Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

Top 20 Things to Do in Nice, France & Beyond

Last Updated on November 13, 2021

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Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

Top 20 Things to Do in Nice, France & Beyond

Last Updated on November 13, 2021

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Nice is the beloved colorful capital city of the French Riviera. Fortunately, as the fifth largest city in all of France, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Nice.

Instead, the biggest challenge will be determining which activities to eliminate from your French Riviera itinerary if you’re pressed for time!

Luckily, the magnetic allure of this seaport city draws visitors back again and again for multiple opportunities to experience its wonders.

Nice can best be described as “Paris by the sea” for its romantic architecture and the added bonus of its Mediterranean location.

Given where it’s situated, Nice benefits from an ideal climate, making it a popular escape.

However, despite the fact that it draws a crowd, there are still plenty of lesser-known delights to be uncovered, particularly in its charming Old Town.

Here are 20 of the best things to do in Nice and within its neighboring towns, both on land and at sea.

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Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

20 Best Things to Do in Nice & Its Neighboring Towns

1. Stroll the Streets of Vieux Nice

No trip to the French Riviera capital would be complete without a visit to Viuex Nice, the city’s Old Town.

The Old Town has had quite the interesting history. It saw its first fortifications in the 14th century and was developed into a district of fancy boutiques in the late 18th century.

Sadly, the city went downhill in a major way from the mid-19th to mid-20th century and was essentially a slum without heat or running water.

Fortunately, in the 1960s, the city was at the receiving end of local rehabilitation projects which breathed new life into the many dilapidated buildings. It wasn’t long before Nice had a fresh, new look, retail establishments began moving it, and a corresponding surge of tourism followed.

Today, Vieux Nice is a quirky, lovable maze of narrow streets and candy-colored terracotta buildings. Its warm color palette of brick reds, pinks, and yellows is inviting.

In particular, the vibrant Rue du Malonat is a perfect example of what you can expect here.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

One of the best ways to appreciate this special area of the city is to get lost in the streets, which still maintain their charm.

Another spot of note is the Indian Lounge, an Indian restaurant on Rue Droite which is flanked by colorful umbrellas.

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Eager tourists can’t resist snapping a photo here, so be prepared to wait your turn!

Another favorite façade can be found at the intersection of Rue de l’Ancien Sénat and Rue du Malonat.

How darling are these flower-adorned shutters?

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Vieux Nice during your visit, I suggest booking a guided walking tour.

Another fun activity to consider while in the Old Town is a modern-day treasure hunt! Using your smartphone, you can solve clues while learning about famous artists and philosophers of Nice’s past!

2. Shop for Fresh, Fragrant Flowers at Cours Saleya

If the idea of purchasing fragrant, fresh-cut flowers in an open-air market excites you, be sure to check out Cours Saleya.

While this crowd favorite consists of numerous markets, the most frequented is the Marché aux Fleurs (flower market, in English).

Although it’s most widely regarded for its impressive collection of flower vendors, Marché aux Fleurs serves as a vegetable market as well.

Cours Saleya is also home to numerous restaurants. As such, it really comes alive in the evening with buzzing restaurant patrons and tourists hunting down their next delicious meal.

What to Know Before You Go:

The Marché aux Fleurs of Cours Saleya is open daily from 6AM to 5:30PM with the exception of Mondays, Sunday afternoons, and public holidays.

3. Visit Place Masséna

Place Masséna is the iconic main square of Nice that graces many a postcard. This is the largest square in the city and is situated between the Old and New Towns. It was named after French military commander Andre Massena.

Between its quirky checkerboard tiling, brightly-colored clay facades, and Neoclassical structures, it looks a bit like something out of Alice in Wonderland (or a Tim Burton rendition).

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Place Masséna resides at the hub of multiple main streets. As such, it’s a popular thoroughfare for locals, who you’ll find crossing through the square throughout the day.

Place Masséna is the perfect place to stop at a café for your caffeine fix or simply find a spot in the shade to soak it all in.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

FUN FACT: Place Masséna serves as the setting for the Carnaval de Nice, which has attracted millions of guests from around the world for over a century.

This highly-anticipated event originally began as a way of honoring visiting nobility. It’s held each February, drawing a winter crowd to the French Riviera every year.

4. Wander Around the Old Port of Nice

The Old Port of Nice – or Port Lympia, as it’s known by the locals –  is one of the main harbors for boats in the Mediterranean Sea.

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This is readily apparent by the sheer number of vessels you’ll find here, from charming fishing boats to luxury yachts!

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

It’s also an important ferry port, serving the islands of Corsica and Sardinia as well as the coastal town of Saint-Tropez.

