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23 Best things to see & do in Nice

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros
  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Abstract painting inside a gallery

Bucket List Experience

World-class art in Nice

Nice can rightly claim France’s best hoard of modern art after Paris’s – and much of it was created here, in the early 20th century, when the Riviera’s light, colour and warmth attracted artists such as Renoir, Matisse and Chagall.

Wealthy collectors later founded museums, often in charming and historic buildings, and many artists donated works to their adopted towns. Just outside of Nice’s borders you’ll find museums dedicated to other world-renowned artists such as Picasso, Bonnard and Cocteau.

Being far less busy than Paris’s art museums, they’re a pleasure to wander – often set in pretty sculpture gardens, with lovely cafes or wine bars attached so you can sit and ruminate on your art fix.

Good for age: 18+

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Brightly-illuminated carnival float surrounded by crowds

Bucket List Experience

Nice Carnival

The biggest winter event on the Riviera calendar, Nice’s carnival is considered by the cognoscenti as second only to Rio’s.

Every year, enormous, animated satirical floats cover a different theme, cruising through the city in daytime (Corso Carnavalesque) and night parades (Corso Illumine) – along with a ‘Battle of Flowers’ parade, where floral floats skim along the iconic Promenade des Anglais waterfront and blooms are hurled all over.

Too tame? Then get egged and floured at the anarchic Carnaval Populaire in Place Garibaldi. On the final night – always a Wednesday – the Carnival ends with a big firework display and a bonfire of floats on the beach, both of which are free to watch.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 2 weeks

When: February to March

Freq: annually

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

Stunning pink villa with lavish gardens including an ornamental pond in front

Bucket List Experience

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

This delightful pink pastiche of an Italianate villa was built in 1912 by the flamboyant art collector Baroness Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, to house her fabulous collection of 18th-century art and furniture. Set on the highest point of high-net-worth playground Cap Ferrat, it’s a gilded, fondant fantasy for fans of kitsch design and architecture, and a fun stop on a tour of the Cote d’Azur.

The villa’s gardens, terraced out of the rock, are equally remarkable, divided into little worlds of their own: exotic, English, Florentine Spanish, Provencal, Japanese, and French, with a musical fountain that plays every 20 minutes.

Adult price: £13

Good for age: 18+

  • Eze, Cote d'Azur, France

White convertible driving on a cliff-side highway looking down over Monaco

Bucket List Experience

Drive the Grande Corniche

Feel the wind blow through your hair along the spectacular Grande Corniche, the clifftop Cote d’Azur road where Hitchcock filmed Grace Kelly driving her roadster in To Catch a Thief.

Built 500m above sea level by Napoleon and following the old Roman road Via Julia Augusta, it has incredible views of this sought-after stretch of French coast, with mountains on one side and sea shimmering on the other.

You can drive the length of it in under an hour, but half the fun is stopping at the coast’s highlights along the way: picturesque towns such as La Turbie and Eze. From La Turbie, take the road to Monaco, but turn off at Les Hautes de Monte Carlo for the incredible views from the promontory by the France Telecom dome.

Part of the Grande Corniche is a park, with a network of footpaths: get there on the Route de la Revere, west of the Col de Eze.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 2-4 hours

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Fresh ingredients of italian food, mediterranean diet, background

Bucket List Experience

Nice’s best food & drink

The region’s cuisine is a mix of Provencal and Italian food, using plenty of olive oil, sun-ripened fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood and lamb from the mountains.

Pasta often features – flavoured with pistou (similar to pesto) – and salad is ever-popular; truffles, caviar, lobster, and foie gras commonly feature in fine dining restaurants.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: Any

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Conceived as Nice’s answer to Paris’s Pompidou Centre, MAMAC’s twin towers – connected by a sculptural glass facade – contain a core collection of intriguing art from the 1950s to the present.

Stroll through some 1,400 bold, edgy works by the likes of Ben, Yves Klein, Christo, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Dine, Warhol, Oldenburg, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Tiguely and Kelly, framed by luminous white-cube rooms – and don’t miss the striking public art on your way in. MAMAC also holds frequent, excellent temporary exhibitions.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

Cours Saleya Food and Flower Market

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

View looking down from above to the busy market of Cours Saleya in the centre of Nice City

Bucket List Experience

Nice’s food and flower market, held along the pedestrianised Cours Saleya esplanade, is packed with all the vibrant, sensuous colours, flavours and scents of the south: lavender, marzipan, sugared almonds, spices, herbal teas, takeaway socca and pissaladiere snacks. Held Tuesday to Sunday, around 6.30am to 1.30pm.

Good for age: 18+

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Modernist building with a courtyard in front flanked by trees

Bucket List Experience

Maeght Foundation

Set in a sublime garden amid playful mosaics, fountains and sculptures by Calder, Giacometti, Pol Bury and Tal Coat, the Maeght Foundation is itself a masterpiece.

Designed in 1964 by Josep Lluis Sert, a student of Le Corbusier, this striking building’s luminous white rooms are filled with natural light – the ideal setting for bold, colour-packed art by the likes of Braque, Chagal, Leger, Bonnard and Miro.

Outside, there’s a sculpture garden, with rotating works by world-renowned sculptors such as Jean Arp, Eduardo Chillida, Erik Dietman, Barbara Hepworth and Joan Miro.

Kids will love the garden with its Miro maze and Pol Bury fountain.

Adult price: £14

Good for age: 18+

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Exterior of modern museum with bushes and grass lawn in front

Bucket List Experience

Marc Chagall National Museum

Housed in a low, modest-looking building among pretty Mediterranean gardens, this museum houses the painter Marc Chagall’s remarkable cycle of 17 glowing, colour-drenched paintings inspired by the Bible. This permanent collection is the biggest public collection of works by the artist anywhere.

One of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Chagall has an entirely unique style that borrowed from many schools of modern art, including Cubism, Fauvism, Symbolism, Surrealism, Orphism and Futurism.

The artist was heavily inspired by the Cote d’Azur, and lived in nearby Vence from the 1940s to the 1980s, becoming a key part of the region’s rich art scene.

Replete with Chagall’s trademark folk symbolism, the colour-saturated, dreamlike works in Nice’s pristine white museum have a special magic, especially the brilliant red Song of Songs.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

  • Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Get above it all on the picturesque, human-scale, and wonderfully scenic Train des Pignes.

The historic steam engine takes 90 minutes to chug from Puget-Theniers to Annot, and on special occasions goes as far Le Fugeret.

Along the way, you pass through verdant French countryside, peppered with mountains and gorges, olive-oil mills and walled villages.

Choose to disembark at medieval Entrevaux with its citadel, or Annot and Le Fugeret for lovely walks.

It’s a spectacular route and a great day out in the South of France: kids love it too.

Adult price: £22

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 day