Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
Uncover the secrets of the French Riviera with our guide to the best things to do in Nice, France. Experience la crème de la crème.
Nestled on the sparkling shores of the French Riviera, Nice is a city that weaves together history, culture, and natural beauty. With a history dating back to ancient times, Nice has seen the footsteps of the Greeks, Romans, and countless others who were captivated by its allure. The gorgeous city has its own unique dialect called “Nissart” which is derived from the Occitan language, reflects the city’s rich heritage, and adds an extra touch of authenticity to its vibrant streets. So, as you delve into the exploration of the best things to do in Nice, France, keep an ear out for the melodic sounds of Nissart and immerse yourself in the fascinating tapestry of this city.
Where to Start Your Itinerary of Things to Do in Nice, France
With its mild climate, Nice offers pleasant weather throughout the year, making it an ideal destination for outdoor adventures and unforgettable experiences.
Begin your exploration by immersing yourself in the bustling activities within the town itself. Take a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of the Old Town, where you’ll find picturesque alleys, local shops, and inviting cafes. If you’re in the mood for relaxation, head to the stunning beaches along the coast and soak up the Mediterranean sun. If time allows, consider venturing out to the surrounding islands for a day trip, where you can discover hidden coves and enjoy the pristine beauty of the azure waters. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes, and a hat to stay protected under the sunny skies.
And to make your planning easier, we’ve curated a comprehensive list of top attractions and activities to help you make the most of your time in Nice, France.
Walk Along the Promenade Des Anglais
Are you ready to take a walk on the wild side? Well, maybe not that wild, but definitely breathtaking. Strolling along the Promenade des Anglais is an experience like no other. This seaside promenade stretches for over 7 kilometers, offering views of the Mediterranean Sea and a lively atmosphere that will keep you entertained for hours.
Promenade des Anglais has a history that originated in the 18th century. It was built to serve as a walkway for the English aristocracy who wintered in Nice. Today, it’s a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, and a must-see landmark of the city. You might even spot a celebrity or two, as it’s a favored location for movie stars and famous athletes.
As Nice is located right next to the city, you won’t have to venture far to experience the beach vibe. This close proximity enhances the charm and convenience of the promenade. Whether you’re out for a morning jog or a romantic sunset stroll, the Promenade des Anglais is the perfect place to be. And if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike or rollerblades and join the action.
Uncover History at The Masséna Museum
As mentioned, the Promenade des Anglais is a wonderland in itself, and nestled within its charm lies the Masséna Museum which invites you to immerse yourself in the grandeur of the past while basking in the beauty of its surroundings. This magnificent 19th-century villa was generously donated to the city by the Duke of Rivoli in 1919. The condition? It must be open to the public as a museum of local history.
Prepare to be captivated as you step inside this Belle Époque mansion, adorned with exquisite gardens designed by the renowned Édouard André, who also crafted the enchanting gardens at the Monte Carlo Casino.
Once inside, a treasure trove of curiosities awaits. From Napoleon’s haunting death mask to a dazzling tiara that once graced the head of Empress Joséphine, the museum’s collection is a captivating miscellany of wonders. Don’t miss the second-floor gallery, showcasing an impressive array of 19th-century French art.
Embrace the Beauty of Nature at Phoenix Park
On the western end of the Promenade des Anglais, in the vibrant Arenas district lies Phoenix Park (Parc Phoenix), also known as “Nice Floral Park”. This botanical and zoological garden is a sprawling 7-hectare oasis. With its diverse array of fauna and flora, including aviaries, marsupials, porcupines, and otters, as well as a pond, the park offers a unique biodiversity experience.
Don’t miss the highlight of the park, a massive greenhouse boasting 20 themed zones, featuring 2,500 plant species and a variety of colorful birds, including elegant pink flamingos. With animal enclosures, terrariums, and even free-roaming Mandarin ducks and iguanas, the greenhouse is a true delight. For a fun-filled family outing, the park also offers a children’s playground area.
Discover the Magic of Vieille Ville (Old Town)
Vieille Ville is the heart and soul of Nice. This charming old town is a maze of narrow streets, colorful buildings, and bustling markets, making it the perfect place to explore and soak up the local atmosphere.
