The French Riviera is truly packed with great destinations for travelers to seek out, but one city that has no difficulty standing out is Nice. What makes Nice so special is how it ties in so many elements that make the South of France such a tempting place for tourists to explore. In the course of a day, you can easily jump from quaint alleys to hilltop gardens to an elegant art museum and the beach.
To fully appreciate the beauty and charm of Nice, we recommend allocating at least three days of your travels through France to comfortably experience it. To make the most of your time there and fit in as many of the best places to visit in Nice as possible, you’ll need a guide. That’s why we’ve put together this Nice itinerary, which will load you up with information for your trip and show you exactly what to do in Nice in three days.
Best Time to Visit Nice
To get the most out of your trip to Nice, it’s important that you carefully consider its timing. You’ll be met by different weather, accommodation costs, and numbers of fellow tourists depending on when in the year you go. This means that working out the best time to visit Nice will be a trade-off regarding which of those things matter to you.
For a destination like Nice that’s known for its beaches, it makes sense that the city is at its busiest during summer. From June to September, expect plenty of other travelers to come for the hot weather and for accommodation to be limited and at its most expensive.
If you don’t mind missing out on the perfect beach weather, then the shoulder season can be a great time to see Nice. The spring months of March to May are ideal for a balance of good weather and slightly fewer tourists, as is October before the autumn rains hit. Just watch out for popular spring festivals along the Riviera like the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix.
As for winter, it’s bound to be the quietest and most affordable time to go, but you certainly won’t be spending much time at the beach.
How to Get Around Nice
Nice may not be as big as the likes of Paris or Marseilles, but it’s large enough that you’ll still be covering a lot of ground following our itinerary. While you’ll be able to walk from one place to the next in the historic center, getting to other parts of Nice will be a lot easier if you take advantage of the city’s public transport network.
Public transport in Nice is made up of a network of buses and three tram lines. Trams are particularly useful for moving around the center of the city and do also run out to the northern end of the city near Cimiez, whereas the city’s buses are far more extensive.
Tickets for public transport cost €1.50 for a standard ticket and €10 for a 10-trip ticket, but you can also get a day pass for €5 that allows unlimited trips for 24 hours. You can purchase tickets at automatic machines at any tram stop around the city.
One other benefit of Nice’s public transport is that it makes getting from Nice Airport to the city super-easy. Tourists have the option of taking either a tram or a bus when they arrive, each with their own advantages. Going with the L2 tram into the city costs the price of a regular ticket and takes around 35 minutes, while traveling on the No. 12 bus is a little faster and costs €6.
Recommendation: Another great way to get around Nice as a tourist is on the hop-on hop-off bus. The bus stops at all of the major attractions in Nice and with a one or two day pass you can hop on and off any of them. You can purchase tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus here.
Where to Stay in Nice
Thanks to its grand pedigree as a destination for tourists for centuries, Nice is full of accommodation options to suit nearly every kind of budget. The trick is knowing where to stay in Nice to ensure you’ll have no difficulty sightseeing or finding places to get food.
Generally, the best places to stay in Nice are the ones found between the Nice-Ville train station, the beach, and Castle Hill. Many of the tourist attractions are in this area, and it’s easy to get around it. The Old Town is an obvious choice, as is the chic Le Carré d’Or along the waterfront. But don’t ignore the busy central neighborhoods of Jean-Médecin and Thiers, both of which offer plenty of options and put you within walking distance of the beach.
If you’re looking to stay somewhere truly special for your visit, there’s no better place than the Hotel Negresco. This five-star hotel is a treasured landmark of Nice, and every room and suite is individually decorated like a work of art. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast each morning as well as gourmet meals in its Michelin-starred restaurant.
For a nice balance of style, comfort, and cost, Hotel Nice Cote d’azur is a great place to come back to at the end of each day. Rooms at this four-star hotel near the Basilique Notre-Dame are bound to ensure you have a pleasant weekend in Nice and come with the usual amenities you’d expect from a modern hotel.
Nice really isn’t a great pick for those on a budget, but fortunately there are a few great options like Hostel Meyerbeer Beach. This hostel is just minutes from the beach and Place Masséna, making it ideally located no matter your plans, and it’s also loaded with useful amenities like free beach mats and towels. For other recommendations, be sure to check out our Nice hostel guide.
For even more accommodation options in Nice check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect Three-Day Nice Itinerary
To experience the best of Nice in three days, tourists will need to spend their time exploring several different parts of the city. Not only are there attractions to enjoy around the popular seaside area, there are also plenty of highlights to be found among the historic streets of Vieille Ville.
