One day in Nice – top things to do

France39 comments

Visiting Nice, France – A 24-hour itinerary

We can’t always have the luxury of time when travelling. Sometimes having just 1 day in a city is better than skipping it completely. Nice is one of those places where you can easily hit the highlights in one day. Read on to find the guide on spending one day in Nice including top things to do, best areas to stay at and a detailed itinerary.

We visited Nice on a weekend trip which also included Cannes & Monaco! Like I said, you don’t always have the luxury of time and visiting the French Riviera was too good an opportunity to pass up!

Overview of Nice

Nice is located in the French Riviera, at the most south-eastern tip of France. It’s the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region and is the confluence between the Alps, Provence, Corsica and Italy.

Best time to visit

Anytime!

But seriously, Nice has a mild Mediterranean climate that makes it fantastic for a visit anytime of the year. If you really want to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, aim for the Summer.

Getting there

By air: The international airport in Nice is one of the largest airports in France, second only to Paris! The Nice airport is located about 7 km from the city and you can take a bus or taxi/ Uber.

By train: The main train station in Nice is the Gare de Nice-Ville. If you are travelling from Paris/ Lyon or any other major city chances are you will land here. The station is located only about 1 km from the city centre so you can easily walk there.

The other 2 train stations in Nice are Riquier and St Augustin. Our train for Cannes and Monaco was from the St Augustin station. (Which we didn’t know and reached the main train station and then had to rush in an Uber to the right station!)

You could also take the bus or drive or take a boat!

Best areas to stay at

Check out the itinerary below and try and find your stay so that you can walk between the sightseeing locations as well as the train stations. Some of the areas to consider include Jean-Medecin or Old Nice.

Itinerary

Here’s the walking map to cover the best places to visit in Nice. See below to read our experience in Nice following this map.

Nice, France - Walking Map
Nice, France – Walking Map (Google Map Data ©2020) – Click to expand map

Our experience – One day in Nice

We took the Ouigo train from Lyon for this trip. Ouigo is a fantastic train service – at a fraction of the cost of the TGV but taking the same time!

Since we were travelling only with our backpacks, we started our day sightseeing soon as we arrived at Gare de Nice-Ville. Our first stop was the Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe St-Nicolas.

Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe St-Nicolas

This beautiful cathedral is the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. It will make you feel as if you are in Moscow – well, not really, but it’s great to look at nonetheless!

Next we headed to the city center taking a stroll through the Avenue Jean-Medecin which is lined with stores and restaurants. It is a delightfully bustling market area and we spent some time checking out the shops. After all, coming from Switzerland everything seemed so much cheaper in France!

Place Masséna

The Avenue Jean-Medecin ends at the historic square of Nice, the Place Masséna. Public events, from concerts to sports events are held at this square. We were fascinated by the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square – the red facades and the arches make for a splendid sight. Also really engaging are the quirky statues placed high above on metal poles. These seven statues called  ‘Conversation in Nice’ represent the seven continents. These are lit up in different colours at night which gives the square a wonderful, magical feel.

Place Masséna by day - Nice top things to do in 1 day
Place Masséna by day
Place Masséna by day - Nice top things to do in 24 hours
Place Masséna by night

At the end of the square is Fontaine du Soleil or the Fountain of the Sun – an exquisite structure based on Greek mythology. It contains five bronze statues representing Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury surrounding a tall statue of Apollo.

Fontaine du Soleil in Nice - things to do in one day
Fontaine du Soleil – difficult to take a pic without any people
Fontaine du Soleil in Nice - things to do in one day
Might as well take a selfie!

If you keep walking straight from the Fontaine du Soleil, you will reach the Promenade des Anglais, however, we first wanted to take in the old town. We took a left from the fountain and walked into the old town.

Old Nice or Vieille Ville

We’ve visited many, many old towns across European cities and while we’ve been charmed by most, the old town in Nice blew us away by how vibrant and colourful it was! We spent a long time just roaming up and down the streets of Vieille Ville taking in some of the famous sights such as the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate, Place Rossetti and the Fenocchio ice cream parlour (they serve 90+ flavours and the ones we tried – Rose, Chocolate – were super delicious!). Place Rossetti is also a great place to grab dinner.

Fenocchio ice cream in Nice
It’s time for ice cream!

We also stopped for a bite of Socca, a chickpea crepe that is famous in the region. It was quite yummy though it was almost exactly like an Indian besan chilla!

Cours Saleya Market

The Cours Saleya street in the old town, lined with cafes and restaurants, is one of the liveliest in Nice. It hosts a bustling market of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, walking down the market taking in the fragrance of the flowers makes for a delightful experience.

Castle Hill or Parc de la Colline du Château

Castle Hill is located at the end of the old town. Originally a fortress, it is now a beautiful park. It is the perfect spot to get beautiful, panoramic pictures of the French Riviera. For such a fantastic reward though, you need to put in some effort – there are 200+ steps to reach the top of the hill. And yes, there is an elevator – a little bit hidden – which could make life easier. But, when we were there this elevator was not working. We debated a lot about making the climb but ultimately my laziness won the day and we decided the views were fine from along the road anyway!

Nice Castle Hill - Itinerary for Nice
See?! Such amazing views right from the street!

We took a long walk along the road overlooking the sea – it was absolutely beautiful. Turning back we headed to the Promenade des Anglais, the most famous seafront in Nice

Promenade des Anglais

This iconic boulevard is a landmark of Nice, and quite rightly so. With direct access to the beach and lined with palm trees, restaurants and cafes, this vast, paved promenade offers something for everyone. 

