The gorgeous French city of Nice on the Côte d’Azur in the South of France should definitely be on your travel list for a European summer getaway. In the high season of early June through the end of August, Parisians and other French folks flock to the French Riviera to get away from the heat (since the French don’t believe in air conditioning), and take in a cool breeze off the Mediterranean Sea. Nice combines the best of France along with influences from Italy and Northern Africa both of which are merely a day trip away, and these cultural combinations can be seen in the city’s language, its architecture, and even the forgotten local dialect of Niçard (which can still be spied on older street signs around town).
Though Nice is a town largely built for relaxing by the beach, there are plenty of things to do in Nice for the more active traveler, from visiting tourist attractions like Castle Hill, the Promenade des Anglais, or the Cours Saleya Flower Market; to exploring the city’s picturesque Old Town. (And don’t forget day trips to Saint Tropez or Saint Jean Cap Ferrat!) Here are some of our suggestions for the best things to do in Nice on your next trip to Southern France.
20 Best Things to Do in Nice
- Walk the Promenade des Anglais
- Take in Old Town (Vieux Nice)
- Climb Castle Hill (Colline du Château)
- Shop at the Cours Saleya Flower Market
- Go for a Swim at Nice’s Beaches
- Learn About a French Artist’s Life and Work at Museé Matisse
- Enjoy Flora and Fauna at Phoenix Park (Parc Phoenix)
- Experience Riviera Glamor at a Luxury Hotel
- Wander the Place Masséna
- Feel Like a Socialite at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
- Experience Nice’s Nightlife
- Explore the City with a Walking Tour
- Get Cultured at the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC)
- Catch a Show at the Nice Opera House
- See Napoleon’s Death Mask at the Villa Masséna
- Hike at the Parc du Mont Boron
- Catch Flowers at the Nice Carnival
- March Chagall National Museum
- Eat Your Way Through Nice
- Day Trips to Saint Tropez or Antibes
1. Walk the Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais is the iconic seafront boulevard that stretches for approximately seven kilometers along the beautiful Mediterranean coastline of Nice. Lined with palm trees and offering breathtaking views of the ocean, it’s a picturesque location that draws first time visitors and locals alike for swimming, sunbathing, or taking in the sunset in the evening. Originally conceived in the 19th century as a destination for English aristocrats, the Promenade des Anglais is now a vibrant hub of activity, and strolling along it is one of the top things to do in Nice. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll, cycling, or simply soaking up the sun on the pebbly beaches, this iconic promenade is the first stop you should make when you visit Nice.
Address: Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 40 minutes
2. Take in Old Town (Vieux Nice)
In the enchanting neighborhood of Vieux Nice, time seems to stand still amidst a tapestry of winding streets and colorful facades. This picturesque Old Town, nestled at the heart of Nice, transports you to a bygone era. Wander through labyrinthine alleys adorned with vibrant markets, where the scent of fresh flowers and local produce wafts through the air. Every twist and turn reveals a hidden gem—a quaint cafe, a boutique selling local olive oil or limoncello, or a cozy restaurant offering authentic local cuisine. With its rich history, bustling squares, and the warm Mediterranean sun illuminating the colorful houses, Vieux Nice is a haven for explorers and culture seekers, beckoning you to lose yourself in its timeless beauty.
Address: Vieux Nice, 06000 Nice, France
Time to Spend: An afternoon
3. Climb Castle Hill (Colline du Château)
Perched majestically above the azure waters of the Mediterranean, Castle Hill in Nice (also known as Colline du Château) is a crown jewel of the French Riviera. This iconic vantage point offers not only panoramic vistas of the sparkling coastline but also a fascinating journey through history. A visit to Castle Hill Park (Parc de la Colline du Château) rewards travelers with breathtaking views of the Baie des Anges, the cityscape of Nice, and the sprawling Promenade des Anglais. While the remnants of the Château de Nice may be scarce, the park that now graces this hill is a lush oasis of greenery and tranquility, with an artificial waterfall and playgrounds where your children can run free while you take in the views. This is one of the best things to do in Nice for families and nature lovers alike. (It’s also a cute spot to take photos with the city and the ocean in the background!) Whether you choose to ascend on foot or via the convenient elevator, Castle Hill stands as a testament to Nice’s fascinating history, as the site marks the place where the city was founded. You can hike or take the elevator (which can be accessed at Quai Rauba Capeu) to ascend to Castle Hill, and visit the museum tucked into the side of the stone cliff face.
