sea view of city and mountains

Top Things to Do in Nice France 2023

Wondering what the top things to do in Nice? I’ve got you covered!

Welcome to Nice France – the Queen of the Riviera! The jewel of the Mediterranean!

If you are visiting Nice for the first time and want to know more about this sought-after, art-loving, beautiful city you’ve come to the right place.

I spent a full week in Nice, making it my home base to discover the city and places nearby. To fully experience Nice as I did it is a destination worth spending some sightseeing days mixed with relaxing beach days.

This article shares all the top things to do in Nice. From its landmarks to museums, its restaurants to places to stay and even free things to do in Nice. Let this be your guide to learning what Nice is famous for and knowing the best time to go to Nice France and other questions you might have to help plan your trip.

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What is Nice is Famous For

FR Top things to do in Nice 1

As the second largest city in the Alpes-Cote-d’Azur after Marseille, Nice is one of France’s most popular tourist destinations. Just as the giant billboard says, Nice Gateway to the Cote d’Azur, greeting you at the airport or train station – and it is!

Nice is famous for its year-round sunshine, stunning Mediterranean seaside location, scenic beaches and mix of real-city grit with beautiful old-world charm. The Italian influences are everywhere, with the tall ochre-hued buildings with long shutters, straight out of Cinque Terre. With its mild climate, Nice is known as the winter resort town of the Riviera.

Nice is famous for its famous people. There’s no secret that Nice is a popular destination for many famous people, including celebrities, politicians, and even royalty. Artists like Picasso, Matisse and F. Scott Fitzgerald came for inspiration, Coco Chanel had a home in Nice, as does Elton John and Bono, the lead singer of U2.

Brief History of Nice France

Nice has a long history dating back to ancient times when the area was originally settled by the Ligures, before being conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. The city was named “Nikaia” (meaning victory), by the Romans, after the victory goddess Nike.

The city began to grow in the late 17th century when wealthy European aristocrats discovered the beauty of the French Riviera and began building luxurious villas and gardens in the area and it became known as a popular winter destination for wealthy European tourists into the 18th-19th centuries.

Niçoise Cuisine in Nice, France

Nice is famous for its food! And Nice gastronomy is unique- drawing on its location on the Mediterranean Sea, its strong ties to neighbouring Italy, and the local ingredients of Provence.

5 Must-try foods in Nice:

  1. Socca – street food in Nice. Socca looks like a huge thin pancake on a cast-iron griddle. The best place to try this is at the Cours Salyea Market. It’s made from ground chickpea flour with crispy edges and soft and creamy inside.
  2. Salad Niçoise – the most famous food in Nice. An authentic Niçoise Salad combines raw tomatoes, olives, anchovies, tuna and hardboiled eggs with an olive-oil-based vinaigrette.
  3. Pan Bagnat – the most popular sandwich in Nice. This is essentially the sandwich version of Niçoise Salad – where the loaf is cut and drenched in olive oil and vinegar, then piled with tuna, egg, olives, onion, anchovies, and tomatoes.
  4. Beignets – a savoury food in Nice. The beignets found in Nice are only savoury, not sweet. There are three kinds – zucchini (courgettes), zucchini blossoms (fleurs de courgette), and eggplant (aubergine).
  5. Ratatouille – orginated in Nice. This vegetarian dish simmers together tomatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, and red bell peppers with seasonings like herbs de Provence to make a vegetable stew served as a side or main dish.

Nice is famous for hosting annual events and festivals throughout the year. Many of them support the arts including Opera, dance, theatre and music. But here are the most popular.

4 Fun Festivals in Nice:

  1. The Nice Carnival – is held in February and features colourful parades, floats, and costumes
  2. Jazz Festival – is held in July and features jazz musicians from around the world
  3. The Nice Fireworks Festival – is held in August and features fireworks displays over the Bay of Angels
  4. The Nice Film Festival – is held in October and showcases films from around the world

5 Fun Facts that Nice is Famous For

reflecting pond in square in nice france with colourful buildings
  1. Nice has the second longest beach promenade in the world, after Miami Beach
  2. Nice has the highest density of museums per square km in France
  3. Nice is also known for its famous flower market, the Marché aux Fleurs, which has been operating since 1806
  4. Nice has a large population of British expatriates and has been dubbed “the British Riviera” due to its popularity among British tourists
  5. Nice is home to the world-renowned Nice Opera, which is one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe

Top Things to Do in Nice

sunrise of pink sky over calm sea in nice france

1. Stroll the Promenades des Anglais

You can’t travel to Nice without strolling along the Promenade des Anglais.

