Hi France Travel Planners! I’m thrilled to bring you this Nice travel guide from France Travel Planning Facebook group member and Nice resident, Eric Schwartz. While I’ve visited Nice a number of times, I know no one knows Nice better than a local, so I was so excited when Eric offered to write a local’s guide to visiting Nice.
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The idea of visiting the Côte d’Azur or French Riviera congers up visions of tanned beachgoers and leisurely lunches under blue and white striped umbrellas, and it is that, but it’s so much more. Nice is centrally situated on the French Riviera, which makes it an ideal landing spot for those who want to explore not only Nice, but the entire southern coastline of France. It is the seventh largest city in France but doesn’t feel like a big city due to its relaxed, “laissez-faire” vibe. So for those who want an immersive French experience without the hustle and bustle of a huge metropolitan city like Paris, Nice is an excellent choice of destination and is easily accessed by train or air from many European hubs.
What we love most about Nice is that it’s on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and also at the foot of the pre-Alps, enabling beach going and hiking in summer and nearby skiing in winter. For your visit to Nice, I would recommend spending at least four days here, which will give you a glimpse of what it has to offer. If you are planning to do day trips from Nice, I recommend spending at least a week here.
Arriving in Nice
There are two main ways to get to Nice – by air or by train. If you drive, make sure that your Nice accommodation has parking provisions, as parking is nearly impossible during tourist season (May-October). If you fly into Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE), it has some of the best connections, globally, with several direct flights from the USA and numerous connecting flights from major European hubs. Nice is the third busiest airport in France, so you can get to it from practically anywhere and connect to most other EU cities.
The easiest way to get into town from the airport is by Tram line #2 toward Port Lympia. It will drop you within close proximity to almost anywhere you’re staying. Tickets can be purchased from the vending machines at either station (terminals one and two) and it’s about a 25-minute trip to the heart of the city. There are also taxis and Uber is available for pickups from the airport. The last time I took an Uber from the airport, it took about 15 minutes for the driver to reach the meeting spot at the airport arrivals curb from the time I ordered it.
If you’re arriving at Gare Thiers or Nice Ville, as the main train station is called, you’ve already arrived in the heart of the city. You can taxi or Uber to your lodging from there, or if you go outside of the station and turn left and walk about three blocks, you’ll arrive at a Tram line #1 station. You can buy a ticket and board this tram to take you closer to the old town or the beach. If you need to traverse the city east to west, you can change to Tram line #2 at the Jean Médecin stop, as the street this tram line runs on is also named Jean Médecin.
Just a note on car rentals: you do not need a car in Nice nor do you need one to visit the surrounding sights. Parking is very limited and while there are public parking lots and street spots, you’ll find parking in town to be extremely challenging as the competition is stiff. It is fine to drop a car rental in Nice or pick one up on your way out, but I’d suggest using other transport modes while staying here.Eric’s France Travel Planning travel tip
Getting Around Nice
Nice offers excellent public transportation options. There is a three-line tramway, regional TER trains, an incredible bus network, as well as taxis, Uber and a public bike rental. The tram and bus networks are operated by one provider: Lignes d’Azur. Once you purchase your ticket for one, you can transfer and ride on another mode. For tickets, you can purchase La Carte (2€) at almost every vending machine, except at the airport, and purchase a ten-ride pass or a one day, two day or week pass. Make sure to validate the ticket on the first ride on either tram or bus, then validate again when transferring. It shouldn’t remove a ride for a transfer. Tickets purchased from the ticket vending machine or from a bus driver allow you unlimited same-direction travel on public transport for 74 contiguous minutes. You can also recharge La Carte with the ticket app “Lignes d’Azur Tickets.”
The airport vending machines do not sell La Carte, but the tram is free to take to the first stop outside the airport grounds, Grand Arenas, where you can get off the tram, purchase La Carte with as many rides as you would like, then wait for the next tram and be on your way.
Traveling by train or bus from Nice to the surrounding villages, towns and cities is very easy through use of the TER (Regional Express Trains) operated by ZOU for the SNCF within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region and the Provence Railways line between Nice and Digne-les-Bains. Tickets can be purchased from all four stations in the Nice area, including the main station Gare Thiers or Nice Ville, as well as the station north of the port, Riquier. If you’re further east by the airport, then your departure point is St. Augustine. Even further east and about midway between Nice and Cagnes-sur-Mer is Saint-Laurent-du-Var.
