Nice in 7 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Discover the best plans in the Pearl of the French Riviera. This article gathers the best attractions in Nice.

Matteo Gramegna

Matteo Gramegna

12 min read

Nice in 7 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Nice | ©Chris Yunker

Nice is a city with a millenary history. It was founded by the Greeks in 350 BC with the name Nicea, probably in honor of the goddess Nika. In a short time it became an important commercial center and in the following centuries it discovered two distinct vocations: industrial and, above all, touristic.

As you can imagine, there are many things to see and do in and around Nice. A week in the capital of the Côte d'Azur will give you the opportunity to see everything from its splendid coastline to some of France's best museums.

Day 1: the old town

Vieux Nice| ©Albeto
Vieux Nice| ©Albeto

The oldest part of Nice is lively both day and night and retains that typical charm of Mediterranean cities. Narrow alleys, colorful houses and the inevitable laundry are three omnipresent elements of the cityscape.

Explore Vieux Nice

The original core of Nice is the perfect starting point to soak up its history and understand its idiosyncrasies. To get the most out of it, I recommend hiring a tour of Nice. The local guides know how to handle a group and know the most interesting anecdotes.

You will touch all the landmarks of the old town - the Sainte-Réparate Cathedral, Place Garibaldi, the baroque chapel of La Miséricorde, Palais Lascaris, etc. - enjoying pleasant and not heavy explanations.

Book the best tours of Nice

Climb the castle hill

The old town of Nice is dominated by a hill overlooking the ruins of a medieval fortress. In 1828, the king of Sardinia ordered the construction of a garden with a spectacular waterfall. Since then, this green area is one of the most famous attractions of the city. To get there you have three options:

  • Climb on foot (the path has more than 200 steps)
  • Ride the tourist train that leaves from the Monument du Centenaire (Promenade des Anglais, near the Albert I Garden). The ticket costs about 12 euros
  • Choose the free elevator (1 Rue des Ponchettes)

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

The MAMAC (Musée d'Art moderne et d'Art contemporain) focuses mainly on three major currents: Pop Art, New Realism and Assemblage. The exhibition spaces are arranged on four levels, the first one housing temporary exhibitions while the following ones are devoted to the permanent collections.

Among the most outstanding works are "The Blue Venus" by Yves Klein, the Loch Ness Monster by Niki de Saint Phalle and "Dollar Sign" by Andy Warhol. The museum is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00 (except Mondays) and the ticket costs around 10 €.

Dinner at Le Café de Turin

It is a Nice institution since it opened its doors more than a century ago. It is known for the other Roumegous, seafood cultivated in a family fish farm in Bourcefranc-le-Chapus. It is also worth ordering an assortment that also includes snails, mussels, shrimps and winkles.

If you are tired and have booked a rental house, you can also order to take away. Otherwise, I recommend you book a table through the official website. Le Café de Turin is located in one of the most picturesque areas of the old town: Place Garibaldi.

Day 2: cruise the Mediterranean

Sainte-Marguerite Island| ©Viator
Sainte-Marguerite Island| ©Viator

For the second day of your vacation I suggest a boat trip. In this case, the destination is the island of Sainte-Marguerite which is located a few kilometers from Cannes and Antibes. Note that there are other guided tours such as, for example, excursions to Cannes from Nice.

Reach Sainte-Marguerite Island

The island of Sainte Marguerite is a natural paradise and can only be reached on foot. Its pine and eucalyptus forests are crossed by numerous paths that touch the Batéguier pond (home to numerous species of migratory birds) and the tip of the Convention. The trails are marked and when you are tired, you can take a dip in its splendid beaches.

It is opposite Cannes and if you prefer, you can opt for a day trip to Cannes from Nice and complement it with a stage on the island of Sainte-Marguerite. You will see the famous Croisette and the old town before reaching this spur of the Côte d'Azur.

The company Trans Côte d'Azur guarantees connections between the two locations. You can book in advance, just keep in mind that tickets purchased on the website are valid for one month after the date of purchase.

Book your excursion to Cannes from Nice

Enter the Fort Royal

It is the largest building on the island and was erected in the early seventeenth century to block maritime access to Cannes. It later became a prison and the most famous detainee was the Man in the Iron Mask who was imprisoned within these walls between 1687 and 1698.

Today, this fortress houses the Museum of the Sea (Musée de la Mer) which brings together a collection of terracotta dishes, cups, wall paintings, vases, oil lamps and other objects found at Sainte Marguerite. The opening hours depend on the season but, as a general rule, it opens at 10:00 and closes at 17:45.

Visit the Church of Notre-Dame du Port

When you arrive in Nice, I recommend you to enter the temple that watches over the harbor. It was built between 1840 and 1853 by the will of King Carlo Felice and according to the project of the architect Joseph Vernier. The majestic neoclassical facade is a later addition and is due to Jules Fèbvre. As usual, it can be visited every day from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

End the day at the Gare du Sud

In the Libération district, the former train station has been transformed into a gastronomic and cultural space. The structure is inspired by the works of Gustave Eiffel and dates from the Universal Exhibition of 1889. Under the vault you will find restaurants of all kinds. Find more information on the official website (35 Avenue Malaussena).

