Welcome to Nice! The second largest city in the Alpes-Cote-d’Azur after Marseille, Nice stands as one of France’s most popular tourist destinations. And for good reason. Its year-round sunshine, mix of real-city grit with beautiful old-world charm and its stunning seaside location. The Italian influences are everywhere, with the tall ochre-hued buildings with long shutters, straight out of Cinque Terre.
For those visiting Nice for the first time and wonder what to add to your itinerary – here are my recommendations for the best things to see and do in Nice.
Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais
You can’t go to Nice without strolling along the Promenade des Anglais. This pedestrian walkway stretches for seven kilometres along the coastline. It is 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 their iconic blue chairs and watch the world go by. And, it’s also the best spot to watch the sun rise and set.
Wander through Old Town
Get lost in the city’s Old Town (or Vieille Ville) in its narrow laneways lined with very tall houses that shadow the streets. The ground floor of these 16th century buildings are occupied by shops, cafés, restaurants and galleries.
Here are the recommended sites in Nice’s Old Town.
Tip: Try some of the city's street food while you are in the market. There is socca (chickpea pancakes), pissaladière (caramelised onion tart) or tourte de blettes (chard, raisin and pine nut pie).
Enjoy the views from Castle Hill
To get the best panoramic view of the city head to Castle Hill (or Colline du Château). What was once the site of a 11th century castle, only to be destroyed a few centuries later, all that remains is the ruins of a defensive wall. But, for first timers to Nice, this is a must-see. As on a clear day, 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.
Head to the Beach
Nice’s beaches are mostly pebbled rather than sandy but are so beautiful. The most popular public beach is Beau Rivage. It’s a classic beach scene with its stripped umbrellas, sunbathers galore and glistening blue water of the Mediterranean sea. Coco Beach is a local’s favorite. This rocky shoreline is great for snorkeling, as well as, swimming. Sunbathers stretch out on the big flat rocks close to the water’s edge.
Tip: you might want to consider renting a beach spot for the day. For about 40€, you will receive a towel, lounge chair and umbrella. Or you can head to the private beach clubs at Beau Rivage and Coco Beach, where you will get the same, as well as licensed drinks, for a cover charge of course.
Check out some Museums
If you are an art lover, you are 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 – it’s usually in some grand villa offering visitors the most incredible setting. Here are the recommended ones to check out:
- Musée Matisse – 17th century villa full of classic French paintings
- The Musée Massena – 19th-century estate featuring ornate carvings and paintings from the Belle Époque period
- Musée National Marc Chagall – the largest collection of Chagall works
- The Musée des Beaux-Arts – 19th century Italianate villa featuring an expansive collection of classic French and Italian classics through to post-Impressionist paintings
Tip: purchase the blue museum pass for 10€ to receive a 24-hour all-access admission for any of Nice's museums
Meander through The Old Port
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.
Parc du Mont Baron
If you want to escape the lively city for a peaceful setting then go to Mont Baron park. Mont Boron is a hill, 200 metres above the sea level, that separates Nice from Villefranche-sur-Mer. Amble through the park and take in the incredible views of Nice and the Cap-Ferrat peninsula. It’s worth going just for the views! Best time to go is either sunrise or sunset.
Tip: Take the city bus #33 from central Nice to Mont Boron. Approximately 15-20 minutes.
As a holidaymaker…
For any lover of French and Italian culture, Nice is the perfect blend. You’ll almost think you are on holiday in Italy with all the fresh pasta shops and gelaterias on every corner.
If you are lucky enough to be spending a few days in Nice and want to see what’s beyond this city, you’ll definitely you’ll want to visit some of the area’s best hilltop villages.
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