Nice is one of the most important cities on the French Riviera. It is a populous city, the fifth in France, with a characteristic historical center, a beautiful square and an enviable promenade.
Nice, which became French territory in the distant 1860 with the Treaty of Turin, is a city to explore piece by piece, passing through the Promenade du Pallion, visiting the old Nice and going up to the castle to admire the whole promenade, ending your visit walking on the famous one Promenade des Anglais.
What I want to suggest is precisely a walking itinerary which will allow you to see Nice in one day, being able to appreciate it to the fullest. One day is enough to visit Nice, but, if you can, I recommend you use two days and spend some time on the seafront and, why not, to spend an afternoon on the beach and visit the museums too.
From the logistical point of view there is the possibility of moving by tram which however has a rather thin layout, or rather, it is very useful if you are out of town and want to get to the center. In fact, looking at the map you can see how the tram passes through the two main arteries of the city: Avenue Jean Médecin e Boulevard Jean Jaurès.
The main hub is Place Massena.
Are you going to visit Nice? You advise you to watch this page full of activities to do and choose one of the tours with free cancellation to make the most of the fantastic French Riviera.
Where to sleep in Nice?
Before talking about the itinerary of what to see in Nice in one day, I wanted to give you two tips regarding sleep.
Firstly, it depends on the means by which you will arrive in Nice, there are parking lots along the road but they are often always busy and traveling around the city in search of parking is not easy because it is full of unique ways. There are several underground parking but they have the problem of allowing entry to cars that are at most 1 meter and 90 centimeters. In my case I was traveling with an Opel Vivaro that exceeded the indicated height, so I had to exclude the underground parking lots.
In this case it would be smart to look for a hotel on the route covered by the tram, perhaps slightly outside but in a point where you can reach the transport in a very practical way.
In case you arrive in other ways, then you will be spoiled for choice: stay in the old town (click here to see available hotels) it would certainly be quaint, another good idea would be to find a hotel on the tram route while staying not far from Place Massena.
I found myself very well at Star Hotel : clean, cheap and a stone's throw from the main square.
What to see in Nice in one day: walking itinerary
I believe the cornerstone of Nice is Place Massena and it is precisely from this beautiful square from which my walking itinerary begins.
1st stop: Place Massena
Place Massena has recently been refurbished and is a square as large as it is beautiful. Crossed by the tram, it is characterized by having white and gray tiles, it is to be considered the hub of the city from which you can access the old city or head towards the sea and enjoy the Promenade des Anglais.
Once you arrive in the square you will see that it is characterized by particular structures, it is "The conversation“, 7 poles with at the top 7 works of modern art by the artist Jaume Plensa. They are intended to depict the 7 continents and the dialogue between them, you will seem to see little Buddhas perched on the columns.
Place Massena in the evening becomes magical: the statues each take on a different color and the neighbor Paillon promenade characterizes the square even more since the water of the fountains is illuminated by the colors of the French flag. In short, if you are traveling with a camera, well, avoid leaving it at the hotel for the evening.
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2nd stop: From Place Massena to Place Garibaldi
The itinerary to see Nice continues passing from Place Massena up to Garibaldi Square crossing the gardens of the Promenade Du Paillon. From Place Massena then turn towards the park where you will see many tourists and also local people having fun with the water fountains.
I had the pleasure of seeing this part of Nice on a Sunday morning when all the inhabitants of Nice can experience the spaces of the city; I must say that these gardens, together with the castle gardens, represent a wonderful space where you can have fun within the city context. There are several games for the children or simple tables where people can stop and relax.
La Promenade Du Paillon ends near the National Theater of Nice. This beautiful walk does nothing but lap the entire center of the old city reaching Place Garibaldi where there is the statue of the Italian hero who was born in Nice in 1807 when the latter was still Italian.
3rd stage: Visit old Nice
From Place Garibaldi, the walking route on what to see in Nice in one day continue through the narrow and characteristic alleys of this part of the city.
It was really very nice to walk through these little streets where a series are located countless of craft shops, restaurants and small squares like that of Place Rossetti in front of the Old Nice Cathedral.
This maze of streets is considerably more animated than the rest of the city, there are also numerous places to take the socca or pissaladiere take-away, two typical specialties of Nice cuisine. Let's call it the Nicoise street food.
La Socca it is a kind of farinata made using chickpea flour. In itself it does not have a particularly strong taste but with a sprinkle of pepper it acquires a pleasant flavor although not too tasty. I haven't tried the Pissaladiere because to the eye it seemed a bit heavy, in fact it is a focaccia with a bed of onions on which anchovies are placed. If it gives me so much, prepare the bottles of water for the post Pissaladiere.
I recommend that you visit this area far and wide and see the old Nice with all possible tranquility. It is very similar to the typical Ligurian villages, let's say it is like a small village within the city.
Walking and walking you will almost certainly find yourself in Cours Saleya, the liveliest place in all of Nice. Here is the flower market, the Marché Aux Fleurs, which colors and livens up the days in Nice.
I think it is the ideal place where you can stop before continuing to see Nice. In addition to flowers, there are a huge number of stalls selling the classic market products such as vegetables, fruit, spices, dried fruit.
In practice, they are the number one enemy of the wallet at lunchtime, you would like to buy and taste everything.
Alternatively, if you do not want to rob the various stalls, on the sides of the square there are several restaurants with outdoor tables where you can eat immersed in the liveliness of the square. One thing, beware of prices that are on average high, but this is quite common throughout the French Riviera.