You can download the SNCF Connect app and purchase ZOU tickets on it and save them to your wallet for easy access and travel on your mobile device. You do not need to purchase your tickets ahead of travel and there are no seating assignments. There is also no need for a printed ticket, as long as you can display the QR code on your phone to the conductor or to pass through the barricades to get to the platforms at some stations. I usually purchase my tickets on my SNCF Connect app while at the station.
Nice has an extensive and well-maintained fleet of rental bikes, with stations located strategically throughout town. It is called Vélobleu and e-Vélobleu. You have to download the app and subscribe with a credit card. They have 1300 people-powered bicycles and 450 electric-assist bicycles to rent by the hour, the day or the week. See the app for details.
Nice Tourism Offices
There are two locations of the Office de Tourisme Nice Côte d’Azur. These places provide great information on the city of Nice and the surrounding areas and provide free maps. There is one just outside of the main train station directly across from the PAUL and there is another on the Promenade des Anglais, next to Café de Paris (in the dining section).
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Nice Accommodations and Lodging
Nice has a plethora of great places to stay in all areas of the city including hotels, bed & breakfasts, youth hostels and Airbnb’s. They range from simple to funky to elegant – there’s something for everyone. Here are some of the places I’ve stayed and can recommend, personally. You can find out more about these hotels by clicking on the hotel name.
Promenade des Anglais
Hotel Suisse, 15 Quai Rauba Capeu, 06300 Nice (Four Star, closer to the old town)
Hotel Aria, 15 Avenue Auber, 06000 Nice Three Star
Hotel 66, 6 Rue de Belgique, 06000 Nice Four Star
Ibis Styles Nice Centre Port, 8 Rue Emmanuel Philibert, 06300 Nice ( Three Star, close to Place Garibaldi)
There are many other hotels which I have not yet had the chance to stay at, but you should feel confident in staying there. I’ve also stayed at several Mercure hotels and never had a bad experience, and I’ve heard good things about the following (click on the name for more info):
Eating out in Nice – recommended Nice restaurants
Nice has a wide variety of cuisine from traditional French to more exotic fare, including great Indian, Chinese, Italian and Mexican restaurants. There are also traditional Niçoise restaurants, which are disappearing at an alarming rate. All of the places I’ve mentioned here, with a few exceptions, are places I’ve tried myself.
Breakfast and brunch: starting the day off right when visiting Nice
There are several great places for breakfast in Nice. Edmond and Zeni Coffee offer American-style breakfast items like omelets, bacon, egg benedicts, etc. Here are a few of my favorites:
Edmond, 11 bis Rue du Congrès, 06000 Nice
Copenhagen Coffee Lab, some of the best coffee in the city, 47 Rue de France, 06000 Nice
Cafe Frei, also known for great coffee, 52 Rue de France, 06000 Nice
Garden Café, 37 Bd Gambetta, 06000 Nice – this place is very small and can get very busy
Zeni Coffee, if you’re missing American style bacon, you can find it here! 37 Rue du Maréchal Joffre, 06000 Nice
Hotel Splendid, The Jungle Restaurant, 8th Floor, 50 Boulevard Victor Hugo, 06000 Nice. This place has a lovely breakfast spread with almost everything and at 19€ per person, it is worth the splurge and offers great views of the city.
Il Caffé dai Ragazzi, 57 Rue de France, 06000 Nice, is an Italian cafe, serves great coffee and pastries, good for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Beach Clubs: relaxing, cocktailing and dining in Nice
There are several nice beach clubs which offer food and beverage service from morning to night. I enjoy going there for lunch or a late afternoon drink and snack. Looking out onto the water and hearing the sound of the waves is amazing. I’ve been to all these and they are great. Most offer a variety of foods, including starters, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, main courses and desserts. I’ve personally had a bad experience at the Blue Beach club and would avoid that place if you can.
Plage Beau Rivage
Hotel Amour Beach
Most of the following places are open for both lunch and dinner, but please check their website to be certain of dining hours. The typical lunchtime starts at noon and ends at 2 p.m. Dinner time is usually sometime between 7-9 p.m., but you will find some early and late-night dining options too.
Fine dining in Nice
Reservations are highly recommended at least three months in advance during high season or a month in advance otherwise. These all have terrific sea view of the Bay of Angels, so book for lunch or an early dinner if you want to gaze at the water or see the sunset.Eric’s France Travel Planning travel tip
La Plongeior, (Mediterranean) one of my favorite places for special occasions, 60 Bd Franck Pilatte, 06300 Nice
La Réserve de Nice, (Modern) another favorite for special occassions, 60 Bd Franck Pilatte, 06300 Nice
Le 3e – Terrasse, (Mediterranean) located in the Hyatt Regency Palace; there are great views of the Promenade, 13 Prom. des Anglais, 06000 Nice
Peska by La Terrasse, (Seafood) on the roof of the Meridien Hotel, 1 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice
Le Boudoir, (Modern French) 10 Rue Chauvain, 06000 Nice
La Rotonde, (Mediterranean) located in Hotel Negresco, 37 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice
Make reservations at least one week in advance during high season. There are others, but these two are great and both are in Old Nice:
Restaurant Acchiardo, 38 Rue Droite, 06300 Nice
Marcel Bistro Chic, 11 Rue de l’Abbaye, 06300 Nice
More moderate prices, but still very good meals. Make reservations a week in advance during high season. These are divided by neighborhoods:
La Femme du Boulanger, (French) 3 Rue du Commandant Raffalli, 06000 Nice (a favorite of mine pictured here)
Pizza Au Feu Du Bois, (Italian) 39 Rue de France, 06000 Nice
Indian Curry & Tandoori, (Indian) 16 Boulevard Gambetta, 06000 Nice
Les Jardines du Capitole, (French) 52 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice
Le Cocodile, (European) 47 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice
Le Victor Hugo, (French) 1 Rue Berlioz, 06000 Nice, mainly lunch with the menu changing almost daily. Simple breakfast served (coffee, baguette) and afternoon drinks. No dinner.
Le Barbecue, (Portuguese) 3 Rue du Four, 06000 Nice
La Rossettisserie, (Roasted meats) 8 Rue Mascoinat, 06300 Nice
La P’tite Cocotte, (French) 10 Rue Saint-Augustin, 06300 Nice
Le Gaglio, (Italian) 10 Bd Jean Jaurès, 06000 Nice (slow service, but great food)
L’Instant, (Seasonal menus) 9 Rue Clément Roassal, 06000 Nice
La Casa di Giulia (Casa di Giorgio) (Italian) Lunch only, 2 Rue Flaminius Raiberti, 06000 Nice
L’Antica, (French steakhouse) 13 Avenue Auber, 06000 Nice
Dragon Bleu, (Vietnamese), 2 bis Rue Paganini, 06000 Nice
Rumah Bali, (Indonesian), 25 Rue Verdi, 06000 Nice
Noori’s Indian Restaurant, (Indian) 1 Place Grimaldi, 06000 Nice
Bistrot Marin, (Seafood) 11 bis Rue Grimaldi, 06000 Nice
Le Café de Turin, (Seafood) 5 Place Garibaldi, 06300 Nice
Sentimi, (Italian) 2-4 Place Garibaldi, 06300 Nice
Le Garibaldi, (Traditional Brasserie) 18 Place Garibaldi, 06300 Nice
Le Pescheria, (Mediterranean) 14 Place Garibaldi, 06300 Nice
Port/North of Port
Chez Pipo, (Socca/Pizza, Niçoise) 13 Rue Bavastro, 06000 Nice
La Marie Belle, (Mediterranean ) 3 Quai des Deux Emmanuels, 06300 Nice
La Tartane, (Pizza) 44 Boulevard Stalingrad, 06300 Nice
Xitlali, (Mexican, Yucatan Peninsula) 24 Rue Cassini, 06300 Nice
Place Massena/Rue de France
Le Liber’Tea, (Traditional Brasserie) 9B Rue de la Liberté, 06000 Nice
Pizzéria O’Palermo, (Italian) 29 Rue Massena, 06000 Nice
Les Sens, (French) 37 Rue Pastorelli, 06000 Nice
La Villa Massenet, (French) 10 Rue Massenet, 06000 Nice
I have not dined at these restaurants personally, they come highly recommended by local vegans I know:
Utopia Restaurant, 6 Rue Delille, 06000 Nice
Caju Vegan, 1 Rue Jules Gilly, 06300 Nice
Other eating/dining options in Nice
Oscar’s in the port area, run by Pamela, is lovely. On Friday and Saturday nights, she sings with a jazz trio, live. Her dishes are very limited, but also very tasty.
Where to eat Socca in Nice
A special Niçoise delicacy of a flatbread made from chick peas or Garbanzo bean flour. There is a kiosk on Cours Saleya, the flower market street at the east end called Socca Du Cours, Chez Marie Thé and worth a stop. Chez Pipo in the port area also features some dishes with Socca. Another restaurant with Socca and other cuisine is Socca da Titin, 18 Rue Massena, 06000 Nice.
Take out food in Nice
Boulangerie Maison (Eric) Kayser, Mulin de Flor, J. Multari and Paul all have good breakfast and lunch items, as well as a full selection of breads and pastries if you need to eat on the run. I’ve ordered these in my preference, with Paul being my least favorite, but still quite acceptable.
There are also some restaurants I suggest you avoid in Nice. I would not recommend the restaurant Le Prom at the casino. I also had a very bad experience at the Blue Beach. If you go for a beer or drink at Ma Nolan’s Irish pub (both locations), that will be fine, but go somewhere else to eat. They do some traditional English dishes reasonably well (Fish & Chips, Full Irish Breakfast or the Beef & Guinness pie), but the rest of the dishes use a fast-casual approach with a lot of pre-prepared foods. In general, I would try to avoid anyplace that has too “touristy” of a vibe.
Best activities in Nice
Beaches in Nice
One of the main reasons that European citizens and people from across the globe flock to Nice is to enjoy the relaxed vibe and beach lifestyle. You see many people heading to the beach as late as November, but few swim at that time of year. There is a combination of beach clubs that have an entrance fee but where you can reserve a lounge chair in direct sun or under an umbrella, order food and drinks, plus have access to bathrooms, changing rooms and other amenities.
There are also public beaches where you can take your own chair, blanket, towel and set up for the day. There are even some beaches where you can take your dog, just in case you’re traveling with your four-legged friend. In Nice, all of the beaches have “galettes” or small river stones. You won’t find sandy beaches until you travel to Juan-les-Pains, Antibes, VilleFranche-sur-Mer, or some of the other surrounding communities.
Best Nice museums
Nice and surrounding cities have some fantastic museums. In Nice proper, there is a Chagall and Matisse museum. The Massena museum gives visitors a look into the history of Nice. Le Palais Lascaris is a treasure trove of historical musical instruments in a 17th Century mansion in old town. The Musée de la Photographie, Musée des Arts Asiatiques, and the Musée d’Art Moderne have something for everyone.
Other museums in the area include the Picasso museum in Antibes and the Renoir museum in Cagnes-sur-Mer – both just a short TER train ride away.
Nice Old town
While in Vieux Nice, drop by the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate de Nice, which often has free concerts. Another of my favorite spots in old town is Fenocchio’s – the best Italian gelato west of the border! Don’t let the long line discourage you–it moves very quickly. Exploring Cours Saleya (the flower market) is a fun thing to do on Mondays when the fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood and cheeses are replaced by antiques. The open-air street market is bordered on each side by restaurants. My favorite is Le Safari, also featuring some Niçoise dishes.
Hiking around Nice
For those who are looking for more physical activity, climb the Colline du Château for breathtaking views of the Baie des Anges, and be treated to waterfalls, shaded trails and a snack bar at the top. For those who still want the view but not the hike, take the free elevator (elevator entrance is next to Hotel Suisse). Another fun jaunt is taking the walking path from Nice to Villefrance, called the Sentier du Littoral. This scenic path hugs the seaside cliffs and has a lot of steps and narrow passageways. Make sure you have the right footwear and plenty of water if you go!
Artifacts – Roman ruins in Nice
Even Nice, formerly part of Italy until a vote transferring it to France in 1860, has Roman ruins in Cimiez, dating back to the third century. There are walls from the former baths and a small arena. There are other interesting things to do in that area including visiting the Matisse museum, the Monastery with beautiful gardens (Jardin du Monastère de Cimiez), the Franciscan museum and Our Lady of the Assumption church.
Russian culture in Nice
Nice is home to one of the largest Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe outside of Russia; Cathedrale Saint-Nicolas à Nice. It is located near Parc Imperial. The church is open and welcomes visitors most anytime, and provides regular masses, serving an estimated 80,000 Russian residents living in Nice as well as those with Russian heritage.
Strolling around Nice
Taking a walk along the Promenade des Anglais is a must for people-watching. You can stop off at any of the beach clubs (my favorite is Plage Beau Rivage, across from Albert 1st Park). Beach clubs are great for lunch, afternoon drinks or spending the day with your rented beach chair. Another great spot for an apéro (an afternoon cocktail) is Café de Paris, or Nice Sunset, both on the Promenade. Rue de France is a pedestrian-only street, which is filled with restaurants and shops.
Also near Place Massena is the Fontaine du Soleil, a spectacular fountain with Apollo overseeing the plaza. There is also the Fontaine Miroir d’Eau – a great water feature to walk through – be prepared to get splashed. Up from Place Massena is Avenue Jean Médecin – except for the trams, it is a pedestrian-only street with great shopping, including the Nice Etoile mall, with restaurants and boutiques lining the wide sidewalks.
The Hop On/Off is a good way to get an overview of Nice and VilleFranche-Sur-Mer. The bus departs from Promenade des Anglais / Max Gallo (4, ave Max Gallo) starting at 10am every day, and buses depart approximately 45 minutes thereafter until the last bus at 5pm. The entire trip takes one and one half hours and there are 12 stops along the way.
There is also a Trains Touristiques de Nice (Little Train) which winds its way around the city to many of the top sights. There are two different circuits to choose from, or you could do them both. The 100% electric train leaves from the Promenade des Anglais in front of the “Centenaire” monument, in Albert the 1st Park. The carousel is also by the departure point, as another point of reference. Buy your tickets from the kiosk and then hop on board!
Sailing trips from Nice
Finally, if you have yearned to get out on the open sea, there is one company that I can recommend that does daily round-trip journeys from Nice: Trans Cote d’Azur. They have many trips available. One, which is very popular, is the voyage to Saint Tropez and back.
Nice has some of the best shopping in the South of France. High-end boutiques on the Avenue de Suède and Rue Paradis are home to luxury brands. There are also a lot of other more affordable places to spend your euros, including:
Nice Étoile, 30 Av. Jean Médecin, 06000 Nice. A three-story mall offering over 90 shops and restaurants.
CAP 3000, Avenue Eugène Donadeï, 06700 Saint-Laurent-Du-Var. Over 300 shops and restaurants. The easiest way to get there is to take Linge d’Azur Bus #12 from the Promenade toward C. Commerce CAP 3000. It is a spectacularly designed space and was France’s first indoor shopping mall, opening in 1969. It got its name from the 3000 parking spots offered.
Avenue Jean Médecin, is the main shopping street in Nice and traverses the city north and south, ending at the Libération street market to the north and Place Massena to the south. Toward the north end, don’t miss the Halles Gourmandes in the Gare de Sud (a de-commissioned train station) or the fruit, vegetable, meat and seafood market on Libération. It is open every day except Monday, 7am–1pm.
Rue Alphonse Karr, is a small street south of Boulevard Victor Hugo with many independent mens and womens clothing boutiques.
Old Town. Wander the narrow streets in Old Town Nice and find art galleries and treasure troves from independent shops selling almost everything.
Polygone Riviera, 119 Av. des Alpes, 06800 Cagnes-sur-Mer. At almost 170 stores, the Polygone is another very large mall. It will take quite an effort to get there, with a combination of either TER or Tram line #2 to bus #9, taking anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour to reach it from central Nice.
Carrefour TNL or Carrefour Lingostière, 15 boulevard Du General Delfino, 06300 Nice, (north of the port) 606 Bd du Mercantour, 06200 Nice (north and west of the city). These are the largest supermarkets in the area – called “hypermarkets” and they carry almost everything – similar to a Walmart Super Center.
Darty, 28 Avenue Notre Dame, 06000 Nice or Centre Commercial CAP 3000, Av. Eugène Donadeï, 06700 Saint-Laurent-du-Var. Darty is everything you’d need for electronics – phone accessories, small appliances, beauty accessories like hairdryers and curling irons, etc.
Traveling safely in Nice
Walking around in the heart of Nice generally feels safe. Be careful when crossing the streets, as electric scooters zip by on streets and bike paths all the time, silently. At night, try not to go further west than the airport as the area beyond that can feel a little sketchy. Be mindful of your bags and purses as pickpockets and bag snatchers may be lurking, particularly in the old town. Make sure your bag strap is under your leg if you place it beneath your table while dining al-fresco and never on the seatback or seat next to you.
Religious Services in Nice
Holy Trinity’s international community is an English-speaking, Christian-based religious organization led by Reverend Jeremy Auld. Services are on Sunday at 11 a.m. and are open and welcoming – 11 Rue de la Buffa, 06000 Nice. The Gothic Revival architecture of the church is amazing and has been recently restored. It has beautiful stained-glass windows.
About Eric: Eric Schwartz is originally from Colorado. At the age of 8, he made his first trip to Europe and was bitten by the travel bug. Since then he has visited nearly 20 countries all over the world with a focus on the European Union where he has family and friends. He has also visited all 50 states in the United States. In 2020, he retired from a career as a multidisciplinary creative, and also worked as a technical writer, software analyst, trainer and coach. Early in his career he became a professional photographer and now has an affinity for storytelling and travel adventures, capturing the perfect moments digitally. He has been living in Nice, France, since 2021.
Photo credits: all author’s own, and used with permission, except Pixabay image as credited