Last Updated on 21/01/2023 by secretmoona
Nice is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful destinations to visit for a weekend or more. The city, located in the heart of the French Riviera, is one of the best winter sun getaway destinations. Actually, Nice has been a winter travel destination since the 18th century! With sunshine and mild temperatures all year round, it’s fair to say that you would not take too many risks booking a trip to Nice in winter! No matter when you visit Nice (in summer and the off-season), you will find Nice has lots of things in stock, ranging from stunning promenades, delicious food, architecture, incredible art and museums. Let’s look at the best things to do and see in Nice.
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- 1 Things to Do in Nice in Winter
- 1.1 Walk along the Promenade des Anglais
- 1.2 Stroll the streets of the Vieille Ville (Old Town)
- 1.3 Wander the market at Cours Saleya
- 1.4 Visit Castle Hill Park
- 1.5 Visit Nice Old Port
- 1.6 Discover the architecture
- 1.7 People watch at Place Masséna & Avenue Jean Médecin
- 1.8 Discover Nice’s museums
- 1.9 Enjoy the best panoramic views of Nice
- 1.10 Enjoy the food from Nice
- 1.11 Go on walks near Nice
- 2 Day trips from Nice
- 3 Why Visit Nice in Winter
- 4 Things to do in Nice – Practical Information
Things to Do in Nice in Winter
There are lots of things to do and see in Nice in winter. These are some of the many activities and attractions available to you.
Walk along the Promenade des Anglais
Just like the Champs Elysées in Paris is the most famous avenue in France, Promenade des Anglais is the most famous promenade in France. Stretching over seven kilometres from Nice Airport to the Colline du Château and facing the sea, “Prom“, as locals call it, is one of the top things to do in Nice, whether in winter or any other season.
Its name comes from the English Aristocrats who came to Nice to get a bit of winter sun in the 18th century. Soon, all of European high society followed them. Back in the day, the shoreline could have been better, so it wasn’t ideal for walking. Therefore, with money from wealthy aristocrats, the modest path traced along the shore, the “Camin dei Ingles“, became the famous Promenade des Anglais. You can still see the English influence as many hotels lining the promenade still have English names.
Although the activities offered in winter might be fewer, you can still walk along the promenade and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean sea. Take a seat in one of the many benches or Nice’s iconic blue chairs and want the sound of the water crashing on the pebble beach. Winter is the best time to stroll along the promenade since summer gets way too busy. People love to take a run or cycle, too; the promenade is definitely one of the best places to run while enjoying the lovely scenery, palm trees and prestigious hotels on one side and the sea on the other.
Stroll the streets of the Vieille Ville (Old Town)
Exploring the Old Town (or Vieux Nice for the locals) is one of the main things to do in Nice. The city is one of the most beautiful cities in France, even in winter. A stroll in the historic district, wandering along the cobbled streets and alleys, and admiring the colourful buildings is an absolute favourite.
In the picturesque Old Town, you will find among the colourful architecture, influenced a little by neighbouring Italy, many important buildings such as the Opera Nice Cote d’Azur, Lascaris Palace and the Cathedral Sainte-Reparate.
Just walk along the street and sit at one of the many eateries on Place Rossetti to recharge your batteries. While in the old town, take the time to get a cup of coffee or drink and visit some shops. Many buildings have their ground floor occupied by shops, restaurants, cafes and art galleries.
If you would like to discover the capital of the French Riviera through an audio guided tour, check here.
Wander the market at Cours Saleya
Markets are part of France’s way of life. Every city, town and even the smallest village will have a market. Nice has several markets throughout. Not only is the market the best place for local specialities, but it’s also the place to learn about the locals and the culture of the city.
If you have to visit just one market (three in one!), head to the pedestrianised Cours Saleya Market in the Old Nice. The large market is packed with stalls selling fruits, vegetables, herbs and more. Whether you browse the stalls for things to bring home as souvenirs, such as soaps, lavender products or olive oil, strolling the market is one of the top things to do in Nice.