Day 3: the south-west of Nice

Villa Masséna| ©dalbera
Villa Masséna| ©dalbera

The third day starts a short distance from the center, touches the outskirts and returns to the city for a well-deserved dinner. Read on and discover the plan.

Discover Nice's past at Villa Masséna

Villa Massena is a building that blends the architectural features of an Italian villa with the neoclassical-inspired Empire style. Its interiors retain the brightness and beauty of when they received international guests during the Belle Époque. Today it houses a museum that traces the history of Nice. The ticket costs about 10 €.

Take your little ones to the Phoenix Park

The Phoenix Park is a place specially designed for children. It is home to lontras, lemurs, peacocks, turtles, iguanas and hundreds of other species. The centerpiece of the park is the "Diamant Vert" (Green Diamond), a glass greenhouse of more than 7,000 m² that overlooks the surrounding trees.

Inside, six tropical and subtropical climates are recreated, each with its own characteristic flora and fauna. The ticket costs about 5 € while the opening depends on the season: from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm (from April to September) or from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm (from October to March). To get there from Villa Masséna, just take tramway line 2 and get off at Parc Phoenix.

Take a streetcar to the Allianz Riviera

The home of OGC Nice was built on the occasion of the 2016 European Football Championship. It is a state-of-the-art stadium and, in addition to soccer, it can host rugby matches, lawn tennis, concerts and other events. At its feet is the National Museum of Sport, which houses the most relevant memorabilia and objects of Gallic sport.

They also organize guided tours of the Allianz Riviera (whenever there is no match). The price is affordable - about €15 - and can be reached from the Parc Phoenix by streetcar line 3 (from the Grand Arenas stop to the Stade).

Enjoy the food and atmosphere at La Cave du Fromager

This restaurant in the old town is perfect for a romantic evening. You dine by candlelight and under a beautiful stone vault. As you can imagine from the name, cheese is a recurring ingredient. Open every day except Thursday from 19:00 to 22:45. Reservations are recommended (29 rue Benoit Bunico).

Day 4: Saint Tropez

Saint Tropez| ©Kmuffins
Saint Tropez| ©Kmuffins

It is one of the most renowned cities of the Côte d'Azur and its name is synonymous with luxury and worldly life. It stands on a promontory that juts into the Mediterranean and is just a little less than Nice. To get there you should opt for a rental car or book a day trip to Saint Tropez from Nice.

Lose yourself in La Ponche and Place aux Herbes

The old town, also known as La Ponche, borders the old port and is the most picturesque area of Saint Tropez. It is an almost entirely pedestrian area with dozens of cafes and restaurants. Its landmark is undoubtedly the baroque church of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption and the Palais des Bailli Pierre-André de Suffren, the residence of one of the most important admirals of the 18th century French fleet.

Also worth a stroll is Place aux Herbes which hosts a famous market with flowers, cheeses, fresh seafood and other characteristic products. If you have time, I recommend visiting the curious museum dedicated to butterflies: La Maison des Papillons. It is open from 14:00 to 18:00 and the ticket costs only about 2 €.

Book your excursion to Saint Tropez from Nice

Visit the Musée d'Histoire Maritime

What is now a place frequented by the rich and famous, was once a thriving port for both fishing and explorations. Saint Tropez's maritime history comes alive at the Musée d'Histoire Maritime, a cultural institution that opened in 2013.

The museum is located in the Citadel, a fortification on a hill along the coast. Its construction was commissioned by Henry IV to prevent a Spanish invasion and remained in use until 1873. It is open from 10:00 to 17:30 (18:30 in spring and summer) and the entrance fee is about 4 €.

Have lunch in front of the sea

In the port of Saint Tropez, not far from La Ponche is a highly recommended Mediterranean restaurant, especially if you feel like eating fresh fish dishes: La Sardine. Among its most outstanding creations, it is worth mentioning the turbot fillet with fennel confit or the grilled octopus with vierge sauce (26 Quai Frédéric Mistral).

Sentier du littoral (to Plage des Canoubiers)

After a good lunch, you can lighten up your meal with a stroll along the coast.

Day 5: a little rest in the city

Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica| ©Teresa Grau Ros
Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica| ©Teresa Grau Ros

The fifth day starts at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, the youngest church in the city. Before entering you can have a coffee accompanied by a croissant at Columbus Café & Co (Avenue Jean Médecin, inside the FNAC).

Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica

It is the largest church in the city and its appearance is reminiscent of the most famous cathedral in Paris. It was designed by Louis Lenormand, the same architect who designed the cathedral of Monaco. It was built thanks to donations from all over the country. From time to time, it also hosts concerts.

Do some shopping at Galeries Lafayette

Opened in 1893, the Galeries Lafayette in Paris was the first department store in Europe. The pearl of the Côte d'Azur also has its own branch located in the Jean Médecin district, just a few minutes' walk from the Basilica of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption. It's a Nice shopping landmark, especially if you stay here during the January and July sales.