This pedestrian walkway stretches for 7 km along the coastline. It’s the boulevard that separates the Mediterranean Sea from the city.

Built in 1820, it’s a popular place to cycle, run or stroll. Or, simply sit in the iconic blue chairs and watch the world go by. One of the best things to do is to watch the sunrise Nice is so famous for. Come here and watch the sun rise and set. 

Cost: Free

2. Wander Old Town in Nice

Get lost in the city’s old town or Vieille Ville with its narrow laneways lined with very tall houses that shadow the streets. The ground floor of these 16th-century buildings is occupied by shops, cafés, restaurants and galleries. And, there are plenty!

Many of the things to see in Nice can be found in Old Town. Don’t underestimate how long to spend here, as you can easily be pulled by so many beautiful sites, streets, and sightings. Take your time and don’t rush.

Cost: Free

3. Delight your Senses at Cours Saleya Market

colourful buildings with market stalls in nice france a free thing to do

What to do in Nice has to include a trip to the Cours Saleya market! The popular market features everything from produce, spices, food, flowers and antiques. Without a doubt, my favourite is the flower market. Fun fact, in 1897 Nice opened the first wholesale cut flower market in the world.

The best street food can also be found at the Cours Saleya market. The best time to visit Cours Saleya market is on an empty stomach. Fill up on sampling some of the best food market vendors and enjoy local specialties.

Be sure to try socca (chickpea pancakes), pissaladière (caramelized onion tart) or tourte de blettes (chard, raisin and pine nut pie). 

Cost: Free (but of course, you’ll want to eat or buy something here)

Hours of Operation:

  • Flower Market – Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 6.00 am-5:30 pm, Wednesday and Saturday 6:30 am-6:30 pm, Sunday 6:30 am-1:30 pm
  • Fruit and Vegetable Market every day except Monday from 6:00 am-1:30 pm
  • Antiques/Flea Market – 7:00 am-6 pm Mondays only

4. Visit Castle Hill of Nice for the Best Viewpoint

waterfall against rock wall one of the top things to do in nice france

To get the best panoramic view of the city head to Castle Hill or Colline du Château.

What was once the site of an 11th-century castle, only to be destroyed a few centuries later, all that remains is the ruins of a defensive wall.

From Castle Hill park you can see from Antibes, along the bay to Nice’s Old Port, and then as far as Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Take the stairs or elevator to the top behind the artificial waterfall.

Cost: Free  | Opening hours: Daily from 8:30 am – 8 pm

5. Enjoy a Beach Day

pebble stone beach with sea and pink sunrise in nice france

One of the best things to do in Nice France is head to the beach. The beaches in Nice are mostly pebbled rather than sand but are oh-so-beautiful.

It’s a classic beach scene with its striped umbrellas, sunbathers galore and glistening blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. Many beaches in Nice offer to rent a beach spot for the day. For about 40€, you receive a towel, lounge chair and umbrella. Or head to the private beach clubs at Beau Rivage and Coco Beach, where you get that, plus licensed drinks. 

5 Most Popular Beaches (or Plage) in Nice:

  1. Promenade des Anglais – is the main beach located along the Promenade des Anglais
  2. Plage de Castel – is a small, secluded beach located near the castle of Nice
  3. Beau Rivage – has a rocky shoreline great for snorkelling, and sunbathers stretch out on the big flat rocks close to the water’s edge
  4. Plage de l’Ariane – is a large, sandy beach located on the eastern edge of Nice
  5. Plage de la Baie des Anges – is a long, sandy beach located west of Nice

Cost: Free (except if you choose to upgrade your amenities)

6. Relax in a Pretty Garden or Park

stone statue with fountain nice france

If you’re looking for a peaceful escape in the city, Nice is home to some of the most beautiful parks and gardens.

