One of those things that would never lose value for me personally is time spend travelling and exploring the world together with my family. Travel inspires me to jump out of bed before the sunrise, encourages me to spend that extra hour at work and to say no to material things.
There’s legitimately nothing better I would do than hit the road and it always surprises me how quickly I feel at home in an entirely new place.
Around two years ago, after visiting Biarritz and Bretagne and exploring its beautiful creeks, ports and UNESCO World Heritage sites, we discovered a new passion for France.
So when the opportunity arose for us to travel further down south to French Riviera, a place that doesn’t even need an introduction as it is very well known worldwide, we both agreed and jumped at a chance to discover for ourselves if this place really is so chick and stylish?
We happily boarded the plane in Dublin airport bound for Nice in 2 hours and 30 minutes. As soon as we landed in France, collected our luggage and walked out through the revolving door, we were greeted by a pleasantly warm Mediterranean climate.
We had never been to Nice or south of France before, and we knew nothing about the city when we arrived and were more than content to find a sun-drenched and startlingly beautiful place.
France travel guide: best things to see and do in beautiful Nice
Welcome to the best part of the journey. After you’ve gone through a couple of passport control points, checked in and then received your luggage at the airport, made your way to your accommodation, it’s time to explore!
If you are planning a trip to South of France and wish to stop in Nice, this blog post offers a couple of ideas for the best things to do and see in Nice with free attractions, time on the beach, local markets and day trip suggestions.
#1. Explore Castle Hill
The view from the Castle Hill known as “La Colline du Château” is probably the most photographed view in Nice and for a good reason. Walking around and seeing the city from above, with its reddish roofs and fantastic colours of the Mediterranean sea was enough to agree with its fame.
We found ourselves returning to the Castle Hill numerous times and enjoyed views across the Bay of Angels and the nearby port from its different viewpoints. We visited a man-made waterfall, Jewish cemetery, park and château ruins.
As we took in the coastal views, I reminisced about last year when we visited the northern part of the country and explored Biarritz and Brittany in two separate trips. I can easily resonate with people who dream about coming to France as it has all-mountains, sea, beautiful cities, charming countryside and cheese!
#2. Look for treasures at Cours Saleya Market
Surrounded by beautiful mansions, that are homes to restaurants and pubs, this open-air market was once a park for Nice’s upper classes. On the days we were in Nice, we visited the market many times and fell in love with the colourful range of red, faded pink and yellow.
Known as the Flower Market and situated in the heart of Old Town, Cours Saleya Market attracts many people. We found the quality and variety of goods on display hard to resist and were tempted by olive wood products, locally made soaps, seasonal fruits and beautiful bouquets.
From Tuesday to Sunday, you’ll find stalls overflowing with fresh flowers, fruit and veg but on Monday mornings-antiques and collectables.
#3. Relax on the beach
One of the things we loved about Nice- we were never too far away from the beach. During the day, we explored everything that Nice has to offer and come evening, we made our way to the waterfront where the scene started to change-hues got warmer, and the light became softer.
You can choose from 15 privet beaches in Nice; they are fenced off from public ones, and they are the best for relaxing and sunbathing, but the cost of renting sunshades, lockers and lounge chairs can quickly add up to a small fortune (you can’t bring your own food too).
One of the most popular private beaches is The Neptune Beach located in front of the luxurious 5star Hotel de Negresco as is fitted with restaurant and kids playground.
Even thou public beaches in Nice are pebble they are still incredibly beautiful. Head over to the local shops sells beach footwear and unique thick mats, grab your food and drink and head over to enjoy relaxing water movement without breaking the bank.
#4. See The Place Masséna
The Place Masséna is Nice’s largest square surrounded with beautiful red facades that are adorned with pretty blue shutters.
Although the square is not so much an attraction more like a place you pass through we loved it and think it’s an idyllic place for photos with a Fontaine du Soleil in the background and hypnotic black and white tile work.
Elegant looking Place Massénais is situated between the old and new towns and is lined with different restaurants, shops and cafes. Don’t miss this place if you are in Nice over the holidays, during the December it is filled with stalls selling lovely stocking fillers, and you gonna love the light show with changing colours and shapes projected onto nearby buildings.
