Best things to do in Nice, France
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, a glamorous collection of towns and cities that line the south coast of France. The French Riviera, otherwise known as the Cote d’Azur, attracts visitors from all over the world, and Nice is no exception.
Nice boasts a long stretch of beautiful coastline with unobstructed views out to the glistening Mediterranean Sea. Couple that with the abundance of shops, cafes, restaurants, plus cultural and historic sights and you can see why Nice is one of the most visited places in southern France.
Keep reading for the ultimate list of things to do in Nice, France.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Nice
No matter where you go or what you end up doing, you’ll be in constant awe around how beautiful Nice is.
1. Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais is a pedestrianised path which stretches out for 7km alongside the beach. Strolling along the promenade you can enjoy views out to the Mediterranean Sea. Often, you will find musicians along the promenade and there are plenty of benches for you to sit and listen to the performances.
Walking along the Promenade des Anglais is a great way to get some peace and quiet, away from the city centre and is one of the best things to do in Nice.
2. Take your photo at the I love Nice sign
At the east end of the Promenade des Anglais is the “I love Nice” sign. The giant letters are a great place to take your selfies. But if that isn’t really your thing, this location is also a great spot to see the sunset over the Promenade and beach.
3. Walk up to Castle Hill
Castle Hill is a landscaped park which sits atop a hill in between Port Lympia and Nice Old Town. A fortified medieval city and castle once sat on the hilltop, however after Louis XIV conquered the city in 1706, he ordered it to be destroyed.
Castle Hill park is a calm place, full of shady spots under the trees, perfect for a quick break after walking around the city. Here, you can also enjoy some of the best views in Nice. From the viewpoints in the park, you can see down to the Old Town, the Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean Sea. There are two cafes at Castle Hill as well as a small children’s playground. One of the main attractions at Castle Hill is La Cascade, a pretty man-made waterfall.
There’s an elevator which will take you up to the top of Castle Hill. To find the elevator, head to Hotel Suisse (opposite the ‘I Love Nice’ sign) and look for the ‘Ascenseur de la Chateau’ sign. The elevator is free, but if you are feeling energetic you can also walk up!
4. Admire the luxury yachts in Nice’s Port Lympia
Port Lympia is one of the main ports for the French Riviera. As well as the private luxury yachts that you will find in every port along the French Riviera, Port Lympia is also used by ferries, tour companies and cruise ships. If you’re staying in Nice for a few days, a boat trip is a great activity and there are several companies operating fishing trips, coastal sightseeing tours, sunset cruises and private boat hire from Port Lympia.
If you prefer to stay on land, a stroll around the edge of the port admiring the luxury yachts is a perfect way to spend an hour or so. Alongside the port you will also find cafes, restaurants and antique shops.
Port Lympia is just a short stroll from Nice Old Town and Castle Hill. There is also convenient underground parking if you are driving into the port.
Related tour: Nice: 1-Hour Sightseeing Cruise to Villefranche Bay
5. Take a tour of Nice’s Archaeological crypt
Nice’s crypt is a fascinating and relatively new attraction in the city. In 2006, remains of medieval fortifications were discovered by chance during construction for the city’s new tram system. Careful archaeological excavations took place to uncover the well-preserved remains and in 2012 the site was classified as a ‘Historic Monument’.
Today, you can visit the underground crypt, which covers an area of 2000 sq metres. The site is open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. Tickets are €6.10 and must be booked in advance.
6. Wander around Nice Old Town
Strolling through the Old Town, admiring the beautiful architecture and historic buildings is a great way to spend a couple of hours and is one of the best things to do in Nice.
Here are some of the key sights to look out for in Nice Old Town:
Sainte Rita church
The Église Sainte Rita dates back to the 1600’s and the baroque interior features many beautiful frescos and marble statues. Both tourists and worshipers are welcome to visit the church.
Place Massena is a popular focal point in Nice. The 19th century plaza is used for many public events and carnivals in the city. It is also a great place to enjoy a coffee in one of the cafes whilst you admire the architecture of the surrounding buildings.
The Sainte Reparate Cathedral is dedicated to the Patroness of Nice city. The baroque style cathedral has a beautiful interior, with ornate carvings on the pillars and ceiling. There are also many exquisite paintings on display around the cathedral. You can visit the cathedral for free, but flash photography is not allowed and remember to be quiet and respectful as it is a place of worship.
