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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 19 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

France’s fifth city, Nice has only been French since 1860 – and still has a strong Italian accent. Although long dismissed as a city of pensioners, gangsters and budget tourists, Nice has been rapidly remaking itself into a trendy new Miami of Europe, with iconic Art Deco hotels, a vast promenade, swanky bars and restaurants, and year-round buzz.

There’s a beautiful setting and balmy climate (great for cheaper shoulder-season breaks in spring and autumn), world-class art (the best collections outside of Paris), excellent food (It’s a foodie city) – and a pretty pebble beach that families will love. Edgy designer hotels and restaurants are springing up alongside hip shops and galleries, and young artists are moving in, following in the footsteps of one-time locals Matisse and Chagall.

There’s plenty to see and do in both the city and the wider area, plus an excellent transport network to the rest of the Cote d’Azur. Its well-connected airport also means Nice is a great starting point for a South of France road trip.

Unlike the more resort-orientated towns along the coast, Nice and nearby Antibes are lively year-round – and Nice’s vivid Carnival (end of February/beginning of March) is worth coinciding with.

Orientation

Nice curls around the Baie des Anges, with its beach and palm-lined Promenade des Anglais. To the east, the bay is closed by the picturesque Vieux Nice (old town) and Colline de Chateau, a promontory topped by gardens: the old port is just east.

Place Massena and its gardens separate Vieux Nice from 19th-century Nice, and main shopping residential districts of Jean-Medecin and Liberation, the latter north of the train station. Several museums are in the upper, upscale residential suburb of Cimiez; the spectacular, snow-capped Alpes Maritimes hover in the background.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Massena Museum of Art & History

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

One of France’s most splendid Belle Epoque villas, donated to the city of Nice by the aristocratic Massena family, is now home to a compelling collection of art, furniture and artifacts that track Nice’s rich history.

Best for ages: 18+ | £12

Nice Carnival

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Parades, costumes, flower ‘battles’, lights, and sun: Nice holds one of the world’s best carnivals – second only to Rio.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 2 weeks

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

White sand beach with blue waters at Villefranche-sur-Mer
Experience

Marinieres Beach

Villefranche-sur-Mer , Cote d'Azur, France

Tucked between chi-chi St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Nice, the charming Medieval village of Villefranche-sur-Mer is the relaxed, boho antidote to the moneybags Riviera. A kilometre of coarse, gently shelving golden sand and crystalline waters, it’s all free and open to the public.

Best for ages: Any | Free

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External facade of the beautiful ornate orange and cream vill building
Experience

Nice Museum of Fine Arts

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

This magnificent former private mansion – built by a Russian princess – contains a fine collection of paintings and sculptures from the 16th to 20th century, by artists who lived in the Cote D’Azur.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

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View of a pretty curve of beach with a beach club, surrounded by cliffs with trees and villas
Experience

Paloma Beach

Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Cote d'Azur, France

Sheltered from the wind, this shingle beach in a beautiful, wooded cove is a laid-back favourite of both locals and celebrities. Views across to the Alps are sublime. It’s part public, but best to splurge on a lounger at the delightful Paloma Beach Club – a local institution with an excellent restaurant.

Best for ages: Any | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

★ Walking Tour of Old Nice and Castle Hill

★ Walking Tour of Old Nice and Castle Hill

Nice

★ #1 Most Rated Walking Tour, in Nice♡ ★ NICEFUNTOURS - If the tour is fully booked on the date you wish, please contact us - We might have ...

€31 | Rating 4.95 / 5 [505 ratings]

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Nice City Best Highlights E-bike Tour

Nice City Best Highlights E-bike Tour

Nice

VISIT THE BEST HIGHLIGHTS OF NICE! Start your outside tour on the Promenade des Anglais, the meeting place with your guide. Take a large c...

€38 | Rating 4.94 / 5 [19 ratings]

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Nice City Bike Tour with a Local Guide

Nice City Bike Tour with a Local Guide

Nice

Enjoy the best of Nice on a bike tour with a local English-speaking guide. This is an extraordinary opportunity to experience Nice as not ma...

€35 | Rating 4.82 / 5 [219 ratings]

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Nice City Segway Sightseeing Tour

Nice City Segway Sightseeing Tour

Nice

Explore top Nice attractions and take pictures you can’t wait to share on a fun 1-hour or 2-hour Segway outdoor tour. Cruise through histori...

€35 | Rating 4.88 / 5 [744 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Hotel Villa Victoria

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

This attractive, friendly and affordable 4-star boutique hotel stands out for its lovely garden. It’s handily located just outside the pedestrianised area of Old Nice, close to Nice’s main sights, and a short walk to its beach.

Official star rating:

Deck Hotel

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

This fun, colourful and affordable design hotel channels this area’s beach clubs, just off Nice’s Promenade des Anglais.

Official star rating:

Palais Saleya

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Contemporary suites and apartments set in an attractive 18th-century building, in a superb location in Old Nice. A great base for a few days in Nice.

Official star rating:

Hotel Suisse

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

A charismatic and reasonably-priced boutique on the eastern end of Nice’s iconic Promenade des Anglais. It comes with panoramic sea views, handy parking, and access to a private beach club.

Official star rating:

When to go

With its mild climate, Nice is a year-round destination, with cultural activities every month on top of all its other attractions. Mid-March to April and September to October are ideal times to visit. Finding a room may be hard for February for Carnival; otherwise July and August are the busiest with tourists, when the beaches and sights can be crowded, prices are highest although it rarely gets unbearably hot.

Getting there and away

Nice airport, the second busiest in France, is the gateway to the Cote d’Azur. A taxi to central Nice should take no more than 20 minutes and is the fastest option, however, the T2 Tram from the airport to the port is also a good option (at the Jean-Medecin stop you can transfer to Tram1 and the train station). There are also regular, cheap shuttle buses.

Getting around

Much of the centre is easily accessible by foot, and there are plenty of taxis and bike paths. Nice has an excellent one-euro city bus system, the Lignes Azur, as well as trams; the latter passes a number of art installations, making it fun to ride even if you have nowhere in particular to go. There’s a free lift up to the Colline du Chateau. Nice has expanded its bike lanes and offers a self-service hire scheme, Velobleu, with bikes in 175 stations.

Where to stay

If your budget doesn’t stretch to the fabulous hotels along the Promenade des Anglais, Le Vieux Nice is a great place to stay in the heart of the action, close to the beaches, market, bars and restaurants; the smart Port quarter is less touristy.  In the 19th-century Jean-Medecin district, you’ll be close to shopping, restaurants and Nice’s nightlife concentrated in Le Carre d’Or. The Art Deco Liberation quarter north of the main Gare Theirs train station is a good place to feel like a local; quieter Cimiez with its gardens is pleasant for families.

Where to shop

Nice is considered the best shopping city in France after Paris: its Galeries Lafayette department store is the country’s second largest. Popular chain shops are concentrated on Avenue Jean-Medecin and its Nice Etoile mall; for designer boutiques, head to Rue Paradis and Rue de Suede. The pedestrian-only lanes of old Nice are full of antique and art shops; in the same area, on Mondays, Cours Saleya hosts an arty flea market instead of produce.

Buy designer fashions, jewellery and shoes by all the world’s top names; works of art, perfumes made in Grasse, ceramics in Vallauris and glass in Biot; olive oils, herbs and wines.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination

Other guides relevant to this destination

Cannes destination guide

Cote d'Azur, France

Sister city of Hollywood and host of the famous film festival, Cannes, with its palm-lined La Croisette, golden beach and five star hotels oozes cinematic and pure Riviera glamour.

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