Taste the wines of Provence at Cave Bianchi

After some shopping, you can leave your bags at the hotel and get to Cave Bianchi, a wine cellar in the heart of the old city. They offer different packages and each program includes an introduction to visual and sensory appreciation and tasting techniques.

This is one of the few destinations where you can taste Vin de Bellet, the wine produced in the hills near the Promenade des Anglais. The guides speak several languages, including Spanish (7 Rue Raoul Bosio).

Watch a movie

For the next day I am going to propose a somewhat hectic itinerary. Therefore, this day can only end with a quiet plan. There are several cinemas in the city but not all of them offer movies in the original language. Fortunately, the Pathé Gare du Sud cinema has this kind of offer. It is located at number 9 Allée Charles Pasqua.

Day 6: The Verdon Gorge

Verdon Gorge| ©Patrick Nouhailler
Verdon Gorge| ©Patrick Nouhailler

The Verdon Gorge is one of the most important canyons in Europe. It is located between the municipalities of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and Castellane, just over two hours drive from Nice.

If you do not wish to drive, you can opt for an organized excursion. In any case, I recommend you to read the post that explains how to visit the Verdon Gorge.

Drive along the scenic roads

For millennia, the Verdon river has carved this canyon creating rocky walls with a height ranging from 250 to 700 meters. I recommend two itineraries: Corniche sublime (in the southern part) or the Route du Nord (North Road). In both cases, you will find different viewpoints with breathtaking views.

Swim in turquoise waters

After admiring the rock walls, the forests and the river flowing at the bottom of the canyon, take some time for a dip in this corner of paradise. Swimming is not allowed everywhere - there are many streams in the canyon - but it is possible to do so in the lakes of the region:

  • Lac d'Esparron, among the wildest of the Verdon. You can take an electric boat and reach the beaches of Le Quartier or L'Ile du Barbu
  • Lac de Sainte-Croix, the third largest lake in France. It extends over an area of 2200 hectares and is perfect for swimming, windsurfing, pedal boating and other sports
  • Lac de Castillon, a mirror of water with an alpine atmosphere. You will find many coves where peace reigns

Swimming is forbidden only in Lac de Quinson and Lac de Chaudanne. In these sites you will have to limit yourself to hiking trails.

Descend the river

Since you are in such an impressive site, why not canoe or kayak down the river? If you have never sat in these boats, you have nothing to worry about. There are several routes adapted to everyone's level. For more information, I recommend you consult the Raft Session website. The routes run from March to October.

Recover your energy at La Rossettisserie

A few minutes walk from the Place Rossetti there is a characteristic restaurant with a cozy atmosphere: La Rossettisserie. The menu favors meat, here you can taste braised lamb, half chicken with herbs, roast pork, roast beef and the dishes of the day. It is also worth trying their desserts (8 Rue Mascoïnat).

Day 7: Farewell

Marc Chagall Museum| ©yann ellesse
Marc Chagall Museum| ©yann ellesse

Before returning home and booking your transfer through the Nice airport, you have time to see a few last things in the city.

Spend the morning at the Marc Chagall Museum

The Marc Chagall National Museum was born from the artist's desire to bring together in one place the 17 canvases that make up the biblical message. Paintings, sculptures, ceramics and stained glass form a poetic journey into his universe.

The cultural institution is located on the Cimiez hill and was designed by architect André Hermant. It is open from 10:00 to 18:00 (from 10:00 to 17:00 in winter) while the price is around 10:00. It is a museum that tends to please even those who are not passionate about Chagall's work.

Admire the Église Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc

Any self-respecting French city cannot avoid having a church or a monument dedicated to Joan of Arc. In Nice there is a unique place of worship in the neighborhood of the Liberatión, specifically at number 11 rue Grammont. Getting there is very easy, you just have to walk about 10 or 15 minutes.

The church bears the signature of the Parisian architect Jacques Droz and stands out especially for two elements: the futuristic look and the white color. The foundation stone was laid in 1926 but the work was not completed until 1933.

Buy a souvenir at Le Chatelard 1802

Nice and Provence are famous for many things but especially for lavender. Le Chatelard 1802 is a family-run store that sells a myriad of objects with the scent of this flower: candles, diffusers, soaps, perfumes and more. It is located in the old town, a short walk from the Place Centrale (2 Rue du Pont Vieux).

Book your excursion in Provence from Nice

Indulge yourself at Keisuke Matsushima

What happens when a Japanese chef falls in love with French cuisine? The result is Keisuke Matsushima, a restaurant that combines the products of Provence with a typically Japanese sensibility. It's not very cheap but it's worth reaching into your wallet (22 ter Rue de France).

Is it worth staying a week?

Summer in Nice| ©Javier Doren
Summer in Nice| ©Javier Doren

It depends on what you want to do. If you want to limit yourself to sightseeing, 3 days in Nice is enough. On the other hand, a longer stay is perfect for exploring the nearby towns. A short distance from Nice is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (the peninsula of millionaires), Cannes, the Principality of Monaco, the splendid village of Eze and some of the most beautiful beaches in France.

Book your transfer from Nice airport