One of the oldest squares in Nice, Place Garibaldi is perfect for a spot of lunch or afternoon drinks. This lively square has plenty of bars and restaurants centred around a large ornate fountain.
Promenade du Paillon
The Promenade du Paillon is a narrow formal garden which separates the Old Town of Nice with the newer, modern city. The tree-lined promenade connects Place Garibaldi with Place Massena with fountains running through the centre.
7. Visit the art museums of the Cimiez District
The Cimiez District is Nice’s most glamorous neighbourhood. The mostly residential area is home to the Matisse Museum and Marc Chagall National Museum. The Matisse museum is housed in a beautiful villa, set in landscaped gardens and showcases a collection of Matisse works, most of which were painted in Nice.
In the Marc Chagall National Museum, visitors will find a collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, stained glass and tapestry. The museum showcases the diverse talents of the artist created over their lifetime.
Both museums are open daily except Tuesdays and are €10 to visit.
8. Take a day trip from Nice
Nice itself is a great place for a day trip, however if you are staying in Nice for a few days, take a day trip to one of the other towns in the French Riviera.
Antibes is a great choice for a day trip from Nice. The city is known for its medieval fortifications which surround the 16th century old town. Another option is glitzy Monaco, where you can admire luxury yachts and super cars! For somewhere a bit quieter, Menton, which sits on the border of Italy and France is a beautiful town to visit for the day.
The best way to explore the French Riviera is by train. However, if you prefer to have everything planned for you, there are many organised day trips from Nice travelling by car or coach.
Related tour: From Nice: French Riviera in One Day
How to get to Nice
There are three main ways to get to Nice in France:
The Nice Cote d’Azur International Airport is just 7km from the centre of Nice. From the airport, you can catch a tram into the centre of Nice for as little as €1.50. The tram takes 25 minutes and is the cheapest way to travel between Nice and Nice airport. If you prefer to travel by taxi, expect to pay around €35.
Nice Central Train Station (Gare de Nice Ville) connects Nice with other major French Cities such as Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux. The station also links Nice with the rest of the French Riviera via the TER network. If you are staying in the French Riviera for a few days, buy a Zou! Train pass for cheap, unlimited train travel on your chosen route. Travelling by train is the best way to get around the French Riviera.
Unless you have to drive, it is easier and less stressful to catch public transport to Nice. The roads along the French Riviera can be busy and parking charges are very high. If you are driving to Nice, plan your route and check where the toll booths are. France has many toll booths on the major highways meaning that the cost of a long distance journey can get expensive. Parking garages are the most secure place to park your car but the spaces are often small, so if you are renting a car, bear that in mind!
Is Nice expensive?
Whilst the prices of accommodation are not as high as in Monaco or St Tropez, Nice can be an expensive place to stay. If you are travelling on a budget, consider staying further out of the city centre (Hôtel Amaryllis is a great option), and utilising the public bus and tram network.
If you are visiting Nice for the day and don’t have to consider accommodation prices, then Nice really isn’t that expensive. It is a very walk-able city, meaning that you can explore a lot of the main sights for free!
For food and drink, prices can be higher in the main squares, such as Place Massena or Place Garibaldi, but as soon as you get into some of the smaller, quieter streets, you can find more reasonable prices. If you are on a budget, then don’t worry – one of the best things about being in France is the delicious bakeries and on a dry day, sitting on the Promenade des Anglais with a fresh baguette and takeaway coffee is joyful! Many of the bars also have happy hours in the early evening, which is a great way to end your day in Nice.
Related read: Côte d’Azur: French Riviera on a Budget
Is Nice a good place to stay when visiting the French Riviera?
Nice is centrally located along the French Riviera, sitting in between Monaco and the popular city of Antibes. The location makes it a great place to base yourself when exploring the French Riviera – along with all the incredible things to do in Nice itself. From here, you can hop on the train in either direction along the coast.
Nice is a lively, busy city with lots of options for accommodation and places to eat, so if you’re looking for a place to stay with nightlife and lots going on, Nice is a great choice. However, if you are looking for something a little more peaceful, you may want to consider the neighbouring town of Villefranche sur Mer.
Another consideration when choosing where to stay in the French Riviera is the beach. Nice has a pebble beach which is not the most comfortable if you are hoping to laze about soaking up the sun for a few hours. For some of the best sandy beaches in the French Riviera, head to Juan les Pins, a small resort west of Antibes. Here you will find long stretches of soft, sandy beach to enjoy.