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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
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
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.
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.
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