The market runs alongside a flower market (or marché aux fleurs) from Tuesdays to Sundays. Wander between stalls to see the most beautiful flowers. Worth noting that the food market is held in the mornings while the flower market is in the afternoon.
On Mondays, instead of food and flowers, you will find a flea market with all the antique items, jewellery, and books.
Visit Castle Hill Park
La Colline du Château (castle hill in English), located at the foot of the Quai des Etats-Unis, Castle Hill offers an exceptional view of the Baie des Anges, Old Nice, the port and the Alps in the distance. This is one of the best places to visit while in Nice. It is accessible on foot (by stairs or an Art-Deco-style elevator which rises to 92m), by boarding the tourist train or by car.
The park dominates the city and is a great place to stroll, relax under the shades or have a picnic. As well as experiencing amazing panoramic views of the city, you can discover the ruins of the Château de Nice and a lovely artificial waterfall. The citadel was destroyed in the 1700s by order of Louis XIV.
You can see how the city has been organised from different viewpoints. Back in the Middle Ages, there was only a castle, and then the city extended down the hill where you now have the Old Town. Similar to many old towns, the streets need to be straight. The Paillon stream, covered by the green corridor, marks the separation between the ancient city and the modern town.
Visit Nice Old Port
Located near Old Nice, the Old Port, also known as Port Lympia, is another of the best things to see in Nice. Although the port did not exist in ancient and medieval times, it is essential. It is a commercial port, fishing port, marina and a place to stroll.
The fishing tradition is still present in Nice, and even though the port is relatively small, it is lovely to visit. The multicoloured wooden boats called pointus make it an authentic port full of charm, while the yachts remind people that it’s still the French Riviera!
The port district, the city’s central place, is full of history while remaining very current. Trendy restaurants and cutting-edge shops sit alongside antique shops giving it a pleasant yet cosmopolitan vibe.
Discover the architecture
Nice is a beautiful city to explore for anyone interested in architecture. The city has a rich architectural heritage, three to be precise: Baroque, Belle Époque, Neo-classical and Art-Déco.
The Baroque style first appeared in the 16th century when the city expanded and spread at the foot of the castle hill and lasted until 1792. During that time, palaces, mansions and churches were built. The Palais Lascaris, now housing the Musée de France, is a remarkable example of the Baroque period. Within the streets of the Old Town, you will admire many religious buildings influenced by this architectural style, such as La Chapelle de la Miséricorde in Cours Saleya or the Cathedral of Sainte-Réparate.
The Belle Époque style took place from 1855 to 1914. It’s the most eclectic of types, with villas, palaces and hotels with different designs. The wealthy owners gave architects free rein to build the most beautiful properties.
The néoclassical style began at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The type is a mix of classicism and Baroque. This style can be seen at Place Masséna or the iconic luxury hotel Le Negresco.
While strolling around the city, the style you will see the most is the Art-Déco style. This style first appeared after World War I and can be seen in many areas, such as the Promenade des Anglais and Boulevard Victor Hugo! The Palais de la Méditerranée is an excellent example of the style. Inaugurated in 1929, it was a casino, restaurant and theatre. The building is now occupied by a luxury hotel managed by Hyatt Regency.
People watch at Place Masséna & Avenue Jean Médecin
Place Masséna and Avenue Jean Médecin are the heart of Nice. Place Masséna is the city’s main square, with tons of space to wander and rest. Cafes and restaurants line the square.
At the centre of the square, going toward the Old Town, you will find the famous fountain called Fontaine du Soleil (Sun Fountain). It is often the meeting point for locals. The statue of Apollo at the centre of the fountain symbolises the sun, and the bronze statues around him represent the planet.
Further up the square, you will find several statues on top of street lamps. This art installation is called the Buddhas by Jaume Plensa. These statues representing kneeling men glow in the dark, so be sure to visit Place Masséna in the evening.