Top 5 Prettiest Parks and Gardens in Nice:

  1. Jardins de Cimiez – is a beautiful garden located in the hilltop neighbourhood of Cimiez. What makes this a bit extra special to visit is it’s home to a Roman archaeological site and a beautiful view of the city (Location: 184 Av des Arenes de Cimiez | Open Monday to Saturday 10 am to 6 pm, closed daily from 12 pm – 3 pm | Cost: Free)
  2. Jardin Albert 1er – is a 19th-century park with an open-air theatre, bandstand and shady pathways that run from the shore to Place Massena in Old Town (Location: 2-16 Avenue de Verdun | Open daily from 7 am – 11 pm | Cost: Free)
  3. The Jardin Botanique de Nice – is the botanical garden of Nice and home to over 3,500 plants from the Mediterranean and all over the world (Location: 78 Corniche Fleurie | Open daily from 9 am-5 pm | Cost: Free)
  4. Parc Phoenix – a large park with greenhouses, gardens, a lake, waterfalls and a bamboo forest. (Location: 405 Prom. des Anglais | Open daily from 9:30 am – 7:30 pm | Cost: 5,20€ or 3,00€ child or pass holders)
  5. Promenade du Paillon – is a large green space located in the heart of Nice with a large reflecting pool and impressive 128 jets that spray water. It’s popular with both couples and families (Location: Plassa Carlou Aubert | Open daily from 7 am – 11 pm | Cost: Free)

7. Walk Through Old Port in Nice

port with boats and yachts in nice france

Known as the heart of Mediterranean life, this is one of the most popular ports in Europe.

This is the perfect place to sit back and relax, and have a drink or a meal in one of the bars or restaurants in the area while taking in the amazing Mediterranean vibes.

Cost: Free

8. Explore Mont Boron

If you want to escape the lively city for a scenic setting go to Mont Boron, a large hill, 191 m above sea level, that separates Nice from Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Amble through the park on the paved forested paths leading you to Batterie Mont Boron fortress. At the top, you will be awarded incredible views of Nice and the Cap-Ferrat peninsula. This hidden gem is a local’s favourite and worth going just for the views! If you’re wondering where to go at night in Nice, it’s right here! Slowly watching the sun dip into the horizon is something to see!  

Cost: Free

How to get there: Mont Baron is a bit outside the city, take the city bus #33 from central Nice to Mont Boron for approximately 15-20 minutes.

9. Visit the Historic Cimiez Neighbourhood

orange building with mint green shutters in nice france

Of all the top things to do in Nice this is one of my favourites. Visiting this neighbourhood checks a lot of boxes and offers a little something for everyone. Not to mention it’s one of the most beautiful places in Nice, and a little off the beaten path.

Located on a hill above the city centre, it offers amazing views of the city all the way down to the sea. Go for a stroll on Allées des Baumettes, which is a beautiful tree-lined avenue that offers one of the best views.

The Cimiez neighbourhood features beautiful Belle Époque architecture, just check out Hotel Regina, and other elegant residential homes.

Recommended museums of Musée Matisse and the Musée National Marc Chagall can be found here, making it perfect for a 1-day in Nice itinerary.

Museums in Nice

curved stone staircase with garden in nice france

If you are an art lover, you’re in luck. Almost all of the city’s best museums cater to art.

Everything from classic 15th-century paintings to modern Pop Art from the 1960s. The best part is these museums are located in a grand villa offering visitors the most incredible setting.

The Top 5 Museums in Nice

  1. Matisse Museum – 17th-century villa full of classic French paintings (Location 164, Av des Arènes de Cimiez | Opening Hours: From 10 am to 5 pm from November 1st to April 30th | From 10 am to 6 pm from May 2nd to October 31st | Cost: )
  2. The Musée Massena – 19th-century estate featuring ornate carvings and paintings from the Belle Époque period (Location | Opening Hours am to 5 pm from November 1st to April 30th | From 10 am to 6 pm from May 2nd to October 31st | Cost: 10€ )
  3. Musée National Marc Chagall – the largest collection of Marc Chagall works (Location: Av. Dr. Ménard | Opening Hours: Daily | May to October from 10 am to 6 pm | From November to April from 10 am to 5 pm | Cost: 10€)
  4. The Musée des Beaux-Arts – 19th century Italianate villa featuring an expansive collection of classic French and Italian classics through to post-Impressionist paintings (Location: 33 Av. des Baumettes | Opening Hours: May to October 10 am to 6 pm, November to April 11 am to 6 pm | Cost: 10€)
  5. Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC): a museum of modern and contemporary art (Location: Place Yves Klein | Opening Hours: November to April from 11 am to 6 pm and from May to October from 10 am to 6 pm Closed Mondays | Cost: 10€)

Nice Traveller’s Tip: purchase the blue museum pass for 10€ to receive a 24-hour all-access admission to any of the best museums in Nice.

