Nice, on the French Riviera, is one of the most popular destinations in France which has been a fashionable tourist resort for over 100 years. Nestling between the ocean and the mountains, Nice is known for its history, Belle Epoque architecture, and famous Promenade des Anglais.
And although it may be the country’s fifth largest city, Nice is second only to Paris in popularity. There are many fun things to do in Nice, but pace yourself and enjoy relaxing in a coffee shop, soaking up the ambiance and watching the world go by.
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Top Things to Do in Nice, France
Known as one of the liveliest towns in the South of France, Nice is a cosmopolitan seaside resort in the heart of the Mediterranean, known for its spectacular examples of Belle Epoque architecture and boulevards lined with palm trees and a gorgeous seaside promenade.
Nice hosts interesting museums and art galleries, as well as luxury boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and endless entertainment opportunities.
Basic Things to Know about Nice
Get Ready for France
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Nice and the Arts
Nice, as well as the rest of the South of France, always attracted remarkable artists, including painters such as Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Arman.
The city has different museums where it is possible to admire their works, including the Musée Matisse, the Musée Marc Chagall, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Also, important writers have loved Nice, among them Friedrich Nietzsche, Anton Chekov, and Frank Harris.
Where is Nice
Nice is located on the French Riviera, on the southeastern coast of France facing the Mediterranean Sea and less than fifty kilometers away from the French Alps.
Second only to Marseille on the French Mediterranean Coast, both cities are part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
Located about 30 kilometers from the Italian border, Nice is also less than 15 kilometers from Monaco.
Home to the third busiest airport in France, Nice is easily accessible from most major cities in Europe, North Africa, and a few countries in the Middle East.
Why You Should Visit Nice
Other than discovering the old district, the port, and the seaside Promenade des Anglais, it is also possible to visit the aristocratic Cap the Nice, an elegant neighborhood that perches on the hills close to the port and the Bay of Villefranche.
One of the main reasons to visit Nice is the fantastic coastline with pristine beaches with dozens of beach clubs where tourists enjoy fun music and fresh cocktails by the sea.
How to Get to Nice
Nice’s international airport is only eight kilometers from the center and major airlines operate European routes to Nice almost all year round
The airport is connected to the city center by a regular 20-minute bus service, the Nice Airport Express Bus which has stops at the two terminals of the airport. Tickets can be bought at the terminal or on the bus.
International train travel is also possible, Nice is connected to Milan, Genoa, Rome, and Venice by means of Trenitalia.
There is also a train that connects Nice to Moscow, Russia (about 47 hours) with stops in many European cities.
Moving Around in Nice
Moving around in Nice is quite easy if you choose to rely on the local tram network and local trains. These also allow you to move along the Cote d’Azur coastline as well.
There are two bus lines to reach Nice from the airport. Line 98 reaches the old town, the beach, and the Promenade des Anglais.
Line 99 goes to Nice’s main train station (Gare SNCF) where you can board trains to Marseille, Lyon, Paris, and other cities in France. For instance, a trip Nice-Paris can take about 6 hours on the TGV, the high-speed rail service.
Private transfers and taxis are also available. Car rental offers the fantastic possibility to explore the surrounding villages near Nice and the whole Côte d’Azur region.
This private transfer service is very convenient if you’re traveling with a few suitcases and buses are not an option
Renting a car is not a bad idea if you’re staying for more than just a weekend and plan to drive around the area to visit other villages and resorts.
It can be tricky to find parking in the center as well as to battle the traffic in the peak hours of the day, so relax and take it easy.
When is the Best Time to Visit Nice
Nice is a summer destination with its incredible beaches and fun nightlife. Also in summer, you can enjoy the impressive events for the Bastille celebrations (July).
However, prices skyrocket from June to September, making spring and fall more convenient for budget-conscious travelers.
Even when winters can be chilly, the weather is in general quite pleasant. If you visit during the cold months, keep in mind that the Carnival of Nice (February) is one of the most important celebrations of the year
Where to Stay in Nice
Convenient: Hotel de la Mer
Situated in the Nice city center, right in front of Place Massena Square and the Promenade du Paillon Park, Hotel De La Mer is also just 200 meters from Promenade des Anglais and the beach.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
Mid-range: Hotel Florence Nice
Hotel Florence Nice is ideally located just opposite the Nice Etoile shopping mall, in a pedestrian area, only a 5-minute walk from Place Massena. The hotel is within a short walking distance from the beach, the Promenade des Anglais, and the Old Town.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
Luxury: Westminster Hotel & Spa Nice
Right in the heart of Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais, the Belle Epoque hotel Westminster features a spa, a seafront terrace, and a fitness center. The location offers easy access to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and Nice-Ville train station.
