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Best things to do in Nice

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

Sep 20, 2021 • 13 min read

Best things to do in Nice

©Stephen Colebourne

Located halfway between Cannes and Monaco and nestled between the Maritime Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the epicenter of the French Riviera and one of the destinations thousands of travelers dream of visiting one day.

It is easy to fall in love with Nice because it has it all. Here, every traveler quickly finds his or her place. Whether it's exploring its old town and traditional markets, swimming in its crystal clear beaches, hiking in its surroundings or enjoying the local gastronomy, take note of everything you can see and do in Nice during a few days of vacation in the famous Côte d'Azur!

1. Walk up and down the Promenade des Anglais.

The Hotel Negresco from the Promenade des Anglais | ©Christina
The Hotel Negresco from the Promenade des Anglais | ©Christina

Talking about the capital of the French Riviera without mentioning the famous Passe des Anglais is practically impossible as it is one of the main tourist sites to see in Nice.

Located in the heart of the city, this promenade of 7 kilometers long has its origins in the nineteenth century when European aristocratic families traveled here to spend a few days of rest on the Mediterranean coast so it was common to see many English nobles strolling through this place enjoying the scenery, especially in winter. That is where it got its name.

And although many years have passed since then, the Paseo de los Ingleses continues to be a beautiful place where tourists and locals come to relax in nature, walking under the light of the Mediterranean and listening to the placid murmur of the waves in the background.

The Promenade des Anglais is, therefore, a typical view of the French Riviera that you can not miss.

How to walk along the Promenade des Anglais?

If this is your first time in Nice, I recommend that you walk along the area that stretches from the old town of Nice to the Hotel Negresco, passing through the leafy garden of Albert I and the Palais de la Méditerranée. It is very beautiful and you can take many souvenir photos!

However, if you want to go all the way from the Château hill to the Nice airport I advise you to do the route on roller skates or bicycle. Along the Promenade des Anglais there are Vélo Bleu self-service stations to rent them and you will have a great time.

If at some point you need to take a break, you can always sit in one of the cafes with terraces of the Promenade des Anglais or in the famous "chaise bleue " those little blue chairs that have become an icon in Nice and even have their own sculpture as a tribute.

2. Explore the old town of Nice

Detail of the Saint Reparata Cathedral ©*SHERWOOD*
Detail of the Saint Reparata Cathedral ©*SHERWOOD*

One of the most recommended places to see in Nice during a trip to the French Riviera is the wonderful old town of this city known as "le vieux Nice", a neighborhood of Italianate airs full of narrow streets dotted with colorful houses and palaces, lively markets, small baroque churches and lively squares where you can enjoy the vibrant French nightlife.

Nothing better than spending a day of your vacation to visit this charming area of Nice, reminiscent of an old village. Not only in its appearance but also in its lifestyle as the old town is still home to many locals who you will see doing their chores in the neighborhood.

What to see in the old town of Nice?

  • Santa Reparata Cathedral: Located in Rossetti Square, this 17th-century Baroque-facaded church is inspired by the church of Santa Susanna in Rome. It looks like a simple temple on the outside but inside the baroque is displayed in all its glory through the stucco and marble. A true work of art at the service of spirituality.

  • Piazza Rossetti**: A square full of restaurants and cafes where the famous Fenocchio ice cream parlor, one of the best in the city, is located.

  • Place du Palais de Justice**: This is where Nice's court of justice is located. The neoclassical architecture of the square gives a unique touch to the old town and is a pleasure to look at. In this area there are many cafes and restaurants where you can relax and have a nice time.

  • Palais Lascaris**: This is one of the must-see buildings in Nice. Italian style, it was built in the seventeenth century and currently houses a permanent exhibition on the history and culture of Nice.

  • The Place Saint-François**: In the morning, the fishmongers set up around the beautiful fountain of the square, filling this area of the old town with hustle and bustle. Highly recommended to get to know the most authentic side of Nice.

  • Church of St. Martin and St. Augustine **: This parish church dates from the sixteenth century and is the oldest in Nice. The interior is of a beautiful baroque style. As a curiosity, it is said that Giuseppe Garibaldi was baptized here and that even Martin Luther came to say a mass.

3. Enter the flower market Cours Saleya

Flower market Cours Saleya | ©Matt Kieffer
Flower market Cours Saleya | ©Matt Kieffer

One of the things I recommend you to do on a trip to take the pulse of the city you are visiting is to go to any of its markets to walk around, browse among the stalls and mingle with the people.

In the case of Nice, you can't miss the Cours Saleya open-air market in the heart of the old town. This is the city's main market, where locals flock to buy fresh local produce, although on Mondays it transforms into an interesting antiques flea market.

In my opinion, a visit to the Cours Saleya market is one of the best things to do in Nice during a getaway. With the bright colors of the exotic fruit and vegetable stalls and the delicious fragrances given off by the flower stalls, this market has become a great tourist attraction - not for nothing is it known as the Flower Market!

