You’re planning to visit Nice during your next trip to France?
Between sea and mountains, Nice, the city where I was born and where I spent more than 20 years of my life is full of tourist attractions and great activities to do.
In order to help you plan your stay, I have created a guide of the best things to do and see in Nice and around. At the end of the article, you will also find itineraries to visit Nice in 1, 2, 3 days or even a week as well as my list of the best place to stay in Nice depending on your budget.
Let’s get started with the 15 points of interest!
Visit Nice: The 15 Must-See Attractions!
1. The Promenade des Anglais
It’s impossible to talk about Nice without mentioning the famous Promenade des Anglais (English Promenade). Formerly a favourite resort for English people during winter months, it’s today the most famous tourist attraction of the city.
This world-famous 7km promenade runs from the Castle Hill (La colline du Château in French) to Nice airport.
If you are coming to Nice for the first time, I strongly recommend you to at least walk on the part that goes from the old town of Nice to the Negresco hotel, passing through the Jardin Albert 1er and the Palais de la Méditerranée.
If you want to do the whole Promenade des Anglais, it’s best to rent a bike or rollerblades!
2. Discover the Old Town of Nice
Another must see in Nice is its old town with its shady alleyways, colourful facades and typically Mediterranean shutters.
Impossible to talk about Nice Old Town (le Vieux Nice) without mentioning the Cours Saleya, where is held almost every morning (except on Monday) the famous market and flower market. On Monday morning, the Cours Saleya becomes a big open-air flea market! It’s also the ideal place to have a drink or eat something at one of the many terraces.
When you visit the Old Town of Nice, I also recommend you to see:
The Courthouse Square (Place du Palais de Justice)
The Rossetti Square (Place Rossetti), where the magnificent Saint Reparata Cathedral is located. There is also the city’s best ice cream shop, I will tell you more about it below
The Saint Francis Square (Place Saint François) and its small fish market.
It’s also possible to go to the Castle Hill through the Old Town. I will tell you more about it a bit further.
3. Enjoy an Italian ice cream
While you are in the Old Town of Nice, you should take advantage of it to enjoy a traditional Italian ice cream. I recommend “Azzurro”, which is located on Rossetti Square, not far from another ice cream shop that is well known by tourists but less good, Fenocchio.
The quality of the products used is much better at Azzurro, and their cones are home made, it has absolutely nothing to do in terms of taste! Needless to say that eating ice cream is one of my favorite activities when I come back to Nice .
4. Have a go at Nice local food
Visiting Nice also means discovering the local food specialities, the “cuisine Niçoise”, during your stay, which is the pride of the niçois (inhabitants of Nice)
- Socca: It’s one of the most famous culinary specialities of Nice and one of the most representative of the city. Made from chickpea flour, you will find very good ones in the old town of Nice. Ideally, a good socca should’nt be dry, but slightly creamy inside.
- Panisse: Another speciality made from chickpea flour, most often fried. A delight!
- Pissaladière: A “pie with onions and anchovies”, that’s how we could sum up the pissaladière! Try it during your stay in Nice! (Available also in an anchovy-free version)
- Salade niçoise: The great classic of Nice: Tuna, tomatoes, salad and other raw vegetables, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, olives niçoises and of course olive oil vinaigrette (from Nice too, otherwise it’s sinful).
- Pan Bagnat: This is a sandwich version of the niçoise salad: tuna and/or anchovies, raw vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, niçoise olives and olive oil, all in a round bread.
- Farcis niçois (Stuffed vegetables), daube niçoise (Beef stew) etc.: In Nice, we like everything that is “Niçois”, so we have a Niçoise version of many dishes. It’s the same as the classics, but better. (Surely thanks to the “niçoise” olive oil ……. well, except for the stew, probably, or some people have been hiding things from me!)
5. Nice Castle Hill
The Castle Hill park (le parc de la Colline du Château) is located on the hill overlooking Nice Old Town. It owes its name to the military fortress that overlooked the bay of Nice from the 11th to the 18th century. The main interests of this park are the stunning viewpoints it offers on the city, the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges), the harbour and the mountains.
Here are the 5 best viewpoints of Nice Castle Hill
- At the top, with a view of the airport and mountains
- Close to the children’s playground area, view on the harbour and the hill of Mont Boron,
- Bellanda Tower: View on the Bay of Angels
- Belvedere near the exit of the elevator
- Cascade du Château, an artificial waterfall, but still very pretty!
You can walk up and down the castle on foot or use the elevator. I recommend you to take the stairs for at least one of the way as this allows you to pass by the Bellanda Tower lookout I mentioned earlier.
If you go down on the other side of the castle, you should take a walk through the castle cemetery, which also offers a beautiful view of the city. It’s even better if you can do it at the end of the day to enjoy the sunset!
You understood it, the Castle Hill is really one of the best places to visit in Nice (and my favourite in the town center for its amazing view!).
6. Going to the beach in Nice
If Nice beach looks good in photo, with its big pebbles, it’s not necessarily the most comfortable beach in the world!
