In the Libération district in the heart of Nice, the old metal train station inspired by Gustave Eiffel is back in business. Transformed into a food and cultural market, the building classified as a historic monument recovers a bit of its original calling: the Gare du Sud mixes flavors, colors and scents of the hinterland of Nice and beyond.
Until 1991, when visitors entered the Gare du Sud in Nice, it was to embark on a train leaving for the Niçoise hinterland, towards Digne-Les-Bains. But, since this spring, you can tour Southern France and the world over without moving from the old quays!
Eat, hunt for bargains or see an exhibition
Enriched with a 1,000-m² (10,764-sq. ft.) mezzanine, in addition to the 1,500 m² (16,146 sq. ft.) on the ground, the train station has become a lovely place where the residents of Nice and tourists alike meet to taste the flavors cooked up by local restaurateurs, as well as also to hunt for bargains, have a drink, see an exhibition or listen to music.
A large central bar, tables to share and about 30 stalls—here, everything is interspersed with exotic vegetation like a winter garden and bright yellow tones echoing the warm colors of old Nice.
A culinary journey through flavors from Nice and other spots
Under the luxuriant vault (18 meters [59 ft.] high), which has been completely reassembled, renovated and restored like its facade wrapped in an aerial tapestry, the Gare du Sud reinvents the excitement of traveling in culinary mode six days a week.
From one stand to another, we explore the world in a quirky journey, mixing flavors from here and other places. Japanese sushi platters, bowls of Indian curry and American burgers, all the flavors of the world and southern France parade on counters dedicated to local products.
At Nicolas Alzieri's olive bar, the producer, miller and confectioner shows us the hinterland of Nice to taste olives in all their variants, from oil to tapenade. At the House of Lemons, the fruits from the Menton gardens are crunchy in their sweet or savory iterations. At Mad, in Nice, pan bagnats, socca and stew seem straight out of the colorful alleys of old Nice, and at the Table Épicerie-Provençale in Aix & Terra, tapenade ravioli, pissaladière and other revisited recipes evoke the chic and charming art of living of Aix-en-Provence.
Next: head up to the fertile plains of the Comtat Venaissin. At the Maison de la Truffe workshop, the subtleties of the precious tuber that has built Carpentras' reputation tempt even the most jaded taste buds.
And for those who would like to be in terra incognita, go to La Vie en Rose, named for the famous song by Edith Piaf, the central bar that joyfully mixes influences in wines, cocktails and organic juices to accompany shareable tapas, cold meats and local preserves.
Enjoy the sun of the Côte d'Azur on the terrace
Thirsty for sunshine? Everything is planned for you: installed behind the glass walls, there are counters with terraces for those who wish to take advantage of the gentle rays of the Côte d’Azur.
To get an overview, head to the mezzanine, an ideal observation post to admire small architectonic details evoking the Belle Époque or Art Deco, go bargain-hunting for salvage articles, collections of ephemeral objects or limited series, and take advantage of temporary exhibitions. Until the end of November, "Nice's X-ray cuisine by Valérie Marco and Franck Viano" reveals zucchini flowers, artichokes, eggplant and other traditional recipe products from an unexpected angle.
And on weekends, continue the journey for an aperitif or an evening. DJs and live bands make travelers sway to their myriad styles of music!