seating and ghostly interior creates the ideal backdrop for the skilled DJ's, who play nightly at this small club with a speakeasy vibe -- you'll have to ring a bell the get in. A different style of electronica is is spun each night, ranging from trip-hop to drum 'n bass to progressive house. The dance floor is small, but the energy is usually so pumped up it doesn't matter. When you tire of dancing, hang out in the plush red-and-black sitting room. It's a favorite with locals, and unlike many of Nice's doesn't feel touristy. On weekends it fills quickly. (04-93-92-93-37)
Les Trois Diables
Located in the heart of Vieux Nice, on cours Saleya, this club has been popular for years now thanks to a rotating line up of nightly events -- during the week there's karaoke and pub quiz nights and even an evening dedicated to students, while weekends are devoted to DJs and plenty of dancing. The name means "The Three Devils," and you can get devilish on two levels or outside on the patio, which is packed with people watchers most nights. There is also a nightly happy hour from its 5pm opening until 9pm. Check the website to see what's going on that night, or just show up. (04-93-62-47-00)
About Becca Blond
Becca Blond is an award-winning Denver based freelance travel writer. She has authored more than 30 Lonely Planet guides on five continents. She also writes about Colorado and the world for The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Cadillac Magazine and Jetsetter, for which she also is a Travel Planner. When not out of the country, Becca loves hanging with her three dogs, Duke, Bobbi and Poppy (who review hotels with her) and is the Public Relations Director for Outpaws, a Denver non-profit animal rescue she helped found. She loves Denver for its sunshine, craft beer scene and outdoor activities.
Read more about Becca Blond here.