FUN FACT: The Old Port of Nice is the location for the majority of cement production in France.

Nice’s Old Port is the perfect place to take a stroll and fantasize about life at sea…or to book a sightseeing cruise and find out firsthand!

5. Indulge with a Unique Dining Experience at Le Plongeoir

As you continue past Nice’s Old Port, you’ll come upon a one-of-a-kind restaurant!

Now, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed a seaside dining experience before, but have you ever dined directly above the sea?

Le Plongeoir is literally perched on a pillar of rock above the sea to offer guests a fantastically unique experience – and an even better view!

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

The restaurant overlooks La Reserve, one of Nice’s small public beaches that’s a favorite amongst locals.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

Le Plongeoir began as a fishing boat secured to a large rock that housed a gazebo. Here, guests could dine six meters above the water.

Sadly, the fishing boat was eventually damaged, but the former gazebo structure was replaced by a restaurant in 1941.

Although the boat has certainly evolved from its humble beginnings, the spirit of this special place remains intact and will continue to charm guests for years to come!

What to Know Before You Go:

Le Plongeoir refers to their cuisine as having a “modern Mediterranean influence,” which you can learn more about on their menu.

The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, with the exception of Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

That said, you’ll definitely want to make a reservation before heading over to this hotspot.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way when I tried to book a day in advance and discovered that they were already full for the following evening!

To avoid this, I suggest calling ahead or reserving online at least a few days in advance.

How to Get Here:

Le Plongeoir is located at 60 Boulevard Franck Pilatte, O6300 in Nice.

6. Admire the View of the Promenade des Anglais from Castle Hill Park

The Promenade des Anglais – known by locals as “La Prom” –  is Nice’s famous seafront boulevard. It runs for just over four miles from the Côte d’Azur airport on the west side to the United States Quay on the east.

The promenade’s name translates into “Walkway of the English,” as it was English aristocrats who paid for its construction. Their intention was to have a comfortable place to escape to where the climate was ideal.

Although the promenade is certainly beautiful at sea level, it’s arguably most stunning when viewed from above, particularly from the vantage point of Castle Hill Park.

This park represents the highest point in the Old Town of Nice, sitting 92 meters above sea level. As such, it offers incredible panoramic views over the Bay of Angels and truly illuminates just how blue the water is – even on a cloudy day!

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To reach this viewpoint, you can either make the noble hike up many steps – or you can enlist the help of the trusty elevator!

The lift will get you there and back in under three minutes, so it’s quite a convenient option if you’re pressed for time or tired from the day’s activities.

FUN FACT: Castle Hill literally kicks off each afternoon with a bang, as a cannon is fired at 12PM daily!

What to Know Before You Go:

Castle Hill Park is open from 8:30AM – 6PM from October through March. From April until September, it remains open until 8:30PM.

How to Get Here:

If you’re hiking up, start the ascent at Mnt du Château. 

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to take the elevator, you can catch it at the east end of Rue des Panchettes near the intersection with M6098 (Quai des États-Unis).

7. Visit Cascade Dijon

While you’re wandering around Castle Hill, stop to check out Cascade Dijon, the park’s manmade waterfall.

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Although it’s an artificial structure, it’s still pretty neat to see, particularly considering that it was originally constructed back in 1885!

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

8. Soak Up Some Sun at Ruhl Plage

If you walk along the Promenade des Anglais at ground level, you can’t miss the iconic blue-and-white-striped parasols of Ruhl Plage.

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As the oldest beach restaurant in Nice, Ruhl Plage is located at Ruhl Beach, the most famous beach in the city. Needless to say, this place is definitely no secret.

PRO TIP: I recommend getting here when they open at 9AM if you wish to enjoy a bit of quiet before the crowds arrive.

However, keep in mind that you’ll typically need to pay around 28 EUR for a sun lounger with an umbrella here.

That said, prices may vary according to the season as well as the location of the lounger on the beach.

Although this may seem like a pretty steep price tag, you’re paying for the exclusivity factor of having access to the Ruhl Plage restaurant.

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In addition, beach guests can also enjoy the convenience of locker and shower access.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

This family-friendly beach also offers a children’s saltwater pool as well as a swimming instructor.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to save some cash, there are plenty of public beach options such as La Reserve and Coco Beach to enjoy as well.

What to Know Before You Go:

Ruhl Plage is open from 9AM – 12:30AM Tuesday through Saturday and from 9AM – 8PM on Sunday and Monday.

Ruhl Beach is open from 9 AM – 7PM.

How to Get Here:

Ruhl Plage is located at 1 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 in Nice.

