The city of Nice is often used as a jumping-off point to explore the French Cote d’Azur, but that does not do justice to Nice. Because it is so close to the Italian border, the city is a charming combination of French class and Italian liveliness. I loved seeing the elegant buildings, strolled through Vieux-Nice with its warm yellow and orange colored houses, walked along the Promenade des Anglais, and visited beautiful museums. In this blog post, I am recommending 8 great things to do in and around Nice, France.
1. Explore the heart of the city: Place Masséna
Place Masséna is the bustling heart of Nice. It is a large square with on one side Avenue Jean Médicin and the beachfront on the other. Place Masséna may now look like one big area, but it was once divided by the Paillon River. Eventually, the river was drained and now Park Promenade du Paillon holds this area. What I especially liked about Massena Square was the contrast of red and yellow buildings and the checkerboard-tiled floor. Also, make sure to check out the fountain with the statue of the Greek god Apollo. A funny fact is that the statue was removed because the body caused too much commotion. It took 40 years for Mr. Apollo to be allowed to return (in 2011).
2. Taste the food at the Cours Seleya market
From Place Masséna it is a short walk to the Cours Seleya market. Here you’ll see a wide offer of flowers, freshly cut fruits, vegetables, and local snacks. Nice is known for Socca, and at Chez Thérésa on Cours Seleya, you can try this chickpea pancake made with olive oil and water. Super simple, vegan, and tasty. Other Nice specialties include Pissaladiere (square pizza) and Torta de Blea (sweet chard cake). The market is open every day except Monday. On that day there is an antique market here.
3. Check out the view from Colline du Chateau
I adore panoramic views. In Nice you have a jaw-dropping view of the sea, the beach, and the boulevard from La Colline du Chateau. This hill used to have a castle on it, hence the ‘chateau’ part in the name. Nowadays, only the 16th-century Belanda tower remains. The rest of the area is now a park with walking paths, a waterfall, and a children’s playground. Also, take a stroll to the other side because there you overlook the Port of Nice full of luxury yachts.
4. Walk along the Promenade des Anglais
Nice is blessed with a 7-kilometer-long city boulevard. I have a soft spot for these kinds of boulevards. It’s the reason why I like cities like Cádiz and Mumbai so much. On the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, you look on one side at the azure blue sea and neatly arranged blue and white umbrellas on a (for the most part) pebble/rocks beach, and on the other side, one beautiful building after the other passes by. Start at the ILoveNice Letters on the hill, walk along Jardin Albert 1er, and end at the photogenic hotel Le Negresco. In total, a walk of about 25 minutes.
5. Explore the many museums of Nice
When you arrive at Le Negresco, you are also right in front of the entrance to one of the most beautiful museums in the city: Musée Masséna. There’s that name Masséna again. It refers to General André Masséna, born in Nice and one of Napoleon’s most famous generals. The museum focuses on Napoleon, his clothing, and the battles. Best part about this museum is the building itself. The rooms are impressive, especially the ceilings. Entrance ticket is €10, but for €15, you can buy a Nice Museum Pass that allows you to visit multiple museums. If you visit three museums, you’ve already made it worthwhile!
Other museums worth visiting are Palais Lascaris and Musée des Beaux Arts de Nice.
6. Wander the Vieux Nice alleys
The streets around Place Masséna are neat and spacious. How different it is in Vieux Nice (or Vieille Ville), the old center of the city. Streets here are better called alleys since they are narrow, and filled up with terraces of cafes and restaurants. The whole atmosphere here reminded me of Italian cities, from the ice cream parlors to the squares. During the day, it’s a great place to stroll around, and in the evening, go here for a drink or a bite. Also, pay attention to the street signs because they are bilingual: French and Nicoise. This is the old language of the city that is still spoken by few.
7. Take a look at Cathedrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice
One of the oddest things to do in Nice must be visiting a Russian Orthodox Church. There has been a Russian community in this city for centuries, with roots dating back to the Tsarist era. The nobility of that time liked to come to the southern French coast in winter. Tsar Nicholas II was one of them, and he invested in the construction of an Orthodox church: the Orthodox Saint Nicholas Church. The church is free to visit, and it is not allowed to take photos inside.
8. Discover the cote d’azur: day trips from Nice
From Nice to Menton
Menton is so stunning! I dare say that this city is one of the most beautiful on the French Riviera. It offers a delightful combination of wandering and relaxation. Wander through Vieux Menton with its maze of staircases and yellow and pink alleys that take you higher and higher. At the top, there is another Russian church with a cemetery (and an awesome view of the bay). And relax on Plage de Sablettes, a sandy beach along the wide city boulevard ‘Promenade du Soleil.’
Train Nice Ville – Menton: the journey takes 38 minutes, departs every 30 minutes, and costs €5.60 one way. Note: Menton has two train stations. Choose the Menton station (not Menton Garavan).
From Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer
Another beautiful seaside town with a warm-colored center. Villefranche-sur-Mer is smaller than Menton but busier. Probably because it is right next to Nice. Beautiful sights here include the 16th-century Citadel St. Elme and the unique Chapelle de Saint Pierre. There is also a long stretch of beach to relax on. Most areas have pebbles or stones though, so having water shoes can be useful.
Train Nice Ville – Villefranche-sur-Mer: the journey takes 5 minutes, departs every 20 minutes, and costs €2.10 one way.
Using the train for Nice daytrips
There are two types of ticket machines: white SNCF machines and blue/purple Billetterie ZOU! machines. White is for long-distance trains, and blue is for local TER trains along the French Riviera.
Important: Validate the purchased ticket at the small yellow machines next to the entry gates. You might easily miss them because they are almost invisible. Insert the ticket and move to the left until you hear a sound. You may need multiple attempts for this.
Where to eat in Nice?
Utopia: a fantastic vegan Italian restaurant.
Not Dog: a vegan hotdog and burger café with delicious milkshakes.
Paper Plane: great for breakfast with smoothie bowls.
Hobo Cafe: nice for lunch.
Amour Patisserie Vegetale: a vegan pastry bakery with photogenic pastries.
Bar René: a square where you can get local snacks on one side and the café on the other side serves drinks.
Would you want to visit this city? Do you have any tips for things to do in Nice?