France Travel Guide: Best Things To See And Do In Beautiful Nice

One of those things that would never lose value for me personally is time spent 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 four 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 the 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.

If you are planning a trip to the 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.

Nice was founded by the Greeks in the 4th century BC and every year in February it hosts a carnival that originated in the Middle Ages.

#1. Explore Castle Hill 

The view from 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 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 on two separate trips. I can easily resonate with people who dream about going to France as it has all you might need for a memorable holiday – mountains, sea, beautiful cities, charming countryside, wine and cheese!

One of many lookouts on Castle Hill providing fantastic views of surroundings.

#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

Henri Matisse, who is one of France’s most famous artists, lived in Nice until his death.

#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 private 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 which is fitted with a restaurant and kids’ playground.

Even thou public beaches in Nice are pebble they are still incredibly beautiful. Head over to the local shops that sell beach footwear and unique thick mats, grab your food and drink and head over to enjoy relaxing water movement without breaking the bank.

One of the private beaches along the boulevard in Nice.

#4. Walk Around The Place Masséna

The Place Masséna is Nice’s largest square surrounded by 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.

Nice is the fifth most populous city in France.

#5. Explore its 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 a 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.

Old Town is full of charm and character.

#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 day stay in September the promenade, and the beaches were packed with tourists and locals alike.

Negresco Hotel is the most famous hotel in Nice and has been declared a national historical monument.

#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 city 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.

You’ll love relaxing and going for a stroll in one of many sensory gardens surrounded by tropical plants.

#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 the 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 postcard-perfect places to visit.
  • Menton | Located between Nice and the Italian border Menton is a colourful surprise with exotic gardens, a 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 the Mediterranean with uneven cobblestone streets, art galleries, low archways and local perfumeries.  This place is worlds away from the 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.
Monaco which gained its independence from the Republic of Genoa on 8th January 1297 is perfect for a day trip.

Where to stay in Nice

Since we arrived in Nice late at night, we booked an airport hotel with 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 of 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!

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

68 thoughts on “France Travel Guide: Best Things To See And Do In Beautiful Nice

  1. It looks more beautiful than I might have given it credit for, Aiva. I love the square with the chequerboard squares and the one with the spray fountains. Were you happy with your Airbnb?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Nice was a wonderful place to explore with my family and I wish we had more time to visit surrounding towns and villages. We were very satisfied with our AirBnB – it was situated close to the Old Town and had incredible views over the rooftops! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Living on Ireland’s West coast, we are constantly chasing destinations that offer much-needed sunshine and there was plenty of that in Nice, not to mention freshly baked loaves of bread and plenty of pastries. You live in such a beautiful part of the world, Sheree! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 3 people

  2. We love Nice and have been there three times, the last in 2019. We stayed on Place Massena and have done all the things your post recommends. One thing to add would be to do the Nietzsche’s Path walk down from Eze-le-Village to Eze-sur-Mer. A great walk with brilliant views and much better down than up on a hot day. Thanks for sharing Aiva. We hope to get back to Nice again one day. Allan

