Nice's historic Gare du Sud (south station) was once a train station but is now the centrepiece of a vast renovation project that has transformed the Liberation neighbourhood. Located on the edge of the Liberation outdoor market (Tues-Sun mornings), the Gare du Sud has retained the stunning features of a 19th-century train station and tailored them for modern tastes.
It's got something for everyone. Bookish? There's a library. Foodie? There's a food court. Shoppers will appreciate the unique boutiques interspersed with the food stalls. Movie buff? Recline in comfy seats and take in the latest 3-D blockbuster at the adjacent Gare du Sud Cinema.
Eventually there should be a soundproof discotheque, a fitness space, cultural centre and office spaces. After years of work, the grand opening finally took place May 18, 2019 and was an immediate hit. Locals are delighted with the lively and casual vibe in the food court and it's now become a top hang-out.
The main entrance is through the train station's original, restored 19th-century facade. The old waiting and ticketing rooms now house the Raoul Mille library and several exhibition spaces.
the food Court
The hub of the action is Nice's first and only food court (la halle gourmande) located in the station's former train shed. The 1500 m2 interior is a soaring composition of cast iron and glass inspired by the work of Gustav Eiffel. Some of the iron spans came from the original Russian and Austro-Hungarian pavilions of the 1889 World Fair; others were re-created. A wide staircase links the ground floor and mezzanine area on each end. Burnished wood, gleaming metal fixtures and a winter garden create a stunning space that manages to be both impressive and inviting. The 700 seats include tables and chairs on the ground floor, stools and counters above plus terraces on each side for al fresco dining.
The 22 (and counting) food stalls offer an assortment of local and international dishes but the businesses are based in the region. No international chains have intruded. The stalls are open all day which allows you to graze at any time--a rarity in France! From snacks to main courses, fresh juices to wine and coffee, the dining experience is wide open. Prices are reasonable for the region: around €4.50 for wine; €13-20 for a main course.
Here are some of the highlights:
Café de Turin
An offshoot of the landmark restaurant on Place Garibaldi, this stall will continue with the same seafood-based menu.
Emilie and the Cool Kids
This coffee shop is known for its cookies, pastries, bagels, muffins, salads and other light snacks as well as coffee, tea and chocolate.
Cave du Fromager
This cheese cellar with a main shop on Benoit Bunico street in the old town presents a fine selection of local and international cheeses.
Americans missing their lobster fix wll love these lobster rolls filled with guacamole, cheddar cheese or lemon butter.
Italian food is the highlight here with fresh products directly from Italy.
Aix & Terra
It's all Provence all the time in this grocery store based in Aix-en-Provence.
Take a trip to Bangkok and sample Thai street food here, prepared by chef Nathalie N'Guyen.
Les Burgers de Papa
There are burgers and then there are Daddy's Burgers, already a hit on the Rue Hotel des Postes.
Gourmet grill is featured in this stall run by star butcher Hugo Desnoyer and chef Christian Constant.
Concoctions of marinated salmon, tuna, tofu and chicken with rice and vegetables recall the flavors of Hawaii.
Nachos, salads, breakfast and hot dogs both traditional and vegan.
Nice's favourite olive producer has a stall with olive-based snacks.
Sneakers and sports shirts are on sale here.
Buy old clothes by the kilo in this unique boutique.
This charity collects vintage clothes, utensils and various used items to benefit the poor.
Maison Mammout & copains
Artisans and designers sell their work.
The Gare du Sud was built in 1892 as a train station handling trains to Digne-les-Bains (now the Train des Pignes) and Mayrargues. Farmers brought their produce from the fertile valleys and hills around Nice to sell at the Liberation market. Behind the striking neoclassical exterior is a spacious metal train shed topped by a glass roof. Inspired by Gustave Eiffel, the interior was created for the 1889 World Fair in Paris and was made part of the train station in 1891.
After nearly 100 years of service the Gare du Sud was closed in 1991 and the Train des Pignes moved to the small Gare de Nice CP, a few hundred metres away. Then came the problem of what to do with the abandoned structure. A plan to tear it all down met with a huge outcry. A campaign to list the station as a historic monument succeeded when in 2002 the facade was protected, followed by the interior in 2005.
Restoration work began in 2013 following designs by the architect Pierre-Louis Faloci. The facade and front area opened in 2014. Soon after, the library Raoul Mille moved into the former station waiting room and devoted other rooms to media and digital collections.
The food hall is open Tues-Sun 11am-11pm (midnight Thurs, Fri, Sat).
Getting to the Gare du Sud
The Gare du Sud is on Tram Line 1 at the Liberation stop. Buses 37 and 23 also stop at Liberation.
Street parking is difficult in the neighbourhood. Try the underground Q-Park nearby.
Last updated May 20, 2019
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