Headed to the French Riviera? These are the best things to do in Nice, France. Nice is known for its azure blue waters, year-round sunshine, and vibrant French culture, the city of Nice is a must-see if you’re exploring the French Riviera. Located at the foot of the Alps – and bordering the Mediterranean Sea – Nice is home to 300,000 people. In fact, it’s the 5th largest city in France!
Make sure to read to the end for my additional BONUS tips.
And, no wonder it’s so popular. With its bustling nightlife, old-world opulence, perfect blue skies, and stunning seaside locale – let’s just say I’m not surprised that the city’s unofficial anthem is Nissa la Bella, (Italian for Nice the beautiful).
Here’s my official list of can’t-miss things to do when you visit this gorgeous French Riviera city. TIP: The best time to go to Nice is in the shoulder season, late May & early September.
1. Best thing to do in Nice? Slow Down and enjoy!
I am the first person to want to do everything when I’m in a new city or country; I all want adventure and experiential travel, after all! I want to make sure to get in all the sights and experiences I can.
But Nice is really the epitome of laid-back luxury. There’s plenty of time to do everything that you want to do – plus everything is so walkable within the city center. There are so many amazing things to take in; everything from delicious candied flowers to gorgeous sunsets, vibrant music and everything in between. So relax, awaken your senses, and enjoy everything that Nice has to offer at a slower pace.
2. Swim in the Mediterranean
I love the Med! It’s my favorite body of water in the world; it’s cool, refreshing, super salty and reflects the most beautiful greens and blues. Swimming in Nice, France in the Mediterranean Sea is one of my top activities for a sun-soaked day.
A few things to keep in mind: the water is cool, so expect to dip in and out throughout the afternoon. Also, Nice’s beaches are rocky, not sandy – which means you’ll have to wear water shoes when you are headed for a swim (you can check out my favorites here)!
3. Visit the Old Town Nice Flower Market - Cours Sayela Market
Another one of the best things to do in Nice is visit the Sour Saleya Market. Located in the heart of Old Town Nice, Cours Saleya is an unforgettable market that offers gorgeous bouquets, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and other delicious French goodies.
Some of the most unique items at the Nice Market were the candied flowers! They had violets, roses and lavender petals baked in sugar. I sampled all of them, including Verbena petals. TIP: The verbena is great for a tummy ache.
You could also try Socca which is a Nice speciality made from chickpea flour in the Cours Saleya Market. Our tour guide said that her favorite socca could be found at a little kiosk called Chez Theresa, and I agree. Chez Theresa was definitely the best!
It’s really fun to wander the market in the morning, and find everything you need for a perfect picnic lunch. Grab your cheese, bread, salami and fruits, and take your basket of goodies to one of the Nice beaches or the Promenade des Anglais.
Keep in mind, though, that the market closes at 1pm and it’s not open at all on Mondays. That said, on Mondays they do offer an antique market, so you can stop by and find some great trinkets for souvenirs of your trip to Nice.
4. Hike up Castle Hill, Old Town Nice
Don’t let the name fool you – there’s no castle on Castle Hill! But this amazing spot does offer unbeatable views of the city. It’s 426 steps to the top, and if you make the walk you’ll be rewarded with views of the entire Promenade des Anglais, the Mediterranean, and even the Alps.
It’s a beautiful walk – about half in the shade – and in my opinion certainly worth the trek.
5. Walk the Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais was built in the 1820’s by the English Aristocracy so they could show off their finery during their winters in Nice. They needed a place to show off their dresses and parasols as they strolled along taking in the sun and the Mediteranean Sea air. Today, the Promenade des Anglais is much more casual, but it’s still busy and full of tourists from all over the world. It’s about 4.3km long and I definitely recommend walking the entire length for gorgeous sea views, great people watching, and some extra steps on your FitBit!
Tip: The Best Hotels in Nice
Ready to book your trip? Then you’re probably wondering where to stay in Nice, France. Because the city is such a hotspot and popular French location, there are tons of hotel options to suit every interest and travel style. Here are some of the best hotels in Nice:
6. Visit the Marc Chagall National Museum
If you’re a museum-goer, Nice is the perfect place for you, from Observatoire de la Cote d’Azur to Musee des Arts Asiatique de Nice, this city has a wide variety of museums for all tastes. For me, personally, one of my favorite museums was the Marc Chagall National Museum.
Marc Chagall was a Russian Jewish artist born in 1887, who spent much of his life in France. He was a modernist painter/artist who loved Nice and he spent much of his time visiting Nice. The Marc Chagall National Museum was curated with the help of the artist himself, and it’s a phenomenal exhibit of his work.
Entry to his museum is about ten euros, and it’s located about a mile uphill from the Promenade des Anglais. It may seem like a hike, but it can be a beautiful walk through the interior of the city of Nice.
If you are looking for some other museum options, you can also check out the Musee de la Photographie Charles Negrie or Musee Matisse. If you are a more avid museum goer, and plan on visiting several museums, one of the best things to do in Nice is buy The French Riviera Pass. It gives you access to all of the museums and forts in the area for just 50 euros – which can save you some major money if you’re going to make the rounds.
7. Visit Old Town Nice, Vieux Ville Nice
Old Town is the heart of Nice, and this is where you will likely spend most of your time. If you can, I recommend finding a hotel as close to Old Town as possible. That way, you’ll be able to visit the market, check out art shops, wander the tiny streets and eat at all the delicious restaurants without venturing too far. This is also the most Instagrammable part of town.
8. Go shopping at Place Massena
If you want to get your shop on, you have to visit Place Massena. It’s located on the edge of Old Town. Originally built in the 1800’s, it was recently revitalized, and here is where you will find the Galeries Lafayette – a famous French department store – along with all of the name brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel.
9. Visit the Fragonard Perfume Shop
Nice and Provence are world-famous for their flowers. That’s why, when you come you Nice, you definitely have to check out Fragonard Perfumerie.
The shop, not the actual factory, is located in the Old Town. This is where you’ll find some of the most delicious perfumes and perfect gifts to bring home to friends and family. Whether you love lavender, roses or verbena, the Fragonard Perfumerie has your favorite flavor. This is the best place to visit in Nice for gifts.
10. Explore the French Riviera
It is so easy to get around the French Riviera from Nice, so I do recommend some day trips from Nice. It’s about 30 minutes on a train to Monte Carlo or to Antibes and it’s about 45 minutes to Cannes. It’s easy to take the train or bus, but I recommend renting a car so you can come and go as you please.
Bonus: Day Trip to Provence
Most people come to Nice for a couple days to say they’ve been on the French Riviera, but I if you have a bit more time, I think one of the best things to do in Nice is take a road trip inland through Provence. Rent a car and spend the day seeing the medieval hillside villages of St. paul de Vence, Tourettes Sur Loup and Goudons.
Check out my Day Trip Tour of Provence on YouTube for a great Provence Itinerary.
Bonus: The Best excursions & Tours in Nice
Finally, I’ve already given you a list of things to do and see, but if you’re looking for more of a guided experience, there are many amazing tours that Nice has to offer. Some of my favorite tours in Nice, France include:
Thank you for reading my laid-back luxury Nice Travel Guide. I’ll see YOU on the next adventure!