Address: Castle Hill Park, Parc de la Colline du Château, 06300 Nice, France
Price: Free (both for entry to the park and the museum)
Time to Spend: 1-2 hours
Hours: From 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. from October 1 to March 31. From 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from April 1 to September 30.
4. Shop at the Cours Saleya Flower Market
Just a stone’s throw from the Promenade des Anglais, the Cours Saleya Flower Market is the vibrant heart of Nice’s culinary and cultural scene. This bustling market square, nestled amongst the colorful architecture of the Nice city center or Old Town (Vieux Nice), is a sensory delight for those who visit Nice and a cherished gathering place for locals. Here, a kaleidoscope of colors and aromas fills the air as market stalls burst with fresh flowers, locally grown fresh produce, and delectable Niçoise delicacies. Though most famous for its flower market, which runs from Tuesday through Sunday, the Cours Saleya Market is part food market, part flea market, a great place to people watch in this historic district. Make sure to buy a hot, fresh slice of socca, a chickpea flour pancake famous in Nice, at the Chez Thérésa stall in the market.
In the evenings, Cours Saleya transforms into a lively hub of al fresco dining and entertainment thanks to the numerous restaurants and bars serving local cuisine inspired by Mediterranean flavors of olive oil, fresh seafood, and citrus fruits.
Address: Cours Saleya, 06300 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 30 minutes
Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 7/7
5. Go for a Swim at Nice’s Beaches
Relax on the pebbly shores of the public and private beaches along the French Riviera, dotted with palm trees. Don’t forget your water shoes for the Nice beach, as these beaches are rocky and quite difficult to navigate barefoot. Closer to the Colline du Château side of the beach at the famous Castel Plage, the rocks are large and slippery, but if you keep walking farther west, there are some beaches that are partially constructed from sand. You can swim, sunbathe, or even rent a jet ski or surfboard, or pick up a game of volleyball.
Address: Castel Plage, 8 Quai des États-Unis, 06300 Nice, France
Time to Spend: A sunny afternoon
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
6. Learn About a French Artist’s Life and Work at Museé Matisse
Nestled in the heart of the French Riviera, the Musée Matisse (Matisse Museum) is one of the best things to do in Nice if you’re an art aficionado. Housed in a 17th-century villa surrounded by a garden full of olive trees, this museum pays homage to the legendary artist Henri Matisse, who called Nice his home for much of his life. Inside, visitors are treated to one of the world’s largest collections of Matisse’s masterpieces, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings that showcase his evolving style and artistic genius. As you wander through the galleries, you’ll gain insight into Matisse’s creative journey and the profound influence of the Côte d’Azur on his work. The museum is a must-visit destination for those seeking inspiration and a deeper connection with one of the 20th century’s most famous artists.
*If you plan on visiting multiple Nice museums, you may want to take advantage of the Nice Museum Pass, which offers 4 days of unlimited access to all municipal Nice museums for only €15.
Address: Matisse Museum, 164, avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, 06000 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 1 hour
Hours: From November 1 to April 30: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From May 2 to October 31: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
7. Enjoy Flora and Fauna at Phoenix Park (Parc Phoenix)
Parc Phoenix is a verdant oasis nestled on the far western bank of Nice. This sprawling botanical garden and zoo offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and educational experiences. With its lush greenery, serene ponds, and meticulously landscaped gardens, Parc Phoenix provides a tranquil escape from the bustling city, making a trip out one of the best things to do in Nice. One of its most renowned features is its impressive glasshouse, which houses an extraordinary collection of exotic plants, including tropical flora and several species of butterflies. Visitors can meander through themed gardens and explore a diverse range of plants and wildlife, making Parc Phoenix a delightful destination for nature enthusiasts and families along the French Riviera.
