It was our second anniversary when we decided to travel to the French Riviera in order to find out the best things do in Nice. We had no knowledge of Nice, nor made any plans for this getaway. We wanted to spend a few days exploring the place at our own pace and discover the beauty of Nice as we go along.
Interestingly enough, even before we landed we were surprised to see how incredible the French Riviera looks from above. Mountainous terrain was kissing the most beautiful blue sea. Small houses dotted all around the area, and narrow inviting streets which could be seen from the plane's window. In fact, for the first time ever, we kept on hearing everyone saying "wow" all around us. Nice is a luxurious destination which looked very dramatic indeed. Once we landed, we started discovering what are the best things to do in Nice. Naturally, we started with food, continued with long walks, and ventured on long hikes for miles on end, to the other side of the city. A little more and we would have ended up in Monaco! Nice surprised us in every way possible, starting with the warm climate, through incredible food, to fantastic sights.
After days of meandering and aimless exploring, we nailed down the best things to do in Nice. Here it goes:
Table of Contents
Promenade des Anglais
This is perhaps the best things to do in Nice at night. Promenade des Anglais is a long boulevard by the sea, where people walk, jog and chill. Although it looks beautiful during the daylight, we really loved it at night time, because it had an air of mystery and romance. We walked hand in hand for hours, ending up close to the Castle Hill, where we photographed the full moon overlooking the beautiful lit up buildings.
If you love running, then I strongly recommend this place for a morning jog. For a romantic walk, best to check it out at twilight.
Fruit and Flower Market
One of the best things about Nice is that you can buy fresh produce first thing in the morning from the Fruit and Flower Market. We saw lots of spices, fish, a variety of fruit and veg and some freshly baked bread. Hard not to want to wake up especially for a walk around this explosion of colours. We especially loved to see people sitting down in cafés overlooking the markets. It was a rather unusual contrast, between people relaxing with a hot beverage and a newspaper, and people running around bargaining in the markets.
A short walk from the Nice city centre to the Castle Hill, will enable you to photograph postcard-perfect views of Nice. This is definitely the best of Nice if you love rooftop sights which extend all the way to the horizon. Nice is a stunning city, and being able to capture its essence from one single point is magnificent. I can't recommend this place enough. Make sure you time your arrival to the Castle Hill well, in order to capture the best picture. Aim for either the sunrise or sunset as otherwise, you might get too many shadows and risk overexposing your picture if you photograph at noon.
Nice is a multidimensional city, and although this sounds rather cliché and boring, I don't think I've ever seen another French city which matches this description quite as well. Heavily influenced by many architectural types, you will find yourself walking on an airy French boulevard, dotted with baroque buildings, when, one turn later, you will get lost in a maze of narrow streets, lined with Italian like colourful sites. The Old Town is most certainly a fantastic reminder of how beautiful Italian Piazzas are. At some point, our minds played gamed on us, making us forget we are in France. Furthermore, various gelato parlours and Italian pizzerias didn't paint a very French ambience. Believe or not, however, it was because of these unconventional influences and different looking neighbourhoods which made Nice all the more appealing. A long walk around the Old Town is definitely one of the best things to do in Nice.
Accommodation in Nice, France
There is a wide range of accommodations available in Nice, so you will have an easy time to pick the best one for you. Remember, Nice can get very busy and get booked up quickly during the busy season so if you are planning a trip, book early. With booking.com, you can book hotels with free cancellation in case you change your mind or you find a better hotel. Check out our recommendations for Nice.
Jardin du Monastere de Cimiez
A steep, long walk from the city centre and up towards Cimez, will bring you to a yet another unforgettable part of Nice, which rewards with fantastic views over the city. Although great things to do in Nice, I will suggest bringing food and water with you, as during a hot day, the tedious walk up the hill might tire you a little too much. It definitely took its toll on us! We didn't visit the actual monastery, but we did walk around the garden and had a well-deserved break with a view! The garden looks fantastic, is full of various fruit trees, including cute limes which I particularly like. On the way to Jardin du Monastere de Cimiez, you will find many places which are perfect photo spots. On the way back to Nice city centre, we got lost (so typical) which enabled us to see a less explored part of Nice, more residential neighbourhoods, which we very much appreciated. Overall, we felt safe in Nice.
The trip to Mt Baron didn't quite work out for us. We left the city centre very early in the morning and wanted to reach Mt Baron by lunchtime. We were rather eager to hike for hours. Well, the temperature increased so much during the first hour, that we couldn't continue our walk. We overdressed as well because we left too early in the morning when it was still a little cool. How silly of us. We contemplated if we should rent bikes and continue our journey to Mt Baron, but in the end, we gave up on the idea and made our way to the nearest pastry shop where we overcame our frustration with croissants and pain aux chocolate. Ok, we are not proud of our decision, but we don't regret it either, as we actually stumbled across the best pastry shop in the whole of Nice. I love these coincide!
I promise Mt Baron is worth your time, just make sure you have lots of food and water with you, and you are dressed properly, considering it will get very hot during noon. Better yet, a walk to Mt Baron is probably best done during an overcast day.
Parc de la Colline du Château
On the way to Jardin du Monastere de Cimiez, we stumbled across this beautiful waterfall, perfect for a cool shot. There are so many things you can do here, and I noticed lots of locals just chilling with a book, playing with their young ones and having a picnic. We love picnics too, they are so awesome, especially when surrounded by beautiful trees and large green spaces. I especially love the waterfalls and I was surprised to see so little tourists around.
Avenue Jean Médecin
Although I am not a shopaholic, I will admit that I always love to promenade around a city's main shopping street. This is because I like to see how brands dress their window for a different target market, what small independent boutiques sell and what sort of differences in costs are there. For example, I really loved the independent shops in Barcelona and adored the big brands in Ginza, Tokyo. Nice was a bit of a letdown, especially because traditionally it is said that French Riviera attracts the rich (which typically like to buy things!). Maybe I was in the wrong place, but the Avenue Jean Médecin offered the usual brands (Zara, Mango etc) and the prices very very similar to those in London. Although this is a great place for an afternoon stroll, is most certainly not the best thing to do in Nice. It's worth a visit, though!
Promenade du Paillon
I really liked the Promenade du Paillon in the night time. Although dark, there were lots of parents with kids, running around and engaging in fun childish activities. Best to start from Jardin Albert 1er, towards the Promenade du Paillon and continue until you get to Promenade des Arts. It's a fantastic walk during twilight. I recommend taking a seat on one of the benches and allow yourself to just admire a more vibrant side of Nice at night time.
Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur
If you are prepared to walk for 2 hours up the hill, then this is the best things to do in Nice. For soft adventure lovers, this hike will reward you with incredible views over Nice, I promise. Should you decide to cycle, it will only take one hour, but know that it will be demanding, so you need to be quite fit for this. However, if you don't want to spend a whole day trekking to the Observatory and back on foot, you can also take the public transport (takes an hour). I do really recommend this walk, though, it's really nice and very rewarding. Maybe arrange to take the public transport to the Observatory and descent on foot. You know us, we recommend as much exercising as possible, as we love hikes. We managed to do this one, as we picked an overcast day, and we dressed appropriately!