Nice is where I stayed during my first visit to the French Riviera back in 2018, and again in 2019.

Even now, when I’m based out of Antibes, I always hop on the train to Nice to go shopping or hit up a museum.

It’s truly one of the best cities for first-timers to base themselves out of while exploring the Cote d’Azur. 

The city has plenty of cultural and fun activities, delicious restaurants, and it’s in a prime position to make taking day trips to nearby cities a breeze. 

There’s so much to do in Nice and likely very little time to do it if you’re visiting on vacation, so save yourself time and energy by using this list to explore some of the best things to do in Nice.

1. Explore Old Town

With its shady, winding streets and tall old buildings, Vieux Nice (Old Nice) is easily my favorite part of the city.

Walking around Vieille Ville (Old Town) you’ll feel as if you’ve gone back in time. 

There’s a ton of grand architecture, shopping and restaurants to explore.

Don’t forget to check out the street signs as you’re wandering around.

They’re written in both French and the local Nissart dialect.

2. Indulge in Chocolate at Maison Auer

While you’re strolling around,stop by Maison Auer for some chocolate. 

They’ve been making sweet treats here since 1820. Queen Victoria of England even used to buy her chocolates here, so you know it’s good!

In case you don’t trust the Queen’s tastes, I’ll also add that the chocolates here are just as lovely as the shop they’re crafted in.

They’re especially known for their candied fruits. Try the chocolate-covered citrus if it’s in season. It’s delicious!

I swing by here every time I’m in town to indulge in a few treats for the train ride home.

3. Shop at the Cours Saleya

The Cours Saleya is the main town square in Vieille Ville.

Most mornings it’s overflowing with vendors selling flowers and local delicacies. 

In the evenings, the square transforms into open air seating for many of the delicious restaurants found around the square’s edges.

Every Monday, you’ll find a giant flea market that takes over the area.

If you’re there then, I highly suggest trying Socca.

It’s basically a local treat that’s made of ground chickpeas, olive oil, water, and seasoning. It’s tastes a bit like a savory pancake.

I always grab mine and walk a few blocks over to the ocean to eat with a view.

4. Check out Fort du Mont Alban

For a beautiful view and some lovely walking trails, check out Fort du Mont Alban.

It’s an especially delightful spot to bring a picnic or sandwich to enjoy while checking out views of Cap Ferrat and Villefranche.

If hiking isn’t your thing, the Fort is accessible via car.

Though I highly encourage you to enjoy the trials if you’re able to. I really loved wandering around them when I went. 

The actual fort was closed when I saw the observation area was well worth it.

5. Stroll Along Promenade des Anglais

If you want to enjoy an enjoyable walk along the seashore, head to Promenade des Anglais.

This famous boardwalk gets quite crowded in the summer, so fair warning if you don’t love crowds.

My favorite thing to do is grab some gelato and stroll over to the promenade to enjoy it while I people watch.

Along this path you’ll find access to the many beach entrances if you want to go chill by the water, or walk down the path until you find a beach club you want to enjoy.

Also, don’t count out visiting the promenade in the evening.

It’s really cool seeing the promenade come alive at night, as the city lights up, and everyone in town is running around enjoying their evening.

6. Visit Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez

Want to check out a super old church?

Head to Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez, and you’ll see a gothic one from the 16th century. 

While you’re there, check out the three famous paintings by brothers, Louis and Antoine Brea.

Oh, and don’t forget to swing by the cemetery.

You’ll see famous graves belonging to famous French painters Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy.

7. Go Shopping on Avenue Jean Medecin

When I’m living in Antibes and need to go shopping, I always head straight to Avenue Jean Medecin.

This street has both high street brands and boutiques, making it the perfect place to find just about any fashion item you need. 

Some of my go-to larger shops are:

  • Galeries Lafayette
  • Zara
  • Mango
  • Sephora
  • H&M

8. Explore Parc de la Colline du Château

If you’re looking for a park to picnic in, Parc de la Colline du Château is the spot to head to.

It’s a bit of a walk up the hill at the back of the Old Town of Nice, but totally worth it once you see the views of the city and sea.

I was also pleasantly surprised to stumble upon an artificial waterfall while wandering around the pathways. It was really charming.

There’s also a small cafe in the park in case you need a snack or drink.

9. Check Out Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain

Are you looking for a way to take a break from the scorching sun?

Head to MAMAC to enjoy some shade and their collection of modern art and rotating special exhibits.

You’ll also be able to enjoy a snack and stunning views of Nice from their rooftop.

I haven’t been here yet, but it’s absolutely on my to-do list for this summer.

10. Relax in Jardin Albert

This small park, sandwiched between Place Messina and Promenade des Anglais.

It’s the one of the oldest public gardens in Nice, and the first to connect the Old Town with the New Town.

Jardin Albert is a quick stop on your way between the two spots, and a great place to reconnect with nature a bit while running around the city.

You’ll see plenty of trees, lawns, pools, a bandstand theater, and even a charming little carousel. 

11. Enjoy Aperitif

The French love enjoying a little apéritif prior to dinner, so you absolutely should partake in the tradition.

Order an Aperol Spritz, snack on some chips, and just watch the world go by.

These are some of the best spots in Nice to enjoy apéritif:

12. Get Lost in Musee Matisse

The Matisse Museum is home to one of the largest collections of pieces by the iconic French artist, Henri Matisse.

Finally, visiting this museum is one of the top things to cross off on my French Riviera bucket list this summer.