9. Snap a Photo of the Famous Le Negresco

Another spot you won’t want to miss along the Promenade des Anglais is Le Negresco, one of the city’s top luxury hotels.

That said, it’s pretty hard to miss, considering this hotel takes up an entire city block!

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The hotel opened in 1913 and has been an important fixture along the Promenade des Anglais ever since.

You can read more about the history of this special property here.

FUN FACT: Since its opening, Le Negresco Hotel has hosted an array of famous guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, James Dean, Grace Kelly, and Michael Jackson, to name a few.

However, even if a stay here isn’t in the budget, you’ll have to at least come to admire this beauty in person.

PHOTO TIP: Le Negresco Hotel is located off of an extremely busy street, so take extra caution when photographing it.

I recommend shooting it with a wide angle lens from the grassy area located just at the edge of the Promenade des Anglais.

How to Get Here:

Le Negresco is located at 37 Prom. des Anglais, 06000 in Nice.

10. Photograph the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral

The Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral is one of the most heavily photographed spots in the city, and for good reason. It’s simply stunning!

Sadly, we didn’t make it here on this particular visit, but I’ll definitely be back to capture it from my own perspective.

However, I can say that this famous church is a larger version of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Sanremo, which we saw during our time in the Italian Riviera.

The Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built in the early 20th century and is a national monument of France.

What to Know Before You Go:

The temple is open daily from 10AM to 6PM.

However, keep in mind that these hours are subject to change during the performance of the Sacraments.

How to Get Here:

The Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral is located at Av. Nicholas II, 06000 in Nice.

11. Visit La Cascade de Gairut

After you’ve gotten a taste of Moscow, perhaps you’d like to experience a Swiss-inspired delight!

La Cascade de Gairut, built in the 19th century, offers visitors a welcome respite from the fast pace of city life in central Nice.

This manmade waterfall with its charming alpine chalet and cave sits atop the hill of Gairaut, offering splendid views of Nice.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT: Although I have yet to experience this waterfall myself, I’ve heard that this area has taken on a less-than-pleasant smell due to an excess of littering.

Please take this as a reminder to leave no trace while you’re traveling, regardless of where you visit!

However, despite some potential smelliness, La Cascade de Gairut still remains high atop my future list of things to do in Nice. On that note, I’ll be sure to report back on the experience once I’ve gone!

How to Get Here:

La Cascade de Gairut is located at Rac de la Croix, 06100 in Nice.

12. Explore the City on Two Wheels

As the second largest city along the Mediterranean Coast after Marseilles, getting around Nice on foot can get tiring.

For that reason, you may want to consider exploring the city on two wheels instead!

Traveling by e-bike or segway is a great way to cover more ground in a short time while continuing to soak up that good ol’ Vitamin D!

Fortunately, there are a number of guided tours you can choose from whether you prefer sitting or standing on your two-wheel adventure!

E-bike Tours:

Segway Tours:

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to depart from the traditional two-wheel options, you may wish to try a three-wheel open-air car instead!

13. Explore the City in Style on Four Wheels

Perhaps e-bikes and segways aren’t your style, but you’d love the assistance of a snazzy motorized vehicle to get you around.

Well, you’re in luck!

Why not ride around Nice in style in a beautiful vintage car or a luxury vehicle?

Whether you’d prefer taking the wheel of a luxury model or relaxing in the backseat of a vintage beauty on a guided tour, there’s something for you!

14. Eat Your Way Through Nice on a Food Tour

Does the idea of being in France make your mouth water for delicious French cuisine?

If so, a food tour may be right up your alley!

Enjoying a culinary experience amongst the residents of Nice is one of the best ways to develop an understanding of the local culture.

Fortunately, Nice offers a number of tasty tours to whet the appetites of even the most discerning foodies!

Depending on the tour you select, you’ll experience a local French market or eatery, mingle with shopkeepers, and sample the area’s most beloved regional specialties.

15. Enjoy a Guided Journey to Provence for an Unforgettable Wine Tasting

Speaking of delicacies, no trip to France would be complete without sampling the wine!

That said, many of the best wines in France originate from the Provence region.

However, this experience is completely doable with the help of a trusty driver who will transport you there from Nice!

On a tour, you’ll learn about the history of French winemaking and the interesting grape varietals of Provence from an expert sommelier. Certainly, each tour will include the chance to experience the region with your taste buds as well!

So if you appreciate a good glass of vino and you have the luxury of time while in Nice, you’ll definitely want to jump on one of these fantastic tours.

16. Enjoy a Fun Night Out on a Nice Bar Crawl

Are you more of a night owl looking for a local experience?

