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Are you headed to the French Riviera for a few days and looking for ideas of what to see and do? I did this a few years ago and had a great time soaking up the sun and exploring coastal towns while using Nice as my base. With easy access to nearby towns, plenty of beaches, and an awesome farmer’s market, Nice makes a great place to relax and explore from for a few days. I spent 5 days in Nice France so here are my suggestions on where to stay, the best things to do in Nice, and some ideas for day trips. 

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Getting to Nice

Nice is home to the third most important airport in France, the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, which is located just outside of the city. There are frequent shuttle busses from both terminals that lead to and from city centre with numerous stops along the Promenade Des Anglais along the way. Tickets can be purchased from the ticket booth just outside the airport entrance, or on the bus itself. Nice also has a train station, as well as a large Port.

Getting Around Nice

For the most part, the city is pretty walkable. Especially if you plan on spending 3-5 days in Nice, that’s plenty of time to wander and look around.

The city does also have a tram system, as well as bus routes throughout the city. Tickets can be purchased on board. For those looking for a more touristy way to see the sites, there is a little tourist train that starts along the Promenade Des Anglais.

Where To Stay in Nice

There are a few areas that I would recommend staying in Nice. For me, being a water-lover, I wanted to be as close as possible to a beach. There are plenty of beaches along the Promenade Des Anglais so it’s not difficult to find a spot within easy walking distance from the sea. Other popular areas are Place Masséna, Old Town, and the Port.

Looking for some suggestions? Take a look at the following accommodation options:

Hostels: Mayerbeer Beach or Hotel Ozz by HappyCulture 

Midrange hotels: The Deck Hotel or Hotel le Royal Promenade des Anglais 

Luxury hotels: Hotel Negresco or Hotel Aston La Scala 

Things to do in Nice 

Wondering what to see and do? Here are my top suggestions on how to make the most of your 3-5 day in Nice. 

Explore Old Town

Made up of narrow cobblestone alleys, and winding streets, Old Town Nice is a great place to wander. Full of shops, cafes, and restaurants, it’s one of the most popular places to grab a bite to eat. The Old Town is also home to the famous flower market, as well as important landmark buildings including the Palais Lascaris, and Cathédrale de Sainte Réparate. And if it’s hot and you need something to cool down, Old Town is also the home to the city’s best gelato shop: Fennocchio which boasts to have over 100 flavours ranging from classic chocolate to the questionable flavour of cactus. Prepare to wait in line though, this place is popular!

Looking down at the cobblestone streets of Old Town

Castle Hill

A little misleading in its name due to the fact that there never was a castle, Castle Hill offers the best views of Nice. Located between Old Town and the Nice Port, this hill is a hot-spot for tourists and locals alike. Its steep trails are popular with runners and the park up top is a popular place for locals and their families to spend an afternoon playing. The man made waterfall is also a popular sight. Castle hill makes for a great place to have a picnic and relax with a book and get stunning photos of Nice and the Mediterranean Sea from above. There are numerous paths leading to the top of Castle Hill, as well as an elevator.

One of the views from Castle Hill

Place Masséna

As the main square of Nice, Place Masséna is the spot to find public events, celebrations, and concerts. Lined by palm trees, gardens, and red buildings built in Italian-style architecture, this square is picture perfect and a popular hangout spot for locals and tourists alike. There are plenty of high end shops in this area, as well as a large mall, Galleries Lafayette, filled with floor upon floor of European design good ranging from clothing, to shoes, to jewelry, to handbags and wallets.

colourful buildings surround Place Messina

Promenade Des Anglais

Promenade Des Anglais is a giant sea-side road that leads from the airport all the way to the Nice Port. On the land side it is lined with hotels and restaurants while numerous beaches line the sea-side. There is a wide area for pedestrians and cyclists as it is the perfect place to enjoy an evening walk. It’s also common to find locals playing sports along its path: when I visited there was some sort of soccer tournament going on.

The Beaches

Promenade Des Anglais is lined with numerous beaches stretching out down the coast line. It is important to note however, that these are stone beaches and not sand beaches, so if you plan on spending a day here it’s best to bring a beach matt or something thicker to sit/lie on. Showers and toilets are available for a fee, and some beaches do have restaurants/bars.