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    1. Hi, Allan! I am glad to hear you’ve been to Nice three times, it is one of those places that I would happily return to as it makes for a great base to explore nearby towns and villages. Thanks for your suggestions. The enchanting village of Eze on the French Riviera was one of the places we wanted to explore, but initially, we ended up going on a day trip to Monaco. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve really painted…with such precise words…such a wonderful picture of Nice! Lovely article and such good information provided in such an interesting and engaging manner. Aiva you are truly making me go and see these places, that although quite close to where I live, I have never visited! Cheers and I loved the photographs, marvellous as usual! All the best!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much, Francisco. This was our first time in Nice and we absolutely loved every minute we’ve had a chance to spend in this beautiful French city. Don’t even mention food and wine, it’s one of the reasons why we keep returning to France. we were utterly blown away by its charm and would love to return one day so we can connect on a deeper level. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Hi, Marion. I am glad to hear you’ve been to Nice! At first, we weren’t that keen on visiting Nice – places like the French Riviera is worlds away from quaint, local towns we are so used to exploring – but, much to my surprise, we were won over within hours. Once you make an effort to wander away from the main tourist spots, you’ll be rewarded with charming squares where you can relax and watch people go on with their daily lives. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Hi, Maggie. Visiting the south of France was never on my travel wish list as I am more of a budget backpacker and not someone who sips fancy cocktails on the beach or is looking for an exercise in luxurious living. But given that Nice is located between the sea and mountains and given that we were in desperate need of a sunny holiday, we decided to give it a go. While I would go back to it for the pleasant Mediterranean climate and its iconic seafront, I would rather prefer a small fishing village along Portugal’s coast. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Leighton 🙂 Nice is one of the most famous tourist destinations in France. It boasts a rich history, architecture, food, drink, and a beautiful landscape. So, it’s not hard to see why people from all over the world flock to this wondrous place on the French Riviera. With its charming and central location, along with an international airport, Nice is extremely easy to get to. It also provides an incredible array of things to do and see. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  4. Wonderful travel guide, Aiva! I understand your ability to fall in love with some of the places you visit – we do the same. There have been a few times that we considered moving to one of those places we were in love with, but never did. Your descriptions and photo make us want to hop on a plane and fly to Nice. Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful city with us!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with so many cities and towns to the point that I considered moving there, too, but never ended up doing it. Maybe later on in life, when my children are all grown up – I could retire on Portugal’s coast. Have a lovely day and safe travels 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Diana. Nice is a wonderful place to visit. One of the main reasons people visit Nice is to head to its iconic seafront. The shots of the Promenade des Anglais provide a picture-perfect postcard shot, and the turquoise sea, white sand, and palm-lined boardwalk are a sight to behold in themselves. Nice offers a four-mile stretch of crystal clear waters. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I only visited Nice once way back in 2006, when I was still a kid– interestingly, it was the very first city I’ve ever visited in France (contrary to Paris)! I remember it being a balmy summer afternoon, and I can vouch that Eze and Menton are perfect day trips from the city. I hope to return to this part of France someday, perhaps soon!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories, Rebecca, I know how fond you are of France and I sincerely hope you’ll get to return one day when the travel industry restores order. I have to admit that France surprised me with its elegance and gentle beauty. I adored the little villages and pretty countryside. I am still longing to see Mont Blanc, Etretat Cliffs and Strasbourg Old Town which means a trip to France is long overdue. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You would love its outdoor markets and antique shops. We didn’t have much extra space in luggage so unfortunately, I had to say ‘no’ to too many wonderful things I had a chance to stumble upon in markets. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Linda 🙂 Nice was a lovely place to explore as a family. Visiting cities can be challenging with small children and that’s why we loved its beautiful gardens and green squares filled with fountains – they were perfect places to unwind between sightseeing. 😀 Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  6. What a lovely view from Castle Hill and yes, beaches are always a bonus to find at any place! I was overwhelmed by the variety of ice-creams (you can see where my focus is 😀), but I’m sure by walking and exploring all the stunning parks and other sights you mentioned, one can enjoy an ice-cream at least once a day! Wow Aiva, Nice surely looks like a beautiful place to visit – thanks for a comprehensive overview and gorgeous pictures!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much, Corna 🙂 Nice’s beauty comes from the 19th-century mansions on its promenades and boulevards, from the city’s Italianate old quarter and the rugged natural terrain that provides countless wondrous vantage points. I loved the view from Castle Hill, too – at 93 metres above sea level, it offers glorious, panoramic views over the city, especially spectacular during the sunrise and sunset hours. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day. I hope all is well with you and your family 🙂 Aiva xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There is so much to see and do in the whole Cote d’azur😍 we stayed in Cannes several years ago when we visited the southern part in France, and for some reason I had a great connection there, I felt like home😍
    We did plan another visit back in 2020, but we had to cancel it.. I guess it is about the time to re-plan everything. Great tips Aiva, thank you!!
    Have an amazing summer! Xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi, Christie 🙂 I am sorry to hear you had to cancel your visit to Cote d’Azur back in 2020, and I hope you get to revisit it one day 🙂 I was in awe of the region’s coastal views and was surprised by how much there was to see and do. From the see-and-be-seen beaches and boardwalks of Cannes and Monaco to the lavender fields of Grasse and the medieval villages of Èze, there’s a whole host of places to explore throughout the summer and beyond. One of the little villages I would love to go back to see would be Menton as it has all the beauty of the better-known coastal villages, but a fraction of the crowds. Have a great summer 🙂 Aiva xx

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      1. We will revisit France for sure, but just not this summer, the airports are not something you wish to deal with, for now LOL although the gvmt promised they will do everything to shorten the waiting times, etc. I’ve heard only good things about Menton, I shall include it in my itinerary for next time🙂
        Christie xx

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  8. With the Biden administration finally lifting the test-to-return requirement, it’s taking all of my willpower not to book a trip to France or anywhere in Europe (or anywhere out of the US, really) right now. Would I go to Nice? Mais oui! The open air market looks particularly appealing. Alas, all our travels are set for this year, and they’re all domestic. In addition, I’ve read (and heard from friends traveling abroad) story after story of delays, cancelled flights, exorbitantly long lines, and a host of other travel woes due to pandemic-related employment gaps and other problems. It’s probably good to let things settle down for a year before we resume international travel, but we can’t wait to do so!

