Visiting Nice: what are the best things to do and see in the “Queen of Flowers”, the beautiful Mediterranean city on the French Riviera?
Its sea of azure, clear sky, green countryside and great golden sunshine are so stunning they were immortalized in a song, fittingly called Nissa la Bella, Nice the Beautiful. Second city in Provence after Marseille, but considerably more populated than Toulon, Nice, both upscale and popular, festive and dynamic, surprises by its diversity. Visiting Nice means discovering the historical, multicultural, tasty and charming treasures of the Côte d’Azur capital.
What to do in Nice? The prefecture of the Alpes-Maritimes is not only an open-air silver display: historical monuments, gardens, hiking trails, museums, artists, traditions, local crafts, and internationally renowned gastronomy, sunny flavors of tomatoes, basil and olive oil…. A thousand and one wonders that will take care of your visual and gustatory pleasures! What could be better than to enjoy the charms of the French Riviera to enhance your stay? Here is a list of unmissable places to visit Nice, the quintessence of all the charms.
1. Visit Old Nice
An anthill of tourists and locals, Old Nice looks like a small village from the Middle Ages. Wander through the maze of narrow, shaded alleys to find your best products: craft shops, small food shops – fresh pasta factories, traditional biscuit factories, Nice food factories, butcher shops, bakeries, grocery stores, countless restaurants, cafés, wine bars, ice-cream shops -, souvenir shops, painters’ shops, designers, sculptors, stylists. THE place to visit in Nice for a chic and trendy shopping experience. To celebrate, it’s here too: it’s the pedestrian district of restaurants, bars, pubs and discos. Take the opportunity to visit the Cathedral of Sainte-Réparate, the Labour Exchange, the Palais de la Préfecture and many churches.
2. Castle Hill
Contrary to what its name suggests, Castle Hill is more of a hill than a castle. There are only ruins left, but climbing the steps to the top of the hill gives a view of Nice and the Baie des Anges. It is also a good place for children, because at the top you will find a playground and a perfect place for picnics.
3. Explore the Cours Saleya market
On this double alleyway between the castle hill and Albert I Park, Cours Saleya is known to the people of Nice as the place where the traditional market for flowers and local food products is held. On the shelves, check out olive caviar with truffles, socca – a Nice specialty – but also fruit, vegetables and other French dishes. An ideal time to soak up the atmosphere of Nice. Gather flowers and regional specialities, such as olive oil, spices, tapenade or anchovy, etc. For a culinary trip while visiting Nice, this is where it all happens.
4. Visit the Matisse Museum
The Matisse museum is dedicated to the art of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) is simply the must-see in Nice if you love pictorial art. You will have access to nearly 70 paintings, 200 drawings, engravings, sculptures, illustrated books, photographs and objects that belonged to the painter.
5. Strolling along the Promenade des Anglais
The “Prom'” – as the locals say – is a huge walk along the coast, 6 km long from Nice’s entrance to the old town. Visiting Nice by this pedestrian avenue allows you to observe the city’s reflections and the flamboyant lighting at any time of the day. Orange shades in the evening, blue-grey in the morning, turquoise blues in the sea, and all this with the impression of being in the countryside!
6. Visit Villa Kerylos
A little outside of Nice, in the neighboring little town of Beaulieu, you can find theVilla Kerylos, a beautiful early 20th century villa built for an archaeology enthusiast who wanted a villa that resembled Greek the homes of wealthy ancient Greeks. After years of construction and collecting custom made furniture based off of museum pieces, Villa Kerylos came to life. It is the closest you will get to a perfectly conserved Greek Villa, just with modern amenities added to the mosaics and peristyle.
7. Parks and nature in Nice
If you are more interested in nature than concrete buildings, Nice will have a couple of points of interest for you. Indeed, two parks allow you to enjoy a moment of appreciable tranquility: the large Mont Boron Park and the Promenade du Paillon. Take advantage of this park, a green corridor in the middle of the city center to visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice. Also, climb on the belvederes of Nice, especially the park of the castle hill and take a picture of this scenery in the shape of a postcard!
8. Other ideas for visits to Nice
Nice is a fascinating city to visit in its own right but is also surrounded with activities and points of interest, and as such is a great place to leave on excursions and trips from. Nothing embodies that more than the the Port of Nice, which has grown in recent years with the arrival of Corsica Ferries in 2019, offering a very popular new line to Sicily . An easier alternative to going all the way to Genoa or other cities in Italy before getting on the boat, Nice has become an increasingly competitive and popular departure port. You can compare ticket prices from Nice to Sicily with Direct Ferries, an online booking service that will let you compare prices from different companies and ports.
Here is a list of some additional places to continue visiting Nice:
- Visit the Marc-Chagall Museum, dedicated to the work of the painter Marc Chagall
- Walk on the chequered boards of Place Masséna
- Visit St. Nicholas Cathedral, one of the most important Russian Orthodox buildings outside Russia
- Explore the Lascaris Palace dating from the first half of the XVIIᵉ century, now a museum of ancient musical instrumen
- Visit the Monastery of Cimiez
How to get to Nice?
There are many ways to reach Nice. You have the choice between traveling by car, by train or by plane to get to Nice. It will all depend on where you leave from. The TGV (France’s intercity high-speed rail service) connects Paris to Nice in just three and a half hours: you will arrive in the center of the city, which is very convenient. You can also opt for a flight, the airport is only 2 miles away from downtown. You will find many direct flights from London , either Stansted or Gatwick, as well as from Liverpool or Manchester. You can easily find a low-cost flight to these destinations on Skyscanner and you can also directly rent a car at the airport.
Where to stay in Nice?
In the beautiful city of Nice, the best place to stay is near the waterfront and the famous Promenade des Anglais, but also the Old Town, which is a short distance from the Château Hill and will enable you to just walk anywhere. Keep in mind that lots of the excursions and activities we recommend are actually slightly outside of the city and will require getting on a regional train or bus, or a short drive if you have a car. Generally speaking, we would recommend staying in Nice more than a few days as its surroundings have plenty to offer and it is not the perfect city to spend a weekend in, but rather a great location for a longer stay as you will not get bored with the many things to do and see.
Also read : The best areas to stay in Nice
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