Nice, is one of the most important cities of the French Riviera. It is the 5th most populous town in France and it has many places to see like a very unique historical city centre, a gorgeous square and a paradisiac seafront.
Nice became part of the French territory back in 1860, when the Treaty of Turin was signed. Since then, it has established itself as a city to explore and discover by walking along the Promenade du Paillon, visiting the old Nice, walking up the Castle Hill as well as by strolling along the worldwide famous Promenade des Anglais.
Visiting Nice in France
I’d like to give you a walking itinerary between the best attractions of Nice. Thanks to this itinerary you ‘ll be able to visit the entire city of Nice in only 24 hours, an itinerary for all the top things to do in Nice.
I personally believe one day to be enough to visit Nice. Two days will be even better as you may want to spend some time on the beach or, why not, visit the museums as well.
As for what regards how to move around Nice, you could use the tram. However, its route is quite short and it would only be very useful in case you’re far away from the Nice city centre and you want to get into town. If you look at the map, you can see the tram route passing through Avenue Jean Médecin and Boulevard Jean Jaurès. These are the two main ways to accesso the city. The main junction is represented by Place Massena.
Where to stay in Nice?
Before talking about my one-day itinerary in the cify of Nice and what to see in this gorgeous city, I want to give you advice on finding accommodation.
First thing, it all depends on the mean of transport your’re using to get to Nice.
Travelling by car
If you’re travelling by car, you should know that you could park it along the street, but it’s almost impossible to find a free slot and driving around the city looking for a parking space might be tricky as there are many one-way roads.
An alternative would be finding an underground car park. In this case the access is restricted to cars which height doesn’t go over 1.90 metres. When I was in Nice, I was driving an Opel Vivaro, which (you might not know) is a bit taller than 1.90 metres, so I immediately had to cross out the possibility of leaving my car in a parking garage.
If this is your case as well, finding an hotel nearby the tram route would be a wise thing to do. This would mean getting away from the city centre. It’s not a problem. Thanks to the public means of transport, it won’t be a difficult thing to reach the heart of Nice.
Travelling with other transport method
If, instead, you’re not travelling by car, you have lots of possibilities from which to choose. You could, for example, find accommodation in the fascinating Old Town of Nice (click to see the offers), or you could even search for an hotel nearby the tram route around the area of Place Massena.
I personally found my accommodation, the Hotel le Nice Etoile, a perfect option for me: cheap, clean and only a few metres from the main square — what more could I want?
Another interesting solution could be to live Nice like a local: you could sleep in beautiful villas with great seaview not far from the city centre. A fantastic way to spent your holiday! For this reason I suggest you look at the website MediaHols and choose the villa that’s right for you.
Best things to do in Nice: a Walking Itinerary
I believe Place Massena to be the main point from which to start our walking itinerary through the best places to visit in Nice.
Place Massena is the first things you’ll see in Nice. It’s a wide and gorgeous square which has been recentely restored back to a typical Mediterranean square. With its black and white tile floor and tram line, the square is surely the heart of Nice.
From the square you can then get to the Old Town or even walk towards the seafront and enjoy a relaxing stroll on Promenade des Anglais.
Once you enter the square, you’ll be surely struck by the seven statues towering over the pedestrians. This work of art was created by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Each statue, which might remind you of a small Buddah, represents one continent and the communication between the nations across the world.
But it’s at night when Place Massena becomes magic. Indeed, all seven statues begin to glow and twinkle, each one in a different colour, whilst the water of the fountains in Promenade du Paillon takes the colours of the French flag. Well, needless to say, do not forget you camera at home and take advantage of this fascinating light show to snap some unforgettable photos.
From Place Massena to Place Garibaldi
From Place Massena, walk to Place Garibaldi. Then head up through the gardens on the Promenade du Paillon. Here you’ll see loads of tourists and kids having fun with the water fountains. If you are visiting Nice with your children, this will be a must see attraction!
I was lucky to visit Nice on a Sunday. A sunny day in which all the local people were enjoying their city and its peaceful gardens. The Promenade du Paillon and Castle gardens are surely one of the best places where to relax in town. They’re full of swings for the little ones and tables where people can play cards, read books or simply sit and chat with their friends.
The Promenade Du Paillon ends where the National Theatre is located. It is basically a long walk that goes around the entire Old Town of Nice to get to Place Garibaldi. This square is dedicated to the Italian hero who was born in Nice back in 1807.
Visiting the Nice Old Town
My itinerary through the best places to see in Nice continues untill the Old Town.This area of Nice is rich in small streets crammed with craft shops, restaurants and tiny squares, just like Place Rossetti, located right in front of the beautiful Cathedral in the Old Town. Here you’ll also find many places where to buy a socca or a Pissaladière . There’re two typical dishes from Nice. I suggest to buy this food in take away mode.
A Socca is basically a chickpea flatbread which doesn’t have a strong flavour, but with a bit of pepper it becomes much tastier.
If, instead, you’re wondering how does a Pissaladière taste like, I’m afraid but I won’t be able to tell you. This typical Southern French dish, which is basically an onion tart topped with some anchovies, looked way too heavy for my stomach, therefore I decided not to give it a try. If your stomach is strong enough, don’t forget to order one. Small suggestion: get a bottle of water too in case you’ll need to calm your thirst afterwards.
Step after step, you’ll soon find youselves in Cours Saleya. This is the most animated area of the entire city. Here you’ll find the flower market, known as the Marché Aux Fleurs in French, which contributes in making Nice even more colorful and lively.