Address: Phoenix Park, 405 Promenade des Anglais, 06200 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 1 hour
Hours: April 1 – September 30: 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. October 1 – March 31: 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
8. Experience Riviera Glamor at a Luxury Hotel
Nice, France boasts an array of luxurious hotels that epitomize the city’s reputation for elegance and sophistication, from the timeless allure of the Hotel Le Negresco, framed by beautiful palm trees, to the contemporary chic of the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée. We have a complete list of our Nice hotel recommendations here for when you want to visit Nice in style, but our top pick is the Hôtel La Pérouse, whose location tucked snug up against Castle Hill provides it with the same unobstructed ocean views that so many climb the hill to find. This historic hotel from the 1930s was recently renovated, giving it the ultimate balance between Old World charm and modern amenities. Unlike some of the flashier hotels along the Promenade, La Pérouse, with only 53 rooms and a dedicated staff, provides an intimate local experience that will make you feel like you’re at the helm of your own Provençal manor.
Address: La Pérouse, 11 Quai Rauba Capeu, 06300 Nice, France
Price: Around $300 per night
Time to Spend: At least one fabulous night
9. Wander the Place Masséna
Place Masséna, located in the city center of Nice, is a vibrant, wonderful place and iconic public square that perfectly encapsulates the charm and energy of southern France. Renowned for its striking Italianate architecture (very common along the French Riviera), this spacious plaza is adorned with red ochre buildings, ornate façades, and grand statues. Lined with fashionable boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, Place Masséna is not only a visual delight but also a bustling hub of activity. Its unique black and white checkerboard paving, surrounding the large Fountain of the Sun, adds to the square’s distinctive character. Strangest of all amidst the historic backdrop of this square are the seven statues of seated men floating high above the square. These works of art by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa glow in bright colors in the evening, adding a surrealist touch to this busy gathering place.
Address: Place Masséna, 06000 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 30 minutes
10. Feel Like a Socialite at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Perched atop the peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the exquisite Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is a testament to the refined taste and opulence of its creator, Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild. Constructed in the early 20th century, this French Riviera villa boasts a striking pink façade and an interior adorned with sumptuous furnishings and priceless art collections. What truly sets this estate apart, however, are its stunning gardens. Designed in a series of nine themed terraces, these meticulously manicured gardens showcase a breathtaking array of exotic plants, fresh flowers, fountains, and sculptures. As visitors wander through the various gardens, they are treated to breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the French Riviera’s lush landscape on the other. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is a harmonious marriage of art, architecture, and nature, offering a captivating glimpse into the refined world of the Rothschild family and an unforgettable experience when visiting Nice.
Address: 1 Av. Ephrussi de Rothschild, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
Time to Spend: 2 hours
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 7/7
11. Experience Nice’s Nightlife
Once the sun sets over the Promenade des Anglais, Nice comes to life as visitors flock to the bar terraces throughout the city’s Old Town. While you might be tempted to take a seat by one of the bars along the Promenade facing the water, or just inside the Cours Saleya, many of these prime location watering holes aren’t much to write home about, and you may wish to dig a little deeper into the narrow streets of Nice, France to find some of the city’s hidden gems. Wine drinkers should wander across the harbor for a glass at Le Glouphile, where 700 wines sit waiting in this well-curated cave for you to sample alongside charcuterie and small plates. Oenophiles will also love the fine wines and vibes at Rouge, a wine bar and restaurant tucked against the east side of the Colline du Château with a Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction. Their knowledgeable staff are happy to make recommendations for wine and snacks, like their crispy fried raviolis known as barbajuan. Natural wine lovers will want to head to La pêche à la vigne, a small shop selling some of the best wine, cheese, and charcuterie in town. Enjoy a glass inside the shop, or pick up a bottle to bring to the beach for a sunset apéro.
Address: Le Glouphile, 41 Bd Stalingrad; Rouge, 2 Rue de Foresta; La pêche à la vigne, 13 Rue Cassini
Price: From €6 per glass
Time to Spend: All night
12. Explore the City with a Walking Tour
Taking a guided tour of the narrow streets the Old Town in Nice, France is one of the first things you should do when visiting Nice. The dozens of historic sites and fun things to do that make Nice such a dynamic city are all largely in walking distance of one another, making a walking tour one of the easiest ways to explore the city. Your guided tour will likely meet in a central location like the Promenade des Anglais or the Fontaine du Soleil (the large fountain in the Place Masséna). Try this tour of Castle Hill and Nice’s Old Town, or this free walking tour. (Remember to always tip on “free” walking tours.)