Click here for more information and to get the latest prices.
Places to See and Things to Do in Nice, France
In no particular order, these are some of the things you will certainly enjoy doing in town. So, when you visit, check out these fantastic things to do in Nice!
Walk Along the Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais stretches for seven kilometres from La Colline du Château to Nice Airport and is fringed by elegant mansions from the nineteenth century.
The construction of this popular walk was funded by the wealthy English visitors who liked to avoid the cold dark winter months of England by spending their time in Nice.
If you continue walking east along the Promenade it joins the Quai des États-Unis which marks the moment in 1917 when the President of the United States decided that his country should join in the fighting of the First World War.
There is a huge war memorial there dedicated to the 4,000 soldiers from Nice who lost their lives in the war.
A great way to explore the entire length of the Promenade is to hire a bike, in-line skates or scooter? There is a designated cycle lane to ride in full safety.
Visit the Alleys of the Old Town
La Vielle Ville is the oldest part of the city and is divided from the port area by Castle Hill.
Nice’s Old Town is a made like a web of narrow alleyways filled with shops and small restaurants. It is interesting to look at the architecture which is very Italian in style as Nice did not become French until 1820.
For the best views of the city, climb the 92 metre high hill Parc du Chateau either by climbing the steps or taking the lift – the views from here are simply fantastic.
To enjoy the old town even more, I suggest checking out the area with a local guide. These are the most convenient and best-rated tours:
- Guided Cultural Walking Tour of Nice Old Town and Castle Hill: Dive into Nice’s compelling history. Hear insider stories about the Nice Town Hall, the Nice Cathedral, and more. Learn about Niçoise delicacies at a local flower market. Click here to learn more and book this walking tour.
- Old Town Treasures Walking Tour: Idealexperience to live the history of the medieval old town known as Vieux-Nice. and learn about the city’s history from its Greek origins through the days of Italian governors. Click here to learn more and book this tour.
- Don’t want to walk? No problem! Check out the 1 or 2-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour: Explore Nice according to your own schedule and interests with a 1-day or 2-day pass for the open-top hop-on and hop-off sightseeing bus. Click here to learn more and book the tickets.
- Looking for something more original? Check out the Perfume Making Workshop: Experience the true craftsmanship of creating your own custom-made perfume. An introduction to fragrance creation! Click here to learn more and enjoy this experience.
Explore Nice Cathedral
Situated in the Old Town, the Basilique-Cathédrale Sainte-Marie et Sainte-Réparate de Nice looks quite plain from the outside except for its patterned dome, but it is very different once you step inside.
The cathedral was built in the seventeenth century in a lavish Italian Baroque style. There are ten small, but very ornate chapels filled with paintings and sculptures.
The cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Saint Reparata. And since 1906, it has been declared a national monument of France.
Check Out Nice’s Famous Flower Market
Marchè Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya is the city’s famous flower market that first opened back in 1897. The market is held from Tuesday to Sunday, with the flower stalls remaining open until 5.30 pm.
Although it is best known for its beautiful array of flower stalls selling flowers grown in Provençe, there are many other stalls laden with fresh fruit and vegetables as well as spices and glazed fruit including figs, ginger and tangerines.
If you are feeling hungry there are wagons selling popular local delicacies such as La Socca. This typical dish from the French Riviera is a delicious chickpea flour pancake, cooked in a wood stove on a copper pan.
Discover the Monastère de Cimiez
On the hillsides of Nice, just outside de center of town, the Cimiez monastery and its fabulous garden is a true surprise. Over here, it is also possible to visit the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and the Franciscan Museum.
The monastery is situated towards the north of the Old Town, and it was founded by the Benedictines in the 800s.
The approach to the monastery is better made along the Boulevard de Cimiez which is fringed by elegant nineteenth-century century mansions.
