There’s something irrevocably special about Nice. Maybe it’s the clear sea breezy and the soft daylight. Or maybe it’s the luminous year-round weather, which brings mild winters and pleasantly warm summers. It could also be the glittering beaches and lush green gardens where true Mediterranean magic is to be found.
Whatever it is that makes up Nice’s allure, all we know is that it has been captivating the attention of notable artists, philosophers, and international writers for years. Henri Matisse created most of his paintings while living in the city, and Marc Chagall was a frequent visitor. Friedrich Nietzsche spent six consecutive winters in Nice, and Anton Chekhov completed his play “Three Sisters” while living there.
A precious gem spiked in the French Riviera, Nice invites travelers and locals to dive headlong into a sea of possibilities — from exploring picturesque art museums to lounging on glamorous beaches and exploring century-old constructions.
If you’re dreaming of escaping to the wonderful landscapes of this Mediterranean city, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up 13 bucket-list things to do in Nice, including exploring the narrow streets of the Old Town on foot, marveling at the artworks of the Musée Matisse, buying fresh flowers in the Cours Saleya Markets, and more.
Have a look!
The 13 Best Things To Do in Nice, France
Explore the Vieille Ville (Old Town) on Foot
A walk through Old Nice (Vieux Nice), is an unparalleled way of taking in the city’s energy. Located just below Castle Hill, the picturesque old town dazzles pedestrians with its narrow cobblestone streets and colorful architecture. The ground floors of the buildings are occupied by restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
Must-visit sites in the old town include Place Masséna, the central and most important square of Nice with its large fountain decorated with statues, the richly adorned Cathedral of St. Reparata (Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate), and Musée du Palais Lascaris, home to over 500 music instruments.
All of the attractions are located within walking distance from each other, making it easy to navigate around the Old Town.
Marvel At The Eye-Popping Artworks Of The Musée Matisse
Set within the 17th-century Villa des Arènes, a whimsical Genoese-style villa, the Matisse Museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of Henri Matisse’s works. Known for its bold use of colors, the French painter lived in Nice until his death in November 1954. The city and its dreamy landscape, by the way, deeply influenced his creative process.
While snooping around the museum, you’ll come across an eye-popping collection of paintings; drawings, prints, and photographs made by Matisse himself; as well as books illustrated by the artist. Highlights include Tempête à Nice (1919-1920), painted from the window of the Hôtel de la Méditerranée where the painter moved in November 1918, and Nu Bleu IV created in 1952 and part of the Nus Bleus series.
Address: 164, avenue des Arènes de Cimiez
Opening Hours: From 10 am to 5 pm from November 1st to April 30th | From 10 am to 6 pm from May 2nd to October 31st
Discover The Collection Of Marc Chagall National Museum
The Musée National Marc Chagall is one of the several must-visit Nice museums. Located in a modernist building surrounded by lush Mediterranean vegetation, the institution houses more than 1,000 works of this Belarusian-French artist.
Paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, stained glass, tapestry, and mosaics make up the unique body of work harbored by the Marc Chagall Museum. The crown jewel of the collection is the 17 large canvases of the Biblical Message donated by Chagall himself.
Address: Av. Dr. Ménard, 06000
Opening Hours: Daily | May to October from 10 am to 6 pm | From November to April from 10 am to 5 pm
Go For A Scenic Walk In The Promenade des Anglais
Known by the locals as “La Prom”, the Promenade des Anglais is a wonderful place for a leisurely stroll in Nice. The promenade stretches for almost 5 miles along the Mediterranean coast and includes a pedestrian-only sidewalk, a cycling lane, and a road for cars.
Visitors can take five on the many benches under the white pergolas, which are prime spots for people-watching or catching a glimpse of the cruise ships that sail through the sky-blue waters of Baie des Anges.
Lined by palm trees, this legendary seaside boulevard was built in the 1820s by the English aristocracy, who used to spend the winter in Nice. Originally just a small footpath, the promenade was developed by Englishman, Reverend Lewis Way at his own expense.
While most of the promenade’s Belle Époque villas and hotels were replaced by new buildings, one history-filled building remains the five-star Hotel Negresco, which has been hosting international artists, politicians, and royalty for nearly a hundred years.
Address: 37 Prom. des Anglais, 06000
Check Out The Views From Parc de la Colline du Château (Castle Hill Park)
Dividing the seaside part of Nice into two (the eastern with the port, and the eastern with the Old Town), Castle Hill Park used to house a citadel that was entirely dismantled by the soldiers of Louis XIV in 1706.
Surrounded by greenery, Castle Hill is famous for offering stunning panoramic views of the Baie des Anges, Old Nice, and the Port.
Address: 06300 Nice
See The Fairy-Tale Gardens Of The Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez
Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez is the place for anyone seeking to escape from Nice’s buzz and vibrancy. Filled with peace and serenity, the monastery was founded in the 9th century by the Brothers of the Abbey of Saint-Pons, and it’s listed as a Historical Monument. It features a 15th-century church, home to three major paintings of the primitive Niçois painter Louis Bréa. Just across from the monastery you’ll find a lovely garden, Jardin des Arenes de Cimiez, which is set in a grove of hundred-year-old olive trees.