Then the Riviera Bar Crawl in Nice may be just the thing you’re looking for.

This fun tour will introduce you to the best bars and clubs in the Old Town of Nice.

In addition to sampling the best cocktails and enjoying exclusive drink discounts, this experience includes fun activities that are sure to break the ice!

17. Create Your Own Fragrance at a Perfume Making Workshop

Did you know that the perfume capital of the world is located in France?

This honor goes to the town of Grasse, popularly known as the “town of a thousand scents.”

While Grasse is located only about 45 minutes away from Nice by car, you can actually learn all about how to make perfume without leaving Nice!

Just imagine how incredible it would be to invent your own unique fragrance that you could wear…

Well, at a perfume making workshop, you can do just that!

Here, you’ll learn how to create your ideal fragrance using tried and true techniques from France, one of the largest exporters of perfume in the world.

Simply select your venue of choice and get ready to concoct a beautiful aroma that’s never been worn before!

18. Take in a Beautiful Sunset on an Evening Boat Tour

Given that Nice is ideally situated on the Mediterranean, one of the best ways to experience its beauty is on a boat tour.

Sunset, in particular, is one of the best times to partake in this special experience. In addition to enjoying more moderate temperatures than in daytime, you’ll witness the sky morph into a brilliant painting right before your eyes!

Enjoy the exclusivity of this private tour on a silent, solar-powered boat while learning about the most prestigious spots along the coast from an expert guide.

Best Activities to Do Just Outside of Nice

19. Experience a Fairytale Setting at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

While there’s no shortage of things to do in Nice, the Riviera’s capital is also a perfect jumping off point for some equally interesting excursions.

One of the best day trip ideas is to visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, commonly known as Villa Île-de-France. It’s located in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat between Nice and Monaco, just over 20 minutes outside of Nice by car.

This picturesque palace with its enchanting gardens looks like something out of a fairytale!

This stunning structure was built by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild between 1907 and 1912 and is considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces along the French Riviera.

Guests are welcome to tour the villa as well as enjoy tea in the tea room and/or a picnic lunch for an additional fee.

What to Know Before You Go:

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is open daily year-round from 10AM – 6PM, with the exception of July and August, when it remains open until 7PM. The last admission is issued 30 minutes before closing.

Head here for additional admission information.

You can also access information about guided tours and self-guided tours here.

How to Get Here:

The villa is easily accessible by public transportation. Those arriving by bus can take Line 15 and get off at “Passable – Rothschild.”

Alternatively, passengers traveling on Line 100 will need to get off at Point Saint Jean and make the 15-minute walk to the villa.

Visitors traveling by train should exit at the Beaulieu-sur-Mer station.

20. Take a Day Trip to a Neighboring French Riviera Town

Fortunately, Nice is conveniently located near a number of other wonderful towns along the French Riviera.

As a result, I highly recommend you do at least one day trip to a neighboring town while you’re here.

One of the easiest towns to fit into your Nice itinerary will be the lovely Villefranche-sur-Mer. This idyllic village is located only about 11 minutes away by train and around 20 minutes away by car.

I refer to Villefranche-sur-Mer as the “quieter cousin” of Nice.

Just imagine the charm of Nice condensed into a smaller area with more of a local feel and that’s Villefranche-sur-Mer!

I absolutely loved the peaceful vibe and colorful maze of streets in this laidback harbor town.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

It also has a lovely public beachfront, Plage des Marinieres, that visitors can access free of charge.

If I’ve piqued your interest, check out my companion guide on how to plan the perfect day trio to Villefranche-sur-Mer from Nice.

Aside from Villefranche, there are plenty of other towns to consider along the Riviera, depending on how far you’d like to travel.

In particular, Menton has some beautiful points of interest and is easily my favorite Riviera town.

There are also numerous guided tours available so that you can learn more about the history and local culture of the towns.

I hope that this compilation of the best things to do in Nice has provided you with plenty of inspiration for your French Riviera trip.

Nice is a wonderful city that’s highly accessible and easy to navigate. Between its many exciting offerings, old-world charm, and stunning seaside location, it’s the perfect introduction to the beautiful French Riviera.

In addition, if you’re planning to visit the French Riviera, you should definitely spend some time along the Italian side as well.

For some inspiration, check out my companion guide with 10 of the best activities to do in Sanremo along the Italian Riviera.

Have you had a chance to visit the French Riviera capital yet? What were some of your favorite things to do in Nice? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for more Southern France inspiration? Check out my other guides:

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Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip
Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip
Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

Nice is the beloved colorful capital city of the French Riviera. Fortunately, as the fifth largest city in all of France, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Nice.

