22 Aug The Best Things to do in Nice, Capital of the French Riviera
Nice, the capital of the French Riviera, is a very popular destination in south of France! Located between the shores of the Mediterranean and the summits of Mercantour, the beautiful city of Nice has an ideal situation and many assets! It will please you whether you are a beach bum or a culture buff. Experience the Best Things to do in Nice and get all the info you need with my following guide: what to see and do, when to visit, where to stay, where to eat, and more!
Let’s start this guide about the Best Things to do in Nice with a walk in the iconic Promenade des Anglais! Promenade des Anglais is the pedestrian walkway stretching for 7 km from the airport in the west to the headland in the east along the beach and the Mediterranean Sea. Let’s go back in time a bit: the English aristocracy used to love to spend the winter in Nice starting from the second half the 18th century. In the early 19th century, they offered to work on the construction of a walkway along the sea: that why the promenade got this name!
Nowadays, the Promenade des Anglais is a great place for a stroll. It’s popular with families, baby strollers, joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders and other in-line skaters. As you walk here you can enjoy the fresh air from the seafront and increase your daily steps score while chatting with your friends/families and people watching! You can also admire the elegant hotels standing along the road running parallel to the promenade and get a drink or something to eat in the numerous bars and restaurants around here. It’s THE place to be, especially on Sundays (if you are not already lying on the beach of course 😉 )!
Go to the beach
One of the main assets of the city of Nice is its beaches with amazing turquoise waters! So, one of the Best Things to do while in Nice is to go to the beach! The bay between Nice and Antibes has been nicknamed “La Baie des Anges” (Angel Bay in English): a lovely name to highlight the beauty of the place! It looks like a blue moon! There are more than 7 km (4 miles) of pebble beaches for your biggest pleasure!
If it appears like one loooooong single beach, it’s in fact a mix of 30 public and private beaches (20 of are public, 15 private), and all slightly different from each other.
Choose between public and private beaches
On the one hand public beaches are free of charge and you can just bring your towel to lie on the rocks at your convenience. The downside is that you will be surrounded by the other tourists and locals (and it can get very crowded in summer!). Additionally, you should pay attention to your personal belongings as there are many thieves. On the other hand, private beaches will allow you to be in a more comfortable and exclusive environment: you will get a sun chair, a mattress, an umbrella, and a locker. Most of them are attached to a restaurant and you can also access showers and bathrooms. But of course, you will pay the price for it.
- Mattress: between 18 and 25 € for a day. Some of the private beaches also do a price for half a day: between 12 and 20 €
- Umbrella: can be included or you have to pay extra from 5 to 7 €.
- Drinks: coffee 2,50 € to 3,70 €, bottle of water 1L 4,50 to 9 €, Coca Cola 4 to 6 €
- My secret tip: if you want more info to choose your private beach, check out the prices here to compare: Private beaches in Nice – price comparison
My experience at the beach
I experienced both public and private beaches when I visited Nice. The first time I went to the beach was at the end of my first day of sightseeing. It was spontaneous and of course I didn’t want to pay for the access to a private beach for only 1/2 hours, so I went to the public beach close to downtown. I had a good experience because it was already the end of the day and it was a bit less crowded! The second time I went to the beach I decided to enjoy the luxe of a private beach. As I planned it in advance, I went there in the morning around 10am. I chose Ruhl Plage because of its iconic blue striped umbrellas! I paid 28 € for a mattress and an umbrella for the whole day (no half-day price available here). The service was very nice and I could access lockers, showers, and their own restaurant!
Discover Place Masséna
Place Masséna is the main square of Nice: therefore, if you want to experience the Best Things to do in Nice, you cannot miss it! This beautiful historical place is filled with red ochre elegant buildings and some very cool black and white tiles on the ground! It’s vibrant and quite mesmerizing!
Place Masséna is located at the crossroads of several of main boulevards, one of them being the prime shopping street of Avenue Jean Médecin. There are a few cafes around and some restaurants nestled under the arcades. If you feel like taking a break and enjoying the view, you will have plenty of options!
You will find it is only a 2 min walk from Promenade des Anglais and the beach. It makes it easy for sightseeing! You can also take a look at Albert I Garden (Jardin Albert Ier) right close by.