We also recommend pushing beyond these central places to landmarks in the city’s north and west, as it’s in these parts that you’ll really be able to flesh out your visit. And let’s not forget the potential for day trips from Nice to the many dazzling places nearby that deserve your attention, too.
However, before we get to our Nice itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
SafetyWing offers travel insurance for only about $10 a week, making it a no-brainer to get. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
With that out of the way, let’s dive into what you’re actually going to be doing as you follow this Nice travel itinerary. We’re confident that using it as your guide, you’ll be able to cover the best things to do in Nice without feeling too rushed.
Day 1 in Nice
Since it’s your first day visiting Nice, let’s start with the most popular attractions in the city, many of which can be found either in the Old Town or down by the city’s beautiful waterfront.
Begin your visit with a relaxing stroll through the oldest part of Nice, the Old Town. Known both as Vieux Nice or Vieille Ville, the Old Town is full of narrow streets lined with tall and colorful tenement houses, not to mention loads of restaurants and stores.
Vieux Nice may be relatively small compared to the rest of the city, but it definitely packs a whole lot of character into its compact area, meaning it’s often best to just let yourself wander and explore the neighborhood organically. We’ll get to some of the standout attractions in a moment, but one special spot we’ll mention now is the Porte Fausse, as its marble walls are quite cool to see up close.
Recommendation: Take a guided walking tour of the Old Town with a local and learn about the city’s history from its Greek origins through the days of Italian governors. You also get to taste some local delicacies during the tour.
One of the standout landmarks in Vieux Nice, not that you’d know looking at its plain exterior, is Nice Cathedral. That’s because the cathedral flaunts a gorgeous Baroque interior with numerous interesting side chapels that are well worth venturing inside to see. Officially called the Basilique-Cathédrale Sainte-Marie et Sainte-Réparate de Nice, this cathedral took over 200 years to complete after work began in 1650.
Cours Saleya Market
Interestingly, though, it’s the local Cours Saleya Market that claims the title of the main attraction in the historical center of Nice. People come to this market just off the seaside promenade for its flower stalls, even though the market also sells various fresh produce and hosts a flea market each Monday. So whether you’re hungry and seeking a quick snack or just want to see some vibrant floral arrangements, the Cours Saleya definitely deserves at least a few minutes of your time.
Musée du Palais Lascaris
Down a narrow street at the northern end of Vieille Ville, you’ll find another unassuming attraction, the Palais Lascaris. While the exterior of this 17th-century mansion isn’t noteworthy at all, the building’s interior is a different story. Throughout the building, you’ll see marvelous frescoes and tapestries decorating its Baroque design. The palace now hosts a museum of musical instruments with the second largest public collection of antique instruments in France.
Castle Hill is the large hill that directly overlooks the Old Town, making it a great place to enjoy views of the city. The hill owes its name to the castle that once stood there, but today it’s covered in pretty gardens and terrace viewpoints. To reach the top of the hill you can either take the stairs or go the easy route and use the elevator. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with the hill’s superb views.
Returning down to street level, you’ll find the pleasant Promenade du Paillon that borders the Old Town. Stroll down it until you reach Place Masséna. This wonderful square immediately makes an impression with its chessboard pattern and the elegant pastel-colored buildings around it. Spend some time wandering through the portico arcades that ring the square and then treat yourself to a break at one of the square’s many cafés and people watch.
Promenade des Anglais
A short walk from Place Masséna through the park of Jardin Albert 1er lies the famous beachfront Promenade des Anglais. This never-ending promenade runs right along Nice’s beloved beach, meaning you can walk as far along it as you like. You’ll find countless cafés and restaurants along the promenade if you’re looking for somewhere to grab a bite; otherwise, find a perfect spot on the beach and enjoy the rest of your day here.
Day 2 in Nice
While you could easily spend the rest of your vacation enjoying Nice’s beach, there’s plenty more to see around the city, especially once you begin to explore areas away from the Old Town.
Just a little way down the Promenade des Anglais west of Vieux Nice lies the glamorous Musée Masséna. This museum is another of Nice’s fine cultural establishments to take up residence inside a beautiful mansion, this time inside a stunning 19th-century Belle Époque villa. Beyond admiring the villa itself and its wonderful gardens, the Musée Masséna is a great place to learn more about the history of Nice through its extensive permanent exhibition.
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral
Visitors might not realize that there are actually two cathedrals in Nice, and it’s definitely worth seeking out the other one as it comes with quite a story. The building in question is the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral anywhere in Western Europe and also quite a surprising sight with its typical Russian design, considering its surroundings. Nicholas Alexandrovich, son of Tsar Alexander III of Russia, died in Nice in 1865, and the church completed in 1912 was built to honor him.