Instead, the biggest challenge will be determining which activities to eliminate from your French Riviera itinerary if you’re pressed for time!

Luckily, the magnetic allure of this seaport city draws visitors back again and again for multiple opportunities to experience its wonders.

Nice can best be described as “Paris by the sea” for its romantic architecture and the added bonus of its Mediterranean location.

Given where it’s situated, Nice benefits from an ideal climate, making it a popular escape.

However, despite the fact that it draws a crowd, there are still plenty of lesser-known delights to be uncovered, particularly in its charming Old Town.

Here are 20 of the best things to do in Nice and within its neighboring towns, both on land and at sea.

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Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

20 Best Things to Do in Nice & Its Neighboring Towns

1. Stroll the Streets of Vieux Nice

No trip to the French Riviera capital would be complete without a visit to Viuex Nice, the city’s Old Town.

The Old Town has had quite the interesting history. It saw its first fortifications in the 14th century and was developed into a district of fancy boutiques in the late 18th century.

Sadly, the city went downhill in a major way from the mid-19th to mid-20th century and was essentially a slum without heat or running water.

Fortunately, in the 1960s, the city was at the receiving end of local rehabilitation projects which breathed new life into the many dilapidated buildings. It wasn’t long before Nice had a fresh, new look, retail establishments began moving it, and a corresponding surge of tourism followed.

Today, Vieux Nice is a quirky, lovable maze of narrow streets and candy-colored terracotta buildings. Its warm color palette of brick reds, pinks, and yellows is inviting.

In particular, the vibrant Rue du Malonat is a perfect example of what you can expect here.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

One of the best ways to appreciate this special area of the city is to get lost in the streets, which still maintain their charm.

Another spot of note is the Indian Lounge, an Indian restaurant on Rue Droite which is flanked by colorful umbrellas.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

Eager tourists can’t resist snapping a photo here, so be prepared to wait your turn!

Another favorite façade can be found at the intersection of Rue de l’Ancien Sénat and Rue du Malonat.

How darling are these flower-adorned shutters?

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Vieux Nice during your visit, I suggest booking a guided walking tour.

Another fun activity to consider while in the Old Town is a modern-day treasure hunt! Using your smartphone, you can solve clues while learning about famous artists and philosophers of Nice’s past!

2. Shop for Fresh, Fragrant Flowers at Cours Saleya

If the idea of purchasing fragrant, fresh-cut flowers in an open-air market excites you, be sure to check out Cours Saleya.

While this crowd favorite consists of numerous markets, the most frequented is the Marché aux Fleurs (flower market, in English).

Although it’s most widely regarded for its impressive collection of flower vendors, Marché aux Fleurs serves as a vegetable market as well.

Cours Saleya is also home to numerous restaurants. As such, it really comes alive in the evening with buzzing restaurant patrons and tourists hunting down their next delicious meal.

What to Know Before You Go:

The Marché aux Fleurs of Cours Saleya is open daily from 6AM to 5:30PM with the exception of Mondays, Sunday afternoons, and public holidays.

3. Visit Place Masséna

Place Masséna is the iconic main square of Nice that graces many a postcard. This is the largest square in the city and is situated between the Old and New Towns. It was named after French military commander Andre Massena.

Between its quirky checkerboard tiling, brightly-colored clay facades, and Neoclassical structures, it looks a bit like something out of Alice in Wonderland (or a Tim Burton rendition).

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

Place Masséna resides at the hub of multiple main streets. As such, it’s a popular thoroughfare for locals, who you’ll find crossing through the square throughout the day.

Place Masséna is the perfect place to stop at a café for your caffeine fix or simply find a spot in the shade to soak it all in.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

FUN FACT: Place Masséna serves as the setting for the Carnaval de Nice, which has attracted millions of guests from around the world for over a century.

This highly-anticipated event originally began as a way of honoring visiting nobility. It’s held each February, drawing a winter crowd to the French Riviera every year.

4. Wander Around the Old Port of Nice

The Old Port of Nice – or Port Lympia, as it’s known by the locals –  is one of the main harbors for boats in the Mediterranean Sea.

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This is readily apparent by the sheer number of vessels you’ll find here, from charming fishing boats to luxury yachts!

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

It’s also an important ferry port, serving the islands of Corsica and Sardinia as well as the coastal town of Saint-Tropez.

FUN FACT: The Old Port of Nice is the location for the majority of cement production in France.

Nice’s Old Port is the perfect place to take a stroll and fantasize about life at sea…or to book a sightseeing cruise and find out firsthand!

5. Indulge with a Unique Dining Experience at Le Plongeoir

As you continue past Nice’s Old Port, you’ll come upon a one-of-a-kind restaurant!