#5. Wander around Old Town
A lot of our time in Nice was spent wandering around Old Town, also known as Vieux Ville, without purpose. Tightly packed alleyways and age-old streets were perfect for finding little squares adorned with fountains, impressive churches and grand houses around every corner.
Many Old Town shops and restaurants cater to the tourist needs, yet the area still remains home to locals too, which only adds more authenticity. Sit down in one of the squares to enjoy Niçois-style pizzas or ice cream and don’t be surprised to spot shirtless natives on a balcony reading newspapers and drinking cup of tea.
Make sure you find iconic Fenocchio Glacier, a very popular gelateria with 59 ice cream and 35 sorbet flavours, including tomato and basil as well as lavender and thyme.
#6. Walk the Promenade des Angles
Walk the whole length of the promenade and don’t forget to put your camera down and take in the scenery.
The Promenade des Angles, with the Nice airport to the West and Quai des Etats-Unis on the east, is excellent for many reasons: pedestrian and bike paths, the beach, beautiful buildings with eloquently façades and the location. During our 5 days stay in September the promenade, and the beaches were packed with tourists and locals alike.
#7. Enjoy cities parks and green spaces
Travelling as a family, we have to consider each other interests, and we have to make it work. That’s why the entire time we were in Nice we made countless visits to cities parks.
When exploring the world with young children, you have to find a safe and fun place for them to play and run around and what can be better than beautiful gardens with fantastic surroundings and fragrant flowers.
Nice is blessed with more than 20 green spaces that are filled with fountains, wooden playing structures for children, fitness trails, ponds, rose beds and palm trees. We loved Promenade du Paillon, situated in the heart of the city and found its mist sprays just what was needed for a hot day.
#8. Go on a day trip
I haven’t really seen so many options for day trips anywhere on our travels! You can choose to soar up over the red-tiled roofs of Nice with a 20-minute helicopter tour or jump on a sightseeing cruise, you can also use public transport to visit one of many nearby towns and villages, or you can even travel to a different country.
If you are looking for day trip ideas, here is our pick.
- Villefranche-sur-Mer | Is a very charming fishing village where docks are filled with little boats and where the waterfront is lined with attractive Italianate buildings. The pretty town is surrounded by olive grows, and fisherman’s chapel has an interior decorated by Jean Cocteau.
- Cannes | Legendary resort town Cannes doesn’t even need an introduction; pretty much everyone knows The Festival de Cannes film festival with red carpet affairs and world-famous celebrities and filmmakers. Here you’ll find many museums, upscale boutique shops and grand boulevards.
- Saint -Tropez | Once just a humbling fishing village, nowadays Saint – Tropez is a coastal town on a sunny French Riviera where the wealthy and famous come to play. Its atmospheric Vieux Port and an incredibly beautiful old village known as ‘La Ponce’ are a postcard-perfect place to visit.
- Menton | Located between Nice and Italian border Menton is a colourful surprise with exotic gardens, pretty harbour and lovely beaches. Situated 30 kilometres east of Nice, Mention is within easy reach.
- Eze | Located between Nice and Monaco, Eze is a charming hilltop village, overlooking Mediterranean with uneven cobblestone streets, art galleries, low archways and local perfumeries. This place is worlds away from a glitch and glamour of Cote d’Azur as visitors can explore the preserved historic village.
- Monaco | Known for expensive shopping, fast cars and glamour, Monaco is one of a kind place to wander around. This is where the Monaco Grand Prix takes place with cars racing through the narrow streets and around its tight corners.
Where to stay in Nice
Since we arrived in Nice late at night, we booked an airport hotel with a 24-hour reception and the next day we transferred to our Airbnb apartment situated in the Old Town.
With only five days in the city, we wanted to stay as central as possible to be within easy reach to all the main attractions.
If you are planning a trip to Nice, we rounded up the best neighbourhoods in the city you can choose from – Old Town, Le Port, Promenade des Anglais, Jean-Medecin (New Town), Cimiez and Gambetta.
Wherever you choose to stay, keep in mind finding that perfect accommodation is near impossible. First, start by looking for accommodation options that suit your budget, then do research and read the reviews.
After that, weigh up all disadvantages and advantages; because everything from location to amenities can have an enormous impact on your holiday.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Nice? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Nice and have travel-related questions!