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    1. I am very much with you on domestic travel. While we are finally travelling home to see our family and friends, most of our travel destinations are within an hour’s flight away mainly because queues run long, planes fly full, roads back up and frustrations boil over as hundreds of thousands of people get on the move. Dublin Airport has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons – due to significant queues inside the terminal for check-in, bag drop & security, passengers aren’t even allowed to enter the Airport and many of them end up missing their flights ( it was reported that just a few days ago, nearly 1,500 people didn’t make it which completely puts me off travelling). Thanks for stopping by and have a great summer 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. I am glad to hear that you are finally returning back to France – wishing you a pleasant holiday. I love going back to France as it entices people of all ages with some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, world-class art and architecture, sensational food, stunning beaches, glitzy ski resorts, beautiful countryside and a staggering amount of history. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much. Located between the sea and mountains, Nice is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in France. There are many places to visit in Nice to keep you busy for a while. It is also a great base for exploring more of the French Riviera on day trips. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by – it is easy to understand why Impressionist painters were drawn to Nice. With its sunny weather and stunning Mediterranean scenery, this picturesque city resembles a pastel painting. Have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. I am glad to hear that 🙂 Surrounded by the serene blue waters of the Baie des Anges and sheltered by the foothills of the Maritime Alps, Nice has a mild climate year-round which is one of the reasons why it is such a popular vacation destination. Have a lovely day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much 🙂 A vacation based in Nice offers the chance to enjoy seaside splendour and to soak up the vibrant urban energy. The ambience of a real city pervades the busy avenues, squares, and pedestrian alleyways of Nice, while the vibes of a beach resort town give Nice a special quality. Aiva 🙂 xx

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    1. Thanks so much, Glenys! While I very much loved the warm, turquoise Mediterranean waters I couldn’t bear the crowds, therefore, just like you, I am biased in liking our Sligo beaches for space and serenity. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  9. How lovely… My son and I had an afternoon in Nice once between train connections, long enough to pop in some shops and get to the beach. He was in high school and a bit rattled at seeing nude bathers! I remember sitting in an ice cream shop watching a friendly, older French couple feed their little dog from a spoon. 😊 Would like to have had more time to explore the city.

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    1. I am glad to hear that you’ve been to Nice and loved it. Nice is one of the best places to visit in France to experience la belle vie (the good life). From wandering the quaint cobblestone streets to strolling the famous Promenade des Anglais, the joys of spending time in this beautiful coastal city are endless. We ended up staying for five days and it was just enough time to see all the tourist attractions and sights without feeling rushed. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  10. Beautiful images, Aiva. We took a delayed honeymoon to the south of France 39 years ago. I will always remember Monaco because I had a strong phobia about birds back then and there were too many pigeons! We had to leave early…
    I am so glad that I traveled extensively during our life because I have lost my passion for it. Enjoy every minute!!!

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    1. Thank you, Kerry. I can only imagine how different Nice and Monaco must have been 39 years ago – do you still have an extreme fear of birds? I loved our time in Nice – it is more than just a beach destination and it has a lot to offer to tourists owing to its picturesque landscapes as well as culturally enriched heritage. Thanks for stopping by and I hope all is well. Tomorrow is the last day of school for Ericeira, and we are all looking forward to finally being able to sleep in; goodbye 6:45 am alarmed. Cheers 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Thanks so much, April 🙂 n the French Riviera, Nice is one of the best cities to visit in the South of France. With its 7km seafront walkway, named La Promenade des Anglais, its pebble beach, cafes, restaurants, boutiques and historical landmarks, Nice is one of France’s coastal gems. I am following you on IG too! 🙂 Aiva xx

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      1. We were planning a trip there pre-covid. When we feel safe enough to travel I will remember this and at now, I can reach out to you all for guidance 🫶🏻

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  11. Oh yes. My wife and I have visited Nice several times in our younger days and moved along the coast from there on Eurail trains. Air B&B in fall or spring sounds like the best way for us to visit there now. Thanks for the memories.

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