Avenue Jean Medecin is a shopping street in Nice. You can find all the major chain stores such as H&M, Zara, or the Galeries Lafayette department store. And just like Place Masséna, it is filled with brasseries, fast food chains etc.
Discover Nice’s museums
Culture is omnipresent in Nice. With 19 museums and art galleries, Nice has the highest number of museums in the South of France. During your trip to Nice, you would have the opportunity to visit a few, especially on a rainy day. Among the museums to see, we recommend:
- Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – The Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) houses works from more than 300 artists, including Yves Klein.
- Palais Masséna – This museum, housed in a lovely Neoclassical-style villa right on the Promenade des Anglais is worth a visit. Not only is the place beautiful, but it will tell you the history of Nice through paintings, artefacts, photographs and old posters of Nice. The museum also has a lovely garden, perfect for afternoon relaxation.
- Musée national Marc Chagall – This museum house works from the Russian / French artist. The collection includes more than 1000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, mosaics and many more. However, the most crucial piece is the collection of 17 paintings with biblical themes, divided into the New and Old Testaments.
- Musée Matisse – The Matisse Museum houses the most extensive collection of art from Henri Matisse. The French painter lived in the city until his death in November 1954. Visitors are amazed by this museum even before enticing inside: the villa is just a beautiful piece of architecture. Inside, people can enjoy a wide range of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs from the artist himself.
Enjoy the best panoramic views of Nice
Nice offers breathtaking views of its old town and coastline. You could go to many places to experience those views, and most are free.
- Panorama de la Baie des Anges – Such a lovely place with fantastic sea views. Boulevard Carnot’s viewpoint on the low corniche offers a breathtaking view of the Baie des Anges and the port of Nice.
- The Castle Hill to admire the Baie des Anges. The park and hill of the former castle of Nice are the best places to enjoy a panoramic view of Nice. The views are spectacular from the Old Town to the Promenade des Anglais and Old Port! Make sure to stop by the castle, the tower and the cemetery!
- Mont Boron follows up from Castle Hill Park and offers an even better and broader panoramic view of Nice. Venture up to the Fort of Mont Alban to view Nice and the Alps on one side and Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cap Ferrat on the other.
- Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée – The hotel’s restaurant, “Restaurant Le 3e”, the terrace offers a lovely view over the promenade.
Enjoy the food from Nice
While in Nice, don’t miss out on sampling some local cuisine. Among the must-try dishes, you will find, of course, the Niçoise salad. The authentic version is made with hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, tuna, olives, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans and olive oil. Several restaurants serve the dish, including pan bagnat and a salad niçoise sandwich. Another dish to try is the socca, a cooked chickpea pancake. You can taste it at Chez Theresa at Cours Saleya market. The last dish worth trying is the pissaladière, a flatbread (similar to a pizza) with toppings such as onions, anchovies and olives.
You can take a gourmet food tour and try some delicious dishes.
Go on walks near Nice
Nice benefits from such a beautiful landscape that it would be a shame not to explore further. Luckily there are excellent hiking trails around Nice. The locals particularly love the Mont-Boron trail. The 11 kilometres trail runs between the Mediterranean sea between Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer. You will climb a bit but will be rewarded with stunning views over the Cap Ferrat peninsula and Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Day trips from Nice
While Nice is filled with enough things to do to last you a week, there are many towns and villages you should also include in your itinerary. Nice is ideally located in the Côte d’Azur region, so day trips are easy things to do. All the suggestions below are easily accessible without a car. All the trips are simple by TER train or by bus. The Grasse – Cannes – Ventimiglia line has so many great destinations that you’ll be spoiled for choice.
- Villefranche-Sur-Mer: Located right next to Nice, Villefranche is renowned for its superb harbour, picturesque old town and pebbles beach.
- Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat: This peninsula has superb beaches as well as several hiking paths. The quaint town is filled with stunning villas.
