Update: February 2021. The Villa Saint Exupery is sadly no longer in existence. The next best hostel in Nice is Hotel Ozz which is just off the Promenade de Anglais. I revisited Nice in 2020 just before Covid-19 struck. Here is the link to my story of revisiting Nice.
Villa Saint-Exupéry Gardens, a former Carmelite monastery in Cimiez neighbourhood of Nice is one of the most atmospheric and nicest hostels I’ve visited on my travels.
What I loved about the Villa Saint Exupery Garden Hostel
Location, location, Location?
Looking for a place right near the beach with all the other tourists?
The Villa Saint Exupery isn’t for you. However if you’re looking to getaway from the madness of the tourist strips on the beach and get some fresh air, you might prefer this backpacker oasis, perched on top of a hill. It’s a bit of a jaunt to get here up the hill so make full use of the hostel’s very handy, free shuttle service which takes guests up and down the hill.
It’s a perfect base to explore the jewels of the Cote D’Azur like Monaco, Monte Carlo which is affordable thanks to the inexpensive, excellent bus service from Nice. Also within close radius are the picturesque towns of Villefranche sur Mer and Antibes.
In nearby proximity you have the Musee Matisse and the ruins of Cemenelum, capital of the ancient Roman province of Alpes Maritimae.
There’s something about starting off your day with a beautiful view.
I pushed wide open the green French windows of my double room and in-between the palm trees I saw Nice-stretch out before me, a dreamy view of the city nestled beside the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Breakfast in the garden
A simple affair of toasts, 10 types of cereals and decent coffee- your standard hostel fare. However, you do get to sit in the beautiful, wide open spaces of the hostel’s garden. Classic tunes on the jukebox, it’s a great way to start the day. Hostel owners, Arno and Ulf often drop by for breakfast to speak to and meet the guests, giving them tips of how to make the most of their stay in the region.
The Chapel Bar
The chapel of the original monastery is the heart of the place, a great social space to meet other fellow travellers in the hostel. One of the most breathtaking features of the room in the hostel is the beautiful stained glass that spans almost the length of the room The Chapel gets lively during breakfast and then for the fantastic Happy Hour from 6-8pm ( thankfully not 5-6pm when no–one is around , as you often find in other hostels) where you get drinks for as little as 3.50 euros. During the day it’s quite chilled out, you’ll find people on the sofas with their tablets surfing away , making use of the free internet.
Top quality food
It’s a rarity to find good quality inexpensive grub in a hostel and this is one area where the Villa scores highly over many other hostels. There is a daily ‘plat du jour’ dish of the day –I enjoyed a really nice seafood pasta on my first night in the hostel. Besides that they do great stonebaked pizzas and also a nice choice of salads so if you’re looking to just relax in the hostel, it’s perfect. Given how expensive eating out can be in town , this is a great service.
They have a really nice group of staff at the Villa Saint Exupery – backpackers, travellers themselves armed with great tips and ideas for things to do in the city.
What could be better
The rooms are comfortable but look like they need a lick of paint and being upgraded. I am aware that the rooms are being renovated during Winter so I look forward to seeing the new look rooms next summer when I hope to revisit Nice.
Again a common theme amongst most large hostels is the wifi signal. At busy times, the bandwidth gets sucked and it becomes painfully slow. The solution again would be to install a few more routers to boost the signal.
For exploring the Cote D’Azur, if you’re looking for an inexpensive and fun base to , then this is the hostel to come to.
Great staff, beautiful garden and the great onsite dining options for me made this is a very enjoyable stay.
To get to Nice, I flew with easyJet from Edinburgh. Book early to get the best fares.
Single Private Ensuite at the Villa costs just 35 euros in the low season going upto 90 euros in the peak season
On the other end of the scale, a bed in a 12 bed (Female or Mixed) dorm ensuite ranges from 18 euros in Low Season to 30 euros in the High Season.
The Villa Saint Exupery are currently running a special offer in the Low Season where you can book 4 nights for the price of 3!
For more details check out their website