Things to do in Nice, France
Nice is in an excellent location, sandwiched between the magnificent mountains of the Alps and the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea. It also sits close to the border of Italy, meaning you can easily visit on a day trip for your pizza fix! Spend mornings visiting bustling food markets, enjoy afternoons climbing to hillside viewpoints, and your evenings in beachside bars and bistros.
Climb Castle Hill
Castle Hill, or ‘Colline du Chateau’, is one of Nice, France’s top things to do. The hill towers over the city, dividing it into two parts: the port and the old town. The castle itself was destroyed in 1706, but you can still see the ruins of the old defense walls, the cathedral, and other ancient buildings. Lots of greenery and flowers also surround an artificial waterfall (Cascade Dijon). This makes it a lovely place to relax and enjoy the incredible views over Nice.
Depending on how energetic you’re feeling, you can walk to the top of the hill. Alternatively, take the old-fashioned elevator built into the rock itself to the top. Best of all, the observation deck at Castle Hill is completely free to visit!
Russian Orthodox Cathedral
The St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral has to be one of the most unusual buildings in all of Nice! As you wander the typically French streets, seeing colorful shutters and stone houses, you won’t miss the striking Russian architecture of this stunning church found on Avenue Nicolas II. In fact, it’s known as one of the most impressive Russian Orthodox churches outside of Russia.
Russian nobles came to Nice in the 1800s to escape the cold Russian winters and connect with French high society. As the Russian community expanded, they built several churches here, including the main grand cathedral. The building was finished in 1912 and is still used by the Russian community who live here today. Now, it’s also open to the public and well worth visiting for a little piece of Russia in France!
Tip: Visitors can take photos of the stunning exterior, ornate carvings, gold gilding, and beautiful green towers. However, there is no photography allowed inside.
Old Nice (Vieux Nice)
Old nice is where the charming history, churches, and squares of the city are located. Walk through the vibrant narrow and pastel-colored streets and feel like stepping back in time. After each new corner, you’ll find small restaurants, beautiful squares with the echoing sound of live music. Old Nice lies just below Castle Hill and is perfect to start exploring from there or from Place Massena.
Place Massena is the main square of Nice. The large square with checkerboard pavement is located between the old and new town and lined and leading to the shopping street and many good restaurants. Place Massena is also the perfect starting point for a stroll around Nice’s old town.
Relax on one of Nice’s Beaches
Nice is famous all over the world for its gorgeous beaches. Although they’re not sandy, the pebbled stretches of beach make for beautiful clear blue water that’s perfect for a refreshing dip on a summer’s day. Follow the Promenade des Anglais that hugs the city; although this looks like one long stretch of beach, it’s actually divided up into 30 different beaches! The beaches are a mixture of public and private. Because of this, you may have to buy lunch at one of the restaurants to enjoy the private beaches. Some of the best beaches in Nice to visit are:
Plage Beau Rivage
Plage Beau Rivage is one of Nice’s private beaches, but it’s the biggest French Riviera. It lies just below the old town, so wander down after a morning of sightseeing and enjoy a meal at the beach restaurant. Afterward, grab a sunbed & a parasol, sit back, relax, and appreciate the beauty of Nice.
La Reserve is east of the town, near the port area. It’s secluded from the main city’s busy areas, but it’s small in size, so get there early to get a spot amongst the rocks. It’s famous for great snorkeling and the old-fashioned diving boards just off the shore.
Coco Beach sits just past the port and La Reserve beach. It’s a beautiful small cove with rocks where you can lie your towel down and sunbathe. This one is a little bit more secluded than the others, so it’s a great spot to get away from the buzz of the city.
A day trip to Menton
Menton is a beautiful town, sitting east of Nice, right next to the border of Italy. The unique French and Italian culture mixture make for beautiful colored houses, palm tree avenues, luscious gardens, and Italian-style streets. It’s no wonder Menton is called ‘The Pearl of France’. Spend a day here wandering the streets, taking photos, and enjoying delicious Italian food. Don’t forget the gelato!
Menton also has a unique microclimate, making it one of the sunniest spots in France. This means it’s an excellent place for growing lemons. If you’re visiting towards the end of February, check out the annual lemon festival of Menton – a famous occasion in the French Riviera.
Tip: From Menton, you can be in Italy in just 15 minutes by train. If you have time, take a day trip across the border to the charming town of Ventimiglia. The town hosts a huge market weekly, where they sell delicious local Italian produce.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is not only a beautiful town, but it’s famous for its gorgeous bay, unlike the typical French Riviera stone beaches. This makes it popular among travelers and Nice locals for a beach day, especially as it’s only a 20-minute bus ride away. Get there early, swim in the dazzling ocean, watch the sailboats, and make the most of the beautiful restaurants and ice-cream stands.
When you’ve finished at the beach, explore the charming old town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, stretching downhill to the ocean. It’s one of the only medieval towns that remain on this coastline, and it manages to retain its quaint charm despite being sandwiched between glitzy Nice and Monaco.
How to Get to Nice, France
Nice has a well-known international airport with flights arriving from all over the world (flights options here). There are also regular trains and buses leaving from cities like Paris or Milan. (trains options here)
The city of Nice is very walkable and much of your time will be spent enjoying the beaches and meandering the streets of the old town. If you want to explore other spots in the beautiful French Riviera, it’s worth hiring a car for some flexibility. However, there are good bus services between the towns and even some trains that take you from Nice into Italy.
Where to Stay in Nice, France
Whether you choose to stay beachside or in one of the historic townhouses in the center, there are lots of great accommodation options to choose from in Nice. It’s also a great jumping-off point to all the other charming seaside towns and villages in the French Riviera.
Best Time to Visit Nice, France
Nice, France, is famous for having over 300 days of sunshine! Because of this, any time of the year is a good time to visit. Although the sea might be a little colder in the spring and autumn months, these shoulder seasons are a great time to visit to enjoy the more relaxed and peaceful side of Nice.
Best Places to Eat in Nice
There’s no shortage of beautiful places to eat in Nice! Because of its location near the Italian border, it’s a melting pot of French and Italian cuisine, and there are enough ice-cream shops to last a lifetime.
- KOKO GREEN Vegan & Raw food
- Daki-Daïa Restaurant
- AZZURRO Artisan Glacier
- La Cucina
- Restaurant Chez Papa