Place Masséna is the main meeting place for the locals and a major location for public events like concerts, the summer festivals, the Corso Carnavalesque (carnival parade) in February, the military procession of 14 July (Bastille Day).
Wander in the Old Town
The Old Town of Nice, called Vieux Nice, is a lovely area to wander! Its narrow streets are lined with beautiful buildings with ochre colors and lovely louvered shutters – so typical from the French Riviera! As you are walking here, you will stumble on some pretty churches, vibrant public squares, cute cafes, and appealing shops and art galleries.
You can easily spend a few hours here, and you will see why it’s one the Best Things to do in Nice!
Start your walk in Place Masséna and check out the following places:
- Esplanade Georges Pompidou,
- The main street of historical Nice: rue Saint-François de Paule,
- The Opera House,
- Maison Auer Chocolaterie Confiserie : an old traditional and artisanal shop making chocolate and candied fruits since 1820,
- Cours Saleya: Nice’s main marketplace,
- The Cathedral of St. Reparata,
- Place Rossetti,
- Lascaris Palace and its amazing baroque style,
- La Porte Fausse (False Gate): a passage marking the transition between the historic Old Nice district and the modern town. The ceiling is covered with gold leaf and the walls with marble.
- Place Garibaldi at the north end of the Old Town: one of the oldest and the largest squares in Nice bordered by beautiful baroque arcaded buildings.
Admire the Orthodox church Cathedral St Nicholas
St Nicholas Cathedral is a Russian gem in the heart of Nice! This is the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. Built in 1912, this church is the property of the Russian Federation but also recognized as a national monument of France.
Once you will be in front of it gazing at its six cupolas with golden bulbs, you will feel like you are in Moscow or St Petersburg! Although it can seem atypical, but I promise you it’s really one of the Best Things to do in Nice!
You can visit it for free is every day from 9am to 6pm. The access to the church may be closed or limited for celebration of the Sacraments, normally from 12 to 2 pm. And remember this is a religious place so you have to be respectful (dress code, no food, no camera, no phone calls, be silent…).
Address: Avenue Nicolas II, 06000 Nice.
Eat like a local
A great way to discover a new place is to try the local cuisine! If you want to experience the Best Things to do in Nice as a foodie, I will recommend you two of the main specialties of Nice: Socca and Pissaladière.
Socca is a pancake made from chickpea flour and cooked in a wood oven. It’s usually made in a round copper plate of 50 cm diameter generously oiled and topped with salt and pepper. More than a simple street food snack, socca is extremely popular amongst the locals since centuries! Here people can queue for a while to get fresh (hot) slices just out of the oven. Oh and I forgot to mention that socca is really cheap: count around 3 € only for a slice! Because I guess I got you hungry now, are the best places to eat socca in town:
- Chez Thérésa: 28 Rue Droite in the Old Town. It’s well known for being the very best socca in town! My secret tip: Get there before 1pm, because when the batch is done, that’s it for the day.
- René Socca: 2 rue Miralheti in the Old Town. I went there in the evening to try that famous socca!
- Chez Pipo: 13 rue Bavastro in the area of the harbor. Another traditional place to eat socca.
Now let’s talk about Pissaladière, another traditional recipe adored by the locals in Nice. This is a kind of pizza with a thick bread dough and caramelized (almost pureed) onions, black olives, and anchovies. You can find it in the same places where you find the socca (it’s also super cheap around 3 € for a slice).
Enjoy a cocktail at a rooftop bar
Nice offering both an ideal situation on the coastline and a fantastic weather, the best way to end a day of sightseeing (and to try one of the Best Things to do in Nice) is to enjoy a drink on a rooftop!
During my trip in this city I discovered the Farago, the rooftop of the AC Hotel Nice. One of the trendiest bars and restaurants of Nice, the Farago on the Roof is famous for its tapas and cocktails. From there you can admire stunning 360° views of both the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, while enjoying some lounge music or a live concert: tempting isn’t it?!
Address: rooftop of the AC Hotel Nice – 59 Promenade Des Anglais – Entrée Rue Honoré Sauvan, 06000 Nice.
Take a daytrip to Villefranche sur Mer
While you are in Nice, you should really take a look at Villefranche sur Mer. Located at only 15 min by car from downtown Nice, this charming harbor town will take your heart! That’s why I added it in the Best Things to do in Nice!
