Hotel Windsor

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France Book from

Reviewed by Lanie Goodman
Arty but affordable hotel in central Nice, with weird and wonderful rooms designed by contemporary artists, and a stunning tranquil garden, complete with pool
Don’t be fooled by the bland name or the unassuming 19th-century façade. Just 5 minutes away from Nice’s famous promenade, past its busy shopping streets on a quiet corner, you step into an exotic oasis of art and colour. There’s an ancient Chinese throne in the lobby, a giant musical bamboo mobile, a lift designed by Andy Warhol’s muse Ultra Violet, and original Tintin posters on the walls. But the cherry on the cake is a tropical courtyard garden with towering bamboo, rubber trees, yuccas, bougainvillea, palms, singing birds and a small pool.

The hotel is a veritable style museum, with 30 of the 57 rooms decorated by contemporary artists in bold and eccentric ways, from minimalist-conceptual to wacky-whimsical. You might find hanging street signs, witty graffiti, comic-strip frescoes, a ray of painted sunshine, a gold-walled cube with a pure white bed. But this is no snobby, hard-edged design hotel. It's affordable and unpretentious, comfortable and welcoming: one of the few remaining family-run places on the Riviera. And for the less design-conscious, the remaining 27 rooms offer a more sedate (though still seductively stylish) option.

Highs

  • Bright rooms with high ceilings, comfortable beds, powerful showers, enticing baths and plenty of mod cons alongside unique design. It's as far removed from chain hotels as can be!
  • Wonderful patio nestled in the lush garden ideal for a lingering breakfast or an alfresco dinner
  • Dinner is exceptional value, and during our 2014 revisit we ate one of the best steaks we’ve ever had here, too
  • Superb Moroccan-style hammam, a spa offering herbal oil massages, and a sauna for exclusive use only
  • You're in the heart of town, amidst cool shops and buzzy restaurants, just a 5-minute walk from the Promenade des Anglais and 10 minutes from the Old Town

Lows

  • The heated pool is a shady part of the garden, but it’s nice to cool off in after a long day of sightseeing
  • The hotel cannot guarantee specific rooms - it depends on what's free when you arrive
  • Rooms are undergoing a rolling refurbishment, which means some are pristine while others might need a slight touch up
  • Street-facing rooms get some traffic noise, and our room had 2 single beds pushed together, which may prevent a wholly restful night's sleep
  • Breakfast is extra. We’d rather stroll into town and grab a coffee and pastry there instead

Best time to go

Nice is particularly lovely in September, May and June; avoid August when the vacationing summer hordes arrive en masse and temperatures can soar.

Our top tips

Hotel Windsor is a great base from which to explore all the Cote d'Azur has to offer. Don't worry about hiring a car though, as the transport links here are excellent: catch the train to Cannes and Antibes or the bus up to Eze Village and Monaco, all of which make great day trips.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 57
  • Restaurant + bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Hains

Rooms

There are 4 (rather interestingly named) categories of room Wi Intimacy rooms face the street and have a shower; Wi Creation are more spacious, face either the street or the garden, and have either a bathtub or a shower; Wi Seduction are larger still and face the garden; and Wi Priviledge have the additional bonus of a balcony or Jacuzzi tub. We think these latter 2 categories are well worth the extra, especially if you’re in the hotel for a couple of nights. Beds are either twins or queensize, mattresses supremely comfy, and the linen impeccable. Rooms all come with air con, a mini-fridge, complimentary toiletries and satellite TV.

The obvious highlight are the 30 artists' rooms which straddle these categories. The range of styles and their sheer exuberance is almost overwhelming - though bear in mind that they cannot guarantee a particular room, only the category.

One of our favourites, and where we stayed during our 2014 revisit, is François Morellet’s luminous white room (Wi Privilege), streaked with yellow rays of sun painted on the walls. It's based on a French pun where sunbeams turn into sleep beams (rayons de soleil/sommeil) at dusk. Another winner, and the favourite room of (now retired) owner Bernard Redolfi, is that of Gottfried Honegger (another Wi Privilege room), with its whitewash-and-stone walls, white-draped chairs, warm uplighters and tall French windows. Equally bright is Tunisian artist Samta Beyahia’s room (Wi Intimancy), with deep blue splashed throughout; we loved the stained glass window and bathroom tiles.