Landmarks in Nice

church with yellow and green accents in nice france

The city of Nice has so many historical landmarks. I’ve decided to separate them from the ‘Top Things to Do in Nice’ list as many of these sites don’t require a lot of time to visit them. For some, these will hold a lot of interest as things to see in Nice, and for others, you might want to leave them off your itinerary altogether.

Top 10 Landmarks in Nice:

  1. Nice Cathedral – the stunning 18th-century Baroque Cathedral of St. Reparata (or Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate) which sits on the beautiful square in Old Town – Place de Rossetti (Location: 3 Pl. Rossetti | Open daily from 9 am-6 pm, closed from 12 pm-2 pm | Cost: Free)
  2. Monument to the Dead of Rauba-Capeu – is a memorial in the old quarry cliffs of castle hill to honour the residents of Nice who were killed in WWI (Location: Quai Rauba Capeu | Open daily | Cost: Free)
  3. Chapelle de la Misericorde de Nice – is a beautiful bright yellow Baroque-style church from the 18th century in Old Town with a gorgeous dome frescoed ceiling (Location: Cour Saleya | Open daily from 9 am-6 pm, closed from 12 pm-2 pm | Cost: Free)
  4. Russian Orthodox Cathedral, or Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice – is considered a national monument as it’s the largest Eastern Orthodox in Western Europe and is properly of Russia (Location: Av. Nicolas II | Open daily from 9 am-6 pm, closed from 12 pm-2 pm | Cost: Free)
  5. Hotel Negresco – is the iconic hotel that opened in 1913 right on the Promenade des Anglais, it also features a top restaurant, Le Chantecler (Location: 37 Prom. des Anglais)
  6. The Statue of Liberty Replica – in front of the Opera House facing the Mediterranean is where you’ll find a 4 ft version to honor the WWI centennial (Location: Quai des États-Unis | Cost: Free)
  7. Church of Notre Dame du Port – is a historic church from 1840 in the Neoclassical style with stately stone columns (Location: Pl. de l’Île de Beauté | Opening daily from 9 am-6 pm, closed from 12 pm-2 pm | Cost: Free)
  8. Palais de Justice – is an impressive Neo-Classical building in Old Town that sits on a small square of the same name (Location: Vieille Ville | Cost: Free)
  9. Place Rossetti: a small pretty square in Old Town known for its beautiful fountain and the Church of St. Jacques (Location: Vieille Ville | Cost: Free)
  10. Place Masséna: the main square in Nice, located in the heart of Old Town surrounded by historic buildings (Location: Vieille Ville | Cost: Free)
white building with shutters with statue of woman in front in nice
  • A 2-hour Guided Cultural Walking Tour from Old Town to Castle Hill, rated 5 stars, click here to book
  • A 3-hour Old Town Treasures Walking Tour, rated 4.5 stars, click here for more info
  • Cruise along the Promenade des Anglais on a Segway to Rauba Capeu observation point to capture photos of the curving coastline, click here to join this small group 2-3 hour tour
  • Take a 1-Hour Sightseeing Cruise to Villefranche Bay on a speed boat, rated 4.6 stars click here for more info

Best Restaurants in Nice

bistro table on cobble stone street

Like any large city, there are endless options for dining – from the cozy bistro to Michelin-star restaurants.

Here are a few recommended ones:

  • Antoine’s Bistro – a local’s favourite known for its good food at good prices (Address: 27 Rue de la Préfecture)
  • The Merenda – a local’s favourite for great-tasting Italian dishes at low prices (Address: 4 Rue Raoul Bosio)
  • La Petite Maison – a celebrity favourite, with other locations in Miami, Dubai and London is known for its high-quality food and a live band (Address: 11 Rue Saint-François de Paule)
  • L’Ane Rouge – port side restaurant awarded a Michelin star (Address: 7 Quai des Deux-Emmanuel)

Best Places to Stay in Nice

Nice has some of the best hotels in France. There are the most popular ones like Le Negresco, Boscolo Exedra and Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Mediterranee. Click here to start your search for the best hotel based on location, price, availability and book.

