I’ve always wanted to go to the French Riviera; with its gorgeous beaches, lovely weather, glamorous people, and tales of thrills and excitement depicted in films and books– especially those old classics and Bond movies. On my recent trip to Paris, I made sure I extended my stay and made a trip to the cities on the south of France. I based myself in Nice and spent 2 days exploring this famous summer resort town facing the Mediterranean sea.
I loved Nice and had the most wonderful time. There were endless things to do and lots of beautiful things to see… and so many ways to relax and unwind. Writing this post is bringing back lots of memories and putting a smile on my face– that’s how much I enjoyed exploring the city. Here is my list of top 10 things to do in Nice; a list of all the wonderful experiences I had.
1) Stroll Along the Promenade des Anglais
This world famous promenade is about 7km long and stretches along the beautiful Bay of Angels. I had a wonderful time strolling along the entire stretch; looking out into the ocean on one side, and admiring the gorgeous architecture of modern hotels and historical landmarks on the other. There are cafe terraces dotted along the promenade, and its a great place to sip on a cup of coffee, people watch and soak in the moment.
My rented Airbnb apartment was located on the western end of the promenade, and it was quite a distance from the centre of town on the eastern end. I had no complaints though, I enjoyed my beachside walk every morning.
2) Laze on the Beach
There is no better way to enjoy a beach town than to laze on the beach. That’s what everyone comes to Nice in the summer to do! The beach is packed with sun seekers as the weather is lovely then– the sun is shining and the sea is a sparkling blue. I spent most of my time getting a nice tan, sleeping, and working on my travel journal.
Nice’s main beach is a shingles beach; it is filled with small pebbles and cobbles. It was great not to have sand all over me or inside my beach bag, but the pebbles are pretty uncomfortable to lie on, leave imprints and are scorching hot– my thick beach towel helped. There are also hotels that offer beach chairs and parasols for rent.
3) Visit the Museums, Galleries and Historical Buildings
If art and museums are your thing, Nice has lots to choose from. For modern and contemporary art, there is the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, and for museums dedicated to individual artists, head on to Musée Matisse or Musée Marc Chagall. There is also an array of galleries by local artists to visit.
Nice has gorgeous buildings to admire too– the landmark Hotel Negresco along the Promenade des Anglais is hard to miss, and the Cathedral St Nicolas is an extravagant sight.
4) Admire the Views from Castle Hill
There are many ways to get to the top of Castle Hill, situated on the east corner of the old town. No matter what mode of transport you choose to get there (especially if you decide to hike), it will all be worth it for the breathtaking sweeping views of Nice and beyond. One one side you get to see the beautiful Bay of Angels, and the other side, the Port of Nice. There is also a park and some old cathedral ruins on the hill.
I took the Mini Tourist Train from the Promenade des Anglais to the top of the hill. Unfortunately, the train only stops for about 10 minutes at the castle, so I didn’t have much time to explore.
5) Get Lost in the Old Town
The Nice Vieille Ville, or Old Town, has a different pace compared to the rest of Nice. The place is abuzz with locals going about their business, and visitors exploring its many narrow lanes and alleys. It is such a pretty place with colorful old buildings; and small shops, markets, cafes, bars and restaurants at every corner. A local snack that can be found in the old town is socca, a chickpea crepe/pancake.
I loved wandering around the old town without a map– I got lost a couple of times, but eventually recognized the buildings and landmarks so I could navigate my way around. I shopped, ate and had my own little adventure.
6) Explore the Cours Saleya Market
Every morning, this square in the middle of the old town of Nice comes alive with the most beautiful flower and food market. However, I visited on a Monday morning, which is the only day the market becomes an antique market. I had an interesting time looking at timeworn pictures, checking out ancient junk and admiring old trinkets. At several instances I found some items so pretty, I was tempted to buy them… only to realize I had no more space in my luggage!
The Cours Saleya market square is surrounded by 18th century houses filled with restaurants and cafes; so if browsing or shopping is not for you, relax on the terraces and watch the people in the market go about their day.
7) Take a Tour Around the City
I decided to purchase a 24-hour French Riviera Pass (€26=US$28) for easy access to the attractions around Nice. The pass includes a couple of free city tours (with commentary/guide)– and I made use of all of them.
Throughout that 24 hours, I did three kinds of tours around Nice– I sat on the Nice Hop-On Hop-Off Open Tour Bus (€22=US$24), did a tour around the old town and Castle Hill on the Mini Tourist Train (€8=US$9), and explored the whole city on a Segway (€17=US$18). Each type of tour offered me a completely different experience and I had the time of my life!
8) Get Some Retail Therapy
Nice is the place to see and be seen; and therefore has no shortage of high-class boutiques and retail outlets. The Avenue Jean Medecin is a great place for a stroll; cars are not allowed and you can travel the length of the street via tram. You can also browse through the Galleries Lafayette or the Nice Etoile. After walking under the sun for a while; heading into the air-conditioned malls is a great way to escape the heat.
9) Choose Your Ice-Cream and Sorbet
While exploring the old town, you cannot miss dropping by Fenoccio for a wide selection of ice-cream. Located on Place Rossetti, just in front of the Baroque Ste-Réparate cathedral; this popular ice-cream parlour has been opened since 1966.
The shop has 94 flavors of ice-cream and sorbets to choose from– from chocolate and alcohol brands to herbs, flowers and fruits. I was spoiled for choice and spent a good amount of time trying to decide which unique flavor to try (the place is brimming with people so you have time to finalize your selection). When I finally arrived at the counter, I decided to go with the cactus and Bounty chocolate flavors. It was yummy and refreshing– and I now know how cactus tastes like.
10) Have a Seafood Meal
You have to try the excellent fresh seafood in Restaurant Boccaccio located along Rue Massena. The price might be rather high, and the service may lack a little; but the food is delicious and comes in extremely huge portions.
I had dinner with two friends, and we ordered 2 dishes to share– a seafood taster platter (€34=US$37) that came with 2-tiers of oysters, clams, mussels, prawns and snails, as well as a lobster spaghetti (€45=US$49) with an entire lobster! At the end of the meal we were stuffed… and happy!