As far as swimming is concerned, it’s the same thing. In Nice, the water gets very deep very quickly, so it’s not really an ideal spot for snorkeling or playing in the water for example.
For this reason, I recommend you go to Villefranche sur Mer or Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. I will tell you more about theses cities later in this article.
And if you like to get a tan for hours on the beach, you can go to one of Nice private beaches, like Castel beach (Castel Plage), located at the foot of the Castle Hill. Other beaches allow you to do nautical activities like parasailing, stand up paddle or tubing!
7. Cimiez neighbourhood
Cimiez neighbourhood is at first a residential place, so you will not find many shops or restaurants. Nevertheless, you have some nice points of interest to visit:
- Cimiez Arena Park (parc des arènes de Cimiez)
- The Cimiez arenas (les arènes de Cimiez), located at the entrance to the park
- Cimiez monastery gardens (jardins du monastère de Cimiez), from which you will have a panoramic view of Nice and the Bay of Angels.
- Cimiez archaeological museum and it’s Roman ruins.
- The Henri Matisse museum, which is located in the arenas park.
- Marc Chagall National Museum
To go to Cimiez, you can take the bus number 15, 17 or 20.
8. Nice Russian Orthodox Cathedral
Nice Russian Orthodox Cathedral, listed historical monument, is the most important Orthodox worship religious building outside Russia. It thus clearly deserves its place in this list of the best places to visit in Nice!
Even if quite far from what you were expecting to do in Nice, it’s worth a look, even just to appreciate the contrast between the architecture and the Mediterranean vegetation, or even the palm trees just around the corner!
It’s also possible to visit the inside of the cathedral.
9. Nice Carnival
Nice Carnival, largest carnival in France and one of the world’s most famous, takes place every year in February for 2 weeks. Every year, the festivities attract several hundred thousand of spectators, coming to enjoy the monumental floats and the famous flower parade (also called flower “battle”) on the Promenade des Anglais.
10. Rest in the shades in Park Vigier
Totally unknown by other tourists, the park Vigier, close to La Réserve and the “Coco Beach” restaurant is the ideal place to take a nap or read a book in the shade of palm trees, during the hottest hours of the day. The right part of the park is always very quiet, as the children are mostly playing in the left part of the park.
11. Do the Nice coastal walk
This walk, that most tourists don’t know about is in 2 parts and allows you to walk from Nice to Villefranche sur Mer, while following the sea for 90% of the time.
- The first part starts from Coco Beach and takes you up to the Cap de Nice by a series of stairs, to bypass the cliffs of the Materlinck Palace (Palais Materlink).
- The second part of the coastal path begins with a descent down the stairs in the big turn after the Materlinck Palace. It allows you to reach the port of Villefranche Darse.
The walk isn’t very long, if you want to do it all the way from Nice, count about 1h30-2h depending on where you start from. It’s also possible to make only one of the 2 parts. If you only want to do the second (30-45 minutes), you can take bus number 100 from Nice harbor to the “English hospital” stop. The beginning of the coastal walk is about 200m further on, in the big turn.
To get back to Nice, take bus 81 or 100 in Villefranche sur Mer.
A section allowing passage through the cliffs was being studied, which would allow to walk from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer entirely by the seaside, but it seems that the project is unfortunately at a standstill.
12. Nice walking tour: From the Promenade des Anglais to Coco Beach
For those who wish to discover the city on foot, here is an itinerary that will allow you to pass by the must-see places in Nice.
Start your Nice walking tour in Nice Old Town and the Cours Saleya, then continue on the Promenade des Anglais to the Negresco Hotel and Villa Massena (which houses the excellent Massena Museum). Go back for about 300m and take the Congrès street (rue du Congrès). Then, take the first street on the right, and you will arrive in the pedestrian zone, a good place to shop, have a drink, or eat in one of the many restaurants.
At the end of the street, you will reach Place Massena, with the Sun fountain (fontaine du soleil) located at its south, in the centre of which is a 7m high statue of Apollo. On your right is the Jardin Albert 1er with its monumental arch of 115.5 degrees.
Continue along the Promenade du Paillon, where the Nice water mirror is located. This park leads you directly to Garibaldi Square.
As it will certainly be lunch time, if you would like to taste a Niçoise speciality like socca, I recommend you to briefly go back to the old town of Nice located 2 steps away to fill your stomach! And why not finish with a good ice cream from Azzurro, on Rossetti Square?
After the meal, go back to Garibaldi Square and head toward the port of Nice by Cassini street.
Go around the harbor by the Quai des Deux Emmanuels and take Boulevard Franck Pilatte, which will lead you to La Réserve (it’s on this beach that Brice de Nice lives, in case you know the movie!), Parc Vigier and Coco Beach, in that order.
From Coco Beach, you can continue along the coastal path, and even reach Villefranche sur Mer. In this case, you will need to take the bus number 100 to go back to Nice.
Finally, at the end of the day, you can go to the Nice Castle Hill, walking up the stairs or using the elevator, in order to enjoy the sunset!