Best things to do in Nice: sights and attractions
Between sea and mountains, Nice, the city where I was born and where I spent 20 years of my life is full of places to visit. Here is a little overview of my favorite activities of the region! In this guide, you will find best things to do and visit in Nice, but also places of interest to see around. I also give you some ideas of activities to do when it rains, as well as the best hotels to sleep in.
Visit Nice: the essentials
1. The Promenade des Anglais
Impossible to talk about Nice without mentioning the famous Promenade des Anglais. Formerly a favorite holiday resort for the English during the winter (which is what it gets its name from), it is today the spearhead of promoting tourism in Nice abroad.
Globally known, this walk lined with palm trees 7km goes from the Castle Hill to Nice airport.
If you come for the first time to Nice, I recommend you to do at least the part that goes from the old Nice to the hotel Negresco, while passing by the Park Albert 1st and the Palace of the Mediterranean.
If you want to walk the whole English, the best is to rent a bike or rollers!
2. Discover the old Nice
Another unmissable place of interest in Nice is its old town with shaded streets, colorful facades and shutters with typical Mediterranean louvres.
It’s impossible to talk about old Nice without referring to the Cours Saleya, where the famous market and flower market is held almost every morning (except Mondays). On Monday morning, Cours Saleya turns into an open flea market! It is also the ideal place for a drink or a bite to eat at one of the many terraces.
During your visit of old Nice, I also recommend you to see:
- The place of the courthouse
- Place Rossetti and its glaciers which I speak to you below
- Saint Francis Square and its small fish market
It is also possible to go through old Nice to reach the Castle Hill, which I speak a little lower.
3. Enjoy an Italian ice cream
As long as you are in old Nice, take the opportunity to enjoy an artisanal Italian ice cream. I recommend “Azzurro”, which is located on Rossetti Square, not far from the glacier better known by tourists but less good, Fenocchio.
The quality of the products used is much better at Azzurro, and their cornets are homemade, it has absolutely nothing to do in terms of taste! Needless to say, eating a good ice cream is one of my favorite activities when I return to Nice.
4. Enjoy the culinary specialties of Nice
Visiting Nice is also discovering during your stay the Niçoise cuisine, which is the pride of its inhabitants.
- Socca : This is one of the best-known Niçois specialties, and the most representative of the city. Based on chickpea flour, you will find very good in the old Nice. Ideally, a good socca should not be dry, but slightly creamy on the inside.
- Panisse : Another specialty made from chickpea flour, most often fried. A delight!
- Pissaladière : A “pies with onions, with anchovies”, this is how we could summarize the pissaladière! To test when you spend on Nice! (Also available in anchovess-free version)
- Salade niçoise : The classic Nice: Tuna, tomatoes, salad and other raw vegetables, anchovies, boiled eggs, niçois olives and of course olive oil vinaigrette (nice too, otherwise it’s sinful).
- Pan Bagnat : This is a sandwich version of the salade niçoise: tuna and / or anchovies, raw vegetables, boiled eggs, niçois olives and olive oil, all in a round loaf.
- Farcis niçois, daube niçoise etc .. : In Nice, we like everything that is Nice, so we have a Nice version of a lot of dishes. It’s the same as the classics, but better. (Surely thanks to the olive oil niçoise … .. finally, except for the daube, probably, or so I was hidden things: D)
5. Castle Hill
The Château is the park on the hill overlooking old Nice, named after the military fortress overlooking the bay of Nice from the 11th to the 18th century. This park is particularly worthwhile for the different points of view it offers on the city, the Bay of Angels, the port and the mountains.
You have 5 views from Castle Hill :
- At the top, with a view of the airport and the mountains
- Close to children’s playground, view of the harbor and Mont Boron hill,
- Belllanda Tower : view of the Baie des Anges
- Belvedere close to the exit of the elevator
- Cascade du Château, a cascade certainly artificial, but very pretty!
You can walk up and down the castle on foot or by lift. I recommend you do at least one of the walks up the stairs, as this allows you to go through the lookout tower Bellanda which I mentioned above.
If you go down on the other side, take a walk through the castle cemetery, which also offers a beautiful view of the city. To do at the end of the day to enjoy the sunset!
One last thing: It is also possible to go up to the castle by taking the little tourist train of Nice! The departure is on the promenade des Anglais, at the Albert-Iᵉʳ garden, in front of the centenary monument.
6. Go to the beach in Nice
If the beach of Nice is pretty in photo, with its big pebbles, it is not necessarily the most comfortable of the world!
As for swimming, it’s the same in Nice, the water becomes very deep very quickly, so it’s not really ideal for snorkeling or playing in the water for example! For that, I recommend you to go to Villefranche sur Mer or Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which I discuss in the rest of the article.
