Things to Do in Nice
A stylish walkway monopolizing four miles (six kilometers) along the Bay of Angels, the Walk of the English (Promenade des Anglais or La Prom) is a Nice icon offering stunning views, enticing pit stops, and the best people-watching in the city. Grab your bike, skates, or shoes—and don’t forget your swimsuit—for a sunny afternoon in Nice.
With its twisting cobblestone lanes, jumble of medieval houses, and shady courtyards lined with traditional cafés, Eze is a tranquil village high above the glamorous resorts and golden beaches of the Cote d’Azur. The hilltop town, traditionally written Èze, is undeniably picturesque, affording panoramic views over the Mediterranean, and its timeless charm has made it a firm favorite on French Riviera itineraries.
A honeycomb of narrow streets dotted with baroque churches, lively markets, bustling squares, and a thriving nightlife scene, Nice’s Old Town (Vieux Nice) remains the buzzing heart the modern French city. This seafront historic center offers an atmospheric introduction to Nice.
Nice's Cours Saleya Flower Market (Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya) is a veritable feast for the senses—floral fragrances rise in the air, vendors call out in French to mingling locals, and flower bouquets burst forth from every stall. Add the fresh produce market, sidewalk cafes, and weekly antiques fair, and it’s no wonder the market is a must while in Provence.
Rising up over the eastern end of Quai des États-Unis, the 300-foot Castle Hill (Colline du Château) affords fantastic views over the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Old Town of Vieux Nice, the Baie des Anges, and the glittering Côte d’Azur.
If you're spending an even remotely significant amount of time in Nice, then you'll soon become familiar with Massena Square (Place Massena). It's the massive, open square at the bottom of L'avenue Jean-Médecin; just a little bit past it is Vieux Nice and the Mediterranean. Walk under the porticos in foul weather, or enjoy the sun on its wide walkways. It ends in a gorgeous fountain framed by faded cherry-red buildings, a favorite with photographers of any ability.
In the daytime, Masséna Square is a busy pedestrian/tram intersection, and it can seem like barely controlled chaos as people scurry, stroll or simply hang out along its dizzyingly tiled surface. At night it's a bit less busy, but many are more distracted as the large human-like sculptures high atop poles change color like lava lamps!
Massena Square is also the site for many of Nice's most popular events throughout the year, from Mardi Gras to Fete de la Musique concerts to summer outdoor markets, exhibitions and performances of all kinds. And at Christmas, it's transformed into a village with artisanal gifts, games for kids, delicious food stalls and even a Ferris wheel.
Rising above the port of Nice, Mt. Boron (Mont Boron) is a green wilderness with spectacular views over the great views over the city, and the entire Côte d’Azur, especially nearby beauties, Villefranche and Cap Ferrat. Sign-posted trails for hiking and mountain biking make this nature reserve a popular place to escape the city.
As far as historic French castles go, the Château de Crémat is a mere infant, built in the beginning of the 20th century. But it was designed to appear like it was there long before the city of Nice that spreads below it, with a mixture of architectural styles and a creamy exterior that reflects the stunning Riviera light.
Those wondering if it’s worth a visit should look no further than their taste buds. The Château de Crémat was built specifically for its surrounding land, which is taken up entirely by picturesque vineyards that yield some quality wines. Guided tours of the castle are free, and wine tastings are available for a tasting fee.
Since its founding in 1849 in the Grasse Province in the south of France, the world-class Molinard Perfumery (Maison Molinard) has been creating famous fragrances for men, women, dignitaries and even soldiers for more than 150 years.
Travelers can embark on a one-of-a-kind tour of Molinard Perfumery that starts with a film exploring the company’s history and ends with a trip through the 1930s where visitors can witness perfume-making in its most traditional sense.
The guided tour loops through Molinard’s beautiful reception area and flows into the soap room, where years ago a single person created hundreds of soaps by hand. The distillery remains one of the tour’s most incredible stops, as it’s one of the few perfume factories in the world to avoid modernization. Travelers will pass by the cream room, where they’ll learn about packaging and production before the final sales room stop, where a well-curated exhibition showcases fragrance collections from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
More Things to Do in Nice
Housed in an Italianate neoclassical villa fronting the Promenade des Anglais, the Massena Art and History Museum (Musée Masséna) focuses on the shared history of the city of Nice and Napoleon Bonaparte, through the personal effects, artifacts, and artwork of the Masséna family. The manicured grounds are also a high point.
Nice is full of interesting architectural delights, but perhaps none is as unique as the St. Nicholas Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas), a Russian Orthodox church which speaks to the history of Nice as a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. While the Promenade des Anglais is a nod to the English, who wanted to walk along the shoreline in the sun without being directly on the beach, the Russian cathedral is a similar concession, this time to the Russian nobility – namely Tsar Nicholas II – who found the mild climate and beautiful location to be equally alluring.
St. Nicholas Cathedral is one of the top sites to visit in Nice, although it isn’t remotely French. Even if it weren't commonly known as the Russian Cathedral, one look at its exterior would give it away; it looks as though it was shipped directly from Moscow, with its fanciful onion-shaped domes and brightly colored exterior. Inside, as befitting a Russian landmark, its collection of icons is one of the finest in the world, and the interior architecture and color scheme looks like a bejeweled Easter egg.
An Italian-style mansion on Cap Ferrat in the French Riviera, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is the former home of socialite and banking heiress Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild. The villa and its extensive gardens are now open to the public.
Inspired by the lavish villas of ancient Greece but built in the early 20th century, Villa Kerylos is the vision of French archaeologist Théodore Reinach. Now preserved as a National Monument, it’s a striking sight, perched on the seafront of the French Riviera against a backdrop of the soaring cliffs of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Running along the waterfront of Nice Old Town, the Quai des Etats-Unis (Wharf of the United States) is a pedestrian pathway that divides the seafront from the shops, restaurants, and hotels of Old Town and provides access to the beach. The quai was named in honor of the United States after its decision to join the Triple Entente in World War I.