Now, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed a seaside dining experience before, but have you ever dined directly above the sea?

Le Plongeoir is literally perched on a pillar of rock above the sea to offer guests a fantastically unique experience – and an even better view!

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The restaurant overlooks La Reserve, one of Nice’s small public beaches that’s a favorite amongst locals.

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Le Plongeoir began as a fishing boat secured to a large rock that housed a gazebo. Here, guests could dine six meters above the water.

Sadly, the fishing boat was eventually damaged, but the former gazebo structure was replaced by a restaurant in 1941.

Although the boat has certainly evolved from its humble beginnings, the spirit of this special place remains intact and will continue to charm guests for years to come!

What to Know Before You Go:

Le Plongeoir refers to their cuisine as having a “modern Mediterranean influence,” which you can learn more about on their menu.

The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, with the exception of Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

That said, you’ll definitely want to make a reservation before heading over to this hotspot.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way when I tried to book a day in advance and discovered that they were already full for the following evening!

To avoid this, I suggest calling ahead or reserving online at least a few days in advance.

How to Get Here:

Le Plongeoir is located at 60 Boulevard Franck Pilatte, O6300 in Nice.

6. Admire the View of the Promenade des Anglais from Castle Hill Park

The Promenade des Anglais – known by locals as “La Prom” –  is Nice’s famous seafront boulevard. It runs for just over four miles from the Côte d’Azur airport on the west side to the United States Quay on the east.

The promenade’s name translates into “Walkway of the English,” as it was English aristocrats who paid for its construction. Their intention was to have a comfortable place to escape to where the climate was ideal.

Although the promenade is certainly beautiful at sea level, it’s arguably most stunning when viewed from above, particularly from the vantage point of Castle Hill Park.

This park represents the highest point in the Old Town of Nice, sitting 92 meters above sea level. As such, it offers incredible panoramic views over the Bay of Angels and truly illuminates just how blue the water is – even on a cloudy day!

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

To reach this viewpoint, you can either make the noble hike up many steps – or you can enlist the help of the trusty elevator!

The lift will get you there and back in under three minutes, so it’s quite a convenient option if you’re pressed for time or tired from the day’s activities.

FUN FACT: Castle Hill literally kicks off each afternoon with a bang, as a cannon is fired at 12PM daily!

What to Know Before You Go:

Castle Hill Park is open from 8:30AM – 6PM from October through March. From April until September, it remains open until 8:30PM.

How to Get Here:

If you’re hiking up, start the ascent at Mnt du Château. 

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to take the elevator, you can catch it at the east end of Rue des Panchettes near the intersection with M6098 (Quai des États-Unis).

7. Visit Cascade Dijon

While you’re wandering around Castle Hill, stop to check out Cascade Dijon, the park’s manmade waterfall.

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Although it’s an artificial structure, it’s still pretty neat to see, particularly considering that it was originally constructed back in 1885!

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8. Soak Up Some Sun at Ruhl Plage

If you walk along the Promenade des Anglais at ground level, you can’t miss the iconic blue-and-white-striped parasols of Ruhl Plage.

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As the oldest beach restaurant in Nice, Ruhl Plage is located at Ruhl Beach, the most famous beach in the city. Needless to say, this place is definitely no secret.

PRO TIP: I recommend getting here when they open at 9AM if you wish to enjoy a bit of quiet before the crowds arrive.

However, keep in mind that you’ll typically need to pay around 28 EUR for a sun lounger with an umbrella here.

That said, prices may vary according to the season as well as the location of the lounger on the beach.

Although this may seem like a pretty steep price tag, you’re paying for the exclusivity factor of having access to the Ruhl Plage restaurant.

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In addition, beach guests can also enjoy the convenience of locker and shower access.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

This family-friendly beach also offers a children’s saltwater pool as well as a swimming instructor.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to save some cash, there are plenty of public beach options such as La Reserve and Coco Beach to enjoy as well.

What to Know Before You Go:

Ruhl Plage is open from 9AM – 12:30AM Tuesday through Saturday and from 9AM – 8PM on Sunday and Monday.

Ruhl Beach is open from 9 AM – 7PM.

How to Get Here:

Ruhl Plage is located at 1 Promenade des Anglais, 06000 in Nice.

9. Snap a Photo of the Famous Le Negresco

Another spot you won’t want to miss along the Promenade des Anglais is Le Negresco, one of the city’s top luxury hotels.

That said, it’s pretty hard to miss, considering this hotel takes up an entire city block!

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The hotel opened in 1913 and has been an important fixture along the Promenade des Anglais ever since.