Keep this splendid place in Nice marked even for the evening, in fact the stalls disappear and the restaurants expand making it even more pleasant to dine in the atmosphere of the square where the city market is held.
Among other things, looking at the map, you will notice how this place in Nice is close to Place Massena and therefore you will not need to do the whole walking itinerary that I am recommending but you just have to cut directly from the square.
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4th stage: Go up to the Castle of Nice
A stone's throw from Cours Saleya you will find yourself on the splendid seafront of Nice, fully experienced by its inhabitants. You will find many people jogging, skating, cycling or simply running in a truly exceptional context. In front of the sea, on your right the walk continues reaching the Promenade des Anglais, on your left you will see the castle above, from which you can see the whole coast of Nice.
Il Castle is one of those what to see absolutely in Nice; visiting Nice without going up to the castle is crazy. So arm yourself with patience and fortitude and start the climb. Indeed, stop, little advice for those who want to do less effort and fewer steps: there is an elevator that takes you to the top in a short time, but there is only one problem, it is often crowded and although it takes you to the top quickly you will have to queue before getting on.
I am into physical activity on the go so I walked all the steps to the top, the other people who were with me waited about 30 minutes before getting on the lift so this is something to keep in mind .
In addition, climbing the steps gives you the opportunity to see Nice from different angles. For those who love photography as much as myself, it can only be a plus to the experience of visiting the city.
At the top, very little remains of the castle. This piece of town was revalued by creating common structures where the people of Nice can have fun having picnics or, in any case, experiencing the greenery of the city in a more active way. I have seen countless families lying on the ground playing with their children, people who played sports and others who even trained for capoeira. I must say that it is a really pleasant place to relax and enjoy a few minutes of break before continuing the visit of Nice. For the sake of completeness, I inform you that there is also a bar and toilets.
On the way down to the city you will also see a waterfall built only for decorative purposes in 1885.
5th stage: From the Castle of Nice to the Promenade des Anglais
Once you get off the castle you can continue to visit Nice enjoying its promenade as beautiful as it is long. Then continuing towards the Hotel Negresco you will arrive at a certain point where what is called la will begin Promenade Des Anglais, famous for being one of the most beautiful promenades of the entire Côte d'Azur.
Quasi 7 kilometers long to the airport. The name of this street is linked to the English aristocracy that in the early 19th century had begun to populate the Nice coasts. The institutions gladly embraced this suggestion / project from the English aristocracy and called it the "Way of the English". More information can be found at this link. Near the historic and luxurious Hotel Negresco you will also see the two casinos of the city.
The long walk I wanted to recommend to see Nice ends at this point. The day will be filled properly because it will be the desire to spend a few hours on the beach is irresistible as long as time permits.
What to see in Nice: ideas for a second day
There are certainly other things to see in Nice such as museums or the beautiful Orthodox church of Saint Nicholas. If you will spend more than one day in Nice you can enter several other things such as:
- The Russian Cathedral of St. Nicholas: located outside the city near the station. Built by Russian aristocrats who used to spend long periods in Nice between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
- Matisse Museum: located definitely outside the city, it is dedicated to the works of the artist Henri Matisse who spent his last years in Nice. 2020 update: a very welcome comment from a reader, says that a half hour walk is enough to get to the Matisse Museum. Continue along the Jean Médecin and then on the Malausséna. This way you can also visit the Libération district with its beautiful market.
- Marc Chagall Museum: dedicated to the homonymous artist.
- MAMAC: the museum of modern and contemporary art located not far from Place Garibaldi.
Excursions from Nice: what to see in the surroundings
I think Nice can be a perfect base for making excursions in its surroundings. There are many places that could be visited and they are all at a negligible distance compared to what I am used to doing with my ontheroads. Also, Nice is very nice to experience in the evening and therefore you would be able to make a nice mix between day excursions and lively life in the evening.
First, how not to mention Monte Carlo. I think it is not even necessary to present it but Monte Carlo is very close to Nice. It's one of those cities that either love them or they don't tell you anything. I am actually in the balance, moved on indifference. The upper town where the royal palace is located is certainly very interesting, otherwise Monte Carlo doesn't "catch me". I'm in the balance simply because as a child he always had a big charm, with every Sunday I saw the Monaco Grand Prix, well I couldn't help but be fascinated by it anyway.
In the surroundings of Nice you could add the visit to Saint Paul de Vence, unfortunately I was not able to visit it, but I think it is a really characteristic place. Another splendid excursion should be Eze , an enchanting village in an elevated position with a spectacular view of the sea. My friends Surio and Ambra tell you more about it in two articles (article about Saint Paul ed article about Eze) where you can also see a video of his discovering this small village a stone's throw from Nice.
If you want to visit Eze and Montecarlo I recommend -> this tour with free cancellation to discover the two cities of the French Riviera.
Other places close to Nice are Antibes e Cannes .
The first is a very pleasant quiet seaside resort with a nice promenade. The second, on the other hand, is much better known thanks also to the renowned film festival which in May projects the city on everyone's lips. Cannes has narrower waterfront than Nice but for some points of view more characteristic. In addition, it has a beautiful fortress from which you can appreciate the whole port.
Alternatively you could choose to make your weekend on the French Riviera during the Menton lemon festival a few kilometers from the Italian border.
In Nice there is a lot to see, it is a city that really left a smile on my face and really surprised me positively, perhaps negatively only in terms of prices, but that's another story. The city is definitely liveable and I recommend it for those who want to take a few days out of town excursion. The mix sea and hamlet of the old city is unbeatable.