10 of the best things to do in Nice, France

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Every year when we were younger, two of my best friends and I went on a girls trip somewhere. We’ve visited Stockholm, Tallinn, The Amalfi Coast, Milan, Bath, The Cotswolds and London together over the years. In 2019 things changed because they both started their families, and with young babies it meant they couldn’t up and leave for an adventure.

One of the things that no-one talks about with infertility is that you don’t just fail to have a baby, but that often those close to you naturally have their own focuses change when they start their own families meaning you also lose (at least in some part) your friendship support network.

So I was absolutely delighted when one of those friends decided it was time to get back out on adventures. We settled on some winter sun as she’d not been abroad in a while and we chose Nice, along the beautiful French Riviera – for a long weekend of sunshine, pretty villages, good food and lots of wine.

Note: It wasn’t sunny and it rained the entire time.

A typical Nice shopping street

  1. Contents
  2. About Nice
    1. Getting to Nice
    2. Weather in Nice
    3. Other Important Information
  3. Things to do in Nice
    1. Stroll the Old Town
    2. Climb Castle Hill
    3. Visit the famous Flower Market
    4. Relax on the beach along the Promenade des Anglais
    5. Indulge in the Food and Wine
    6. Admire the Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas
    7. Take in the Museums
    8. Enjoy Place Massena
    9. Tour the French Riviera
    10. Head to another country (Monaco or Italy)
  4. Where to stay in Nice

  • Nice has an international airport which runs regular flights to and from London, New York and lots of other major airports.
  • The airport is only a 15-20 minute taxi ride away from the city centre, or you can take the tram straight in to the centre.
  • Nice receives a whopping 320 days of sunshine a year and only around 20 days of rain.
  • Average temperatures in summer are around 25 degrees, with the hottest months being July and August where temperatures can reach up to 30.
  • Winters are mild, averaging around 12 – 15 degrees.

Despite visiting for some spring sunshine, on our visit we had a solid 4 days of rain, and temperatures of about 10. On our last day we had about 1hr of sunshine and sat by the beach!

  • Nice is +1hr to the UK.
  • It’s a very walkable city but does lie amongst lots of hills. Mobility access amongst some of the smaller surrounding towns and villages is limited.
  • French is the first language, but most people we encountered spoke English and my basic French was enough with those that didn’t (or chose to laugh at me).
  • In Nice itself, you only really need a maximum of 2 days, but you could easily stay for a week and take the opportunity to explore far and wide along the French Riviera.

I recommend doing this on a Walking Tour with Walkative Nice, a pay what you wish tour which was amazing! We learnt so much!

For starters, Nice is a city where you can see so many layers of history. Nice was founded by the Greeks in around 350BC, and the city was probably named in honour of a victory (nikē in Greek) over a neighbouring colony.

Conquered by the Romans during the 1st century AD, it became a busy trading station. After the Romans, Nice was later controlled by the House of Provence and the House of Savoy and passed between Italian and French ownership – it was finally ceded to the French for good in 1860.

It means there are plenty of influences throughout the old town and some of the highlights include:

  • The Opera Theatre – Designed by François Aune, disciple of Eiffel, you can see little mini Statues of Liberty in the lights! (As well as the Eiffel Tower, he designed the Statue of Liberty).
  • Nice Cathedral – There has been a cathedral on this side since 1049, though the one standing today was built in the 1600s, incorporating typically Italian and French designs.
  • Auer Patisserie – one of the oldest Patisseries in Nice, and absolutely beautiful, it’s well worth a visit.
  • Palais de Justice – Open to the public and free to enter, you can even attend certain trials and court sessions. I particularly liked the story of the famous bank robber in the 1970s who jumped to escape from an upstairs window before his hearing.
Inside Auer Patisserie

My favourite part of Nice was Castle Hill, which contrary to its name, doesn’t house a castle. Instead it’s home to a waterfall, and the most beautiful views out over the city and sea. There is a lift to get up, but due to the rain on our visit it was closed, so we had to climb the 200+ steps to the top.