Steeped in history, Vieille Ville dates back to the 17th century and has been inhabited since ancient Greek times. It’s full of character and little-known wonders waiting to be discovered.
As you wander through the streets of Vieille Ville, you’ll come across numerous artisan shops, boutique stores, and quaint cafes. Stop by one of the local bakeries for a fresh croissant or try the famous socca, a savory pancake made with chickpea flour. No matter how many times you visit Vieille Ville, there’s always something new to discover. So, take your time and explore this slice of history, one of the best things to do in Nice.
Wander the Colorful Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya
Located in the heart of Vieille Ville, Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya is a bustling market that’s a feast for the senses. As its name suggests, the market is renowned for its colorful and fragrant flower stalls, which are a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
One interesting fact about Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya is that it has been a hub of activity since the 19th century. Today the market is also home to a variety of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and other local specialties. You can find everything from artisanal cheeses and freshly baked bread to olives, tapenades, and homemade jams.
What makes Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya even more special is its location – it’s situated in a picturesque square lined with cafes, bistros, and gelato shops, making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink after browsing the market. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch some live music or street performers adding to the vibrant atmosphere.
Marvel at the Grandeur of Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate
The Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate is a must-visit destination for those interested in history and architecture, solidifying its place among the best things to do in Nice. Located in the heart of the Old Town, this beautiful cathedral is dedicated to Saint Reparata, the patron saint of Nice.
Legend has it that the original church on this site was built in the 11th century to house the remains of Saint Reparata, who was martyred in the 3rd century. Over the years, the church was destroyed and rebuilt several times, with the current cathedral standing since the 17th century.
The cathedral’s striking façade features a mix of Baroque and Neoclassical elements, with intricate carvings and sculptures adorning the walls. Inside, you’ll find a stunning altarpiece and impressive stained glass windows that were created in the 19th century.
Explore the Roman Ruins of the Cimiez Neighborhood
Discover the rich history of the elegant Cimiez Neighborhood, which has been inhabited since the Roman era. Start your adventure at the Musée d’Archéologie de Nice, where you can delve into the area’s past and see ancient artifacts and ruins from Roman, Greek, and Ligurian civilizations. Afterward, take a walk through the tranquil gardens of the Monastère de Cimiez, a former Franciscan monastery. Admire the views of the city and marvel at the beautiful flowers that bloom all around.
Be sure to visit the Cimiez Arena while you’re in the area. Built by the Romans in the 1st century AD, this remarkable archaeological site is an ideal spot to learn about the region’s history and heritage. With any luck, you might even catch a concert or performance at the venue.
Finally, don’t miss the bustling Cimiez Market, where you can find a wide variety of fresh produce, local crafts, and delicious snacks to sample.
Immerse Yourself in Art at the Musée Matisse
The Musée Matisse is a hidden gem located in the Cimiez neighborhood, showcasing the works of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century- Henri Matisse. The museum is housed in a stunning 17th-century Genoese villa, set amidst lush gardens, providing a tranquil setting to view Matisse’s vibrant and colorful art.
Henri Matisse was a French painter, sculptor, and printmaker known for his use of color and fluidity of form. The Musée Matisse showcases a remarkable collection of his works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints, spanning his entire career.
Matisse’s “La Danse” painting is an absolute stunner and a real treat for art lovers. Commissioned by the wealthy Russian businessman Sergei Shchukin, this iconic masterpiece showcases the best of Fauvist art, with its striking hues and minimalist shapes. It’s a must-see for anyone who wants to witness the pure, unadulterated joy of color and form.
Aside from Matisse’s art, the Musée Matisse also displays a range of artifacts, including personal items belonging to the artist, as well as some works by his contemporaries and those who influenced him.
Walk Among the Greenery of Parc de la Colline du Château (Castle Hill Park)
Get ready to work up a sweat and enjoy some breathtaking views of Nice at the Parc de la Colline du Château. This park is located on a hill overlooking the city, and it’s the perfect place for a scenic hike or a relaxing day.
