Top Things to Do in Nice Ultimate Guide

By: Julie Anne Syperek

Nice la Belle or “Nice the Beautiful” is one of the Top 5 largest cities in France by population.  It has that large city feel with beach vacation vibes, all while transporting you to an era of old. Nice truly has it all.  And whether you stay there for a couple days or a couple weeks, this is a city that will keep meeting all of your needs. From relaxing beach days, to mornings spent at the market, to delicious meals enjoyed while listening to live music with the locals; read on to learn all about my top things to do in Nice.

Top Things to Do in Nice

So here’s my list of top things to do in Nice

  1. Make it a beach day
  2. The Promenade des Anglais 
  3. Castle Hill
  4. Place Messena
  5. The Old Town
  6. Cours Saleya

Make it a Beach Day

Every time I’ve been to Nice I have enjoyed a beach day at the Plage Beau Rivage. For about 20 Euro you’ll get the perfect setup. A comfy beach lounger with an umbrella, infinite sunshine, and friendly service all day long. This restaurant/beach club is perfect for open air dining during the day, and serves as a fun night out as well. This makes it one of the top things to do in Nice, to be spontaneous and see where the day will bring you.  

On a beach day this past summer, I basked in the sun all day long, and enjoyed a dip in the sea whenever the sun was too overwhelming. The Plage Beau Rivage had a carpet that led to the sea to make the walk over the smooth grey rocks, or “galets” more comfortable.

Sand vs. Pebbles

You will find Pebble Beaches, AND sandy beaches In the French Riviera. The first time I encountered a beach with galets, I most definitely raised an eyebrow! But as long as you navigate them with proper footwear, you will find that not having sand everywhere is a huge plus.

Rosé and Caprese All Day

For lunch that day I enjoyed a gorgeous Caprese Salad. This is an absolute must in the French Riviera and truly, anywhere near the Mediterranean Sea. The tomatoes in this region are bursting with flavor, and the Mozzarella di Bufala will make your tastebuds dance as you question why you settle for anything less than this when you are home.  

Traditionally, the Caprese is topped with fresh basil, olive oil, and seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper. A Caprese Salad is the perfect summer dish that may be simple, but I promise it will knock your socks off. For your beverage, I recommend a Rosé from Provence, and don’t forget to ask for ice on the side!

Rosé *can* be served over ice

Rosé has been big in France way before “Rosé all day” hit the mainstream. And while many regions make Rosé wine, I believe that the only one that matters is the Rosé from Provence. With it’s light pink color and dry yet refreshing flavor profile, it’s a varietal of wine that can be enjoyed by itself, or very appropriately over ice. 

Yes that’s right!  Rosé can be served avec glace (with ice) as a drink. I personally prefer to add a cube here and there to keep it cool. Rosé will always be my drink of choice in the summertime no matter what country I’m in.  

♥ Read our complete guide for one week in The French Riviera

Caprese and Rose all day at the Plage Beau Rivage

The Promenade des Anglais

Stretching for 3 miles along the coast of the Mediteranean Sea is the Promenade des Anglais, or “La Prom.”  Here you will find people walking, running, and biking while enjoying the stunning views. On one side of La Prom you have the colorful umbrellas unique to each beach club, and marvelous sea views.

On the opposite you’ll see gorgeous architecture like the Hotel Negresco, one of my favorite buildings in Nice. Chairs line La Prom, so feel free to spend a moment, or an hour relaxing. You may even find yourself inspired to picnic on the beach as you see others enjoying dinner, and a candy colored sunset. So go to the Promenade des Anglais, it’s for sure one of the top things to do in Nice.

♥ Click here for the rates of Hotel Negresco

Top Things to Do in Nice
The Hotel Negresco in Nice

Castle Hill | Top Things To Do in Nice

At the eastern end of the Promenade, high above the Sea is Castle Hill. Making the 92 meter climb to take in this stunning view of Nice is a must! This former military citadel is a serene landscape just waiting to be explored.  I myself happened upon a waterfall, a beautiful cemetery, and the real king of Castle Hill: a panoramic view of the coast that took my breath away. 

As I wandered, I found unexpectedly beautiful details around every corner. From ornate iron doors to intricate tile portraits of animals built right into a stone wall. It was a lovely morning of exploration, and I’m so glad that I took the time. Taking the stairs wasn’t terribly strenuous, but there is also a lift that will take you to the top.  