I’ve heard really wonderful things from friends about how well curated this place is.

13. Chill at the Beach

Why come to the French Riviera if you aren’t planning on chilling at the beach?

The beaches in Nice aren’t my favorite because they’re all rock beaches, but there are definitely some delightful spots along the promenade to check out, including:

  • La Réserve
  • Plage Beau Rivage
  • Coco Beach
  • Castel Plage

Just be careful on the rocks, especially if you don’t have sturdy sandals on.

Even though I didn’t love hitting up the beaches in Nice during the days, I love grabbing a bottle of vino at night and heading down there to enjoy a glass or two with my travel buddy.

You’ll see lots of young people partying or low key chilling on the beach at pretty much all hours of the day. 

14. Visit Place Garibaldi

This town square isn’t exactly a major tourist attraction, but it’s worth taking a walk by if you’re in the neighborhood. 

Place Garibaldi is a really beautiful town square built at the end of the 18th century on the northern edge of Vieux-Nice.

It’s one of the oldest and largest squares in Nice.

You’ll also want to check out the shops and restaurants surrounding the square, as they’re all super adorable.

15. Grab a Nice Dinner

Since Nice is one of the bigger cities on the French Riviera, it naturally boasts a bunch of really delicious low key and Michelin starred options.

These are some of the best spots to eat in Nice:

16. Stroll Around Musée National Marc Chagall

Did you know Nice is home to the largest Chagall collection in the world?

To see it, just head to the Musée National Marc Chagall.

You’ll see a lot of his religious works, including his famous collection of 17 biblical paintings called the “Biblical Message”.

I’ve also heard that they’ve got a pretty lovely garden, so keep an eye out.

This is another spot that’s on my to-do list next month, so I’ll keep you updated on how I enjoy the museum.

17. Marvel at Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint-Nicolas

Anyone who’s seen a Russian Orthodox church before knows how truly epic the building’s architecture and colors are.

The Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint-Nicolas is no exception.

Besides having all the architecture and colors to marvel at, you’ll also get a gorgeous view of Nice from the vantage point of the cathedral.

If you’re looking for something free to do in Nice, this is a glorious spot to check out.

18. Indulge in Lots of Gelato

One of my favorite things to do while in Europe is to indulge in all the gelato. 

U.S. ice cream just doesn’t live up to the sugary, creamy goodness that they serve up in France and Italy.

If you’re looking to indulge your sweet tooth while in Nice, head to one of these popular gelato places:

19. Explore Villa Masséna-Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

Villa Masséna-Musée d’Art et d’Histoire is the perfect spot to wander around for an educational afternoon.

You’ll see art focused on the French Riviera, spanning from the attachment of Nice to France to Belle époque.

Interesting pieces in the collection include Josephine’s mother-of-pearl tiara, and  Napoleon’s death mask.

20. Spend the afternoon at Musée des Beaux-Arts

Housed in the Russian Princess, Elizaveta Vasilievna Kochubey’s stunning former 1878 private mansion, Musée des Beaux-Arts is a place you’ll absolutely want to Instagram from. 

Fair warning though, it’s a bit on the outskirts of town, so get ready for a bit of a commute. 

Even though I’ve heard it’s a fairly small museum, friends tell me it’s well worth visiting to check out their collection of artwork from French artists like Cheret, Dufy and Mossa.

21. Wander Around the Palais Lascaris

This gorgeous seventeenth-century aristocratic building in Old Nice is home to over 500 instruments.

In fact, it’s one of France’s largest collections, with the instruments spanning centuries.

The Palais Lascaris is absolutely worth a stop if you’re a musician or just love seeing beautiful old buildings.

Book this popular tour of Nice that includes a visit to the museum!

22. Stroll Around Parc Phoenix

If you’re visiting Nice with children, the Parc Phoenix is the perfect spot to enjoy the afternoon.

It’s a tropical botanical garden and zoo that’s got some wildlife, but mostly plants, and a playground for your kids.

23. Go Dancing 

Who doesn’t love to go out dancing in a new city, especially if you’re on a trip with friends or a lover?

Dance the night away at one of these hotspots in Nice:

24. Take a Tour

Nice is a town that draws a ton of tourists, especially in the summer, so it’s only natural they have a ton of different tours you can take.

I’m partial to the food and walking tours in most cities, but some of the boat tours here have quickly gone to the top of my wish list.

Check out one of these popular tours from Nice!

25. Check Out Le Negresco

It’s my dream to one day actually stay at the historic hotel Le Negresco.

For now, stopping once a year to treat myself to oysters and Chablis on their terrace will have to do.

This place is seriously dreamy. Everything from the food and drinks to the antiques and stunning old interior makes this hotel absolutely magical.

Seriously, if you want to treat yourself while in Nice, come to Le Negresco.

Then treat yourself to a drink and trip the restroom so that you can low key check out the interior of the lobby.

Final Thoughts

best things to do in nice france french riviera 2

Even though Antibes stole my heart as my favorite small town on the riviera, Nice is quickly becoming my favorite larger city in the Cote d’Azur.

It’s got a really satisfying city vibe, tons of low key beach places to relax, and plenty of nightlife and shopping.

What more could you want in a city?

Let me know in the comments below what you’re most looking forward to doing in Nice, and if there’s anything you’ve done in Nice that should be added to the list. I’m always looking for unknown places to check out!

Book one of these popular tours from Nice!


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