Food tours are also an excellent way to get to know Nice, as the city is packed with fantastic food from street stalls and authentic French restaurants along the French Riviera coast. This tour focuses on Provençal specialties like the Niçoise salad, Provençal wine, and olive oil throughout Nice’s Old Town, while this one allows you to take a long, leisurely lunch throughout town and sample local favorites.
Address: Most tours meet in Place Masséna
Price: Free-$35 for walking tours, and more for food tours
Time to Spend: 2-3 hours
Hours: Most tours start around 10 or 11 a.m.
13. Get Cultured at the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC)
The Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain is a captivating cultural institution that celebrates the world of modern and contemporary art. Situated in the heart of Nice, this museum offers visitors a dynamic and thought-provoking journey through the evolution of art in the 20th and 21st centuries. Its impressive collection features a diverse array of paintings, sculptures, and multimedia installations from famous French artists like Niki de Saint Phalle and Yves Klein. With its striking architecture and rotating exhibitions, Nice’s contemporary art museum serves as a vibrant hub for artistic exploration, inviting visitors to delve into the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary creativity while enjoying panoramic views of Nice’s scenic surroundings.
Address: Place Yves Klein, 06000 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 1 hour
Hours: May 2 to October 31: Tues-Sun, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. November 1 to April 30: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
14. Catch a Show at the Nice Opera House
The Nice Opera House, known as the Opéra de Nice, is a splendid cultural landmark from the 18th century, and it exudes an air of elegance and sophistication. Inside, the opera house features a magnificent auditorium with plush red velvet seating, intricate gilding, and a stunning crystal chandelier, creating a truly enchanting atmosphere for opera, ballet, and classical music performances. The Nice Opera House has played a pivotal role in the city’s cultural life, hosting world-class artists and productions, and continues to be a beacon of artistic excellence and a cherished cultural treasure for locals and visitors alike. Whether attending a captivating opera performance or simply admiring its architectural grandeur, the Nice Opera House offers a delightful glimpse into the world of art and culture in the French Riviera.
And if you’re under 30, don’t miss out—you can snag opera or ballet tickets for as little as €5.
Address: 4-6 Rue Saint-François de Paule, 06300 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 3 hours
Hours: Ticket booth is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues-Sun, and the Opera House opens one hour before performance times.
15. See Napoleon’s Death Mask at the Villa Masséna
Housed within the elegant walls of a neoclassical villa once owned by André Masséna, a prominent French military figure, the Villa Masséna boasts a rich collection of artifacts and exhibits that shed light on the city’s multifaceted heritage. Within walking distance of the Promenade des Anglais, visitors can explore an impressive array of 19th-century art inside this historic building, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, providing insights into the opulent lifestyle of the Belle Époque era. Additionally, the museum houses an extensive collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, including Napoleon’s Death Mask.
From intricately crafted 1st Empire furniture to personal belongings of André Masséna himself, the Musée Masséna offers a tangible connection to the past. The beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding the villa provide a tranquil retreat, offering visitors breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. This museum stands as a testament to Nice’s rich cultural tapestry and is a must-visit for anyone seeking to explore the city’s history and artistic heritage when they next visit Nice.
Address: 65 Rue de France, 06000 Nice, France
Time to Spend: One hour
Hours: Wed-Mon, November 1 to April 30 – 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; May 2 to October 31 – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
16. Hike at the Parc du Mont Boron
At Parc du Mont Boron, visitors can immerse themselves in the breathtaking natural beauty of the French Riviera. This pristine park, perched the Cap de Nice overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is the other major public park aside from Castle Hill, and it offers a range of activities and stunning sights to explore. Hikers can traverse scenic trails that wind through lush Mediterranean vegetation, leading to panoramic viewpoints that provide unrivaled vistas of the coastline. History enthusiasts can visit the old military forts within the park, such as Fort Mont Boron and Fort du Mont Alban, which offer fascinating insights into the region’s past. Picnic areas and shaded spots beckon those looking to relax amidst nature’s tranquility. With its combination of nature, history, and awe-inspiring scenery, Parc du Mont Boron is a true gem for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a serene escape in the midst of the French Riviera’s bustling beauty.