On the one hand the Old Town of Villefranche sur Mer is enchanting. With its colorful houses with louvered shutters, narrow streets and stairways, you will feel like wandering in a fairy tale! On the other hand, the bay and the beach of Villefranche sur Mer are lovely. The bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer reaches a significant depth only a short distance from shore, therefore this town has been used as a harbor since 130 BC!
Here are some of the things you can do on a daytrip in Villefranche sur Mer:
- Stroll in the Old Town,
- Enjoy the beach,
- Take a look at the 16th century Citadelle Saint Elme
- Admire the Chapel of Saint Pierre decorated by Jean Cocteau,
- Visit the church of St Michel with its pastel colors and baroque style.
This city is easy to access by foot, bus or train.
Some other ways to experience the Best of Nice
Here are a few other Best Things to do in Nice:
- Walk around in Castle Ill to get a stunning viewpoint over the Baie des Anges, the Old Nice and the Port.
- Enjoy the ruins of a Roman arena in the Parc des arènes de Cimiez.
- Visit a museum: Chagall, Matisse, MAMAC, Beaux-Arts, Arts Asiatiques, Arts Naïf…
- Take a look at Notre Dame de Nice: the beautiful façade of this Cathedral reminds me of Notre Dame de Paris.
How to reach Nice
Now that you know all the Best Things to do in Nice, let’s go to the more practical info. First and foremost: how to get here! You can reach Nice by air or by rail.
The airport of Nice is the 3rd airport in France and many airlines are flying here. Located at the end of the Promenade des Anglais, the famous pedestrian walkway along the beach, this airport is only 6 km far from Nice downtown. Therefore, it’s easy to access the city from the airport.
How to go from the airport to downtown:
- Tram: line 2, 30 min journey, a tram every 3 minutes, ticket 1,50 €.
- Bus: bus Aéroport Direct, ticket 1,50 € euros, 35 min journey (the bus is only available when the tram is not working: early in the morning and in the evening), a bus every 20 min.
- Taxi: 32 € (fixed price), 10-15 min journey.
You can also come to Nice easily by train from cities like Paris, Lyon or Marseille. The train station is located in downtown Nice. If you come by train from Paris, it will take you around 6h for a direct ticket. This train will get to Marseille in only 3h20 thanks to the direct high-speed TGV train line. But then it will stop in every station between Marseille and Nice, that’s why the journey takes some time. The train is also an easy way to access the other cities of the French Riviera for some sightseeing (Monaco, Menton…).
What is the weather like in Nice
If you want to make sure you will enjoy the Best Things to do in Nice in the best conditions, let me tell you more about the weather! Great news: Nice is gifted with a very pleasant climate! Given its ideal location on the Mediterranean shores, the temperatures feel nice most of the year and there is a low chance of rain or snow. The warmest months are August, July and June: you will usually have temperatures above 28°C / 80°F during the day and around 22°C / 70F°C at night.
In spring and fall, the temperatures are mild between 13°C and 24°C (55°F to 76°F). In winter the temperatures are between 12°C and 16°C (53°F to 61°F), it’s rarely very cold. The wettest month is October and the coldest month is December.
What is the best time of year to visit Nice
Let’s talk now about the best time of year to visit and enjoy the Best Things to do in Nice. The summer months being the warmest, they are also the busiest for tourism. Nice and the French Riviera are very popular destinations amongst French travelers, European travelers and people from all over the world. In the hot and sunny summer days you can of course enjoy the beach and all the outdoor activities. I you like to swim; you will be happy to know that the average sea temperature is a pleasant 23°C. Additionally you will enjoy 14 hours of sunshine per day from June to September. Some of the major festivals in nice are taking place in August: the Annual Book Festival, Nice Jazz Festival and the festival of St. Peter and Sea.
May-June and September in the shoulder season are great months to visit Nice, as the city will be vibrant but not too crowded. Spring is the second busiest season for tourism after summer, especially during the weekends in May and June, or the Easter school holidays in April.
Lastly fall is a good season to get some good hotel deals as a lot of travelers are back to work, schools have resumed, and the locals are back to daily routine.
How to get around in Nice
If you are staying in Nice for a few days and didn’t come by car, you have plenty of ways to get around in the city. You can use public transport or taxis and Uber to access all the Best Things to do in Nice.
