Go where the locals go in France. Hire a modern travel agent with ViaHero.

15 Things to do in Nice, France

Updated September 7, 2023

Nice is a gem of a city that sits along the French Riviera. It is a gateway to the sparkling Mediterranean Sea as well as to the Alps. And while some regard Nice as a great resort town (and it is that) it is also home to 300,000 inhabitants, making it the fifth largest city in France and full of life. That means that while on the one hand, you can have a pampered getaway, you can also find games of chess in the park, daily shopping in the markets, and French gossip over lunch. So whether you’re wandering Nice’s beautiful old town or people-watching with a glass of wine in hand, you’ll find there is plenty to get excited about. Here are 15 of the best things to do in Nice to jumpstart your trip planning. When you’re ready, get a local trip planner involved to help you plan the perfect itinerary

Table of Contents

Sample a socca

Like so much of France, there is amazing food to discover in Nice. From a classic salad nicoise to a socca (a type of pancake), you’ll have no shortage of delicious dishes to try. You could chat with a local travel planner to put together your own self-guided tour around the city and all its best foodie spots, or you could ask them what tour company they recommend you book with. Here are some other local specialties which you should be sure to sample:

  • Pan Bagnat

  • Ratatouille

  • Pissaladière

Check out the St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral 

An Eastern Orthodox Cathedral, the St. Nicholas Cathedral is an impressive and slightly unexpected site in Nice, and it is in fact the largest Russian Orthodox place of worship outside of Russia. The building is gorgeous both inside and out, so make sure not to miss any part of it. You should note though that it is not allowed to take photos once you go inside. 

Chill in Place Massena

Massena square is the central square in Nice, and it is a great place to sit outdoors at a cafe on a sunny day with a glass of wine or a coffee and read a book or simply people-watch. Honestly, people-watching is one of the best things to do in all of France. If there is a festival happening in Nice, it is likely centered here – such as the parade on Bastille Day.

Wander the Monastère and Jardin Notre-Dame-de-Cimiez

These gardens are a short way outside of central Nice and are slightly elevated so you can look out across the city. The gardens overflow with colorful plant life and actually belong to the monastery on site. You can enter the building and see more of the design of the gothic, 16th-century church, there is also a cemetery on the premises which you can explore.

Climb up Castle Hill

High atop a hill, Castle Hill has played an important role in Nice’s history and defenses. It was originally built as a military citadel and was attacked numerous times throughout history. Though it is still referred to as Castle Hill, there is in fact no longer a castle here as it was demolished in the 18th century. Now it is home to a very popular park visited regularly by tourists and locals (there are many great parks and gardens to visit in France). The park encompasses a perfect overlook which also provides amazing photo opportunities across the city and the sea.

Wander Old Town

As one might guess, the old town of Nice is where the history of the city is best preserved. Once where it all happened, you can now wander the narrow, cobblestone streets and uncover gorgeous restaurants, quaint cafes, buzzing bars, and shops that offer all sorts of goods – from spices to clothing. The area is maze-like and you very well may get turned around and a bit lost, but that’s part of the fun of uncovering this part of town. Put your map down and enjoy the feeling of not quite knowing what’s around the corner. While getting lost is fun, there’s also a lot you may want not to miss in Nice’s Old Town, to make sure you hit it all, ask a local Hero where they recommend you go.

Promenade along The Promenade des Anglais

In English, promenade is most commonly used as a noun. But in French, to promenade is one of the most important activities of the day. It is so important that this promenade extends for more than four, uninterrupted miles of Nice’s coastline. It is the place to catch a bit of sun while getting in your steps, the place to pick up on a bit of Nice’s street style, and to spot small events or local buskers. 

Uncover works of art at Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain

MAMAC, for short, the full name translates to Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which is exactly what you can expect to find here – over a thousand pieces of artwork from the 1960s onwards. Amongst the permanent collection are pieces by Niki de Saint Phalle and Yves Klein, to name a few, and then rotating exhibitions are always listed on their website. While you can spend quite a while exploring the phenomenal art housed here, it’s also worth noting the remarkable building that does the housing. The architecture of the museum was planned to reflect that of Nice at large.

Get to know the artist at The Musée Matisse

As you might have guessed, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Henri Matisse, who lived much of his life and created much of his work in Nice. The works on display here are not always the same, and the Matisse exhibits are regularly changing. Because the space is small, you may find that it is closed for a time in order for an exhibit to be changed over. So do check the website before planning your visit. 

Ogle wealth in the old port


An aerial view of the old port in Nice - Paul Teysen/Unsplash

Officially named Port Lympia, the old port is still in full operation. If you arrive or leave Nice by ferry, you will very likely go through here. But even more exciting than the ferry boats are all of the privately owned crafts which dock here. While you likely won’t be invited on board, you can wander the docks and take a look at what yachts are in town.

Go to the beach

You can walk right out onto the beach in Nice, it’s one of the city's main attractions, and the reason why a visit to the French Riviera is a must-do in France. Some of the closest beaches which are worth visiting are Plage de la Réserve and Plage publique de l’opera. If you’re ready to go farther afield, you can find so many more options within an easy day trip. Regardless of how beautiful a beach you may find, you won’t spot a bit of sand in this area, all of the beaches are pebbly instead. 

Stop and smell the flowers at Cours Saleya market

One of the must-stop spots in Old Town is the Cours Saleya market. It’s a gorgeous open-air market most well known for the plethora of flowers it sells. You’ll have to catch the market in the mornings though, as most of the stalls are packed up by about 12:30. And the entire space is closed every Monday. 

Learn about instruments at Lascaris Palace

This gorgeous, 17th-century building, which was once a single-family home, has been repurposed into a musical instrument museum that shows off more than 500 individual instruments. The opulence of the palace remains, so even if you are not particularly interested in the instruments, seeing how the aristocrats of Nice once lived is very worth the visit.

Snap a picture at the #ILOVENICE sign

Image by Evelyne Zeltner from Pixabay 

Sometimes it’s ok to be a bit over-the-top touristy and take the generic, posed photo! You can find the sign at the east end of the city beaches, along the water, you surely can’t miss it with plenty of other people around taking their snaps as well. But, beyond that easily accessible sign, you can also find one at the summit of Blainon, about 60 miles inland from the city.

Fill up at Liberation Market

Another exquisite food market, Liberation Market is in a huge, multilevel hall and has a vast array of vendors; from fruit and veggies to cheese and fish and everything in between. If you have access to a kitchen, this is one of the best places to come to in Nice for the freshest groceries to cook with.

With that, it’s time to load up your custom itinerary. While this guide is an awesome starting point, a local Hero can help you customize it to your liking.

Read more about France:

Connect with a local to plan your trip

20 Things to Do in France

20 Places to Visit in France in 2024 (Local Recs)

How to travel to France from the US

France Travel FAQ 2024

Contact Us


Still have questions about travel to France?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

Looking for more info?