View from the top across a blue sea and stormy sky

Cours Saleya market in Nice is full of life, with its striped awnings and hundreds of stands.  Crowds of locals and tourists come here to do their shopping or sometimes just to look and snap photos of the colourful displays. There are 4 markets on the site, but the most famous is the beautiful flower market, full of colours and smells.

The colourful market place

Nice has a long stretch of beach, though it’s a pebble beach rather than beautiful sand. Running alongside the beach is the famous 7km Promenade des Anglais, known as such because the English flocked to the town in the Victorian era for sun and fresh sea air.

Nice is also famous for its iconic blue chairs lining the promenade. I was expecting some jazzy sunloungers but they were actually pretty uncomfortable! The beach was relatively busy even in the cold and rain, so I can only imagine how packed it gets in summer!

Famous blue chairs along the beach in a rare moment of brief sun

Nice is a foodie paradise – I didn’t have a bad meal whilst visiting. With French and Italian restaurants galore here were some of the highlights which we discovered:

  • Edmond Café – for an absolutely delicious breakfast/brunch. The avocado croque was SO GOOD.
  • Bistro Gourmand – for some upmarket French dining. The wine here was amazing and we managed to drink two bottles of the local Rose Wine.
  • Casa Tua – delicious Italian style food in a homely stone restaurant. The quality was incredible.
  • Local Delicacies – When in a new country it’s really important to try the local dishes. We tried Pan Bagnat (basically a Nicoise Salad placed inside a bun), Les beignets de fleur de courgette (Zucchini Fritters) and the totally delicious Socca at Chez Theresa (local pancakes)

One of my favourite finds in Nice was a short 25 minute walk out of the centre. The Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas is a Russian Orthodox Church and is the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe.

The cathedral was built in the early 1900s, as a place for the ever growing group of Russian visitors to the area. Today the cathedral is actually under Russian ownership, and the congregation come under the jurisdiction of the Korsun diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Nice is a haven for museum lovers, and we checked out a number of them during our visit. You can purchase a Nice Museum card as well for entry across them all.

  • Marc Chagall National Museum – For those in to art, this museum is unique in that it contains the largest public collection of Marc Chagall’s works, largely Biblical. There’s also come lovely gardens and a cafe on site, but it’s a bit far out of the centre and wasn’t our favourite.
  • Massena Museum – Set in a beautiful villa, this was my favourite museum of the trip. It pulls together the history of Nice and the French Riviera which I found fascinating.
  • Matisse Museum – A museum devoted to the work of French painter Henri Matisse. It gathers one of the world’s largest collections of his works, tracing his artistic beginnings and his evolution. I don’t love art so again it was slightly lost on me.
  • Palais Lascaris – A very small museum hosting musical instruments and some beautiful ceiling frescoes; worth popping in to if you have the museum card.
  • Modern Art Museum – Closed on our visit but rated very highly.
At the Massena Museum

Just a short walk from the Promenade is a lovely open, pedestrianised space, called Place Massena, designed in the 1800s. It’s not always been pedestrianised and at one point has even been a ring road and a car park!

In the middle of the square is the striking Sun Fountain, with a naked Apollo sitting in the centre. When it was unveiled in the 1950s, people were outraged thinking that his manhood was too large. In an effort to calm the controversy, the sculptor took a hammer and chisel to his creation to reduce the size of the offending member. His embarrassing surgery proved to be insufficient; and in the 1970s the fountain was dismantled. Thankfully Apollo was found again in 2007 and re-instated, complete with chisel damaged manhood.

Interestingly, people still live in the flats above the shops here and have to abide by some funny rules – including no hanging of washing, no walking about naked and prescribed colours for windows and paintwork.

In Place Massena with Apollo and his damaged manhood!