Public transport will be your best option if you you are traveling on a budget. Tram and buses will take you to all the places you need. There are 3 tram lines and more than 3000 bus stops in the area. You can use the same ticket for buses and trams as it’s the same local company named Lignes d’Azur. The solo ticket costs 1,50 € for a journey up to 74 min. You can save some money by buying those packages:
- Multi 10 voyage: 10 € for 10 journeys of up to 74 min (can be used by several people),
- Pass 1 jour: this 1 day pass will grant you unlimited journeys during 24h from the first validation for 5 €
- Pass 7 jours: this 7 days pass will grant you unlimited journeys during 7 consecutive days from the first validation for 15 €.
- More info: Lignes d’Azur.
But if public transport is not your thing or if you want a more comfortable way to get around in Nice, then you can use taxis or Uber.
Finally, if you want a different commuting experience you also bike around the city! The local bike-sharing program is named Velo Bleu. You can rent bikes and e-bikes from stations all around the city. The first 30 minutes of usage are free! More info here: Velo Bleu.
Where to eat in Nice
As a foodie myself, I cannot write this guide about the Best Things to do in Nice without giving you some suggestions of places to eat and drink!
Where to eat in Downtown Nice
- La Popote d’Ondine: for brunch, lunch and teatime in downtown Nice. I totally adored this place! It will make you feel at home with its traditional vintage furniture, the staff is very kind and the food is yummy! My secret tip: try their delicious fluffy pancakes! They have 2 addresses: 18 rue Giofreddo in Nice and 2 rue Blacas in Nice.
- Cafe Brindille: for brunch, lunch and teatime in downtown Nice. I fell in love at first sight with this cute café! From its flower decoration, it’s super nice and welcoming staff, and the delicious food, everything was perfect! Address: 14 rue Maccarani in Nice.
- Paper Plane: for brunch and lunch in downtown Nice. This vegan and gluten free restaurant was recommended to me but I didn’t had the time to eat there. Address: 14 rue Gubernatis in Nice.
Where to eat in the Old Nice and close to the Harbor
- Chez René Socca: for snacks and drink all day in the Old town of Nice. This old school popular cafe is one of the best places in town to try local food! Address: 2 rue Miralheti in Nice.
- Le Café des Chineurs: for lunch, dinner or drinks in the area of the harbor (not far from the old town). A cozy restaurant serving burgers, salads, woks, meat and fish dishes. Address: 1 rue Cassini in Nice.
- Chez Pipo: for snacks and drinks at lunch and dinner in the area of the harbor. This is another address to try local food. Address: 13 rue Bavastro in Nice.
- La Voglia: for lunch and dinner in the Old Nice. This Italian restaurant was recommended to me, but I didn’t had the time to eat there. Address: 2 rue St François de Paule in Nice.
My Secret Tip
- Le Plongeoir: for cocktails and dinner. This venue has a unique location on top of a pillar of rock and an old dive platform and offers scenic views of the Mediterranean Sea. Book in advance! Too bad I couldn’t try it. The restaurant serves a Mediterranean cuisine with fresh products. Address: 60 boulevard Franck Pilatte in Nice.
Where to stay in Nice
Nice is one of the most touristy cities in France, so you will have no trouble finding an accommodation. Nevertheless, I can give you a good tip in this guide about the Best Things to do in Nice! I stayed 2 nights in the AC Marriott Nice and it was amazing! This hotel is ideally located close to the beach and you can admire it as soon as you wake up. I really appreciated the service; the staff was reactive when I needed their help. And do you remember this trendy rooftop bar I mentioned earlier? Well, Farago on the Roof is on the rooftop of the AC Hotel! Up there you will also find a beautiful swimming pool that you can enjoy during the day.
Address: AC Hotel Nice – 59 Promenade Des Anglais – Entrée Rue Honoré Sauvan, 06000 Nice.
Disclaimer: I was invited to stay here by the AC Marriott Nice, nevertheless I have shared my own opinion.
After reading this guide, I hope you understand better why Nice is such a trendy destination in France! I really loved this city and I hope this list of the Best Things to do in Nice will help you enjoy it as much as I did! Let me know in the comment or by email if you have any questions!
If you are planning a trip in the French Riviera, check out the following other articles I wrote about this area: