Nice is a lovely city located in Southern France on the French Riviera right on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
Because of its location, there is no wrong time to visit as it's warm all year round and even one of the best places to visit in France in the Winter.
We recommend staying for two days to see all the main sites, but you can always stay longer if you plan to visit Monaco or nearby places.
This article will go through the best things to do in Nice to get the most out of your trip.
1. Castle Hill
Castle Hill was once home to a castle that has now long gone, but this is the most popular tourist spot in Nice because of its fantastic views over the city of Nice, so that's why its the top of our list of things to do in Nice.
You have a few main ways to reach the top: take a scenic hike, bike up the winding paths, or use the accessible elevator. One more way that's fancier is to take the road train, which goes from the promenade to the Castle for €12. This ride includes an audio guide that shares insights as you move through the town
Castle Hill is the perfect spot to catch a beautiful sunrise over the harbor or watch the sun go down over the famous Promenade des Anglais. If you are here in the daytime, a cannon shot is fired from the hill, which can catch people off guard if you are not expecting it.
Walking back down the 300+ stairs to the Old Town is also an excellent way to take in the sights.
2. Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais is a famous street along the Mediterranean waterfront, with fantastic sea views.
The beach here is pebbly, which is alright for a walk, but you can’t sunbathe without a lounger or a hard beach mat.
Lined with palm trees, the promenade has plenty of bars and restaurants, making it a great place to spend the day.
The promenade can get busy with locals and tourists who enjoy activities like walking, cycling, scooting, or skateboarding along the coastline. There's a separate bike lane to ensure safety for everyone, but just make sure you don’t end up walking in it. Put this down as one of the things to do in Nice in summer.
3. Nice's Old Town
You may have noticed a theme at The Frugal Expat: we love an old town. If a city has an old town, it always makes it on our list.
Now, we don’t think the Nice old town is as lovely as some others, but you still need to visit it as it is like stepping into a medieval village, with its winding streets lined with old buildings topped with red roofs, it's a place where everyone hangs out.
You'll find restaurants, open markets, and many shops, bars, and restaurants. The many bakeries and ice cream shops make it a sweet spot for dessert lovers.
Walking through the Old Town is a great way to spend an afternoon exploring at your own pace. Despite its maze of narrow streets, you won't get lost – just head downhill, and you'll find your way to the sea. This part of Nice is easily accessible from the promenade, the Castle, and the newer parts of the city.
4. Place Massena
Place Massena is a busy square in the old town, so it's linked with number 3 above and perfect as a starting point for exploring the city and is one of the free things to do in Nice.
The square is an ideal spot to take a break and enjoy a coffee, allowing one to admire the Fontaine du Soleil and the lively dancing fountains nearby.
If you prefer a quieter experience, it's best to visit before 8:00 am to avoid the crowds. Beautifully designed buildings surround the square and features fountains and sculptures that add to its charm.
5. Eat at Le Millésime
We always like to list at least one fancy place to eat. As a visitor, food is such an essential part of wherever you visit. Le Millésime is a restaurant that offers a remarkable dining experience focusing on Mediterranean and European cuisines and healthy and contemporary options.
The ambiance at Le Millésime is cozy and intimate, featuring tasteful decoration and well-spaced tables that create a comfortable dining environment. The restaurant might be small, but it makes up for it with its big flavors and excellent service.
The menu at Le Millésime, though limited, is crafted to perfection. A popular choice on the menu is the specialty in truffles, which they masterfully incorporate into many of their dishes.
For a great meal, we recommend you try their scallop entree or the rich, depth-filled deer main course with a jus that elevates the dish to new heights. And their chocolate mousse and truffle ice cream are to be noticed for dessert. There is a good wine selection that complements each dish, enhancing the overall dining experience.
This is one of the best restaurants in Nice and is especially popular with locals, so booking a table in advance is a good idea to book a table in advance.
6. Cathedrale Saint-Nicolas
Cathedrale Saint-Nicolas is an unexpected yet remarkable sight in France. It is a Russian cathedral, so it looks different from the cathedrals in this part of Europe.
Built in the early 20th century to honor Tsarevich Nicolai, the son of Aleksandr II, who passed away in Nice, this cathedral has an impressive exterior, intricate sculptures, and remarkable design. Inside, the cathedral feels surprisingly intimate compared to its grand exterior. While photography is prohibited inside, the intricate details make it worth visiting.
Even if you're just walking past, a quick 5-minute visit is enough to appreciate its beauty. Situated a bit away from the usual tourist paths, it is one of the best things to see in Nice and offers a memorable experience for those seeking something new.
7. Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya
This open-air marketplace is known for its colorful flowers, fresh produce, and unique items directly from local farms and can be found between the scenic Promenade des Anglais and the charming old town.
As you wander the market, you'll find it's more than just a place for flowers and food. It's an ideal location for shopping and people-watching, offering high-quality, affordable souvenirs, most of which are made in France and better than what you get in most tourist shops.
You'll find lovely lavender products, handmade soaps, towels, and a delightful selection of bread, pastries, and cookies to enjoy on the go.
It's one of the free things to do in Nice, as you don’t need to spend any money to walk around.
8. Marc Chagall National Museum
This museum, created during Chagall's lifetime, houses an impressive collection that includes a range of his artistic practices, such as paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, stained glass, tapestry, and mosaics. This incredible art combines technical skill, colorful creativity, and a universal message of peace.
Visitors to the museum feel like they've entered a heavenly place, surrounded by Chagall's stunning works. Even on a rainy day, the experience is worth the visit, with each turn revealing awe-inspiring scenes.
We recommend this place if you have things to do in Nice when it’s raining. The museum is an excellent educational resource, offering an app with detailed commentary on the paintings—just remember to bring your headphones.
A visit to the museum is €10 per ticket, which we think is a decent price.
The walk to the museum from the center of Nice is long and could be more scenic, so taking a bus is a better option.
9. Musée Massena
Musée Massena is a museum all about Nice and its history. It is housed in a stunningly decorated villa from the late 19th century, and the museum boasts an eclectic display on its upper floor.
You'll find unique items like a headdress worn by Empress Josephine and a vintage black parasol, alongside advertising posters that once tried to get wealthy Edwardians to the warmth of Nice's winters.
It's not just the interior that's just as impressive; the surrounding gardens are also a treat. Walk among banana and orange trees, and take a moment to reflect on the touching memorial for the victims of the 2016 truck attack in Nice, represented by a collection of photographs.
A visit to Musée Massena is time well spent, taking roughly an hour and a half to explore. It offers a look into the history of Nice through its art and artifacts.
10. Promenade du Paillon
Promenade du Paillon is perfect for cooling down and having fun, especially on hot days. The fountains on Promenade du Paillon are a major attraction that visitors love, particularly kids, as they playfully dodge the water jets. These fountains turn on at specific times for about 10 to 15 minutes.
It’s not just about fountains, though, as it also includes a playground with a sea life theme, ideal for children.
It's a beautiful blend of green spaces, play areas, and water features, making it a favorite spot for locals and tourists and perfect for a walk during the afternoon or evening and is one of the best outdoor things to do in Nice.
There is even a bronze replica of David, which is unexpected!
11. Phoenix Parc Floral de Nice
Covering 5 hectares of green space right in front of Nice airport, it's a nice escape from the city and pe. The park also features the fascinating Museum of Asian Art in Nice.
Visitors can enjoy the park's plants, flowers, animals, and other intriguing attractions. The environment is generally peaceful, providing a chilled-out setting despite its proximity to the airport.
The Cote Jardin bar has a lovely terrace for those looking to eat in the sun. It's a perfect place for a lunch break, surrounded by the park's beauty. The park is also conveniently accessible, located near a train station, making it easy for visitors traveling from Nice Center.
Admission is very reasonable, with free entrance for children under 12 years old and a small fee of 3 to 5 euros for adults. It is the perfect place for those looking for things to do in Nice with kids.
12. Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate
The Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate in Nice is a delightful blend of simplicity on the outside and a stunning Baroque interior.
It's not a large church, but its beauty lies in the details within. The natural charm reveals itself once you step inside. The interior, with Baroque elements, is stunning, with beautiful chapels lining both sides.
The cathedral has seen several expansions, initially constructed in 1650 and completed in 1685. The Bell Tower, a notable addition, was built between 1731 and 1757. It wasn't until 1949 that the church was declared a minor basilica.
Dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Sainte Reparata, the cathedral has ten intricately decorated chapels. It is located in the heart of Old Nice, making it easily accessible for anyone interested in religious architecture or looking for a moment of peace in the city.
13. Palais Lascaris
Palais Lascaris, in the old town, is a blend of history and music. Initially owned by the Lascaris family until 1802, this 17th-century palace has transformed into a museum dedicated to musical instruments, which should be on your list of unique things to do in Nice.
The museum is suitable for music lovers and admirers of historical architecture as it has a collection of musical instruments from the 16th to 19th centuries, including well-known and obscure instruments. The museum's interior is lovely, with stunning staircases and beautiful top-floor rooms.
Spending about two hours in the museum is worth enough time to see it all.
14. Take a Day Trip to Monaco
Although technically not one of the things to do in Nice, we can’t leave a day trip to Monaco off the list as it's so close, and many tourists do it while they are here.
Taking a day trip to Monaco from Nice is a fantastic way to experience the glamour of this tiny principality known for its pristine beauty, cleanliness, and luxurious lifestyle. It's a way to feel like a millionaire or a celebrity for the day.
One of the highlights of Monaco is the area around the iconic Casino de Monte-Carlo. Here, you can admire the grandeur of the casino itself, the elegant shopping complex, and the beautifully maintained surrounding park.
A walk along the Champions Walk by the Promenade is something to do on your day here. This walk offers excellent views from above, allowing you to appreciate the full beauty of Monaco.
That's a wrap on the best things to do in Nice. Get your trip booked, and let us know what your favorite things to do were.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.