Place Messena: A must in our list of Top Things to do in Nice

Place Messena is the main square in Nice and my favorite place in all of the Cote d’Azur. The Fountain of the Sun welcomes you with its impressive details and majestic statue of Apollo. All the while, the buildings along the perimeter shine with their own sunny disposition in bright shades of orange and yellow. 

Adding a whimsical twist is the floor of the square. It’s checkered black and white, with neon sculptures hoisted high above on silver poles. The square is both joyful and eclectic, and draws me back every time.

You will find shopping, fountains to play in, and a beautiful park nearby. Many events, including Nice Carnival, take place here throughout the year. But any day of the week, this is a lively gathering place for the people of the city. The Place Messina is truly the heart of Nice. I never tire of sitting by Apollo with an ice cream cone, or glace, just watching the world go by.

View of Nice from the Place Messena

Picture perfect under the moonlight

One of my favorite memories from this past summer, was when I was walking home from the train after a heavenly dinner in Monaco. As I walked through Place Messena there was such an amazing energy; the moon adding its glow like the perfect candlelit ambiance. I stood there, mesmerized by Apollo in all his moonlit glory, trying to capture the perfect picture when someone approached me to take my photograph. 

Just say YES

When someone offers to take your picture, I encourage you to say yes! Unless of course something feels unsafe about the situation. In this case, I almost said no because I didn’t want to bother anyone, but in the end, I am so glad I changed my tune.

The photo he took captured a moment that was very special to me. I was feeling that blissful holiday glow, and had so much love in my heart that night. It was the only picture of myself that I truly wanted while in Nice. Just me in my favorite place…surrounded by the magic of the moonlight.

The Old Town: Wander without agenda

When I arrived at my apartment in Nice, the lovely woman who showed me my AirBnb gave me a piece of advice: Wander and get “lost.” The narrow and winding cobblestone streets of the Old Town are surrounded by unique and colorful residences, restaurants and businesses. To say this area was charming, simply wouldn’t do it justice.

Look right, and you’ll see a lavender shop next to a butcher, where the locals line up every day to get the best meat in town. Look left, and you’ll see that the cobblestones will lead you straight to the Place Garibaldi and it’s brightly colored scene. The environment is perfect for a stroll, so go ahead! Wander without without agenda and see where the breeze takes you.

Why I love Solo Travel

Too many times in my life, I forget to look around. There are so many distractions, and I don’t always take the time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me. That’s one of the reasons why I love solo travel. When I am alone, I can focus more on the sights, sounds, and my own personal thoughts instead of being focused on conversation all the time. And the Old Town of Nice, (Vieille Ville or Vieux Nice), is the ideal place to do exactly that, and so much more! You can read more about why I love traveling solo, and 16 of my best travel tips here.

Cours Saleya and Cafe des Amis 

One of my favorite areas in Nice is the Cours Saleya in the Old Town. Restaurants and shops line the edges, and in some areas,  the tables from the cafés fill the streets, to make for a fun and energetic atmosphere.  

In June 2021, the Covid curfew in France was lifted on the same day that I arrived. Nice was in quite the celebratory mood, which made for an unforgettable experience. The city was simply electric! I happily embraced the spirit of the moment, and raised a glass to brighter days ahead.

Café des Amis

In the evenings, I enjoyed many beautiful meals and beverages along the Cours Saleya. My restaurant of choice was usually Café des Amis– a place that I considered my “Cheers.” Finding that place you can always go back to will help you get to know the people in any new city you visit.

Being a familiar face can also lead to a more authentic experience if you spend the time to listen and ask questions. You can read more about Café des Amis, how to meet new people, and make connections here.

Whether I was watching the EuroCup with the locals on the back patio, writing and devouring a pizza, or enjoying the Jazz Band that was playing across the street. Café des Amis had everything I could ever need. Delicious food, a fantastic wine and cocktail list, and friendly people that welcomed me with a smile every single time. 

I Love Nice! Top Things To Do in Nice

Nice la Belle is a fantastic city that pairs big city energy with the approachability of a small town. Nice is also centrally located, making it easy to take the train to other places along the French Riviera like Monaco, Antibes, and Cannes.

After staying in Nice this past summer, I made my way to Monaco, where I experienced the glitz and glamour firsthand, and went home with the kind of experiences that left stars in my eyes long after I jumped on the train to Paris. Click here to read more about Monaco, taking the train along the Côte d’Azur, and my one perfect week in the French Riviera.


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