You can read more about the history of this special property here.

FUN FACT: Since its opening, Le Negresco Hotel has hosted an array of famous guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, James Dean, Grace Kelly, and Michael Jackson, to name a few.

However, even if a stay here isn’t in the budget, you’ll have to at least come to admire this beauty in person.

PHOTO TIP: Le Negresco Hotel is located off of an extremely busy street, so take extra caution when photographing it.

I recommend shooting it with a wide angle lens from the grassy area located just at the edge of the Promenade des Anglais.

How to Get Here:

Le Negresco is located at 37 Prom. des Anglais, 06000 in Nice.

10. Photograph the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral

The Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral is one of the most heavily photographed spots in the city, and for good reason. It’s simply stunning!

Sadly, we didn’t make it here on this particular visit, but I’ll definitely be back to capture it from my own perspective.

However, I can say that this famous church is a larger version of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Sanremo, which we saw during our time in the Italian Riviera.

The Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built in the early 20th century and is a national monument of France.

What to Know Before You Go:

The temple is open daily from 10AM to 6PM.

However, keep in mind that these hours are subject to change during the performance of the Sacraments.

How to Get Here:

The Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral is located at Av. Nicholas II, 06000 in Nice.

11. Visit La Cascade de Gairut

After you’ve gotten a taste of Moscow, perhaps you’d like to experience a Swiss-inspired delight!

La Cascade de Gairut, built in the 19th century, offers visitors a welcome respite from the fast pace of city life in central Nice.

This manmade waterfall with its charming alpine chalet and cave sits atop the hill of Gairaut, offering splendid views of Nice.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT: Although I have yet to experience this waterfall myself, I’ve heard that this area has taken on a less-than-pleasant smell due to an excess of littering.

Please take this as a reminder to leave no trace while you’re traveling, regardless of where you visit!

However, despite some potential smelliness, La Cascade de Gairut still remains high atop my future list of things to do in Nice. On that note, I’ll be sure to report back on the experience once I’ve gone!

How to Get Here:

La Cascade de Gairut is located at Rac de la Croix, 06100 in Nice.

12. Explore the City on Two Wheels

As the second largest city along the Mediterranean Coast after Marseilles, getting around Nice on foot can get tiring.

For that reason, you may want to consider exploring the city on two wheels instead!

Traveling by e-bike or segway is a great way to cover more ground in a short time while continuing to soak up that good ol’ Vitamin D!

Fortunately, there are a number of guided tours you can choose from whether you prefer sitting or standing on your two-wheel adventure!

E-bike Tours:

Segway Tours:

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to depart from the traditional two-wheel options, you may wish to try a three-wheel open-air car instead!

13. Explore the City in Style on Four Wheels

Perhaps e-bikes and segways aren’t your style, but you’d love the assistance of a snazzy motorized vehicle to get you around.

Well, you’re in luck!

Why not ride around Nice in style in a beautiful vintage car or a luxury vehicle?

Whether you’d prefer taking the wheel of a luxury model or relaxing in the backseat of a vintage beauty on a guided tour, there’s something for you!

14. Eat Your Way Through Nice on a Food Tour

Does the idea of being in France make your mouth water for delicious French cuisine?

If so, a food tour may be right up your alley!

Enjoying a culinary experience amongst the residents of Nice is one of the best ways to develop an understanding of the local culture.

Fortunately, Nice offers a number of tasty tours to whet the appetites of even the most discerning foodies!

Depending on the tour you select, you’ll experience a local French market or eatery, mingle with shopkeepers, and sample the area’s most beloved regional specialties.

15. Enjoy a Guided Journey to Provence for an Unforgettable Wine Tasting

Speaking of delicacies, no trip to France would be complete without sampling the wine!

That said, many of the best wines in France originate from the Provence region.

However, this experience is completely doable with the help of a trusty driver who will transport you there from Nice!

On a tour, you’ll learn about the history of French winemaking and the interesting grape varietals of Provence from an expert sommelier. Certainly, each tour will include the chance to experience the region with your taste buds as well!

So if you appreciate a good glass of vino and you have the luxury of time while in Nice, you’ll definitely want to jump on one of these fantastic tours.

16. Enjoy a Fun Night Out on a Nice Bar Crawl

Are you more of a night owl looking for a local experience?

Then the Riviera Bar Crawl in Nice may be just the thing you’re looking for.

This fun tour will introduce you to the best bars and clubs in the Old Town of Nice.

In addition to sampling the best cocktails and enjoying exclusive drink discounts, this experience includes fun activities that are sure to break the ice!

