Does the idea of a stay under the Nice sun make you dream? Here is a guide to visit Nice and its must-do activities.
Whether in summer or winter, you will be amazed by the beauty of the capital of the French Riviera. Visiting Nice means strolling along the Promenade des Anglais, savoring Italian ice cream, or admiring the floats of the legendary Nice Carnival. Exploring the treasures that the lovely city holds will leave you with beautiful memories of your excursion to the south of France.
Located about thirty kilometers from the Franco-Italian border, Nice, nestled between the sea and the hills, has its unique identity. It is a fascinating city, rich in history and heritage. To make sure you don’t miss any of the city’s wonders, here are the 10 must-do things in Nice.
1. The Promenade des Anglais
Visiting Nice via this avenue that stretches along the Bay of Angels for nearly 7 kilometers is an obvious must-do in Nice. Its name dates back to the 18th century when many European aristocrats came here for holidays. While various nationalities mingled, the English were relatively numerous. It is even said that the Promenade was funded by one of them: Reverend Lewis Way.
Today, the Promenade des Anglais is one of the world’s most famous avenues. Lined with palm trees and its iconic blue chairs, it runs from Castle Hill to Nice Airport, passing by luxurious hotels. It has now become an iconic meeting place where jogging enthusiasts, rollerbladers, and Segway riders gather!
2. Old town of Nice
Let the colorful and shaded alleys gradually reveal themselves to you. With hints of Provence and Italy blending together, the countless small shops and restaurants will delight you for a chic and local shopping experience. It’s an opportunity to have a drink or a meal in these narrow, pastel-toned cobblestone streets.
Some spots are a must-do in Nice. This includes the Place du Palais de Justice and the lively Place Rossetti, where you’ll find the magnificent Sainte-Réparate Cathedral. But getting lost in this labyrinth is one of the best ways to explore Nice and its old town.
3. The Cours Saleya Market
In the heart of Old Nice, you’ll find this lively pedestrian street. Perhaps it was the floral scents that attracted you here. Indeed, this is where the fruit and flower market takes place. It’s a true Mediterranean market where local products and colorful bouquets create a perfect harmony.
Warm and full of life, the Cours Saleya Market is classified as one of the exceptional markets in France and is, therefore, one things to do in Nice. The florists and greengrocers welcome you every day except Mondays when they make way for the antiques market and lovers of old furniture and trinkets.
4. Niçoise culinary specialties
Certainly, visiting Nice and its warm architecture is essential, but tasting its gastronomy is also a thing to do in Nice. Typically Mediterranean, Niçois cuisine combines vegetables, flavors, and scents.
The “Cuisine Nissarde” label is awarded to restaurateurs who work to preserve and respect the traditional recipes of the region. Quality of products and hospitality guaranteed, don’t leave without trying it! Here’s a sample.
- You can start with panisses. This Niçoise recipe based on chickpea flour generally takes the form of rolls that are fried: could it be a kind of Niçoise fry?
- Also made with chickpea flour and olive oil, socca is a tender, crispy galette. This recipe comes straight from Liguria, which goes to show that proximity to Italy can also be found on our plates.
- Pissaladière is to Nice cuisine what pizza is to Italian. It takes its name from pissalat (peis salat in Nicoise), which means salted fish. It’s a tart with candied onions, anchovies and black olives.
- A little lighter, salade niçoise is, as its name suggests, a mainstay of the region’s gastronomy. There are many variations, but according to the traditional recipe, salade niçoise is composed of lettuce and tomatoes, topped with hard-boiled eggs, tuna and black olives. Gourmets can accompany it with a pain bagnat.
5. The Matisse Museum
Are you art enthusiasts passing through Nice? Then there’s nothing better than visiting Nice while gaining some elevation at the Villa des Arènes, on the archaeological site of Cimiez. You’ll discover one of the world’s most significant collections of the French painter. This cultural site is labeled as a “Musée de France.” Here, art and nature blend, allowing you to trace the life, developments, and journey of the artist.
Having ended his life in Nice in 1954, the artist himself contributed to enriching this collection. Paintings, sculptures, engravings, drawings, and other personal items. What better way to delve into the creative work of this undeniably talented artist?
6. The Beaches of Nice
There’s nothing more pleasant than visiting Nice while strolling along its coastline. The Mediterranean and its beaches are never far away. In summer, when the sun’s heat is felt, the water temperature is ideal for swimming. The bravest take a dip from mid-season, while the more timid merely dip their toes.
But no matter the time of year, Italian ice cream or sunbathing are always welcome. And if the pebble beaches seem too uncomfortable, you can opt for a private beach in Nice.
7. A Boat Ride
Once you’ve explored Nice’s beaches, another must-do awaits you: a boat ride! Indeed, in this city, you have the opportunity to admire “Nissa la bella” from the sea. You can also set sail for a coastal excursion to discover marine mammals or to reach Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Lerins islands and even Corsica!
8. Water Activities
Water activities are also a way to explore Nice. If you crave excitement, you’ll find more than one activity to your liking in Nice. Parasailing, scuba diving, tubing, Jet Skiing, or even canoeing and paddleboarding. For the more adventurous, visiting Nice means having an active outdoor vacation.
9. The Nice Carnival
Every year, for about fifteen days in February, Nice hosts the largest carnival in France and one of the largest in the world. The streets come alive with over 1000 musicians and dancers, and hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the world. During this time, a traditional flower battle takes place on the Promenade des Anglais, and giant colorful floats parade through the city, day and night.
This authentic event will leave you with unforgettable memories and make you forget about winter thanks to the Nice Carnival and the sunshine of the French Riviera.
10. Castle Hill Park
At the top of this rocky hill, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the Bay of Angels, the old town, and the port. While strolling through the gardens, you’ll surely come across the Castle Waterfall. Artificial, yes, but much appreciated for the freshness it provides.
The ascent to the castle can be done on foot. For this, you’ll need to take a staircase passing through Bellanda Tower, which offers a magnificent viewpoint. Alternatively, you can opt for an elevator ride or take the Nice tourist train.
11. Saint Nicholas Cathedral
Just steps from the train station, the contrast between Mediterranean vegetation and the architecture of Saint Nicholas Cathedral will surprise you. Classified as a historical monument, it is the first Russian Orthodox church built in France and one of the largest outside of Russia.
By following certain rules, it is possible to visit the interior of this place of worship, which boasts a rich decoration. Even if it’s not necessarily what you expected to do in Nice, this surprising place, with its Moscow-inspired style, is worth a visit.
How to Get to Nice?
Visiting Nice and getting around is quite straightforward thanks to the city’s numerous transportation options. Indeed, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is one of the largest in France and is served by many airlines, including low-cost carriers. To find the flight that best suits your needs, Skyscanner can assist you. The Airport is located 6 km from the city center, and shuttles will take you there.
The train or bus are also effective means of visiting the city. Once in the city center, most journeys can be done on foot, by bike, or on the Nice tourist train. The city is also a great gateway for exploring the region. You’re about a 2-hour drive from Marseille and Toulon, and just 1 hour from the border with Italy.
Where to Stay in Nice?
You’ll find all types of accommodations for your visit to Nice. While a hotel stay is a dream come true, it can quickly become expensive in Nice.
To find the offer that suits you completely during your visit to Nice, do not hesitate to use a hotel comparison website. To stay like a local and fully experience the area, you can also choose from various Airbnb options scattered around the city.