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15 Best things to do in Nice

Nice, France

France. The land of croissants, couture, charm, and the most visited city in all of Europe – Paris

France is a global tourist hot spot, and for good reason! The thing I louvre most about the diverse country is that it offers something for everyone, and as you venture beyond the iconic city of love, you’ll very quickly realise that France is a country which transforms itself with every region you explore.

As you venture down to the French Riviera however, this is where you will find one of the Nice-est places in all of France… Nice (pronounced ‘niece’). A coastal city that embodies the essence of Mediterranean charm and elegance. Situated along the Côte d’Azur, in Nice you’ll find sun-soaked beaches, crystal-blue waters, and an unrivalled laid-back, lavish atmosphere. Here are 15 of the best things to do in Nice!

Stroll along La Promenade des Anglais

Translating to ‘Walkway of the English’, Promenade des Anglais is a 7km seaside boulevard that is a quintessential symbol of Nice. Named after the English aristocracy who first popularised the French Riviera as a winter retreat in the 18th century, it is an unmissable destination when visiting Nice where history meets modernity. Walking along the promenade to be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea where the water gently laps against the iconic pebbled beach with sailboats dotted along the horizon.

The wide pedestrian walkway line with palm trees is perfect for leisurely strolls, jogging, cycling, rollerblading, or people watching! You’ll find locals and tourists alike enjoying the sea breeze and the warmth of the sun. At various points along La Promenade, you may encounter artistic installations, sculptures, and vibrant flower displays, enhancing the visual appeal of this already enchanting promenade. If you’re lucky, you may even be delighted with the entertainment of local street performers, artists and musicians.

SWIM!

You can not simply visit Nice and not go for a swim. Relax on one of Nice’s many pebble beaches. Your first stop will undoubtedly be the Baie des Anges, which translates to “Bay of Angels” in English. It is the most iconic and picturesque beach in Nice, a short stroll from the centre of town, right next to La Promenade des Anglais. Characterised by its crescent shape, pristine blue waters, and the backdrop of the surrounding hills and mountains, it’s no surprise that many tourists and locals flock here when the sun is shining to sunbathe, swim or simply relax.

Grab some ice cream, grab a book and enjoy some wind down time here, and don’t forget to come back here when the sun starts setting… you can thank me later! One of the most magical times to experience the coast is during sunset. This is when the sky becomes a canvas of warm hues that cast a golden glow over the sea. Join the many visitors and locals who gather here to witness this daily spectacle and bask in the splendour of the idyllic French Riviera!

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Water Sports

Had enough relaxing and looking for some action-filled adventure? Nice is a prime destination for watersports and activities due to its beautiful coastline and clear waters. You can find local operators all along the main coastline that will help organise a water adventure that appeals to you whether that be kayaking, sailing, water skiing, fishing, cruising, boat tours, stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing, jet skiings, scuba diving or snorkelling. There is something for everyone!

Jumping into the sea

Image source:Contiki

Experience traditional Niçoise cuisine

Old Town is a haven for food lovers, but in this gastronomic centre, traditional Niçoise cuisine can be savoured almost everywhere from cosy bistros, to market stalls, cafes or restaurants. When in Nice you can’t go without trying one of the most famous dishes in the south of France: socca (a chickpea pancake). In Nice, socca is not just a street food; it’s a connection to the city’s history, culture, and flavours of the Mediterranean. It’s a reminder that the simplest of ingredients can give rise to something truly delightful and beloved by all who taste it.

Other staple, must-try dishes are a Niçoise salade and a pissaladière (a savory onion tart). You’ll also find gelato shops, bakeries, and patisseries on every street and corner which offer other delectable treats!

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Visit Old Town (Vieux Nice)

Vieux Nice is one of the most charming neighbourhoods in the French Riviera! Wind your way through the narrow streets and alleys, lined with bright, colourful buildings adorned with traditional shutters and wrought iron balconies. Here you can easily get lost in the beauty of the buildings, but if you look carefully, you might realise that not all is as it seems…

Once upon a time in various European countries there was such a thing as a ‘window tax’. Up until 1926 in France, Governments were taxing citizens based on the number of windows their homes had. This heavily influenced how people viewed and built architecture. The more windows people had, generally the wealthier they were (and the better their houses appeared). Many French people decided that they too wanted windows to enhance the aesthetics of their home and to appear ‘wealthy’, so to avoid paying tax, they simply painted them on.