Originally founded in the 11th century by Benedictine monks, Cimiez Monastery (Monastère de Cimiez or Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez) is now a Franciscan monastery with a small museum explaining the austere Franciscan way of life throughout the centuries, with ancient artwork, frescoes, documents, and a replica monk's cell. Its gardens have sweeping views of Nice.
The Marc Chagall National Museum (Musée National Marc Chagall) in Nice hosts the largest public collection of the Russian-born artist's works. Within the space, fans encounter a range of works—from practice sketches to some of Chagall’s largest and most iconic paintings and stained glass pieces—but the centerpiece is the artists' Old Testament scenes.
Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Matisse Museum (Musée Matisse), an homage to the life and work of Nice’s hometown art hero and world-renowned French painter Henri Matisse. Though small, the museum provides detailed information about Matisse’s life and examines the evolution of his work through key sketches, paintings, and sculptures.
Carved into the pine-forested mountains along the Cote d'Azur, between Nice and Menton, are three seaside roads with some of the most dramatic scenery and views in Europe: Grande Corniche, Basse Corniche, and Moyenne Corniche. Each one is different, holding a unique perspective and set of charms.
Located in Nice’s Phoenix park, the Museum of Asian Arts (Musée des Arts Asiatiques), as its name implies, aims to showcase a cohesive ensemble of various Asian arts. The museum was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange and was opened in 1998 at the initiative of Jacques Médecin, mayor of Nice from 1966 until 1990.
In addition to the visit, the museum offers a wide range of activities including audio-guides in French, English, Italian and German (€2). Guided tours are available at 11am on the 3rd Saturday of the Month from September to June, and every Wednesday and Saturday at 2:30pm in July and August (€4). It is possible to register online or on-site. There are also workshops for both adults and children (€10 / €3.50) and calligraphy, origami and taï chi chuan and Qi gong classes, as well as a weekly tea ceremony. A full schedule is available on the website.
Designed by Gustave Eiffel of the Parisian tower fame together with Charles Garnier, the architect of Monte Carlo Casino, Côte d'Azur Observatory (Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur) opened in 1878 and is still a working astronomy laboratory. Resembling a Greek temple, fronted with Ionic columns but topped by a 92-ton dome covering what was once the largest telescope in the world, the observatory is built on a floating platform that originally allowed the telescope to be easily maneuvered into position; nowadays it is moved by hydraulics. It is regarded as one of the planet’s leading observatories, pioneering research into astrophysics and geosciences.
Sitting on the hill of Mont Gros behind Nice in a typically Provençal landscapes scattered with olive trees, a visit to the observatory offers unparalleled views over the glamorous Côte d’Azur and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. It is open for two-hour guided visits only and English-language tours have to be arranged in advance. Occasionally stargazing sessions are held at night.
For every visitor who rolls their eyes at the newest addition to the Promenade des Anglais, there is an equal number of visitors–and locals – who are thrilled at the arrival of Hard Rock Cafe Nice. Its exterior blends in quite nicely with the facades along this famous strip, and its location ensures that it will be around for the long haul.
Unlike many American-style restaurants in France, this is the real deal; there are no French concessions to the American palate, and it can be a welcome treat for Americans to have a taste of home after days of the finest the Riviera has to offer. And as usual, plenty of memorabilia is on display here – although the big draw is the “Rock Wall Solo,” which allows visitors to take an interactive, virtual tour of Hard Rock Cafes around the world and the memorabilia they have as well.
Although the menu doesn't vary greatly from city to city, there are some differences here; to make sure your favorite dishes are on the menu at the Hard Rock Cafe in Nice, make sure to check on the restaurant's website, where all dishes are listed and explained. Also, the outdoor seating is ideal for good weather, but it’s best to reserve, as there are only 30 places compared to the 200 inside.
Tourrettes, a hilltop village in the Var department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, consistently makes every list of day trips from Nice. It's exactly what visitors dream of when they talk about “discovering” a place in the South of France that seems like it's all their own.
The pedestrian-only and oldest part of the town is a warren of narrow streets lined with stone homes, many with ground-floor shops that could empty the wallet of even the most budget-conscious traveler. With brightly painted doors and perfectly grown creeping vines and flowering plants that would make Martha Stewart swoon, even an hour spent in Tourrettes provides plenty to take in. The intoxicating smell of violets is everywhere, and there are also the outer roads, which offer borderline-vertiginous views of the valley below and the neighboring hills. It's nothing short of stunning.
While a stay at the Hotel Negresco might break most budgets, it's rightly a historic landmark and one of the most visited sites in the city. It also provides a unique look into the true Old Nice. With doormen in period-correct uniforms and its interior lovingly maintained or restored to its original grandeur, entering Hotel Negresco is like stepping back in time.
The Belle Époque style is simply breathtaking, even if to some modern standards it seems a bit gaudy. But the Negresco doesn't simply ride along on its historical bonafides; its two-star Michelin restaurant is the best in Nice, and the rooms are meticulously decorated to reflect the era while discreetly providing modern amenities. Visitors wanting a bit of a splurge can reserve a place for cocktail hour at the Relais Bar, with its polished woodwork and expertly made drinks. And la Rotonde Brasserie should be experienced at least once–not only for its over-the-top carousel-themed décor, but its spectacular sea views.
Insider tip: If you're staying at the Hotel Westminster just across the street on Promenade des Anglais, ask for an upper-floor room with a view of the Negresco's domed turret! Shutterbugs should get there at sunrise for the best shots of its exterior.
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