Address: 164, Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez
Opening Hours: From Monday to Sat 10 am-noon, 3 pm – 6 pm | Sun, and holidays: closed
Visit The Gorgeous Dome Of The Nice Cathedral
Built over several centuries beginning in the 1600s, the Nice Cathedral is a masterpiece of baroque architecture. It features 10 separate chapels, several altars decorated with artful paintings and relics, a stunning dome decorated in mosaics of green and gold, and a spectacular Italian organ, dating from 1901.
Address: 3 Pl. Rossetti
Opening Hours: From Tuesday to Sunday 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 6 pm
Learn About Yves Klein’s Works at the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (MAMAC)
Located in Place Yves Klein, in the heart of the city, the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) takes visitors on a journey through the International Postwar Art from the 1950s to nowadays.
MAMAC is home to a treasure trove of nearly 1,400 works distributed throughout four levels. While roaming around the museum’s galleries, you’ll stumble upon paintings by more than 350 artists, including Andy Warhol, Martial Raysse, Jacques Villeglé, and John Chamberlain. There are also two key rooms dedicated to Niki de Saint Phalle and Yves Klein.
Address: Place Yves Klein
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
Buy Colorful Fresh Flowers In The Cours Saleya Market
The pedestrianized area of Cours Saleya hosts Nice’s most vibrant outdoor markets, the most well-known being the Marché aux Fleurs, or Flower Market. Happening from Tuesday through Sunday, it features several stalls selling colorful fresh flowers, as well as fruit and vegetables.
If you’re seeking to find precious antiques and vintage goodies, be sure to visit Cours Saleya on Monday, which is when the marché à la brocante (the antiques/flea market) takes place.
Address: Cr Saleya
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 6 am to 5:30 pm | Sunday 6:30 am to 1:30 pm
See Napoleon’s Death Mask At Villa Masséna Musée
Conveniently located in the Promenade des Anglais, in one of the last luxury villas of the 19th century, Villa Masséna is a municipal museum smothered top to bottom with artifacts and artworks. Treasured items found within Musée Masséna include Napoleon’s death mask made by Dr. Arnolt, as well as photos, paintings, posters, floats, and artifacts from the Nice Carnaval.
This fabulous seaside mansion, listed as a historic monument, is an attraction itself. Built in Neoclassical style with a touch of Italianate stamp, the villa flaunts an achingly beautiful interior design by architects Hans-Georg Tersling and Aaron Messiah decorated with antique furnishings.
Address: 65 Rue de France
Hours: 10 am to 6 pm; closed Tuesdays
Discover the Idyllic French Riviera Beaches
Easily accessible (it’s located just a stone’s throw from), Opera Beach is Nice’s oldest private beach and the perfect option for those who want to relax without having to travel far for it. The tiny La Réserve, located just east of Nice’s harbor, is a great location for escaping the city’s bustling streets, and ideal for those seeking a more intimate atmosphere.
Another must-visit Nice beach is Villefranche-sur-Mer. While not technically located within the city, it’s just a 15-minute bus ride away. This sandy beach offers visitors spectacular views of the sapphire-blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea offer, and the perfect opportunity for some well-deserved indulgence.
Sample The Famous Niçoise Salad
Are you a foodie? Then don’t miss the opportunity to dive into the restaurant scene of Nice. A great idea is to dive into the local cuisine and sample the specialty dishes of this Mediterranean city. A must-try is the famous Niçoise salad. But beware that there are several tourist traps that sell regular salads disguised as Niçoise. The original one is made with raw vegetables — tomatoes, lettuce, and fresh green beans —, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, and olive oil. One of the best in the city is served at Le Frog restaurant.
Embark On A Scenic Day Trip
While Nice is filled with a dazzling array of attractions, there are several nearby destinations that are also worth exploring. Travelers seeking to discover more locations in the idyllic Côte d’Azur region, which comprises the Mediterranean coast of southeastern France, will love visiting Cannes, for instance. The city is famous not only for its international film festival, but also for its alluring seafront restaurants, stellar golf courses, glamorous beaches, and plenty of luxury shopping opportunities.
Other great day trips from Nice include Èze, a medieval hilltop town that provides visitors with fairytale views of the French Riviera, and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, a quaint little town filled with luxurious villas.
Is Nice worth visiting?
A true gem in the French Riviera region, Nice is definitely worth visiting thanks to its beaches, weather, and cultural attractions.
What are the best things to do in Nice, France?
The 13 top things to do in Nice, France:
- Explore the Vieille Ville (Old Town) on Foot;
- Marvel At The Eye-Popping Artworks Of The Musée Matisse;
- Discover The Collection Of Marc Chagall National Museum;
- Go For A Scenic Walk In The Promenade des Anglais;
- Check Out The Views From Parc de la Colline du Château (Castle Hill Park);
- See The Fairy-Tale Gardens Of The Monastère Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez;
- Visit The Gorgeous Dome Of The Nice Cathedral;
- Learn About Yves Klein’s Works at MAMAC;
- Buy Colorful Fresh Flowers In The Cours Saleya Market;
- See Napoleon’s Death Mask At Villa Masséna Musée;
- Discover the Idyllic French Riviera Beaches;
- Sample The Famous Niçoise Salad;
- Embark On A Scenic Day Trip.
How long should you spend in Nice?
Nice is a lively city and there’s a lot of room to explore. For a solid itinerary, we recommend 4 to 5 days in the city.
What is Nice best known for?
Nice is known for its glittering Mediterranean beaches, stellar museums, a picturesque Old Town, and its century-old promenade.
Does nice have Nice beaches?
Yes. Nice is home to four miles of beaches catering to every mood and moment.
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