There are so many great things to do in Nice, France. Whether you want to enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Côte d’Azur, or you want to explore the stunning villages that cover this coastline, there are plenty of Nice attractions to keep you busy for weeks on end.
If you are doing a bit of a road trip along the south of France, I also highly recommend stops in the second largest city in the country, Marseille, and a visit to the beautiful town of Cassis to explore the Calanques National Park before continuing further east along the coast.
Where is Nice, France?
Nice is located on the southeastern coast of France in the Côte d’Azur or French Riviera as it’s called in English.
You can fly directly into the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (airport code: NCE) and then you are only a very short distance from downtown Nice. You can actually sit along the promenade in Nice and watch flights landing and taking off with a cold drink in hand.
Other major airports that you may be able to fly into that aren’t too far away are Marseille (about two hours by train) or Paris (four hours away by fast train).
The Best Things to Do in Nice
Where to Stay in Nice
There are so many amazing places to stay in Nice, France. Whether you want a cute apartment to self-cater (and save some money, because Nice is not cheap) or you want to enjoy a bit of luxury at one of the city’s many hotels, there are plenty of great options.
- Palais Saleya Boutique hôtel is a great option if you want the amenities of a hotel, but also want the option to self-cater with a small kitchen. They have suites and apartments with everything you need to cook a few meals for yourself. All of the rooms have wifi, a workspace, comfortable beds, and one of the best locations in Nice; only a few hundred feet from the beach. Rooms start at €250 per night. Book a stay at Palais Saleya Boutique Hotel here.
- Appartements Massena are fantastic apartments that are slightly cheaper than the above option because it’s not located right on the beach, rather it’s in the city center, making it easy to walk to all of the top Nice attractions or easily hop on a bus to explore some of the things to do in Nice on the outskirts of the city. The apartments are full of natural light, beautifully designed, well-stocked in the kitchen for self-catering, and incredibly clean. Apartments start at €160 per night. Book a stay at Appartements Massena here.
- Royal Promenade has a pool and terrace that fulfills all of my Côte d’Azur dreams. You can sit in the swimming pool and look out over the views of the stunning coastline and you’ll understand exactly why the French call this the blue coast. The rooms are packed with natural light. They are simply decorated, but clean and comfortable. Many rooms have balconies and views of the Mediterranean Sea. All of the rooms have little kitchenettes as well with refrigerators and stovetops and can sleep up to four people, so it’s a great option to have a luxury view but split the price with friends or family. Rooms start at €350 per night. Book a stay at Royal Promenade here.
- Hotel Lepante is a great budget-friendly option. Located in the city center, not far from the train station, this hotel has clean rooms, a great breakfast, friendly staff, and a relaxing rooftop garden where you can relax after a day of exploring. The rooms start at a very reasonable (for the south of France) price of €112 per night. Book a stay at Hotel Lepante here.
1. Explore Vieux-Nice
Vieux-Nice or Old Nice is the historical part of the city where you can wander the cobbled streets, stopping for a slice of socca and step into a centuries-old church to get a break from the unrelenting sunshine (one of the reasons I love coming to Nice in winter!).
While you are exploring the old town, be sure to stop into Nice Cathedral, which was built in 1699, although there has been a church in this location since as early as 1060.
The Chapelle de la Misericorde is well worth stepping into as well. It is an unassuming-looking chapel from the outside and it isn’t open very often, but if you get the chance to go inside you’ll be wowed by the ornate interior.
Wander down Rue Rosetti and check out all of the small side streets from here to discover hidden coffee shops, laundry hanging to dry, sun-muted red and yellow buildings, and eventually, stairs that lead up to #3 on this list.
2. Visit the Daily Market
Also located in the Vieux-Nice, the daily market in the old town is called Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya.
They set up here each day only a block from the promenade. You’ll find everything from fresh flowers to produce, locally made honey, cheese, cured meats, and olives. There are handmade soaps, spices, fresh bread, and pastries.
This market is one of the best things to do in Nice if you like to see how the locals live.
Each morning you’ll spot older women with their rolling carts heading to the market, stopping and chatting to their favorite vendors, and shopping for the food that they’ll eat that day, perhaps a fresh bouquet of flowers to add to the table as they leave.
You can also head here towards the end of your trip to pick up some souvenirs like canned confit duck or jars of pate. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am-1 pm. It’s closed on Mondays.
While you can get by with little to no French, it is always more helpful (and more polite) to know at least some phrases in French to ask for the things you want from market vendors.