Nice sits at the heart of the French Riviera and not seeing some more of the gorgeous coastline on a visit would be a waste. We explored three areas (posts coming soon):

  • Eze – the most beautiful medieval village in France
  • Villefranche-sur-mer – A lovely colourful coastal village
  • Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – A luxury villa set in acres of beautiful gardens

I’d also love to have visited a number of other gems, including Menton, Antibes, Cannes, Théoule and the Lerins Islands, to name just a few within a 45 minute train/boat/bus journey from Nice.

Another amazing thing to do when in Nice is to actually visit another country.

For those of you wanting to tick off as many as possible, it has to be Monaco (post coming soon), home to the famous Grand Prix and one of the smallest countries in the world. With no airport, Nice is the easiest access point.

If you’ve already visited Monaco or fancy something a bit different, you can be over the border on a train within an hour in to Italy and the beautiful city of Ventimiglia for some gelato, pizza and sea views.

In Monaco

There are lots of options to suit every budget in Nice. We chose to stay at Anantara Nice Plaza. The location was great, in easy walking distance of everything on this list and the train station, however the hotel itself was lacking for a 5* offering.

If you really want to go all out you could stay at the famous Negresco Hotel. Now an icon of the French Riviera, Negresco was opened in the early 1900s but fell in to decline. It was rejuvenated by becoming a living art collection (it has everything from Renoirs to Venetian Street art rooms), and it’s now a luxury hotel offering sumptuous rooms, an incredible spa and all the art you could wish to sleep amongst! Even more amazing, it’s owned by a local cat rescue centre as the previous owner died childless and didn’t want to risk a large hotel chain taking it over. All profits go to charity.

Outside the Negresco

I hope you enjoyed the little trip around Nice. We had a fab stay, though it was a little dampened by the rain and we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked along the French Riviera. It’s the perfect choice for a relaxing break though, with a mixture of beaches, cities, villages and food. Thanks for reading – stay safe and happy travelling!

38 responses to “10 of the best things to do in Nice, France”

  1. I haven’t properly visited Nice since I was a kid, almost 20 years ago. But I remember it being sunny and very….nice (haha), and I also visited Èze, which was lovely. Looks like a wonderful time catching up with friends!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, it’s definitely nice that’s for sure. It was a lovely choice for a long weekend break 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Despite many visits to France, I have never made it to Nice. Your post did make it seem a great destination – and as a spot to base yourself for travelling around. I would not wish to go though, when all those blue chairs are full!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh I hope you manage to make it one day as it’s a lovely city worth a stop in for a day or two. I agree….summer would be unbearable with the crowds!


  3. I think Castle Hill is my favorite too, although I do love the colorful buildings. It’s too bad you had so much rain and chilly temperatures, but it looks like you still managed to see quite a lot!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We saw loads….no such thing as bad weather, only a choice of bad clothes as they say!! I love the colour of the many buildings etc across many European countries, makes a change from the UK’s default grey!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice is one of my favorite cities in France, and your photos have captured it beautifully. Too bad the weather didn’t cooperate while you were there, but it sounds like you had a lovely time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, and yes even with the weather we still had a fab time, and lots more posts to come 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A lovely guide to Nice Hannah. I’ve visited three times once just before Christmas and twice in the spring. Our second visit last two weeks due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland but I wasn’t grumbling!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Marion….oh goodness, well I suppose there are worse places to spend 2 weeks aren’t there 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s awesome that you were able to carry on the tradition of a girls trip with one of your friends. Despite the gloomy weather, it looks like you still managed to have a nice time in Nice. Love the hike at Castle Hill. The views are beautiful and you get to see a waterfall.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Totally, it’s really nice to be able to do again. We still had a great time, and lots more posts to come of the area which I think are even more beautiful than the city itself!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve always wanted to visit Nice and you’ve given me a great list of the best things to do once I make it there 🙂 I love the color of the water from Castle Hill, that would be a must for me! So glad you could go on a girls trip again, it’s too bad the weather wasn’t cooperating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh it’s a lovely city, and there’s so much to do along the coastline as well – you’d love the medieval villages and palatial villas that you can explore there 🙂 Yes the rain wasn’t great, but we made the most of what we could at least.