When to visit the market?

If you want to avoid the crowds, my advice is to go to Cours Saleya early in the morning to enjoy the market in all its splendor, mingle with the locals and feel more intensely the scent of roses, lilies, geraniums and carnations. This way you will avoid the crowds of rush hour and you can take all the pictures you want quietly.

However, we can not forget that this space of the Cours Saleya street is not only a tourist attraction but also a real market, so I recommend you to go with some money in your pockets because you will end up biting in some of its stalls. I, for example, took home some delicious little boxes of macarons.

When the Cours Saleya market starts to fill up you can take the opportunity to have a drink in one of the terraces of the cafes in the square.

Some curiosities about the Cours Saleya market!

  • If you visit the city in summer, another of the best things to do in Nice is to attend the Cours Saleya night craft market, which takes place from Tuesday to Sunday from 6 PM on Cours Saleya. It's perfect for summer evenings and you can always browse their craft stalls while strolling through the old town.

  • And I finish by telling you a curious coincidence and that is that in the same street Cours Saleya lived at number 1 the French painter Henri Matisse, maximum representative of Fauvism.

4. Sink your teeth into the nizard food!

Cooking a tasty socca | ©Fred PO
Cooking a tasty socca | ©Fred PO

One of the things I enjoy most on any trip is taste the local food. Considering that we are in France, there is no doubt that if you like to eat and consider yourself a foodie, you will have a great time in Nice.

The French Riviera is the ideal place to enjoy life's little pleasures, also when it comes to gastronomy.

The cuisine of Nice is traditional Mediterranean with Italian influences and the street food is so good that during your stay you could feed yourself with it, although there are also very good restaurants in the center where you can sit and eat quietly.

There are many delicious dishes that come out of the kitchen of Nice but I propose five that you can not miss and if you accompany them with a Provençal rosé wine, even better.

What are the must-try dishes in Nice?

  • Salade nizarda: it is prepared with fresh raw vegetables (tomato, , green and red bell pepper, sometimes cucumber, celery stick and raw tender artichoke), some pickled, hard-boiled egg, anchovies and sometimes tuna, onion, garlic and Nice olives (small and black), all drizzled with olive oil and flavored with fresh basil.

  • Bagnat bread: This is the traditional Nice sandwich made with the ingredients of the Nice salad. Perfect to eat in the street sunbathing or on the way to the next stop on the tourist route.

  • Pissaladière: It is a typical Nice coca of the French Riviera very similar to the Italian pizza but without tomato. It has onion confit, a paste of sardines and anchovies called pissalat and black olives to decorate. Very good!

  • Socca: It is often confused with crêpes but it is actually a kind of bread baked with chickpea flour, olive oil and black pepper very typical of the southwest of France. I recommend eating it freshly made and hot because it is much tastier.

  • Farcis**: It is a very tasty dish baked with vegetables stuffed with minced meat and baked. It can be served hot or cold.

5. Take a tour of Nice on the tourist train.

Enjoy Nice aboard the little tourist train | ©Elliott Brown
Enjoy Nice aboard the little tourist train | ©Elliott Brown

If you are traveling with your family, one of the most fun things to do in Nice is to ride the tourist train. The kids love it! It is also a great way to see some of the most touristic sites of the city without getting tired of walking and in the case of Nice it is very worthwhile.

You will spend a very entertaining time with the kids while the train takes you through the Promenade des Anglais, the old town, the lively Flower Market, the Place Masséna, the Bay of Angels or the Castle Hill among many other places.

The Nice tourist train runs all year round and has audio guides in several languages describing the sites visited. The tour lasts about an hour and when it reaches the Castle Hill it makes a stop of about 15 minutes so that passengers can get off and enjoy the panoramic views of the city while taking some pictures of the scenery.

Information of interest

  • Where to take it:**: The Nice tourist train departs every 30 minutes from the Promenade des Anglais, in front of the Albert I garden.

  • Timetable?**: In low season it runs from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM and from 1:30 PM to 5 PM. In high season it operates from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM and from 1:30 PM to 6 PM.

  • Languages:**: The audio guides of the Nice sightseeing train are available in German, English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian and German.

  • Price?**: The ticket for the circuit under the "City Center'' is priced at 10 euros for adults and 5 euros for children from four to twelve years old. On the other hand, the ticket for the high circuit "Castle" costs 12 euros for adults and 6 euros for children from four to twelve years old. Children under three years old go up for free.

6. Approach the port of Nice.

Port Lympia | ©Miguel Mendez
Port Lympia | ©Miguel Mendez

One of the oldest places on the Côte d'Azur to see in Nice that I liked the most is its port, also known as Port Lympia.

Located in the heart of the city and built in the eighteenth century on the shores of the Mediterranean is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places you will find here during your getaway because it is in a strategic enclave of Nice surrounded by colorful historic buildings and monuments such as the Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-du-Port.