One of the wittiest rooms is the small cheery twin by Joel DuCorroy (Wi Intimacy), whose plaque-artist-meets-Warhol décor combines minimalist furnishings with amusingly worded steel street signs hanging everywhere, even over the toilet. An equally amusing - but not so restful - space is the tiny double room designed by Nice’s enfant-terrible, Ben (Wi Creation), whose brilliant-hued graffiti scrawls of witty aphorisms may keep students of French up all night, pondering what the artist had on his mind.

The other rooms are less flamboyant, but hardly dull by normal standards. Some come clad in frescoes by Antoine Beaudoin; others have huge posters plastered across the walls.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Coffee/tea making (on request from reception)
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast (extra cost) is a generous buffet of pastries, eggs, sausage and bacon, assorted juices, fresh fruit, muesli, cereal, ham, cheese and yoghurts, served on the sunny dining patio, where you’ll want to linger over refills of café au lait and read the newspaper. We really enjoyed ours, but felt that a stroll into the Old Town or to the promenade for a coffee and croissant would have been on the cards if we’d stayed for longer. In the winter, breakfast is served in the wood-panelled bar.

Dinner is also served outdoors, weather permitting, or in the cosy bar. The limited menu is well worth the price, especially the 3-course option which features ultra-fresh regional specialities. We enjoyed an asparagus and artichoke salad, followed by ricotta and truffle ravioli and a thick fillet steak that was cooked to perfection! We finished with tiramisu and crème brûlée; the waiter sugared and blow-torched the brûlée at the table, a nice touch we thought (and luckily everyone’s eyebrows stayed intact!) Sitting in the garden under the canopy of tropical plants with the sound of the resident parrots chirping away was very relaxing. Note that the restaurant is closed on Sundays, but the bar is open for drinks.

When it comes to eating out, nearby Coco & Rico is a neighbourhood haunt for true French, dishes are simple but delicious. For simpler fare, Nice's Old Town is a labyrinth of small streets with a huge selection of cheap eats like fried courgette-flower fritters and socca (the local speciality, a paper-thin savoury chickpea pancake). There are numerous other restaurants and bars within easy walking distance from the hotel.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Chill out in the hotel's garden before enjoying a massage and a private session in the Turkish hammam
  • The sprawling marble Museum of Modern Art (MAMAC) on the fringe of the Old Town is the home of contemporary European and American works. The impressive permanent collection includes works from members of the Nice school and the New Realists; check out the works by Raymond Hains and Ben, both of whom designed rooms at the Windsor
  • The narrow, cobblestone pedestrian streets of Nice’s Old Town are a treasure trove of regional products, homewares, china and funky clothes. Antique lovers will enjoy the Monday morning antique market on the Cours Saleya, where you can pick up lace tablecloths, silver Art Deco platters, phonographs and vintage posters
  • The beaches at the Promenade des Anglais seafront are paved with big grey pebbles, but you can buy a cheap foam mattress or splurge on the luxury of a private beach (the best bets for reliably good food and hip atmosphere are Castel Plage, Beau Rivage and Le Florida)
  • Explore Belle-Epoque architecture in hilltop neighbourhood Cimiez, where you’ll also find the Matisse Museum, the Archaeology Museum and Roman arena, plus a fragrant rose garden behind the cloisters of the Franciscan Monastery. Matisse and Dufy are buried in the nearby cemetery
  • Up in the wooded hills of St Paul de Vence is the spectacular Fondation Maeght, with seasonal modern art shows and a to-die-for sculpture garden
  • You can rent bicycles from Nice’s Vélo Bleu system (the French equivalent of Boris Bikes). There are 175 bike stations throughout the city, and there’s one just in front of the hotel; this is a great way to discover the city

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Yoga

Kids

All ages are welcome and kids will love the lush garden. Do note that there is original artwork throughout, but this shouldn't be a problem for well-behaved little ones.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra beds are only available in Wi Seduction and Wi Privilege rooms, but all categories (except Wi Intimacy) can fit a baby cot. Some rooms can interconnect (request on enquiry).

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available on request.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Breakfast is free for kids up to the age of 4, and there is a special kids menu available in the evenings.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},
Feedback is only from guests who have booked and stayed through i-escape

Rates for Hotel Windsor