And if you like to pamper the pill for hours, you can go on one of the private beaches of Nice, like Castel beach for example (at the foot of the Castle) or others if you want to do water activities such as parasailing, the stand up paddle or the towed buoy!
7. The district of Cimiez
The district of Cimiez is primarily residential, so there are quite a few shops and restaurants. Nevertheless, you have some notable sites to visit:
- The arena grounds of Cimiez
- The arena of Cimiez, located at the entrance of the park of the same name.
- The gardens of the Cimiez Monastery, from which you will have a panoramic view of Nice and the Bay of Angels.
- The archaeological museum of Cimiez and its Roman ruins.
- The museum Henri Matisse, which is in the arena park.
- The Marc Chagall National Museum
8. The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Nice
The Saint-Nicolas cathedral of Nice, classified as a historical monument, is the most important religious building of Orthodox worship outside Russia. Although far removed from the kind of things you expected to do in Nice, it’s worth going to take a look, if only to appreciate the contrast between architecture and vegetation Mediterranean see even the palms present just around!
It is also possible to visit the interior of the cathedral.
9. Attend the Nice Carnival
The carnival of Nice, one of the most famous in the world and largest of France, takes place every year in February, during 2 weeks. The festivities attract hundreds of thousands of spectators each time to enjoy the spectacle offered by the monumental floats and the famous battle of flowers on the Promenade des Anglais!
10. Rest in the shade of the trees of Vigier Park
Totally unknown to tourists, the Vigier Park, close to La Réserve and the Coco Beach restaurant is the ideal place to take a nap or read a book in the shade of palm trees, during the hottest hours of the day. The right side of the park is very quiet all the time, children playing mostly in the left part.
11. Make the coastal path
This path, very little known to tourists, is in two parts and allows you to go from Nice to Villefranche sur Mer on foot, while skirting the sea for 90% of the time.
- The first part leaves Coco Beach and makes you go back to the Cape of Nice by a series of stairs, to circumvent the cliffs of the Materlinck Palace.
- The second part of the coastal path begins with a descent of stairs in the big bend, after the Materlinck Palace and allows you to reach the Darse de Villefranche.
The walk is not very long, if you want to do it in full from Nice, count about 1h30 to 2h following where you leave. It is quite possible to do only one of the 2 parts. If you want to do only the second (30-45 minutes), you can take bus number 100 from the port of Nice, to the stop “English hospital”. The beginning of the coastal path is about 200m further, in the bend.
To return to Nice, take the bus 81 or 100 to Villefranche sur Mer.
A section allowing to pass by the cliffs was currently under study, which would make Nice – Villefranche-sur-Mer entirely by the seaside, but it seems that the project is unfortunately at a standstill.
12. Visit Nice on foot: From the Promenade des Anglais to Coco Beach
For those wishing to discover the city on foot, here is an itinerary that will allow you to go through the tourist sites not to be missed in Nice.
Start your tour with Old Nice and the Cours Saleya, then continue along the Promenade des Anglais to the Negresco Hotel and Villa Massena (home to the excellent Massena Museum ). Walk back about 300m and take Congress Street. Then, first right, and you will come across the pedestrian zone, a good place to shop, have a drink, or eat in one of the many restaurants.
Once at the end of the street, you will come to Place Masséna, with, to the south, the sun fountain in the center of which sits a statue of Apollo 7m high. On your right, is the Albert 1st garden with its monumental arch of 115.5 degrees.
Continue your way through the promenade du Paillon, where you will find the giant water mirror of Nice. This long park leads directly to Garibaldi Square.
As it will certainly be lunch time, if you want to enjoy a specialty Niçoise as socca, I recommend you to return briefly to the old Nice located 2 steps to fill your stomach! And why not finish with a good ice cream at Azzurro place Rossetti?
After the meal, head for Garibaldi Square, then Cassini Street to the port of Nice.
Take a tour of the harbor via the Quai des Deux Emmanuels and join the Boulevard Franck Pilatte, which will take you to La Réserve (on this beach that Brice de Nice lives), Vigier Park and Coco Beach, in this area. order.
From Coco Beach, you can continue on the coastal path, and even go to Villefranche sur Mer. In this case, the return is with bus number 100.
Finally, at the end of the day, you can climb on the hill of the Castle, walk by the stairs or lift, to enjoy the sunset!
Other itineraries are available on the website of the city of Nice.
13. Take a walk to Mont Boron
the Mont Boron is a Mediterranean forest on a hill east of the city which is the fort of Mount Alban. It offers many walks with beautiful views of the Bay of Angels and the bay of Villefranche. Do not miss the fort of Mont Alban, at the top!
It’s really a great activity to do in Nice, and the view is sublime.
To go to Mont Boron, take the number 14 city bus from Nice.
14. Go to Phoenix Park
The Phoenix Park, also called “Nice Floral Park” is a botanical and zoological garden located near the Nice Airport, in the district of Arenas. On 7 hectares, you will find a great biodiversity, both in terms of fauna and flora, with aviaries, marsupials, porcupines, otters and a pond.