- Éze-Village: This is one of the most famous and touristy villages in the Cote d’Azur. The perched village provides visitors with stunning views of the French Riviera worth a visit, especially in summer and autumn.
- Monaco: This city, popular with the rich and famous, needs no introduction.
- Antibes: This fortified city is worth a visit thanks to its beautiful beaches. Cap d’Antibes offers superb coastal paths and pretty alcoves for a summer swim.
- Menton: Located just by the Italian border (the last town before reaching the Italian Riviera), Menton is a beautiful colourful city worth a visit. Famous for its lemon and citrus production, the old town shines with its yellow and orange colour.
- St-Paul de Vence: Another medieval perched village, St-Paul is famous for its panoramic views over the coast and architecture and for being France’s artist’s village.
You can also visit some of these cities and towns on boat tours from Nice Port. You can easily sail to Cap Ferrat, St. Tropez, Monaco or the island of Sainte Marguerite.
Why Visit Nice in Winter
Mild Winter Weather in Nice
Nice is one of the many cities in the south of France, with more than 300 days of sunshine per year. Therefore, it makes a great destination both for summer and winter breaks. The average temperature in winter is between 13 and 18 degrees.
Nice earned a UNESCO World Heritage recognition as the “winter resort town of the Riviera. Even though Nice is close to the mountains, it rarely experiences snow. That said, you should nonetheless bring a warm coat, scarf and umbrella (February is the wettest month)
Since you can enjoy pleasant temperatures in winter, you can take lovely walks along the beach, coasts, gardens etc. Nice in winter is also the low season which means fewer tourists, so you can visit the city and enjoy it peacefully.
Since winter is the low season in Nice, which means low prices for most things, people visiting Nice in winter can benefit from lower airfares, better accommodation deals and cheaper restaurant menus.
Enjoy the magic of Christmas by the Mediterranean Sea
Nice is famous for being a summer destination with palm trees, sunshine, sea and beaches. But the destination is perfect all year round. During the Christmas period, the city transforms itself, and you can see the magic of Christmas everywhere. Decorations and illuminations light up iconic landmarks such as Place Masséna. Christmas lights decorate the palm trees lining the Promenade des Anglais.
The Christmas village and the giant Ferris wheel find a home in Albert 1er Garden next to Place masséna. Wandering in the Christmas market is magical, with the stalls, fir trees and illuminations giving Nice a different atmosphere.
Like the many markets in the country, people can shop for last-minute stocking gifts and decorations but also snack on delicious Christmas food: cheese, socca, waffles, cured meat, and mulled wine: these are some of the many things available.
Things to do in Nice – Practical Information
Where is Nice located?
Nice, the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department, is located on the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) of the Mediterranean Sea. Nice is also the second-largest city in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur after Marseille.
As a major transport hub, Nice’s airport is the third busiest in France after Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. Its proximity to other cities makes Nice the perfect destination for a European getaway. Cannes in the northeast is 30 km away, while Monaco in the southwest is only 13 km away.
Nicknamed “Nice la Bella” or “Nice la Belle”, which can be translated to ‘Nice the Beautiful’ in English. Nice is a great place to base yourself, especially if you explore the French Riviera.
Getting around Nice
The best way to get around Nice is on foot, especially when exploring the city centre and Old Town. Nice is a beautiful city, and the weather is usually lovely, so perfect for walking, whether to admire the architecture and colourful facades in the old town or stroll the Promenade des Anglais. Like many French cities, Nice has a convenient public transport system.
For longer distances, prefer the following options:
- By train:
There are a few train stations in Nice; however, the main station is Gare de Nice Ville. You can connect to major cities via the TGV (high-speed trains), such as Paris, Bordeaux or Marseille. The TER (Trains Express Régionaux) connects all the main cities of the French Riviera between Cannes and Ventimiglia.