  8. Too bad it was rainy. Nice is glorious in sunshine. I used to visit it regularly on business. But always had a bit of free time to pop down the beach😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh that’s amazing you were able to travel there with work, that’s awesome!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Even in the rain, Nice just seems to be effortlessly elegant and beautiful like they were determined to make every detail sparkle. And there seems to be a lot to do there to really soak it all in. So glad you got to have a girls trip with your friend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true actually, it’s so clean and sparkly. I really liked it as a city, and I had a fab time with my friend 🙂 Have a great weekend Meg!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, you too! 🙂


  10. It’s a shame it rained during your trip. I’ve driven past Nice, but never visited and clearly I missed out. I hadn’t realised the city was home to such beautiful architecture and there was so much to do there. The Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas is stunning! It’s fair to say, Nice is now on my city break radar 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a really lovely city, and I agree the Cathedral was definitely a highlight. I hope you can make it there one day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Despite five trips to France, I’ve never gone coastal. Nice looks as good a place to start as any. I LOVE the story of that hotel owned by a cat rescue! I had to roll my eyes at the prudes who were scandalized by Apollo’s large tackle. He was a god, after all. He should have genitalia to match!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooo well you will definitely have to go coastal one day…the villages and places to see along the coast are stunning, even more so than Nice. HA, that made me laugh, poor Apollo….

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful captures, Hannah! Loved the colors!! You look great 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I’ve never been to Nice – looks lovely -despite the weather!! Glad you’d a good time…XXXX

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a lovely city, just a shame about the rain! xx

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Well, I’m sure that while it was raining the whole time, your friend was still enjoying this trip (I would). Nice is beautiful (those colourful buildings are really standing out in the gloomy weather). Auer Patisserie seems like a great place to spend time and the views from that hill are really so beautiful. A lovely beach, stunning cathedral and interesting museums – it doesn’t look like Nice will disappoint … even when it rains.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope so too, we had lots of wine so that probably made it more enjoyable 🙂 It’s a beautiful city, and whilst the rain was annoying, at least it meant less crowds!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve only been to Nice many years ago for my dad’s wedding trip and we actually stayed at the Negresco – it was absolutely incredible! Even though I lived close by for many years I still haven’t visited it properly, but I would love to go back! Thanks for sharing these great tips! Hopefully you get to visit again on one of those 320 days of sun!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahhh AMAZING, I bet the Negresco was super special to stay at. I’d love to go back (in the sunshine) and stay there one day 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It was incredible for sure! Though while I enjoyed it, I think I was a bit too young to really realise how amazing it was ahah! Hope you go back one day on a sunny day!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. So many beautiful photos! I loved exploring Nice and everything it offers to the tourists. I loved the clear sea breeze and the soft daylight as well as the glittering beaches and lush green gardens where true Mediterranean magic is found. And, of course, not to mention the fact that Monaco is just a short train ride away. Thanks for sharing, and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Aiva, that’s so kind of you to say. I loved the city and there are so many brilliant and easy day trips to do nearby! it’s a perfect (normally sunny) week long break destination 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I was only there one day, in between trains from Spain to Italy, but I remember those romantic looking streets and the beach. Your lovely photos of the street scenes remind me of wandering there. I was with my son, then in high school, and it was an eye-opener for him to see the nudity on the beach!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. […] spending a wonderful couple of days in (rainy) Nice, it was time to head for a day trip. There was one top choice for me, beautiful Eze. I’d seen […]


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About the author

Hi! My name is Hannah, I’m a travel blogger from the UK who fits travel around a full time (and full on) job. In this blog I share my adventures around the world and hopefully help you to find some inspiration for destinations, things to do or places to stay. Thanks for stopping by – stay safe and happy travelling.

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