One of the major attractions of the place is the large greenhouse Phoenix Park, which has several tropical climates with more tropical plants, various specimens of birds including flamingos. A play area has also been created for children. This is a great place to spend a family afternoon in Nice!
Price of entry to Phoenix Park : 4 euros per person. Discounts are available for families and students.
15. Visit the museums of Nice
I have already mentioned some nice museums in the section on the Cimiez district, but there are many others worth seeing. Here are my 5 favorites!
- Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Nice, called MAMAC, close to the Place Garibaldi.
- Asian Arts Museum, located right next to Phoenix Park
- The Museum of Art and History of Palais Massena, in a beautiful belle époque villa on the Promenade des Anglais.
- Palais Lascaris, in old Nice, it has a very nice collection of period musical instruments, some of which are really unusual!
- Jules Chéret Museum of Fine Arts, located in the beautiful setting of Villa Thompson, on the Baumettes hill.
And as a bonus, if you like photography, I recommend the photography museum Charles Nègre, certainly small, but offers quality exhibitions. In addition it is located in old Nice, so no need to detour to find it!
Good to know : In Nice, it is not possible to pay the entrance to the museums one by one, you must buy the “French Riviera Pass”, which gives you access to all the municipal museums:
- 24h pass : 10 euros
- 7 days pass : 20 euros
More information on the museums included in the French Riviera Pass, here is the official website of the museums of Nice.
What to do in Nice when it rains?
We like them, we do not dare to talk about them too much, but it can happen that it rains in Nice. If, for real! Well, it’s not usually what you’ll see on postcards.
If, bad luck, it happens during your holidays on the French Riviera, I have concocted a small list of activities to do if the weather is not there :
- Visit one of the many museums of Nice: When it rains, it is certainly the first thing that will come to your mind. I made you a list of the best ones a little higher. Do not forget to take the French Riviera Pass.
- Go bowling: There is a large bowling alley in Nice, which also has a small arcade: the bowling alley Nice Acropolis, whose address is: 5 Esplanade Kennedy, 06000 Nice
- Ice skating: towards the ice rink Jean Bouin, close to the Acropolis and the bowling alley for a short gliding session! There is also a swimming pool in the same building. All equipment can be rented, gloves included.
- Play an escape game: it’s a nice experience to do with family or friends. There are several, including “I Lock U” and “Fox in a Box”, which are in the city center. A great activity to do in case of bad weather.
- Go to Monaco and visit the Oceanographic Museum: it is simply one of the best museums in the region.
- Make a laser game : The only laser game of Nice is located in the plain of the Var, the Lingostière shopping center
- Go to the cinema : There are 3 cinemas in the city center in Nice: Pathé Masséna, Pathé Paris and Variétés. The first two are on Avenue Jean Médecin, and the third on a perpendicular Avenue Victor Hugo.
- Experience video games in virtual reality: It’s raining? Well, this is the perfect opportunity to try out virtual reality. A room, “Game Over”, open in Nice. Here is the address: at 14 boulevard de Riquier – 06300 Nice
- Go to the carnival: If you are in Nice in December, you will have the opportunity to go for a walk at Luna Park, an amusement park, much of which is indoors, in the exhibition hall.
What to do around Nice
If you are going to Nice, I really recommend going on excursions in the area, as the area around Nice is full of wonderful places to explore. Here is someone one of my favorite places to see around Nice :
- Villefrance-sur-Mer : A very pretty little Mediterranean town. Do not miss: The old Villefranche, The darse (its port) and especially, the citadel Saint-Elme, also called citadel of Villefranche
- Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat : The almost billionaire island, with incredible luxury villas like the villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. To do: the trail of the tour of Cap Ferrat which leaves from the beach “Passable”, and to bathe in one of the pretty small creeks!
- Eze village : This small village perched above the sea is one of the most beautiful villages in France. To visit also: the exotic garden of Eze.
- Menton : A small town on the border with Italy , known for its lemon festival and sunshine. The old town of Menton is pretty.
- Antibes: Known above all for its Fort Carré, a military fort of the sixteenth century by the sea , the old Antibes is also worth a visit , with excellent restaurants . To do also: the tour of Cap d’Antibes and its magnificent homes.
- Cannes: The city where the famous Cinema Festival takes place every year. Do not miss: The walk on the famous “Croisette”! and visiting the Lerins Islands
- The Principality of Monaco: Monaco, the city of luxury! To see: The palace, located on Le Rocher, the Casino of Monte-Carlo, the Oceanographic Museum and if you like the beautiful mechanics, the old car collection of Prince Rainier III.
- The villages to visit around Nice : Peille, Saint Agnès (highest hilltop village), Coaraze and its sundials, and the ruins of Châteauneuf-Villevieille.