When we went in March, the beach was filled with people sunbathing and swimming. Since we didn’t fancy doing either of those, we were content with walking along the promenade enjoying the view of the deep blue sea.

Promenade des Anglais - Nice what to do in 1 day
Promenade des Anglais

We were bushed by the end of the day but ventured back into the old town for a pizza and another ice cream at Fenocchio!

Have you spent a day in Nice? What has been your favourite part?

Are you planning a visit? Let me know if you have any questions.

If you found this useful, please share and spread the love!

Cheers! 

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TRAVEL RESOURCES

Planning a trip? Here are some of my go-to travel resources to make it more efficient for you, while staying within budget!

ACCOMMODATIONBooking.com is my favourite platform for hotel or apartment bookings. I love their map interface (I prefer to stay within walking distance of major attractions!) and they have an excellent customer service

FLIGHTS – I prefer to use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights. I often use their monthly view of prices to decide my travel dates!

TOURS & ACTIVITIESGet Your Guide is my go-to choice for fun tours and activities. They have a wide range of options and a great interface.

TRAVEL INSURANCE – Travel insurance is absolutely essential for all your international travels. I’ve been saved by it a few times when I fell sick while travelling and I swear by it since then! World Nomads is an excellent choice for travel insurance.

39 Comments

    • Glad that I was able to inspire you for Nice! 🙂

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  1. I didn’t even get to spend a whole day, only a couple of hours in Nice, so I really need to go back and do it justice. Old Nice part of town sounds so charming. Love your post.

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  2. I loved Nice when I visited back in 2015. There’s so much to do and you nailed it with these great suggestions.

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    • Thanks, we loved our time in Nice too, limited as it was!

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  3. This is an excellent guide to Nice! I went to France a few years back and had to really dig to find what train stations there were and how close they were to things. But you have all the information right there! I may have to start planning my next trip to France!

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    • Thanks, Angie! Train stations are the first places I locate in any new European city I’m headed to 🙂

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  4. Nice has always been a bucket list travel destination. And, this just makes me want to go sooner!

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    • Hope you get to travel to Nice soon!

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  5. Your pictures always draw me in and make me want to jump on a plane! Nice looks like a beautiful part of France to visit. I had never even considered this as a part of France to visit. I always think automatically of Paris first. It is fun to learn about other areas of a country.

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    • Thanks, Erica! For me too France and Paris are inextricably linked, however, quite recently I’ve realized the charm of other French cities – Lyon and Nice have both been stunning.

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    • It’s a great place, you should give it a shot!

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  6. I hope to visit Nice next year for marathon, you guide makes me impatient! It is so well thought!

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    • Ooh a marathon, sounds awesome! Have a good trip!

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  7. Thank you for sharing and the pictures are so inviting and motivating. I’m planning a visit there next summer too.

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    • Hope you have a great trip!

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  8. This place looks so beautiful at night! ? i need to experience this someday!

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    • It really was even prettier by night than it was by day!

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  9. A lovely post and a great guide for someone planning to visit Nice. We had missed out last time we were in France. Nice pictures of a beautiful place.

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    • Thanks, Subhashish! I made it there quite recently too – despite spending months in France a few years ago!

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    • You should definitely add it to your list – it’s a fantastic place!

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  10. Beautiful pictures! it’s good to know that Nice is one of those places we can explore in one day. Excellent guide on how to spend one day in Nice.

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    • Thanks Norma!

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  11. Nice is on my bucket list and you just made it look so perfect!! Ahhh might have to add a day or two to our trip to France next month to visit

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    • It’s an absolutely wonderful place! You could try cycling/ driving/ taking the train to some of the nearby towns too if you have the time. It’s a beautiful region.

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  12. Nice really lived up to its name! It’s nice and even more! It’s good that you took the time to visit it even for a short while. You did see and do quiet a lot for a 24 hour trip.

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    • I agree, Nice is very nice!

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  13. Man, your pictures are breathtaking! I’m not much for historical tours anymore and just would prefer to do the mountains and the hill climb to the fortress and the ocean. Anything and everything outdoors in nature. It’s great that you show the best of both worlds. What a life!

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    • I prefer nature to city sights too – but ones that don’t require too much exertion! I’m not there yet on my fitness levels!

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  14. I love your photos. So bright and colourful! It’s made me want to visit Nice again. Hopefully one day!

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    • Thanks Kelly!

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  15. I’ve never been to Nice – are those amazing lights (the bodies) temporary? I love them! So unique. I’m it’s good to know they have a train station. I’m going to look into this further!

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    • Aren’t those lights so unique?! They are a permanent fixture – created by a Spanish artist a few years ago.

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  16. That beach looks so relaxing and beautiful! I would love to travel to France one day. I’ve never heard of the city Nice (and I’m curious about how you pronounce it!) but it seems like a beautiful city!

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    • Nice is one of the gems of the French Riviera – a bit touristy, but very charming nevertheless. It’s pronounced with an e sound: N-ee-s.

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  17. Wow, Nice seems even more stunning than I would have expected. I’d say you could spend a week there without running out of sights to visit. Thanks for picking the top spots!

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    • You could indeed spend a week easily enjoying the city and the nearby areas – Cannes, Monaco etc. are just a short train ride away!

      Reply

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About me

Gruezi! My name is Smita, a part time traveller and a novice travel writer, currently living in Switzerland. So far I’ve been what you might call a serendipitous traveller! I got a chance to visit several amazing places more by chance than by design. I would love to put all my extensive travel planning to good use by sharing it with you and hope that these inspire you to visit all those famous, and not-so-famous locations! Read More

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