Keep your eyes peeled while you’re here to see if you can find a building where one whole side of it is as the French would say “trompe l’oeil”. Here you can also visit the famous markets, Cours Saleya, where you can have your senses delighted with the aroma of coffee, fresh flowers, local delicacies, and artisanal goods.

Markets

Visiting the markets in Nice is a must not only to buy yourself some local products and artisanal foods, but also for some instagrammable photo opportunities! Markets are in abundance in Nice, but my personal favourite is Cours Saleya Market (Marché aux Fleurs), one of the most famous markets in Nice!

It’s divided into several sections, including a flower market, fruit and vegetable market, and an antiques market. It’s open most days, with different sections operating on different days. The largest part of the market hosts some of the most eye-catching, artistic, colourful displays with fresh produce samples shoppers can try as they roam by. If you’re planning to visit Nice, just make sure you check what markets are on the day you’re in town so you don’t miss out!

Got some time to kill in Nice? Try one of these day trips

Got some time to kill in Nice? Try one of these day trips

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Hike up Castle Hill (Colline du Château)

If you think the coastline is picturesque from La Promenade des Anglais… wait until you see it from the top of Castle Hill which offers panoramic views of the city and the bay. To get to the elevated vantage point, you’ll need to climb a fair few flights of stairs, but once you read the top, the postcard-worthy views make it all worthwhile. Or… you can catch the elevator, but you miss out on the views as you ascend the mountain. Make the most of your hike up and visit the ruins of the Château de Nice – a mediaeval castle that once stood as a sentinel over the city.

The hill is also adorned with lush gardens, including the Parc de la Colline du Château, where you can relax amidst greenery, fountains, and shaded paths. It’s a tranquil oasis within the city, ideal for a leisurely stroll or a peaceful escape from the bustling streets below. While exploring Castle Hill, be sure to visit the Colline du Château Waterfall, which is a hidden gem, nestled atop the hill… a perfect photo stop on the way up!

Visit Musée Matisse

Nice has several interesting museums, including the Marc Chagall National Museum and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC). One not to be missed by art enthusiasts and historians is Musée Matisse. Henri Matisse is a renowned French artist who spent much of his life living in Nice and you can explore his legacy at the museum which houses the world’s largest collection of contemporary artworks including paintings, sculptures, drawings and even personal belongings! While you’re there, be sure to check out the museum’s tranquil gardens which offer a serene contrast to the vibrant colours and energy of Matisse’s art.

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Stroll through Promenade du Paillon

This beautiful park runs through the centre of Nice; a lush green oasis with fountains, playgrounds, and walking paths. The park is dotted with fountains, reflecting pools, and water jets that create a soothing and refreshing atmosphere. The Promenade du Paillon hosts various events and activities throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and outdoor performances. Check the local event calendar to see what’s happening during your visit. You may even like to pack yourself a French style picnic, perhaps with some fresh goods from the markets, and soak up the natural beauty of the city in Promenade du Paillon.

Visit the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas

Looking for a more culturally enriching experience? Add Nice’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral to your visit list! Renowned for its stunning architectural beauty, its coloured onion domes, intricate mosaics and ornate details are waiting to be appreciated! The cathedral has a rich history tied to the Russian community in Nice. It was built as a place of worship for Russian nobility and aristocracy who frequented the French Riviera during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The cathedral also houses a small museum showcasing religious artefacts, historical documents, and items related to the Russian Orthodox Church. It is located in central Nice, so worth a stop by if you catch yourself passing it (you won’t miss it)!

Day Trips

Nice is an incredible city with countless things to see and do, and it serves as a great (and affordable) base to visit nearby cities through day trips! My personal favourites are:Monaco: Just a short train or bus ride away, the tiny, extravagant principality of Monaco offers opulent casinos, the Prince’s Palace, the Oceanographic Museum, and stunning Mediterranean views from the cliffs of Monaco-Ville.