- By plane:
Nice Cote d’Azur Airport is the third busiest airport in France, with flights coming from all over France, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and even New York. Airlines such as Air France, British Airways and Easyjet fly to Nice. It is worth noting that most airlines will arrive at Terminal 1, while Air France uses Terminal 2. However, there are free shuttles between the terminals. Check the best flight options via Skyscanner.
- By bus:
Nice has an extensive bus network, with most buses running every 10 to 15 minutes. Use the bus to reach districts far from the city centre or neighbouring towns. Note that there is also a free electric shuttle bus that runs in the town centre. Lignes d’Azur operates buses, and the price of a ride is €1.50 one way, €10 for ten journeys, €5 for a 24-hour pass, or €15 for a 7-day pass.
If you want to explore the surrounding towns and cities, you can easily take the bus with fares costing only €1.50 one way. You can take the following buses from Nice: Villefranche Sur Mer (bus#86), Menton (bus #100), Cannes (bus #200 from Parc Phoenix), Monaco (bus #100 and #112), Eze village (#82 and #112), Grasse (bus #500), Saint-Paul-de-Vence (bus #655 from Parc Phoenix).
- By tram:
The tram is the fastest, cheapest and most sustainable way of getting around. Three tram lines, T1, T2 and T3, connect all parts of Nice and its surroundings, including Place Masséna and Nice Cote d’Azur Airport. Lignes d’Azur also runs the tram so that you can combine bus and tram journeys.
- By bike
Riding a bike is excellent in Nice, even in winter, since the temperature is always mild. With the 7 km long Promenade des Anglais that stretches from the airport to the port, you will have a nice, flat bike lane with gorgeous views. Anyone looking for exercise during their trip should rent a Vélobleu or the 100% electric version, the E-vélobleu.
- By car
With such an excellent transport system, getting a car in Nice is not advisable. Traffic can be bustling in the city centre, and parking is hard to find, especially during summer. However, renting a car might be a good option if you intend on making lots of day trips. There are lots of rental companies in town or by the airport. For the best deals check Discover Cars.
- By taxi
I’m not a fan of taxis in general, especially those in Nice. If you need to get a cab, prefer Uber instead since they are cheaper and you know the fare in advance, so no taking advantage of you this way!
Where to stay in Nice
- Ibis Styles Nice Centre Gare: Located by the train station, this hotel offers comfortable and clean rooms and complimentary breakfast. A winner for those on a budget.
- Hotel Villa Victoria: This stylish hotel in a townhouse is ideally located close to Place Masséna and the train station, while the beach and the Old Town are 10 minutes away. The 38-bedroom hotel has lovely contemporary rooms and a charming garden but no swimming pool.
- Palais Saleya: This boutique hotel full of charm is located close to Cours Saleya. Perfect for those who want to be close to the Old Town. The rooms are airy and contemporary.
- Le Méridien Nice: This resort hotel located on the Promenade des Anglais and near the Old Town offers a rooftop swimming pool, and a restaurant with panoramic views of the sea is a good option. Rooms are contemporary with modern furniture, terraces and balconies, some with sea views.
- Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée: Located right on the Promenades des Anglais, this hotel is an excellent resort with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a private beach and a nice restaurant. Rooms are big and comfortable, with views of the courtyard or the sea.
- Hotel Le Negresco: Another seafront hotel located on the Promenade des Anglais, Le Negresco is the most famous in Nice. Housed in an Art-Deco building, this boutique hotel is just like an art museum: many paintings and artworks decorate the walls.
Final Thoughts on the Best Things to do in Nice
Is Nice worth visiting? Absolutely! Nice is a beautiful city with great weather all year round and many attractions to please all types of visitors. Delicious food and wine, gorgeous viewpoints, beautiful (but pebbles) beaches, outstanding museums and art galleries and lovely architecture; visiting the capital of the Cote d’Azur will not disappoint you. Actually, you will want to come back again and again.