Last year, I made an impromptu trip to Nice to visit a friend and escape the cold, dreary English winter. I had very low expectations and simply wanted to bask in the sunshine and sip a glass of delicious French wine. One day, we did a day trip to a nearby village, St. Paul de Vence. As we dragged our tired selves home that evening, we passed by Shapko, a popular Old Town jazz club. The musicians lingered outside the club, smoking cigarettes while waiting for show time. We stopped to chat, they invited us in and we agreed “just for a song or two”. Of course, we stayed all night! I had just stumbled onto one of my favorite things about Nice – Nice nightlife and the amazing music scene! Live music in Old Town Nice!
Nice is well-known as a center for jazz music and has been hosting the Nice Jazz Festival annually since 1948. The city is filled with hidden music venues promoting all types of music from traditional jazz to pop and classic rock. There’s something for everyone, almost every night of the week. The venues are scattered throughout the city, some near the Port or closer to the center of town. But if you’re looking to experience music in the Old Town area, I’m here to offer some advice!
Here is a guide to the top venues for Live Music in Old Town Nice…
This is where I discovered one of the joys of Nice nightlife and it’s one of the reasons I decided to move here. The place is special to me and when I walk into Shapko, I feel like I’m home. It’s kind of like “Cheers” where everyone knows your name. When I was apartment hunting in Nice, one of my criteria was a location within walking distance of Shapko. (According to Google Maps, I now live only 260 meters away!)
Shapko is a small and quirky place, with a huge chandelier hanging in the center of the Persian rug-covered stage. Every square meter of this small space is creatively used for seating or standing areas. Upstairs is a lounge area with comfortable couches and seating areas where small groups can linger and chat over a glass of wine.
Shapko offers live music nightly and never disappoints. Some of the top musical artists from the area (and the world?) perform on this small stage – and there’s no cover charge.
Location: 5 Rue Rossetti
MU Live (formerly known as “The Stage”)
MU Live is a charming little place that looks like a typical small, tastefully decorated French pub at first glance. However, hidden downstairs is an ancient cave where music bounces off the brick walls and low ceiling (not recommended for really tall people!). Being in the cave is magical and truly feels like stepping back in time. We recently saw a performance by the talented Pascal Mono. His first set was sung entirely in French and was mesmerizing even though I couldn’t understand a word! (My friend Lynette had chills!)
Check the MU Facebook page for current events.
Location: 4 Rue Du Pont
(UPDATE February 2019: Sadly, MU Live is now closed and has morphed into a co-working space.)
Vintage music posters cover the walls of this tiny, dimly lit, hole-in-the-wall pub, located in the tangled maze of streets in Old Town. On a recent Saturday night, we caught a New Orleans Jazz band that had the place rocking! The crowd here was very mixed – young, old, black, white, and everything in between. (I even noticed one 80-something woman chair-dancing to the music!)
Check their Facebook page for current events.
Location: 1 Rue du Moulin
Ma Nolan’s Irish Pub
This traditional Irish pub is a sports mecca for manly men who gather to watch rugby, cricket, and other sports I don’t quite understand. Along with the typical sports bar atmosphere, Ma Nolan’s offers live music on weekends. One recent evening I stopped by and realized what’s missing for me – the quirkiness of MU or the charm of Shapko. It feels very much like a sports bar in the US or anywhere else. (Blah.) But the man-watching here can be spectacular, the music is usually quite good, and the happy hour specials will make you happy.
Location: 2 Rue Saint-Francois de Paule (there’s also a location near the Port)
When my 20-something nephew visited last summer, I sent him and his 20-something friends to Wayne’s. This quickly became their favorite Nice nightlife hangout for live music in Old Town Nice. Music for the slightly older generation usually begins at 8 pm with a more mellow acoustic set. As the night wears on, the music volume increases as the average age of the patrons’ decreases.
Location: 15 Rue de la Prefecture
Located on the edge of Old Town near Place Massena, Kosma is a small, dark, cozy place with comfortable sofa seating and small tables along the mirrored walls. The dance floor in the middle of the space encourages you to “shake your groove thing”. Kosma offers live music Wednesday through Saturday starting at 7:30 pm. They also have a late-night set on Friday and Saturday nights from 11 pm until 4 am. Kosma typically offers more traditional jazz than many other places.
Location: 8 Rue Sacha Guitry
Nice Nightlife Music in Old Town Nice – The Faces
Micael Sene (Reggae, Soul, Rock, Blues) (MicaelSene.com)
Originally from Paris, Micael is an amazing talent who brings his unique style to stages around Old Town Nice. His music feels quite reggae, with a style developed after years of touring with The Wailers (as in “Bob Marley and”) and other well-respected artists. I’ve seen Micael perform with bands at Shapko (“Claudio and Friends”) and also as part of a duet with his incredibly talented daughter, Tchai, at MU Live and Kosma. I follow Micael all over town and have become his “stalker”.
(Check out some Micael tunes on Spotify.)
Denia Ridley (Jazz)
This beautiful, petite songbird is an American expat who has been at home in Nice for many years. I must confess that I’m not a jazz expert and am still trying to fully embrace jazz, but Denia’s style is something I’ve grown to love. Her renditions of “April in Paris” and “Tenderly” give me chills. Denia performs regularly at Kosma, Shapko, and other venues around town accompanied by jazz great Seb Chaumont.
Claudio Citarella (Rock, Blues, a little bit of everything)
A multi-talented Italian rock star, Claudio is a Tuesday night staple at Shapko: “Claudio and Friends”. It was a cold Tuesday night in February when Maureen and I wandered by and stumbled into the warmth of Shapko. Claudio is an incredible bass player who has many talented friends, so every Tuesday night with “Claudio and Friends” is uniquely amazing. His style of music ranges from 70’s Classic Rock (my personal favorite) to country rock to blues and pop. A little bit of everything!
Mr. Scott Allen (Funk, Rock)
Mr. Scott Allen is an American expat from New Jersey who leads the funky group “East Orange Funk”. He’s a super cool, laid-back, bass player who “funkifies” Shapko on a regular basis. It’s virtually impossible to NOT dance to Mr. Allens’ funky music!
Cristina Ormani (Latin)
Originally from Argentina, Cristina is a professional tango dancer and singer. She performs with her tango group, Ormani Los Tigres Tango, at Kosma, MU Live, and other venues around town. For something quite different than the usual jazz or classic rock, check out this taste of Latin culture in the South of France.
(Cristina’s latest release available on Spotify.)
So, visit Nice to bask on the sun-drenched beaches, sip fine French wines, and enjoy a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe. But don’t forget to embrace the music culture and Nice nightlife – one of the many amazing things this beautiful city has to offer!
For a list of what’s currently playing, check out Nice Good Music on Facebook.