When I travel, I prefer to stay in a holiday rental than a hotel. If you do too, here are some of the best property rentals in Nice.

  1. Mime Artist – a cozy studio in the heart of Nice  €
  2. Golden Riviera – 1-bedroom with a private terrace and a short walk to the beach
  3. La Mignonne – 1-bedroom with balcony overlooking an iconic street in old town Nice  €
  4. Sunlit Serenades – a large 2-bedroom apartment in an Art Deco building in the Musician’s Quarter of Nice  €
  5. Must Be Nice – a lovely 1-bedroom with balcony in the chic Dubouchage neighbourhood  €€
  6. Or, do your own search of holiday rentals in click here.

Best Day Trips from Nice

One thing that Nice is famous for is its close proximity to sought-after destinations in Cote d’Azur.

Here are a few unmissable places near Nice you’re going to want to add to your itinerary:

  • Villefranche-sur-Mer – 7 km  
  • Monaco and the famous Monte Carlo – 20 km
  • Antibes – 24 km
  • Cannes – 30 km
  • Menton – 30 km
  • And, these 5 Hilltop Villages Close to Nice

Consider a Day Trip from Nice with these Most Popular Tours

  • Gorges of Verdon and Fields of Lavender Tour. Visit the Verdon Gorge and explore the villages of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of the most beautiful villages in France, click here for more information.
  • French Riviera in One Day. A full-day Discover the Côte d’Azur on this guided driving tour of the French Riviera, visit the village of Èze, and explore Monaco, Monte Carlo, and Antibes. Rated 4.6 stars, click here for more information.
  • Nice to Monaco Round-Trip Ferry Tickets. Ride the ferry from Nice to Monaco and back with this round-trip ferry transfer, and discover one of the most scenic stretches of the French Riviera. Spend some time exploring the fabled Principality of Monaco before returning to Nice. Rated 4.5 stars, click here to book.
  • Provence Village Tour with Wine and Produce Tasting. Discover the village of Saint-Jeannet and taste local, organic wines. Travel from Nice to Biot, Gourdon, and Tourettes-sur-Loup on this day trip to try regional products, and visit a waterfall, rated 4.4 stars click here for more information.


How to get to Nice?

Fly into Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE), located just a few km west of the city, or train from other cities in France like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille or by car via the A8 motorway.

What is the best time to visit Nice?

The best time to visit Nice is in the spring and autumn months. The temperatures are still warm and there are far fewer crowds. Nice is also a popular destination in the winter due to the mild climate.

How to get around Nice?

You can easily get around Nice on foot with many of the main attractions located within walking distance of each other, including Old Town. City buses are the next option with extensive routes in and out of the city.

Does Nice have any nicknames?

Nice, France is known by several nicknames, including the “Queen of the Riviera”, “Nice la Belle” (Nice the Beautiful), “La Cité des Anges” (The City of Angels), “La Belle Ville” (The Beautiful City).

What is the weather like in Nice?

The weather in Nice experiences mild winters with temperatures of 5-15°C (41-59°F) and warm summers of 20-30°C (68-86°F).

How long should you spend in Nice?

Most people spend 3 to 5 days in Nice. Nice makes for a great base to explore nearby seaside towns and hilltop villages.

Is a day in Nice enough?

If you only have one day in Nice you will be able to see Old Town and Promenade des Anglais. But, one day in Nice would not be enough time to visit museums or other top things to do in Nice.

France Travel Resources

Need more France inspiration? Check out these articles:

South of France


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As a Holidaymaker

For any lover of French and Italian culture, Nice is the perfect blend. You’ll almost think you’re on holiday in Italy with all the fresh pasta shops and gelaterias on every corner.

First-timers to Nice, add more time than you think you’ll need. It makes for a great home base to explore towns along the coastline from Menton to Cannes and the pretty hilltop villages too. What Nice is famous for – oh so much! With so many wonderful and free things to do in Nice, you can see why this is a holidaymaker’s dream destination.

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