Nice has tons of beaches

The Russian Cathedral

Probably the furthest attraction of the city, the Russian Church is about a 25 minute walk from Place Masséna. It’s a stunning building in the centre of Nice, and the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. The Cathedral is open to viewers during certain times, so make sure to check the schedule first, or you will likely end up like me trying to take photos through the closed gate.

The Russian Church

Place Garibaldi

Another important square, Place Garibaldi is located between Old Town and New Town and is a short walk from the Nice Port. Like Place Masséna, Place Garibaldi is also home to some stunning architecture, though rather than numerous shops it is lined with a variety of restaurants. This is also the area where you catch the bus to Èze and Monaco.

The Flower Market

Probably my favourite place to visit in Nice, the Flower Market is the perfect place to grab some homemade food, shop for souvenirs, or just wander and look at what the vendors have to offer. Though there are quite a few vendors selling flowers, the Flower Market is home to all kinds of items. Some stalls offer fresh cuts of meat and sea food while others deal in fruits and vegetables. A few have mouth-watering displays of fresh made bread, croissants, and other baked goods and a couple offer a variety of fresh cheeses.

This is the best place to come and buy your food for the day, whether you needed something pre-made or something to cook later for dinner, you can find almost everything here. During my my 5 days in Nice I only went out to dinner once. Instead, I preferred to pick up baguettes, cheeses, berries, and other treats from this market for my daily meals.

The market is open every day except for Mondays, (which is antique day) from morning til early afternoon. Go as early as possible though because things disappear quickly.

a flower vendor at the Flower Market

The Port

Located on the far side of Castle Hill, the Nice Port is one of the most picturesque areas of the city. It can be reached by walking along the Promenade des Anglais (which offers stunning views) or by walking behind Castle Hill through Place Garibaldi area.  Nice Port is another popular location for hotels and restaurants. If you are planning on taking any sailing or boating trips, they will leave from this area.

Port view from Castle Hill

What to Buy in Nice

The main shopping street in Nice is avenue Jean Medecin, upon which you can find all kinds of boutiques, European chain stores, and the Nice Etoile mall. As mentioned above, another popular spot is the Galleries Lafyette, which offeres a variety of products of European design. Aside from the European fashions, Nice also offers some more budget friendly and unique products that make great souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home. Some of my favourite finds were olive oil soaps that came in numerous different scents, bags of herbs de Provence for cooking, chocolates, and lavender. The flower market is great for these types of items- just be sure to shop around the different vendors before buying!

A candy vendor at the Flower Market

Day Trips from Nice

Nice is a gateway to all kinds of easy and close day trips throughout the area. Some are very easy to do on your own (I have posts for how to spend 1 day in Monaco and a guide to Eze) but other spots such as St. Tropez or Provence are a bit trickier and require a lot of time on public transit. For this reason, I suggest doing a bit of research as you may be better off taking a guided tour for some day trip destinations .

Some tours that may be of interest include:

Nice really surprised me. I liked it more than I expected, especially because it’s so central and easy to explore the area from. I definitely recommend spending 3-5 days in Nice if you are looking to kick back, relax, and enjoy the French Riviera.

A Note on Travel Insurance in France

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

Old town Nice, France

39 Comments

  1. Sarah Ebner on July 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I’ve always wanted to visit, but the nearest I came was driving through when on my way to Italy for work once (more glamorous than it sounds!). Great tips for when I finally make it though…

  2. Milosz Zak on July 30, 2014 at 12:37 am

    It’s interesting that there’s a Russian Church nearby, Nice looks somewhat similar to Odessa or Sochi, at least in its maritime classical architecture.

  3. Mindi @ 2foodtrippers on July 30, 2014 at 5:26 am

    I’ve been to Cannes twice but never to Nice. After seeing your photo of Old Town Nice, I need to rectify this situation!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 30, 2014 at 10:48 am

      Yes you do! I didn’t make it to Cannes during my stay (rained and stormed on my last full day which is of course when I planned to go) but would love to check it out one day as well

  4. Sanket D. on July 30, 2014 at 9:32 am

    The first thing I noticed on your website was your cover photo – that is the Kylemore Abbey if I’m not mistaken isn’t it? One of the prettiest places I’ve seen in my life (and that is saying quite something if you’ve just returned from Ireland isn’t it?)
    Yet to visit Nice – I’m pretty sure this post will be very useful when I finally get the chance 🙂

