Planning a trip to Nice? Get some inspiration on what to do while you’re there with our idea of a perfect three-day itinerary. History, culture, entertainment, restaurants… Pack it all in at a comfortable pace and don’t miss a thing!
Although occupied since prehistoric times, the city of Nice has not always been French - far from it, in fact. Deemed impossible to defend, the city passed from one ruling power to another. It was part of Provence, Savoy and then Sardinia before it was then traded with France to help in the unification of Italy. Finally, as the city’s tourism industry developed, Nice began to take on considerable importance, evidence that knocking down the ramparts and inviting people in is the path to self-discovery.
Your discovery of Nice begins on the Promenade des Anglais, the long seafront road that curls around the Bay of Angels. In the early nineteenth century, this road that was to become one of the most famous avenues in the world was just a dirt trail along the rocky coast! Settle into one of the famous blue deckchairs and, as you watch the azure sky reflected on the Olympian calm of the Mediterranean Sea, you will soon understand why the English chose this waterfront as their favoured holiday spot. From the boardwalk, you will also notice several grand palaces facing the sea, including the Palais de la Méditerranée with its Art Deco façade, the West-End Hotel, the Westminster Hotel and the famous Negresco.
As you approach the harbour, you will discover the Old Town with its winding streets reminiscent of an Italian city. To the west, the Place Massena is one of the city’s most emblematic squares. The inhabitants of Nice continue to meet there despite its popularity with tourists, meaning that you can really experience the atmosphere and the quality of life enjoyed by the locals. Stop for lunch in one of the nearby restaurants such as Chat Noir Chat Blanc, which offers Mediterranean-style dishes, or choose HANgoût, close to the sea, if you are looking for something more refined.
Going back up to the north of the district, you will come across Place Garibaldi, another emblematic square, this time lined with arcades. This is a nice place to stop for a coffee as the arcades offer shade when the sun is too strong and shelter when it rains. Take the opportunity to visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, in which there are works by the great Nice-born artists, such as Arman, Yves Klein, and Martial Raysse. You will also find works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, as well as works from the Fluxus movement and the school of Nice, represented by Ben.
In the early evening, watch the sunset along the Promenade des Anglais and then, just a few metres away, near the casino, squeeze into the Jam, a concert bar that offers a great programme in an Art Deco setting.
The next morning, step back in time a few tens of thousands of years, crossing the harbour, beside the old town, to discover the Grotte du Lazaret cave. Around 150,000 years ago, our ancestors already appreciated the beauty of the Mediterranean, as evidenced by this interesting and fun site where you will discover a reconstructed hut from this era.
Since you are at the foot of the “colline du chateau”, you may as well go up to the top of the hill and admire the view. Although the castle no longer exists, its former location is an ideal place for a walk, and this spot is much appreciated by the people of Nice. You will be rewarded once you reach the top of the hill by a truly stunning view: this is one of the best vantage points on the harbour, the port, the old town and the city centre.
After a lunch of paella Chez Mireille, just north of the avenue close to the railway station, you can visit the Marc Chagall Museum, to the west, in the Cimiez district. This is one of the oldest parts of the city, in which many traces of the Roman occupation remain. At the Marc Chagall Museum, you will find seventeen paintings by the artist illustrating the biblical message, given to the city by Marc Chagall himself. Depending on your tastes, you could combine this trip with a visit to the Matisse Museum, located in the same area. The Matisse Museum houses one of the largest collections of works by Henri Matisse in the world.
The next day, it’s time to take the tram all along the Promenade des Anglais, westward to visit the Phoenix Park, a recent botanical and zoological garden which boasts one of the largest greenhouses in the world, measuring 7000m².
Once you have sufficiently enjoyed the park you can visit the Museum of Asian Art, which features traditional sacred art objects from Cambodia, China and Japan, among others.
In the afternoon, make your way to the city centre. To get there, the best way is to head towards Place Massena, in Old Nice, before taking Avenue Jean Medecin, the city’s main shopping street, on which you will find famous brand stores and major banks, often housed in beautiful buildings. Unlike the old town, whose architecture and configuration is reminiscent of Turin, in Italy, Nice’s city centre evokes Paris, with its Haussmann buildings and wide avenues.
For your last night, if you want to dance the night away in Nice, head to Glam, a club in the city centre that offers a trendy atmosphere in a contemporary art gallery setting. On the Promenade des Anglais, the High Club will allow you to party all night to the latest electro beats, while Gues't will offer a more intimate atmosphere.
With one foot in Paris and one in Turin, Nice combines both the charm of the Mediterranean and a sophisticated, urban culture. Thanks to its many monuments and museums, its theatre and opera house, its unique districts and balmy climate, the city has become a top French destination for visitors. If you have the opportunity to spend a few extra days in Nice, you could stroll along the Cours Saleya, get involved in a game of petanque on the Place Arson, or explore the stunning architecture of the Orthodox Cathedral of St Nicolas.