Avenue Jean Médecin is the main shopping street in Nice. It runs north to south following the route of the Saint Michel valley. The street begins by the railroad where the road becomes a passageway under the tracks and ending at Place Masséna. It’s also been a streetcar route in recent years and mostly pedestrianized. However, after they built the tramway, the street could no longer host the annual Carnival of Nice parade. The flower-bedecked floats of the popular Bataille de Fleurs wouldn’t fit beneath the overhead wires.

The street has had several names over the years. When it was first constructed in 1864, it was called Avenue du Prince-Impérial after Louis Napoleon – the son of Napoleon III who at the time was the French emperor. When the Nice-Ville train station opened in 1867, there were calls for the street to have a new name. Three years later it became Avenue de la Gare. That too was short-lived. It became Avenue de la Victoire at the end of WWI. Finally – at least for now – it took the name of Jean Médecin, a longstanding Nice mayor. Present-day Niçois residents usually refer to it simply as “the Avenue”.

Avenue Jean Médecin in Nice - one of the highlights of 12 Best Things to Do in Nice and 10 Most Popular Streets and Squares in Nice (Read all about Nice here)

photo by M.Strīķis (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

Where to shop and what to buy on Avenue Jean Médecin?

Many come to Avenue Jean Médecin to indulge in some retail therapy. Head to the end of the street to Place Masséna, where you can find a branch of the national department store chain, Galeries Lafayette, which opened over a century ago. It occupies a splendid red-ochre building with an elegant collonaded walkway dating back to the 19th century. This popular store contains several concessions. These include Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Chloé, Gucci, Saint Laurent and Valentino. Only the original store in Paris serves more international customers.

Most top international and domestic retailers are represented on this important shopping street. Spanish home and fashion retailer, Zara, faces Galeries Lafayette. Further along, there are big brands such as H&M, Sephora, Mango and Decathlon. There are 2 other well-known French department stores – Monoprix is inside an Art Deco building, while FNAC occupies the Belle Époque Riviera Building.

Halfway along the street is the Center Commercial Nicetoile. Around 100 shops and restaurants occupy 4 floors of this upscale mall. Clothing stores C&A, Hollister and Etam are among the household names you’ll find in this shopping mall. Successful home interior stores include Habitat and Maisons du Monde. 

What are the best things to see on Avenue Jean Médecin?

Many of the stores on Avenue Jean Médecin open in the evenings and on weekends, but there are other reasons to come to the avenue outside business hours. The Basilica of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption is a glorious church built in 1864. This neo-Gothic place of worship boasts twin towers and beautiful stained glass windows.

At night, Avenue Jean Médecin sparkles with a dazzling art installation, called L’amorce du bleu (Beginning of Blue). It was finished after the construction of the tramway in 2007. The installation, which consists of thousands of blue lights, is the work of prolific French conceptual artist Yann Kersalé. He took his inspiration from the color of the nearby Mediterranean Sea.

Kersalé wasn’t the first one to be stirred by his surroundings. In 1947, so the story goes, composer Henri Betti came up with the first few notes of his classic song C’est si Bon while standing in front of the window of a lingerie shop on the avenue. Many different artists, including Eartha Kitt, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Barbra Streisand, have found inspiration while exploring Avenue Jean Médecin. 

Good to know about Avenue Jean Médecin in Nice

Many of France’s biggest banks are along Avenue Jean Médecin. Albert Spaggiari famously robbed the branch of the Société Générale bank in 1976, digging a tunnel from a nearby sewer to its vaults. He and his accomplices shared many millions of francs. The police arrested him and put him on trial. However, he escaped by jumping out of a window and making off on the back of a waiting motorcycle. To this day, the elusive robber was never recaptured.

photo by Bobby Hidy (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

Avenue Jean Médecin in Nice

Julia Hammond | Contributing Writer