3. Climb Castle Hill
For the best view of Nice from above, get your walking shoes on, grab a bottle of water, and tackle the short but steep climb up to the top of Castle Hill.
Located right on the edge of the Old Town, Castle Hill sits between the port and the beach, offering you views of both once you get to the top.
It only takes about 10 minutes to walk from the I Love Nice sign at the base to the top level of this park on the hill. There are several places to stop along the way and a lot of paths that wind around the park to take you to different viewpoints and cool things to see in Nice.
There is a waterfall that I was expecting to be a tiny little thing, but during my recent trip to Nice in February, the waterfall was absolutely gushing. I highly recommend taking a detour to check it out while you’re up here.
This is also a great thing to do in Nice with kids. There are a few playgrounds up here and plenty of space for kids to play games and run around a little bit.
4. Go on a Boat Trip
While I was in Nice most recently, my friend and I rented a boat for the day. There are so many options when it comes to getting out on the water in the French Riviera.
Since neither of us have any experience boating, we opted for a boat that had a captain.
This little speed boat we rented cost €200 for the day (from 10-sunset) plus we had to pay for the fuel that we used at the end of the day (we went all the way to Monaco and back so it was an additional €150).
It included GoPro videos and photos, stopping at several different spots along the coastline like Cap d’Ail, Monaco, and Plage Mala. You can also opt to include stand-up paddleboards and other water games for an added fee.
The owner of the boat, Matthieu was incredibly nice and very laid back. I would definitely recommend a day trip from Nice with him.
For something a little bit slower pace and budget friendly, these solar boat tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the views from the water. You’ll even get the chance to try driving it yourself.
This boat tour starts at €76 per person and decreases in price per person depending on how many people book the tour. For four people, it costs only $39 per person. Book that tour here.
5. Walk Along the Promenade des Anglais
One of the best things to do in Nice France is to walk along the waterfront. The Promenade des Anglais or English Promenade is truly one of the most beautiful Nice attractions simply because it offers you the best of Nice; sea, sand, sun, and stunning architecture along the waterfront.
It’s here along the Promenade des Anglais where you get the feeling of old-world glamour that has made Nice such a famous vacation spot over the years.
As you walk along the promenade you have the beach below you on one side and tons of shops and restaurants along the city side of the promenade.
There is a row of bars that are well worth stopping into for sunset drinks. Of course, everyone else also thinks so, so getting a table with a view can be difficult. If you walk past one close to sunset time, be sure to grab it while you can.
A few of the bars along here that I like best of all are Babel Babel, Waka Bar, and Movida. They all have tables outside at street level, but the real gems are the tables upstairs on the balconies where you can a view over the road.
The cost of drinks at most of these spots is about the same – €5 or so for a beer, slightly more for a glass of wine, and about €10-12 for a cocktail. They usually bring you a free snack if you order a round of drinks like nuts or a bowl of chips.
Babel Babel is a great option for good bar snacks alongside sunset drinks and you can make a reservation if you plan to eat here as well.
6. Museum of Photography
There are so many amazing museums in Nice that are well worth visiting and photography lovers should not miss a stop at the Museum of Photography.
If you plan to visit a few museums while you are in the city, I highly recommend grabbing the Museum ticket, which you can pick up at most of the museums on this list. It costs €15 and is valid for three days.
The ticket includes all but one of the best museums in Nice (the Chagall Museum is a national museum, not a city museum, so it is not included in the Nice ticket). Read more about the all-access museum pass here.
This museum has two floors and several exhibits that highlight the way photography has changed over the years, especially commercial photography.
7. Musée du Palais Lascaris
The Palais Lascaris Museum is located right in the center of the Old Town in Nice and is one of the most ornate.
The museum is inside a 17th-century mansion that was built for the Lascaris family. At the entrance, you will be able to see a huge painting on the ceiling of the family’s crest.
Each room has been kept as it looked during this time period with beautiful archways and frescos. The museum also houses a huge collection of antique instruments and furniture.
This museum is also included in the Nice Museum ticket.
8. Villa Masséna Musée
Located along the Promenade des Anglais, this museum was built between 1898 and 1901 for the Prince Victor of Essling who was the grandson of the Niçois André Masséna. He would come to this home and spend his winters here, but it wasn’t for very long. He died in 1910.
His son, André wasn’t much interested in wintering in Nice as it turned out, so he donated it to the City of Nice in 1919. It became the museum Masséna in 1921.