As you make your way up the winding trails, you’ll be treated to gorgeous panoramas of the coastline and the surrounding mountains. If you’re feeling adventurous, climb to the top of the park’s waterfall for an even more impressive view.
The park isn’t just for nature lovers. At the summit, you’ll find the remains of the Château de Nice, a medieval castle that was destroyed in the 18th century. Explore the ruins and imagine what life was like in this historic stronghold.
And if you need a break from all the hiking and sightseeing, the park has plenty of shady spots for a picnic or a nap. So grab a baguette, some cheese, and a bottle of wine, and soak up the sun in this delightful park!
Discover the Local Fish Market at Lympia Port
Lympia Port is an ancient harbor in the heart of Nice that invites you to a nautical adventure. The port has been operating since the 18th century when goods like olive oil, wine, and soap were exported.
Today, Lympia Port is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, offering a scenic backdrop of colorful boats and the majestic Mediterranean Sea. Wander along the promenade, bask in the lively vibes, and treat your taste buds to some delectable seafood at one of the many restaurants lining the port.
If you’re feeling adventurous, hop aboard one of the many boat tours that depart from the port and explore the beautiful coastline of the French Riviera. Or, if you prefer to stay on land, check out the nearby Musée National Marc Chagall, which houses a one-of-a-kind collection of works by the famous French painter.
Soak up the Sun on the Beautiful Beaches of Nice
It’s time to explore Nice’s beach scene. While these beaches might not be sandy, their pebbly shores are perfect for a refreshing dip in the sea.
For a peaceful and intimate beach experience, head to Coco Beach, affectionately known as “the swimming pool” by locals. The beach’s large, flat, dazzling white rocks make it look like a lost Greek paradise, and the clear and calm waters are ideal for diving. Although families with young children may find the beach difficult to access, the cove’s cozy atmosphere makes it a great place for a relaxing day at the beach. And since it’s not frequently visited by tourists, it feels like a secret escape.
Looking for an even more secluded experience? Check out Plage de la Réserve. Tucked away from the crowds, this hidden gem is surrounded by lush vegetation, giving it a tropical feel. Not only are the waters crystal-clear and tranquil, perfect for snorkeling or paddleboarding, but the nearby beach clubs also offer mouth-watering cocktails and delectable snacks.
Finally, if you’re looking for a larger beach, head to Marinières Beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer. With mesmerizing views of the Villefranche bay and its moored boats, this picturesque bay is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing. Several high-end snack bars and restaurants are available for those looking for a bite to eat, and the beach takes on a magical quality at sunset.
Lose Yourself in the Idyllic Beauty of Antibes
Escape to an alluring seaside town that will leave you enchanted – Antibes! This picturesque town is just a short train ride away from Nice and is sure to delight visitors of all ages. Antibes is a must-include in your Nice itinerary, known for its beautiful beaches, rich history, and vibrant market.
You can spend the day lounging in the sun, swimming in the calm waters, or trying your hand at a variety of water sports. For those interested in history, the town is home to the Musée Picasso, a 14th-century castle which features a collection of works by the famous artist, who lived and worked in Antibes in the 1940s.
As you wander through the old town, be sure to stop by the Marché Provençal, a vibrant market filled with fresh produce, flowers, and local specialties. And no visit to Antibes would be complete without a stroll along the Ramparts, the town’s ancient walls that offer views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Dive Into the Vibrant Atmosphere of the Nice Carnival
The Nice Carnival is an extravaganza of colors and festivities that takes place on the French Riviera, making it one of the most famous carnivals in the world alongside Rio de Janeiro and Venice. With its origins dating back to the Middle Ages, this lively event is a must-see in the South of France.
For two weeks in February, the Nice Carnival transforms the city into a vibrant celebration, offering a delightful escape from the winter season. With the participation of a thousand artists from various countries, the carnival’s parades are a sight to behold. Eighteen floats adorned with gigantic puppets navigate the streets, creating a magnificent spectacle. These floats, along with traditional papier-mâché figurines, are meticulously crafted to reflect the chosen theme of the year.