17. Create Your Own Fragrance at a Perfume Making Workshop

Did you know that the perfume capital of the world is located in France?

This honor goes to the town of Grasse, popularly known as the “town of a thousand scents.”

While Grasse is located only about 45 minutes away from Nice by car, you can actually learn all about how to make perfume without leaving Nice!

Just imagine how incredible it would be to invent your own unique fragrance that you could wear…

Well, at a perfume making workshop, you can do just that!

Here, you’ll learn how to create your ideal fragrance using tried and true techniques from France, one of the largest exporters of perfume in the world.

Simply select your venue of choice and get ready to concoct a beautiful aroma that’s never been worn before!

18. Take in a Beautiful Sunset on an Evening Boat Tour

Given that Nice is ideally situated on the Mediterranean, one of the best ways to experience its beauty is on a boat tour.

Sunset, in particular, is one of the best times to partake in this special experience. In addition to enjoying more moderate temperatures than in daytime, you’ll witness the sky morph into a brilliant painting right before your eyes!

Enjoy the exclusivity of this private tour on a silent, solar-powered boat while learning about the most prestigious spots along the coast from an expert guide.

Best Activities to Do Just Outside of Nice

19. Experience a Fairytale Setting at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

While there’s no shortage of things to do in Nice, the Riviera’s capital is also a perfect jumping off point for some equally interesting excursions.

One of the best day trip ideas is to visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, commonly known as Villa Île-de-France. It’s located in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat between Nice and Monaco, just over 20 minutes outside of Nice by car.

This picturesque palace with its enchanting gardens looks like something out of a fairytale!

This stunning structure was built by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild between 1907 and 1912 and is considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces along the French Riviera.

Guests are welcome to tour the villa as well as enjoy tea in the tea room and/or a picnic lunch for an additional fee.

What to Know Before You Go:

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is open daily year-round from 10AM – 6PM, with the exception of July and August, when it remains open until 7PM. The last admission is issued 30 minutes before closing.

Head here for additional admission information.

You can also access information about guided tours and self-guided tours here.

How to Get Here:

The villa is easily accessible by public transportation. Those arriving by bus can take Line 15 and get off at “Passable – Rothschild.”

Alternatively, passengers traveling on Line 100 will need to get off at Point Saint Jean and make the 15-minute walk to the villa.

Visitors traveling by train should exit at the Beaulieu-sur-Mer station.

20. Take a Day Trip to a Neighboring French Riviera Town

Fortunately, Nice is conveniently located near a number of other wonderful towns along the French Riviera.

As a result, I highly recommend you do at least one day trip to a neighboring town while you’re here.

One of the easiest towns to fit into your Nice itinerary will be the lovely Villefranche-sur-Mer. This idyllic village is located only about 11 minutes away by train and around 20 minutes away by car.

I refer to Villefranche-sur-Mer as the “quieter cousin” of Nice.

Just imagine the charm of Nice condensed into a smaller area with more of a local feel and that’s Villefranche-sur-Mer!

I absolutely loved the peaceful vibe and colorful maze of streets in this laidback harbor town.

Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip

It also has a lovely public beachfront, Plage des Marinieres, that visitors can access free of charge.

If I’ve piqued your interest, check out my companion guide on how to plan the perfect day trio to Villefranche-sur-Mer from Nice.

Aside from Villefranche, there are plenty of other towns to consider along the Riviera, depending on how far you’d like to travel.

In particular, Menton has some beautiful points of interest and is easily my favorite Riviera town.

There are also numerous guided tours available so that you can learn more about the history and local culture of the towns.

I hope that this compilation of the best things to do in Nice has provided you with plenty of inspiration for your French Riviera trip.

Nice is a wonderful city that’s highly accessible and easy to navigate. Between its many exciting offerings, old-world charm, and stunning seaside location, it’s the perfect introduction to the beautiful French Riviera.

In addition, if you’re planning to visit the French Riviera, you should definitely spend some time along the Italian side as well.

For some inspiration, check out my companion guide with 10 of the best activities to do in Sanremo along the Italian Riviera.

Have you had a chance to visit the French Riviera capital yet? What were some of your favorite things to do in Nice? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for more Southern France inspiration? Check out my other guides:

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Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip
Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip
Are you dreaming of escaping to the French Riviera? Then the colorful capital of Nice should be at the top of your France itinerary! Nice, France is a wonderful city with charming architecture, beautiful Mediterranean beaches, manmade waterfalls, and one of the most important harbors in the Mediterranean Sea. Come discover the top 20 things to do in Nice and its neighboring towns and see why you need to add it to your France bucket list! #nicefrancetravel #francetravelguide #franceroadtrip