The home was designed by Danish architect Hans-Georg Tersling, who was rated one of the best architects of the French Riviera during the Belle Epoque. The building is stunningly ornate both inside and outside.
This is one of my favorite things to do in Nice as a bit of a history buff. The museum is something of a history of the glory days of Nice where you’ll learn more about the Belle Epoque. It’s also home to stunning pieces of art and Napolean’s death mask.
This museum is included in the Nice Museum ticket.
9. Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (MAMAC)
If you love modern art, this is definitely one of the musts for things to do in Nice.
Opened in 1990, this museum is huge and has constantly changing exhibits, so even if you visited the last time you were in Nice, you can visit again and have a completely different experience.
The fact that this is included in the Nice Museum Ticket makes visiting it such a bargain. If you don’t have the museum ticket and just want to visit the MAMAC, it costs €10 per person.
MAMAC is open every day except Mondays from 10 am to 6 pm. They open at 11 am during the winter months. Read more about the museum on their website here.
10. Marc Chagall National Museum
Marc Chagall was a Russian-French artist who lived in the nearby village of St. Paul de Vence for many years in the latter half of his life. When he died, he left 17 pieces to the city of Nice which together make up his “Biblical Message.”
These 17 pieces are the mainstay of the museum and are one of the main reasons that this is one of the biggest Nice attractions for art lovers. However, the collection of his work has grown over the last 40 years and it now consists of paintings, sculptures, lithographs, and engravings on copperplates by Chagall.
There are also constantly rotating exhibitions throughout the year which are included in the ticket price. The Chagall Museum is not included in the Nice Museum Pass. Entrance to the museum costs €8 if there are no other exhibitions and €10 if there are additional exhibitions to see.
Check the museum website to learn more about the different exhibitions or to sign up for a tour of the museum to learn more about the Biblical Message with a knowledgeable guide.
11. Cimiez Monastery
The Cimiez Monastery is one of the most beautiful places to visit on a trip to Nice.
This monastery was built in the 9th century by the Brothers of Saint Pons. Saint Pons is one of the oldest monasteries in the French Riviera and if you have a rental car and want to explore more, it is also worth checking out.
The Cimiez Monastery was destroyed in 1543, however, it was rebuilt and continued to be used as a monastery until the French Revolution when the French military took control of it and used it as an army barracks.
After the revolution, it was a hospital for a brief period of time before being handed back over to the monks. In the 19th century, additional facades and porches were added and that is the last time any major work was done to the monastery.
It is a very peaceful Nice attraction and well worth visiting while you are exploring all of the different things to do in Cimiez. It has been listed by the French government as a historical monument and will now continue to be preserved.
Wander the gardens, explore the church of Our Lady of the Assumption, and then head onto the other sites like numbers 12 and 13.
12. Musée Matisse
The Matisse Museum is one of the things I was really looking forward to on my most recent trip to Nice. It is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Nice.
Luckily, it is also included in the price of the Nice Museum Pass which you can either purchase at this museum or at any of the other participating museums.
The Musée Matisse is home to one of the largest collections of work from Matisse in the world. There are pieces from every stage of his career which means a visit to this museum allows you to follow the progress of his work from a young artist to the end of his life.
The museum has sketches, paintings, sculptures, and information about Matisse’s life. It’s a fascinating look at one of the country’s most famous and beloved artists.
Check the website here for up-to-date opening hours and information about upcoming exhibits.
13. Ancient Roman Baths of Cimiez & Archeology Museum
Another thing to do while you are checking out the Matisse Museum and the Cimiez Monastery is to visit the Ancient Roman Baths.
The area of Cimiez has some fascinating history and it goes back as far as the Romans at this location. The Romans calls this city Cemenelum and they lived here between the 1st and 4th centuries.
The city had an amphitheater that could hold up to 5,000 spectators as well as a huge bath complex. There are also remains of a market square and temple that they know about but have yet to be unearthed. Much of Cemenelum remains underneath the current city that sits above it. But the baths are on display and you can walk amongst them.
In addition to seeing the baths, there is also an excellent archeology museum here where you can learn more about the city of Cemenelum and the life the Romans had in France, which they referred to as Gaul.
14. Sample Local Food
You can’t come to France and not try some amazing food. Every region of France has a specific wine or food that they make or has its origins there.
Some of the local dishes to keep an eye out for include:
- Socca: a pancake cooked on a huge tray made of chickpea flour.