Day tripping here is a saviour for budget travellers, but be sure to dress a million bucks when you visit as 1 in 3 people here are millionaires! Another worthwhile location to day trip to is Cannes! Cannes boasts beautiful sandy beaches, a picturesque old town, and the famous La Croisette promenade lined with luxury boutiques.

Eze is another hidden gem, and one of my favourite tiny towns to visit! Perched high on a hill, Eze offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean. Here you can explore the Jardin Exotique, visit artisan shops, and admire the mediaeval architecture while you’re here, or if you’re into French Perfume, be sure to drop into Fragonard’s perfumery for a very ‘French’ olfactory experience. You can book a tour of their perfume factory and grab some perfume souvenirs to take home with you that you can only get in France! (Belle Chérie ‘beautiful darling’ is my favourite scent!)

I’d strongly recommend getting a hire car and driving here yourself as you can make the most of the time and stop for photos all along the coastline or visit the harbour and beaches of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat.

Got some time to kill in Nice? Try one of these day trips

Got some time to kill in Nice? Try one of these day trips

by Olivia Smyth Feb 10, 2018

Experience the Nightlife

Nice has a vibrant nightlife scene! Enjoy a drink at one of the bars along the Promenade des Anglais or head to Old Town for a lively evening. Many bars and restaurants in Nice feature live music performances, including jazz, blues, and local bands. Check out venues like Shapko Bar and Cave Romagnan for live music experiences. A personal favourite is Wayne’s Bar for its electric atmosphere, talented live musicians and the real highlight… dancing on tables!

Want something a bit more tame and relaxed? The Farago Roof Top Bar atop of Nice’s AC Marriott Hotel is an elegant escape from the hustle and bustle of the city below. Swimming pool, luxurious seating and ambient lounge music, it’s a classy, but costly retreat if you’re looking for something a little more upper class. Whether you prefer dancing the night away, sipping cocktails with a view, or enjoying a leisurely evening in the Old Town, Nice has something to offer every night owl.

Shop ‘til you drop!

Nice is also a great shopping destination with a range of options to suit all fashion styles and budgets. Explore the fashionable boutiques and shops in the city centre around Avenue Jean Médecin and Rue de la Liberté – the main shopping street in Nice! Here you can find Étoile, a multi-level shopping centre, a range of boutiques, souvenir stores, electrical goods and more.

Festivals

Nice hosts a range of festivals and events throughout the year that showcase its rich cultural heritage, artistic talents and vibrant community. If you happen to visit during February and March, Carnaval de Nice is one of the largest and most famous events that they host. It features colourful parades with giant floats, flower battles, and costumed participants. Each year has a different theme, and the already lively city truly comes to life during this carnival!

Not visiting until July? No problem! Nice has you covered with its annual Jazz Festival, one of the oldest in Europe! It features a diverse lineup of jazz, blues, and world music artists performing in various locations across the city, including the historic Roman amphitheatre, Théâtre de Verdure.

summer outdoor festival

Image source:unsplash

Bike about

Most of Nice’s city centre is flat, so travelling around by bike is the easiest, most eco-friendly and quickest way to get around and see all of its sights! You can either hire a bike and explore at your own pace, or join a bike tour if you want to be guided around. Bike along the stunning French Riviera along the coastal route of the Promenade des Anglais, and take in breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. Then head inland and navigate through the narrow streets and alleys not accessible by car to discover hidden gems in the city’s historic districts. If you’re feeling athletic, bike to the Garoupe Lighthouse via. the ‘I love Nice’ sign at Quai Rauba Capeu seashore promenade. Don’t forget to stop and that a selfie with the sign for Instagram! #ilovenice

Nice, a radiant jewel of the French Riviera, offers a captivating blend of culture, history, natural beauty, and vibrant city life. From its sun-kissed beaches and iconic Promenade des Anglais to its charming Old Town and world-class museums, there is no shortage of incredible experiences waiting to be discovered in this enchanting city!

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