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Haha yes Kylemore Abbey it is! One of the first places I visited while travelling and still one my personal favs as well. Thanks for stopping by Sanket 🙂

  5. Satu VW / Destination Unknown on July 30, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I’m not sure how I haven’t made it to Nice yet, I’ve been quite close several times!! You mentioned the “low key vibes”, I always imagined it as a very touristy town, but is it relatively quiet? This definitely made me want to get there one day… 🙂

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 30, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      When I was there (April) it wasn’t very touristy at all…although I had also just come from Venice so I’m sure a lot of places seem more low key after a few days there 😉 I found it pretty quiet and relaxing for sure

  6. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey on July 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Nice post on Nice… boom tish! Seriously, I am planning to go there early 2015 so this was a good read for me to get in-the-know.

  7. John Roberts on July 30, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    What a great and thorough overview. Thanks for the tips to navigate this destination. It sounds like my kind of place to kick back and chill. Cheers!

  8. christine on July 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    This is going on mybookmark!! Great tips, very detailed. I am going end of week so I will be using these 🙂

  9. Amy on July 31, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    So pretty! I’ve been itching to get to the south of France and Riviera and I might just have to add Nice to the list of places to see there. Thanks for the tips!

  10. Alli on July 31, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Views from Castle Hill are gorgeous! Brings back lovely memories, all though I didnt spend much time there 🙁 Next time I will for sure and keep these tips in mind!

  11. Lucy on July 31, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Brings back good memories of the week I spent in Nice about 10 years ago – it’s such a good location to explore the South of France and there’s so much to see around there.

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 31, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      Right? One of my favourite things about Nice is there’s so much nearby to explore!

  12. Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) on July 31, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I’d definitely love to get gelato in the old town! How weird that it’s called Castle Hill even though there’s no castle – is it because it’s like a castle in some way?

    Love the random Russian church too. It’s not what I would have expected in Nice, but it’s very cool.

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 31, 2014 at 11:43 pm

      Totally misleading isn’t it. There’s a waterfall, and some super old ruins but no castle 🙁 views are stunning though so that makes up for it a bit!

  13. Paul on July 31, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    That Russian church reminds me of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow! Love the photo of the port from Castle Hill – I love this style of roof in towns on the med coast with the beautifully coloured orange tiles. Great article Hannah, extremely informative!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 31, 2014 at 11:43 pm

      Thanks Paul 🙂 Can’t compare it to the Moscow Cathedral myself as I have never been but hope to go soon!

  14. jennifer on July 31, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Oh that Russian church is so cool looking!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on July 31, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      It was gorgeous! I’m bummed I didn’t get to go in (visited during closed hours) but still worth the walk

  15. Jen Seligmann on August 1, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Love love love Nice! It’s such a cool place with beautiful beaches and stunning architecture. I didn’t know about the Russian Cathedral, which I’m disappointed about but I suppose that’s just a good excuse to go back. I’d love to be lazing on one of the sun lounges by the water right now, no matter the cost!

    • hannahlogan21@gmail.com on August 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

      I think that’s a perfect excuse to go back- and then after you see it laze by the water 😉

  16. Simone on August 1, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Great guide if I ever make it to Nice. Lots of information in there and nice pictures as well.

  17. Bailey K. on August 3, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Old Town looks fantastic!! Well, all of it looks quite amazing, actually. 🙂 I almost went to Nice once on a backpacking trip, but it was getting so much rain that we opted to go elsewhere. I’m sure I’ll visit someday, though. Thanks for the tips!

  18. Bianca @itsallbee on August 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I love your break down of trips at the bottom there. I have to add this to my list of short getaways for next year. Cool post!

  19. elaine schoch on September 2, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I just got back from Menton – it’s a great day trip from Nice. I loved the area, the Med Sea is just amazing.

    • Hannah Logan on September 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

      I’ll have to add it to the list for next time!

  20. […] de Pignes, from Nice to Digne. For more day trips from Nice and things to do in Nice, check out the best of Nice from Hannah at Eat Sleep Breath […]

  21. […] to see it. So, when I spent some time in the south of France I decided to do a day trip from Nice and spend 1 day in Monaco. It was a busy day, but it was a lot of fun and I definitely recommend […]

  22. […] to visit. There’s no shortage of charming coastal towns here and after spending a week based in Nice, I enjoyed exploring a few of them. However, without a doubt, my favourite was the cliff-side […]

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