The highlight of the Nice Carnival is the renowned “Battle of the Flowers” where floral-decorated floats glide along the Promenade des Anglais, captivating spectators with their beauty and fragrance. This enchanting event showcases the region’s blooming flowers and the creativity of the participants.
The carnival unfolds through different stages, starting with a grand opening ceremony that introduces the carnival’s king, queen, bands, and dancers. Throughout the two-week celebration, visitors can enjoy illuminated parades, traditional “Parada Nissarda” performances, and the grand finale featuring the closing parade. It is during the final procession that the next carnival’s theme is revealed, adding an air of anticipation and excitement to the event.
The specific dates of the event may vary from year to year. It is recommended to check the official website for the exact schedule of the Nice Carnival in any given year.
Savor the Flavors of Nice’s Culinary Exploration
Prepare to savor the flavors of Nice, where French cuisine meets Mediterranean influences. With a range of options from Michelin-starred restaurants to charming cafes, your taste buds are in for an indulgence.
Our first recommendation is La Petite Maison, a lovely restaurant located in the heart of Nice’s old town. This restaurant is known for its excellent seafood and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, with dishes such as salt-crusted sea bass and grilled octopus. The restaurant’s elegant decor and warm atmosphere make it a popular choice for a romantic dinner or special occasion.
If you’re in the mood for Italian food, head to La Voglia, a cozy little trattoria located in the trendy Liberation neighborhood. The restaurant’s wood-fired oven churns out delicious pizzas and other Italian specialties, and the homemade pasta dishes are a must-try.
For a taste of traditional Niçoise cuisine, make your way to Chez Palmyre, a family-owned restaurant that has been serving up classic dishes since 1926. The menu features hearty dishes such as pissaladière (a savory onion tart), socca, and ratatouille.
And lastly, for a delightful treat, make your way to the legendary Fenocchio ice cream shop. This family-owned gem has been serving up homemade gelato since 1966, boasting a whopping 90 flavors to choose from. Indulge in classic flavors like vanilla and chocolate, or step outside of your comfort zone and try something more unique like lavender or cactus. With its vibrant decor and lively ambiance, Fenocchio is the perfect spot to create sweet memories with your loved ones.
Slip Into a Cozy Slumber at the Finest Hotels in Nice
After a day of enjoying the Mediterranean sunshine and the colorful culture of Nice, your soul deserves a soft, dreamy bed to recharge. From elegant grand hotels to boutique inns, the accommodations in Nice are waiting to make you feel pampered and loved.
Get a taste of the Belle Époque at the historic Negresco Hotel. Since 1913, this iconic hotel has been welcoming guests with open arms, offering a prime location on the Promenade des Anglais. Its lavish amenities, such as a private beach and Michelin-starred restaurant, provide modern-day comfort and luxury.
Another great option is the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée. This sleek and stylish hotel features breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and is conveniently located near many of Nice’s top attractions. With Art-Deco-inspired decor and chic rooms, this hotel exudes sophistication. The rooftop terrace, infinity pool, and spa are ideal for unwinding in some luxurious relaxation.
For those seeking a more intimate experience, the Villa Rivoli Hotel is the place. This boutique hotel is housed in a historic villa and has individually decorated rooms with a touch of Provencal flair. Its peaceful courtyard and lush gardens provide a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, while its central location in the Old Town makes it a perfect base for exploring Nice’s historic landmarks and charming streets.
Navigating the Abundance of Things to Do in Nice, France
In a stylish city such as Nice, an alternative to a taxi is a convenient and comfortable choice. Our chauffeurs provide a professional and eco-friendly limousine service in Nice, and have a wealth of local knowledge to help you. With Blacklane, you can take a day trip to Monte Carlo and play the tables, or cruise along the coast to Antibes and Cannes. Whether you’re venturing out day or night, our cars are at your disposal, available around the clock. Easily hire them by the hour through the user-friendly Blacklane app, ensuring seamless transportation as you indulge in the best things to do in Nice, France.
Roll Like a Local on the French Riviera
Ready to take your exploration to the next level? Check out our blog on how to explore Nice like a local. From hidden gems to off-the-beaten-path experiences, we’ve got insider tips to help you make the most of your time in this stunning region. Bon voyage!