- Salade niçoise: a salad of fresh greens, tuna fish (usually canned tuna), eggs, tomatoes, and olives.
- Pan bagnat: This is essentially a salad niçoise in a sandwich, which in my humble opinion, makes it 10x better than the salad.
- Pissaladière: Sort of like a pizza or topped focaccia, this is a flatbread that comes with different toppings, but the most traditional are caramelized onions, black olives, and anchovies.
If you want to sample lots of different foods, I always recommend taking a food tour. It’s one of my favorite things to do when I travel to a new region of France, or anywhere for that matter, but especially countries that have a reputation for amazing food.
This culture, wine, and food walking tour is a great option for those that want to dine around town while also learning about the history of Nice. You’ll walk all over the old town with a knowledgeable guide who will explain the history of the dishes your eating. It’s a fantastic way to start your trip to Nice. You can book that tour here.
This city food and walking tour of Nice is another fantastic option. It focuses on historical spots around the city as well as more popular modern options as well. This is the tour to take if you want to get to know the absolute best places to eat in Nice. Book that tour here.
15. Visit the Beaches
Nice is a very popular summer destination, but the weather here is actually pretty wonderful all year round.
It has some of the most sunshine hours in all of Europe, making it one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter. While I was there in February, in fact, I went for a swim and while the water wasn’t very warm, it was warm enough outside to enjoy the refreshing dip and then dry off in the sunshine.
The main beach in Nice is enormous and goes by a few different names depending on where you enter it from. Outside of peak season, you can simply walk onto the beach, set up your towel, and relax anywhere you want.
During the summer months, beach clubs set up along the beach where you can pay for a chair and have a place to use the bathroom or order food and drinks.
If you want to explore beaches outside of the city center, you can head in either direction and you’ll find a coastline packed with pebbly beaches. If you want sandy beaches rather than rocky or pebbly beaches, you’ll have to head to Cannes or St. Tropez for the day.
16. Nice Carnival
Did you know that Nice has the largest Carnival in France?
Every year in the week before Lent, you’ll find a huge street parade and parties all over the city. There are organized events throughout the day with floats and flour parades which you can purchase tickets so that you get a good seat.
If you don’t want to purchase tickets, but you want to enjoy some of the events, you can check the times for the parades and then get a good spot along Promenade des Anglais where you’ll be able to see most of the events from outside of the ticket zone.
Keep up to date with the official Carnival website here so that you know the exact dates of the event and you can book tickets in advance of your trip.
17. Take a Bus Tour
If you like those hop-on, hop-off bus tours that take you all over the city and stay valid for the day as you explore all of the city’s main attractions, then you won’t want to miss the bus tour here in Nice.
The bus is a double-decker opened-topped bus so you can enjoy plenty of sunshine as you tour around the city. You can get off at as many of the stops as you’d like and explore the city at your own pace.
You can opt for a one-day or a two-day pass which stops at 12 different locations around the city. Check all of the stops here.
The price of your ticket includes the bus ticket, personal headphones to use for the duration of your tour, and commentary about the different locations you are passing as you ride the bus. Purchase your tickets here.
18. Take a Day Trip
There are countless places to visit along the Côte d’Azur that are well worth checking out on your trip to Nice. While there are tons of things to do in Nice to keep you busy for several days (more if you just want to enjoy the beach clubs), there are also amazing places to visit if you are staying for a week or longer.
The great thing about Nice is that it is so well-connected with public transportation. While it is nice to have a vehicle, parking can be a bit of a pain in these smaller towns and traffic can be a problem during the busy summer months.
There are trains that you can take to neighboring towns and buses that are even more affordable. Head to somewhere like Eze for a day trip, and hike along the Nietzsche Path to get from the mountain-top town to the beach below.
You can also visit Monaco, which is not only a totally different country, but a whole world away in terms of glamour.
There are some great tour options available if you don’t want to drive or navigate the public transportation network in the area.
- Monte Carlo and Eze: Take this tour to explore the stunning city of Monte Carlo in Monaco as well as the now-famous small village of Eze. It includes transportation and a multilingual guide. Book that tour here.
- Saint Paul de Vence, Antibes, and Cannes: Three of the most beautiful towns outside of Nice including where Chagall called home in St Paul de Vence. You’ll learn about the history of these three towns and be given time to wander around each. Transportation and a knowledgeable guide are included. Book that tour here.
Check out all of the different tour options for not only day trips, but cool walking tours and segway tours on GetYourGuide.