There are of course many other things to do around Nice, this being a non-exhaustive list, which should still occupy you for a good week.
Visit Nice in one day
If you only have one day to visit Nice, I recommend you to do the tour that I propose on foot, the 12th of this top. Nice is not very big, a walking tour is clearly the best way to discover the city!
And if you do not want to walk all day, you can in the afternoon:
- To go to the beach
- Make some museums downtown, such as MAMAC, Palais Lascaris or the museum of photography, very close to each other.
- If you choose to integrate museums for your day, do not forget to visit the Massena Museum in the morning, as you will pass right in front!
Whatever route you choose, go to the Castle Hill at the end of the day, you will not regret it, it is a must in Nice.
Visit Nice in 2 days
In 2 days in Nice, you will have time to visit a little around! In addition to the first day described above, here is one of my favorite routes, very little known to tourists:
- Start in the morning with the coastal path ( 11 ), which connects Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer. It’s a really beautiful ride at the water’s edge!
- Visit the old Villefranche, its port, its beautiful beach and the magnificent citadel Saint-Elme and its free mini museums.
- As it will certainly be meal time, eat in one of the restaurants of the seaside or the old town.
- Then, I recommend you to climb on the hill of Mont Boron, a beautiful pine forest from which you have a magnificent view of Nice on one side, and the bay of Villefranche on the other.
- From Villefrance-sur-Mer, start by going to the glass staircase (google map link), about 15 minutes walk.
- Then go to the fort of Mont Alban, where the view of the bay of Villefranche is beautiful, then turn back to the southern part of Mont Boron, which overlooks Nice.
- To return to Nice, you can walk down (30 to 45 minutes) or take bus 14 from the Mont Boron plateau.
Visit Nice in 3 days
To do in addition to the previous 2 days.
Spending 3 days in Nice is having the time to make another unforgettable excursion in the surroundings: a superb route that will take you from Eze village to Monaco, passing by Menton. Plan a good shoe because the roads are pretty rocky.
- First, take bus 82 from Nice to Eze village
- Visit this beautiful hilltop village and the exotic garden of Eze
- To get off, take the Nietzsche Path, which offers a sublime view of the sea and surrounding towns. It will take you to Eze beach.
- Then take bus number 100 of the azure lines to go to Menton.
- Visit the old city, and eat a piece!
- Then go around Cape Martin by the seaside trail.
- Continue with Le Corbusier Promenade, which will take you from Roquebrune to Monaco
- Visit Monaco, and finally, take bus number 100 from the Monaco bus station to get back to Nice
Another busy day around Nice!
A week in Nice
If you have chosen to visit Nice in one week, you will be able to visit Nice and its surroundings, and thus discover the majority of places of interest and activities presented in this guide. In addition to the previous days, here is a route:
- Day 4 : to not have the impression to run everywhere, make a day a little quieter: In the morning, the hill of Cimiez with its park and its museums ( 7 ). For the afternoon, you can go to the beach in Nice, stroll again in Old Nice and have a drink on Cours Saleya or go shopping on Avenue Jean Medecin.
- Day 5: direction Antibes with bus 200 or train from Nice, to see Fort Carré, the old town and Cap d’Antibes. To mix again with swimming for a successful day!
- Day 6 : a day in Cannes (bus 200 or train), coupled with a boat trip on the Lérins Islands.
- Day 7 : Take the bus 81 from Nice to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, go around the Cape (partly or entirely) and especially relax on one of the small coves, the beach of Passable or those of the Fosses.
This one – week itinerary on the French Riviera has allowed you to visit the region!
Where to sleep in Nice
- Hotel Ozz by Happyculture : Located about 15 minutes from the beach on foot. Beautiful place and decortation, friendly staff, well placed and comfortable beds. We do not ask for more! Only 20 € per night in dormitory. Double room at 55 €. This is the best hotel for a budgeted stay in Nice!
- Hotel Brice Garden : Located in the city center of Nice, 5 minutes walk from the beach and the Promenade des Anglais. Room very well furnished and clean from 80 € per night. Excellent price / performance ratio. Helpful and welcoming staff. The best hotel if you want to be in the city center. To book very early!
- Hotel Saint Paul : Located 50 meters from the port of Nice, quiet, breathtaking sea views. Large bright room from 100 € per night, breakfast buffet for 11 €. Plus: free private parking. Our favorite in Nice!
- Hotel Royal Promenade des Anglais : Located right on the Promenade des Anglais in a historic building. Prestigious room decorated in a classic style, very bright from 135 € per night, breakfast 15 €.
Nice tourist map
I made for you a Nice tourist map listing the places of interest to visit and the 2 routes I’m talking about in this top 15. You can display the legend of the map by clicking on the button at the top left with a little arrow.
Are you going to Nice? What do you plan to visit?