Address: 4 Boulevard Maurice Maeterlinck, 06300 Nice, France
Time to Spend: 2 hours
17. Catch Flowers at the Nice Carnival
The Nice Carnival (Carnaval de Nice) in France is a vibrant and world-renowned celebration that infuses the city with an electrifying burst of color, music, and festivity. Held annually in February, this iconic event is one of the largest and most famous carnivals in the world. The Nice Carnival’s origins date back to the 13th century, and it has been running each year ever since (with the exception of a few years during World War II). What sets it apart are the extravagant and imaginative parades featuring colossal floats, including unmissable “floating heads,” and evening parades where the floats are all brightly lit, creating a luminous path through the city.
The festivities culminate with the “flower battles,” where floats are adorned with elaborate flower displays, and performers hand out 100,000 flowers to spectators, creating a colorful spectacle that transforms Nice into a surreal, floral wonderland. With its infectious energy and artistic extravagance, the Nice Carnival is a true testament to the city’s joie de vivre and is an experience not to be missed.
Note: This is a ticketed event and you will need to purchase tickets in advance to attend the parades.
Address: Square du Général Leclerc, Promenade du Paillon, 06000 Nice
Time to Spend: A week or two
Hours: Takes place for two weeks every February
18. March Chagall National Museum
The Marc Chagall National Museum (Musée National Marc Chagall) pays homage to the life and work of the celebrated Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, who found inspiration in the city’s Mediterranean charm. Housed in a purpose-built modernist building, the museum showcases a remarkable collection of Chagall’s masterpieces, including his iconic Biblical Message series, which vividly illustrates his unique blend of vibrant colors, dreamlike imagery, and profound spirituality.
Visitors are transported into Chagall’s imaginative world as they explore the galleries, with each painting and stained glass window offering a glimpse into the artist’s deeply personal artistic journey. The museum’s serene garden, adorned with a grand mosaic by Chagall himself, provides a small oasis that complements the artistic experience. The Marc Chagall National Museum is a testament to the enduring legacy of one of the 20th century’s most influential artists, making it a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and those seeking to be captivated by the boundless creativity of Marc Chagall.
Address: Avenue du Docteur Ménard, 06000 Nice, France
Time to Spend: One hour
Hours: May 2nd to October 31st – from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; November 1st to April 30th – from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
19. Eat Your Way Through Nice
Nice has some of the best restaurants in all of France, with its seaside position making it a seafood lover’s dream. Nice has 6 Michelin-starred restaurants, and dozens more in the surrounding areas. Book well in advance to enjoy a tasting menu at the South African-influenced JAN (which has its very own cheese room!), or the inventive double-starred Flaveur. True foodies may even want to plan a day trip to Menton to visit the triple-starred Mirazur, from world-renowned Argentine Chef Mauro Colagreco.
There are plenty of less-bougie options for exploring what foods Nice has to offer, however. Peixes, which specializes in seafood, has two locations in the city where you can try their many varieties of ceviche. The wine bar Rouge and the homestyle Bistrot d’Antoine are also highly recommended (and both have Michelin Bib Gourmand distinctions). You can also pick up local snacks like pissaladière, barbajuan, socca, and pan bagnat at many markets and boulangeries. We’d recommend popping by Bio Brod for a delicious sandwich or sweet or savory pastry at lunchtime.
20. Day Trips to Saint Tropez or Antibes
Nice’s prime location in the heart of the French Riviera makes it a great destination from which to explore nearby destinations and day trip throughout the French countryside. In fact, one of the best things to do in Nice is, well, to leave Nice. Fly into the Nice airport and use this French Riviera city as a jumping point to day trip to places like Saint Tropez, Villefranche sur Mer, the hilltop village of Èze, Cannes, Monaco, and Antibes. Many of these day trip spots can be reached easily by train or car, and the local trains are fast, frequent, and affordable. Check out our complete guide to day trips from Nice here.
Things to do in Nice – Final Thoughts
Nice is an incredible city filled with all manner of activities to keep you occupied for a weekend, a week, or even a whole lazy summer. Once you visit Nice, you’ll understand why so many people come to the French Riviera every summer to catch some rays and enjoy incredible food and wine in this charming town marked by history and a unique cultural identity. Check out our guides to where to stay in Nice, from Nice hotels to Nice Airbnbs. We’ve also got recommendations for visiting nearby Cannes, and how to day trip around the Côte d’Azur on a budget.
Also Read: The 10 Easiest Day Trips From Nice