The monastery is best known for its beautiful gardens with geometrically shaped lawns edged by vibrant flowerbeds. The gardens date from the sixteenth century, and were made by the monks as a vegetable garden. The view over Nice and the sea stretching on the horizon is spectacular from the terrace of the Monastery.
Wander in the Old Port
A morning stroll in the Old Port of Nice, the Vieux Port, is fun as it is really bustling and alive.
There are ten quays with numerous moored boats and several small markets selling fresh fruit and vegetables – plus the morning’s catch of fish.
The port dates from the eitheength century and has changed in character considerably over the years. It went from being a humble fishing port to being filled with glamorous yachts and several ferries.
Pay a Visit to Musée Matisse
Nice has always been popular with painters as it has a very special kind of light that is perfect for highlighting even the smallest details on buildings and in nature.
Matisse is one of France’s best known painters and is Nice’s favourite as he lived in the city for more than 40 years. Matisse died in Nice in 1954.
The museum dedicated to his works and it is situated in Cimiez. Inside, you can admire his paintings, sculptures, drawings and, paper cut-outs.
There are permanent exhibitions and the museum also offers different guided visited focused on the artist’s works. The museums is at 164, avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, and it opens from 10 am to 5 pm in winter, and from 10 am to 6 pm in summer.
You can find more information to organize your visit at the official website.
Spend Time at the MAMAC
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Nice (locally known as MAMAC) features art and unique works dating from the 1960s onwards.
It has more than 1,200 exhibits including works by Andy Warhol such as the world-famous Campbell’s Soup Can made back in 1965 Campbell’s Soup Can.
On the the top floor, the museum hosts new experiences in key rooms dedicated to Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Klein and the international POP artist. On the premises, you can also get a close up look at the iconic pop art of Roy Lichenstein, also featured in MAMAC.
The museum is located in Place Yves Klein, it is open every day (except Mondays) from 11 am to 6 pm. There is more information to get ready for a visit on the official website.
Well… You’re in Nice: Go to the Beach!
When visiting Nice, it is essential to spend some downtime on one of the city’s twenty beaches relaxing under the sunshine.
The most popular in town is the public beach, known as La Plage Publique de Beau Rivage. Here you can stretch out your towel on the fine sand and spend a gorgeous afternoon by the sea.
There are also several private beaches which are easily recognisable with their colourful beach umbrellas and comfortable sun loungers. Some have tables and waiters too!
There is a charge for using all these facilities. The most elite private beach in Nice is Ruhl Plage which has been run by the same family since 1920.
Enjoy the Flavors of Nice!
Several well known French dishes have their roots in Nice’s gastronomy, besides, the city is known as a great place for foodies. There are dozens of great restaurants, bistros, and brasseries where to taste the local delicacies.
A great way to enjoy the most traditional dishes is by joining a food tour, these are the ones I suggest:
- Nice Food Tour: Visit a selection of gourmet eateries to sample local delicacies and products including typical French dishes and beverages. Click here for more details and to book this experience.
- Cultural and Gourmet Walking Tour of Old Nice: Experience the culture and food of Vieux Nice on a 4-hour sightseeing and tasting tour to savor olive oils, regional wines, cheese, freshly baked bread, pastries, candies, chocolate, ice cream, and more. Click here for more details and to book this experience.
The best known local dish is the Salade Niçoise, a tasty blend of hard-boiled egg, green beans, anchovies, tomatoes, and olive oil.
There is also a new version of this traditional salad (Nouvelle Salade Niçoise), which is made with swordfish or shrimps. Or both….
No matter which version you prefer, the two of them taste excellent accompanied by a glass of chilled local rosé wine.
La Socca is the city’s most popular street food. This is a tasty flatbread made with chickpea flour and it makes a quick and delicious snack.
Ratatouille is another delicious local vegetable dish made with courgettes, aubergine, peppers and tomatoes, while Daube Niçoise is a beef casserole with bacon, tomatoes and red wine.
Finally, pissaladière is the popular local flan that can be bought in boulangeries. The flan comes with caramelised onions and anchovies.
The cosmopolitan Nice has a lot to offer, from gorgeous beaches to interesting museums, markets, and entertainment. And no matter what you choose to do, you will certainly have a magnificent time.
Are you visiting the French Riviera any time soon?
Let me know in the comments below!
You might also want to read these French blogs:
Pin this Guide to the Best Things to Do in Nice France for your Next French Riviera Vacation!
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.