Basilique Notre-Dame de Nice
Back toward the center of the city, you’ll find one last church that you need to see, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Nice. With its neo-Gothic architecture, the basilica has a very similar-looking front facade to the iconic Notre-Dame of Paris, making it a great substitute if you can’t make it to Paris on this trip. That said, it is considerably smaller than its Parisian namesake, but the interior of the basilica is still quite pretty with its large rose window and plentiful stained-glass windows.
Marc Chagall National Museum
Begin leaving the city center behind and head north into the posh neighborhood of Cimiez to visit the fantastic Marc Chagall National Museum. This museum, dedicated to the modernist painter, is one of many art museums around the city dedicated to renowned masters. But the Marc Chagall National Museum is surely one of the city’s best, thanks to the artist himself being so heavily involved in its design, allowing Chagall to shape it specifically around a series of 17 biblical paintings he created.
Monastère de Cimiez
Elsewhere in Cimiez, you’ll discover the historic Monastère de Cimiez. Although the monastery has existed since the 9th century, the Gothic buildings that still stand and the fine frescoes inside them are from around the 15th century. While the monastery houses a museum that features religious artwork and explores what life was like as a Franciscan monk there, the main draw for tourists is the exquisite gardens and the attached cemetery full of famous names.
Over on the far side of the Jardin des Arènes de Cimiez from the Monastère de Cimiez lies the excellent Musée Matisse. French painter Henri Matisse lived in Nice for almost half his life – he’s one of the names you’ll find in the cemetery of Monastère de Cimiez – and this museum hosts the largest collection of his work in the world. Exhibits in the museum trace his development as a painter and comprehensively showcase his life’s work.
Should Chagall and Matisse not be your cup of tea, there are other art museums near Nice dedicated to Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Fernand Léger as well.
After a long day of sightseeing, treat yourself to a spectacular view of the sunset from the top of Mont Boron east of the city. Reaching a height of 191 meters (627 feet), this hill is covered in groves of pine and olive trees, as well as old fortress remains. It’s the perfect place for a quiet end to your day before you head out for dinner and drinks.
Day 3 in Nice
There’s no doubt you could easily spend the remainder of your 72 hours in Nice exploring the city, but why not use this last day to see what else the French Riviera has to offer? You’ll find plenty of great destinations along the coast to visit on day trips from Nice, but below are the ones that we think are the easiest and most worthwhile.
First up among is the delightful hilltop town of Èze. With a day trip here, you have the choice of exploring a classically quaint medieval village or taking it easy at the beach – or a bit of both.
Èze boasts the kind of cobblestone lanes and old-fashioned stone houses that you dream of seeing on a trip to France, and with a fraction of the tourists you’ll find in more popular destinations along the French Riviera. Views from the Point de Vue out along the coast are incredible as well and not to be missed.
As for the more relaxing side of a visit to Èze, it’s hard to pass up time at Plage de la Baie beach in Èze-sur-Mer.
One of the most charming resort towns along the French Riviera that’s easy to reach from Nice is Antibes. Located conveniently between Nice and Cannes, Antibes provides a great balance of historical attractions and beaches to choose from.
Sightseeing in Antibes can take many different forms, but generally visitors want to get a great view of the town’s port full of luxury yachts. For that, you can either visit Fort Carré to its south or journey over to Fuerte Cuadrado on the far side of the marina. Another spot that few fail to visit in town is the Picasso Museum, set inside an old chateau where Picasso lived for a time.
As for beaches, you’re really spoiled for choice in Antibes. The easiest to reach is Plage de la Gravette, located in the center of town between old stone fortifications. But if you don’t mind traveling further, Plage du Ponteil and Plage de la Salis are rather pretty.
Why not take the opportunity while in Nice to visit one of Europe’s smallest countries with a day trip to Monaco? The tiny principality is really not far from Nice and has quite a bit to entertain visitors beyond the annual Grand Prix motor race and casinos.
You can start a visit there by exploring the gardens and old fortifications that make up the “Rock of Monaco.” This district is full of wonderful viewpoints and attractions, including the changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco and the popular Musée Océanographique de Monaco.
After taking a stroll past all the yachts at the marina of Hercules Port, head on over to Monte Carlo to see the ward’s glamorous Belle Epoque architecture, including the opera house, Salle Garnier. Of course, if you’re over 18 and well dressed, you can also head inside the iconic Monte Carlo casino complex and see what makes it so famous.
And that’s really all you need to know to plan your three days in Nice. Clearly, there’s an awful lot for visitors to see and do there besides hit the beach, so you should have no trouble filling your time.