In other things in the port of Nice you can also see moored many of the typical yachts and sailboats that characterize the Côte d'Azur and have made it world famous.

7. Climb the Château Hill, the most impressive viewpoint in Nice.

View of Nice from the Castle Hill | ©Arno Smit
View of Nice from the Castle Hill | ©Arno Smit

Very close to the port of Nice is located the best viewpoint of the city, from where you can contemplate spectacular panoramic views of the Promenade des Anglais, the old town, the Bay of Angels, the mountains and the beaches of the city. .

You can climb to the top of Castle Hill (the highest point in the city) on the tourist train, in the free art deco elevator or on foot. I recommend you take the stairs if you can because then you can pass by the Bellanda Tower Observation Deck, which has beautiful views over the Bay of Angels.

I love this place because once you are up there gazing at the beautiful scenery, you discover before your very eyes why this French region is called Côte d'Azur. It was a magnificent experience to see at our feet that indigo sea in all its immensity shining under the Mediterranean light.

At the top of the Château hill there is also a park where you can visit the ruins of an old military fortress, a historical cemetery and a beautiful artificial waterfall.

I find it a very nice place for a walk or for a romantic picnic under the shade of the trees. If you travel with your family it is a highly recommended place to see in Nice with children, because here you can let them play outdoors for a while in one of the playgrounds of the Château park while you take a break.

Isabel's Traveler Tip

Climb to the top of the Château hill in the late afternoon to enjoy the most beautiful sunset in Nice - simply spectacular!

Stroll around Place Masséna, the most beautiful square in Nice.

Fontaine du Soleil, Place Masséna | ©Jorge Láscar
Fontaine du Soleil, Place Masséna | ©Jorge Láscar

Another of the essential places to see in Nice that I liked the most was the Place Masséna, the largest and best known of the city that is located very close to the Promenade des Anglais in the center.

It is a place that attracts a lot of attention because it is surrounded by **old historical buildings with a very particular geometric style floor. In addition, there is a beautiful sculptural fountain called "fontaine du Soleil" in the center of which stands a colossal statue dedicated to the god Apollo.

Here you can take many pictures, do some shopping or even have a drink in one of the terraces of the picturesque cafes that fill the Masséna square while you enjoy the lively atmosphere and watch one of the street shows that are usually performed there.

Whether during the day or at night, I recommend spending some time in the Masséna square because it is a very busy place that you can not miss.

9. Visit the museums of Nice

Museum Matisse | ©m-louis .®
Museum Matisse | ©m-louis .®

In addition to its beautiful landscapes, its casual lifestyle and its monuments, the capital of the Côte d'Azur has a wide cultural offer very interesting in several museums dedicated to art, history and local traditions.

During a getaway you can never miss a cultural visit in our agenda and if it dawns a rainy day, even more so. That's why I recommend that you set aside some time to go to one of the many museums to see in Nice. These are the must-sees!

  • Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC): Located near Place Garibaldi, this is one of the most beautiful museums in Nice. Here you will see works belonging to the currents of minimalism, the school of Nice, conceptual art or pop art. From its terrace there are great views of the city and the harbor.

  • Matisse Museum**: Located in the neighborhood of Cimiez, in the Villa des Arenes, is this museum dedicated to the work of the French painter Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice for more than thirty years. On its walls you can contemplate some of his most important works from his beginnings to his final stage.

  • National Museum Marc Chagall**: This museum is composed of the works on the Bible that the artist donated to the French State in the 70s. Highly recommended if you like surrealist art and neoprimitivism. You will find it on Doctor Menard Avenue in the Cimiez district.

  • Archaeological Museum of Nice**: In this museum you can learn about the past of the city from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. It has very interesting collections on ceramics, numismatics, jewelry, glass or sculpture. It is located in the Arenas de Cimiez park.

  • Palais Lascaris **: It is one of the most beautiful museums to see in Nice. It houses a permanent exhibition on the history and culture of Nice as well as a collection of musical instruments, some of them very peculiar! It is located in the old town at 15 Rue Droite.

Isabel's Traveler Tip

Get the Nice Museum Pass if you plan to visit many museums in the city.

10. Take a day trip to Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo from Nice.

Visit Monaco ©Julien Lanoy
Visit Monaco ©Julien Lanoy

With its mild climate, elegant buildings, monuments, delicious gastronomy and beautiful beaches, Nice is the great jewel of southeastern France and a destination that attracts thousands of travelers from all over the world.

However, in my experience, one of the greatest pleasures of traveling in Provence and the Côte d'Azur is exploring its amazing variety of landscapes beyond the capital of the French Riviera. That's why I recommend you set aside some time on your Nice vacation to take a half-day excursion through Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo.

I remember it being one of the most fun experiences of the trip! You will visit the medieval village of Eze, the Fragonard perfume factory, Monaco and the luxurious neighborhood of Monte Carlo. If you want to know more about this activity, take a look at the post Excursions to Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo from Nice:.

Things to do in Nice