Nice is anything but a boring beach town. Between the quaint architecture and the local culture, it’s clear that though Nice happens to be on the coast, there’s nothing coastal about it. It feels a little bit like being in Paris if Paris had a beach. As such, there are many things to do in Nice to enjoy a rich and lengthy stay. Even five days didn’t feel like enough.
Hit the beach
With almost 10 kilometers of beaches all the way from the airport to Mont Boron, Nice is without a doubt one of the best beach destinations in Europe. The coastline alternates between narrow stretches of public beaches and glitzy beach clubs where deck chairs and umbrellas can cost up to €50. The waters of Nice are famously baby blue, which is how the southern coast got the name Cote d’Azur. Though if you ask the very cultured American TikTokers traveling around Europe, they’ll say it looks like Blue Gatorade.
Beaching in Nice is an all-day event with the coastline getting busiest in the afternoon when the sun is hottest. But if you want to snag a lounger at the cheapest beach clubs in town like Opera Plage, you’ll want to arrive first thing in the morning. Nonetheless, Nice provides equal opportunities for everyone to enjoy the beach as long as you don’t mind lying on the rocky shore of the public beaches.
Check out other tips about going to the beach in Nice.
Go to a museum
Nice is an important destination for art lovers. The city has almost 20 museums and art venues where you can enjoy both contemporary and traditional art from the French Riviera. Musee Matisse is not only dedicated to the artist’s work, it’s actually housed in the villa where Henri Matisse lived. Another popular museum just a few steps from the beach is Villa Massena, where you can find art from the Belle Epoque in a former aristocratic villa. Not to be outdone by the classic French and Italian art featured in other museums in Nice, the MAMAC (Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain) features a massive collection of contemporary artwork ranging from Warhol to Nice-born Yves Klein.
Hike up Colline du Château
Also known as Castle Hill, the Colline du Château is a hilltop park that was a former military citadel. The now public garden is one of the city’s top sights, not only for the features at the top but for the fabulous view of the coast of Nice and the city that it offers, particularly popular at sunset. The park is accessible from the beach-front Quai des Etats-Unis and from the northern end of Old Nice by the cemetery. If you don’t mind the short hike, I recommend going up from one side and going down from another just to see a different part of the Colline. Alternatively, you can take a free elevator to the top, though it stops running hours before the sun sets in the summer.
Up on the Colline du Château, you’ll find what remains of the former fort as well as a waterfall and several beautiful viewpoints of the city including Port Lympia to the east and the Nice beaches to the west. Castle Hill is also where the midday cannon is fired from.
Stroll around Old Nice
Nice’s charming old town is bound by Colline du Château and Place Messana. The brightly colored buildings and narrow streets are busy with tourists, sidewalk cafes, and plenty of shopping. For fresh food and local wares, you’ll want to check out the Cours Saleya market, where you can find flowers, fresh produce, a flea market, and a night market open in the summer which is full of handmade crafts. Shopping in Old Nice is not just limited to outdoor markets – you can get soaps, textiles, and souvenirs at one of the hundreds of small boutiques and shops in town.
The neighborhood has some notable sights like the 17th century Baroque Palace, Palais Lascaris, and the Cathedral of St. Reparata. But in discovering the city on foot, you’ll stumble upon many small churches and plazas in the picturesque old town. If you want a more in-depth understanding of the area, you can take a free talking tour that starts at Place Massena.
Wine and dine in New Town
West of Place Massena, you’ll find New Town, made up of smaller neighborhoods like Jean-Medecin and Coeur de Nice. Here you’ll find high-end stores and restaurants and cafes that are busy from breakfast to late evening. Treat yourself to a boozy brunch at Edmond Café or pick up some world-class pastries at Maison Celine. In this neighborhood, you can enjoy Nicoise cuisine and people watch La Cucina or go shopping at Louis Vuitton in addition to enjoying some iconic city sights like the Basilique Notre-Dame de l’Assomption and the Jardin Albert, a park where you can enjoy fountains, sculpture, and plenty of greenery.
Both Old Nice and New Town are united by the lengthy Promenade des Anglais, where you can walk for up to 5 miles along the beach or sit at one of the ocean-facing chairs and watch the waves come in.
Take a day trip around the French Riviera
One of the coolest things about Nice is how conveniently it’s located to other beautiful cities on the French Riviera like Antibes, Cannes, and even the microstate, Monaco. It takes only up to 30 minutes to visit any of these destinations by train, taking you to the heart of the international film scene or the home of the Formula One Grand Prix.
Even closer coastal destinations are the secluded bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer and the hilltop medieval village of Eze, where you can make your own perfume and hike Nietzche’s Path down to the coast. Just beware of the bus route to Eze which has far greater demand than it has capacity.
Whether you find yourself leisurely enjoying Nice by the ocean or using it as a jumping off point to explore other parts of the Côte d’Azur, a trip to Nice has plenty of activities and magnificent views to make for a relaxing and memorable vacation.