Please do stop for a few hours here and take some time to enjoy walking around the market. Why not, you could buy some fresh salad or fruit for lunch. If you don’t wish to spend too much money in the market stalls, you could grab some lunch in one of the many restaurant located on the sides of the square.
Choose a table outside the restaurant and enjoy the buzzying atmosphere of this great places of Nice. Just be careful with the prices as everything is quite expensive in the French Riviera.
Don’t forget to visit Cours Saleya at night as well. Indeed, once the market stalls are gone, the dark of the night and the lights of the restaurants give this square a truly magic vibe.
Walking up Nice castle
Just a few kilometres from Cours Saleya, you’ll find the marvellous seafront. It’s exactly where the local people love to spend some of their freetime running, skating and cycling surrounded by a beautiful landscape. On your right, you’ll see the Promenade Des Anglais, whilst, if you look on your left, you’ll see the Castle Hill standing out against the sky.
The castle is surely a must see in Nice. If your’re feeling in a good shape, start walking up towards the military fortress. If, instead, you don’t wish to get tired, you can take a lift which gets you to the castle in just a few minutes. The only problem is that it often gets very busy with tourists. You’ll need to be a bit patient whilst queueing.
I personally like doing some sport, so I decided to climb all the step up to the castle, enjoying the view on Nice and taking lovely photos of the gorgeous landscape in front of my eyes. My friends, instead, opted for the lift but they had to wait about 30 minutes before getting on it.
Once you get to the top, you’ll immediately realise that there’s not much left of the castle itself. Nowadays, this beautiful places in Nice is mostly used by the locals. They love to organise picnics in the park and relax sat in the green grass. This is surely a pleasant spot where to enjoy some peaceful time before going on with your walking tour around Nice. Here you’ll also find toilets and a bar, if needed.
Whilst climbing down the hill, you’ll also see a lovely artificial waterfall built as a decoration back in 1885.
From Nice Castle to the Promenade des Anglais
Once you’ve visited the castle, keep visiting Nice by walking along its long and gorgeous seafront.
Walk towards the Hotel Negresco up until you reach the beginning of the Promenade Des Anglais, one of the most famous landmarks of the entire French Riviera.
Promenade des Anglais extends from the airport on the west to the east, for about 7km. The name of this promenade dates back to the early 19th century when the English aristocracy, that had acquired a taste for spending their time in Nice, initiated a project to build a road along the seashore.
The local authorities rapidly embraced this project. To honor the Englishmen’s suggestion of building a promenade, decided to name the street “The English Way”.
Near by the historical and luxurious Negresso Hotel, you’ll also be able to see the two main casinos of the city.
My one-day walking itinerary ends here guys. And we are right in time for spending a couple of hours on the beach and relax a little bit (weather permitting) after an entire day spent walking.
Things to see in Nice the 2nd day
If you decide to spend more than one day in Nice, you might want to enjoy its museums or its beautiful ortodox church as well. If you wish to know what else Nice has to offer, have a look at this short list of attractions:
- St Nicholar Russian Orthodox Cathedral: situated just outside the city centre, near by the train station. The cathedral was build by some Russian aristocrats. Between the 19th and 20th century, they were used to spending long periods of time in Nice.
- Matisse Museum: located about (1 mile) or so from Nice centre. It’s entirely dedicated to the masterpieces of Henri Matisse, the worldwide famous painter who decided to spend his last years in this gorgeous city.
- Musée Marc Chagall: a national museum dedicated to the work of painter Marc Chagall.
- MAMAC: also known as the Nice Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, it is located near the Place Garibaldi.
Excursions from Nice: what to do outside the city centre
I personally believe Nice to be the perfect starting point if you want to travel around its surrounding cities. Indeed, tourists can visit gorgeous places which are only a few kilometers away. What’s more, Nice is a marvellous city to visit in the evening. So, you could plan a daily trip in a nearby town and then get back to Nice to enjoy its night buzz.
What cities are there to visit close to Nice?
Well, first of all, how not to mention Monte Carlo? This ward of the Principality of Monaco is one of those places which you either love or are indifferent to. And, to be honest, when thinking about Monte Carlo, I feel more indifferent than anything else. Apart from the Prince’s Palace, located in Monaco City, nothing else of it left me particularly impressed.
Something else to visit could surely be Saint Paul de Vence. It’s one of the oldest medieval towns of the French Riviera, which I haven’t had time to visit yet. I suggest also Eze, a French commune also known as “the eagle’s nest” because of its location overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
Amongst the other places which tourists tend to visit when in Nice there are Antibes and Cannes.
Antibes, Cannes and Menton
Antibes is a quiet and pleasant resort town with a fascinating sea front. Cannes, on the contrary, is much more popular thanks to the worldwide Film Festival hold each year in May. Cannes’ seafront is narrower than the one in Nice, but some people believe it to be more particular and unique. This may well be because of its fort from which tourists can enjoy a breathtaking view all over the harbour.
A fantastic option would be planning a weekend-trip in the French Riviera during the Lemon Festival in Menton. Menton is a small town on the border with Italy.
Nice is a city with a lot to offer which left me pleasantly surprised. Its sole downside is probably the fact that it’s quite expensive. But this doesn’t affect the great impressions it left on me at all. I would definitely recommend visiting Nice to anybody who wants to loosen up spending a couple days immersed in its unique Old Town and amazing seafront.