The French Riviera’s gem offers up the perfect mix of art, culture and culinary delights. Discover your three perfect days in Nice with this handy travel guide.
Between strolls along the Promenade des Anglais, getting lost in the artistic past of the city and watching the light dance on the clear azure waters, it can be difficult to decide what to do first in Nice. So we’ve done the leg work and pulled together our itinerary for three perfect days in Nice to act as inspiration – let your imagination take you where it will in this city by the sea.
Day One – A prime spot on the Promenade
Ease yourself into your first day on the French Riviera with a leisurely visit to the world famous Promenade des Anglais. A favorite with visitors and locals alike, it stretches for several miles and is one of the more relaxing ways to get your bearings in Nice.
Look up to the city and the hills behind as the neighborhoods change before your eyes, or simply gaze out across the stunning blue waters, peppered with their bobbing boats and the yachts of the super-rich. The eclectic cross-section of people joining you on the promenade – local Nicoise, visitors, boat-trippers, roller-skaters and cyclists – is testament to its universal appeal.
After your stroll, throw yourself into the past and soak up the atmosphere of the historic corner of the city at Vieux Nice. The old town area is overflowing with charm, complete with teetering pastel-colored buildings, complex alleyways and a gentle buzz of activity.
Take a walk down Rue St. Francois de Paule and you’ll see the city’s opera house and the 200-year-old chocolate shop Henri Auer, packed with sweet treats and a lush interior. The colors are even brighter at Cours Saleya, the market square that is the heart of this area. Awash with flowers, food and antiques, it’s a delight for the senses.
Nearby, make time to visit the Baroque cathedral of Sainte-Reparate, complete with intricate architecture and exquisite stylings of the period. After this, it’ll be time for some food.
You can grab a bite on the go – the local chickpea pancake, called socca, is available everywhere – or bag a table somewhere special. Bistro d’Antoine on Rue de la Prefecture is superb, but also look out for the well-executed Nicoise cuisine at Chez Acchiardo on Rue Droite. The number of locals dining on beef daube and pissaladiere – stew and a pizza style dough – tells you all you need to know.
Day Two – Art under the sun
Get day two under way in true Gallic style – with coffee and a croissant. Chez Maitre Pierre is one of the best boulangeries and patisseries in Nice, open from 7am on Rue Massena. The bread and cakes are phenomenal, so you might want to stock up for the rest of the day.
With this perfect start under your belt, head up the hill to the pretty serenity of the Cimiez neighborhood. You’ll be following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and, of course, the Romans. The Roman town here was once the size of Pompeii, and while this has long been little more than a memory, what remains will still serve as a fascinating window to the past.
Artists have always loved Cimiez too – perhaps it’s the breathtaking views of the bay below serving as inspiration – and there are museums celebrating the lives and work of both Chagall and Matisse here as a result. The Musee Chagall is particularly notable, holding the world’s largest collection of his art, spanning the whole of the 20th century.
You’ll also come across a fetching Franciscan Monastery with serene Italian gardens, adding to the aura of calm you can’t help but be washed up in as you spend your time exploring Cimiez.
Day Three – Shops, Pop Art and the port
In Nice, you’re only a short way from Cannes, Monaco, the Italian Riviera and Villefranche so, realistically, you could spend a morning exploring one of these dream destinations and still be back in time for lunch. Or you might opt to take a slightly easier approach on one of the many wine tours from Nice. The driving is done for you, the guides are informative and friendly – this is for beginners as well as experts – and you’ll get a crash course in perfect Provencal wine.
Back in the city in the afternoon, it’s time to hit the stores. For souvenirs, it’s best to stick to the old town, while anyone looking to be swept away by the majestic boutique experience and grand French department stores should head to Massena. Here you’ll find the renowned Galleries Lafayette, on Avenue Jean Medicin, boasting several floors of shopping in a stunning red ochre building.
You can soak up Nicoise culture between the shopping stops too. MAMAC, the Museum of modern art and culture, is located near Place Garibaldi. Opened in 1990, it has established itself as a major center for contemporary art, with special attention paid to Arte Povera, New Realists and Pop Art – you’ll find Warhol and Lichtenstein inside.
End your three days in Nice on a high by heading down to Le Port, a quiet and underrated area where you can experience some of the best views, both of the sea and the city. You’ll want another meal to remember, so reserve a table at L’ane Rouge, on Quai des Emmanuel. The harbor views are a perfect backdrop to the stunning food.
Refined plates include sea bream on a tian pancake, oyster and spinach ravioli and a number of creative set menus. Leave a sweet taste of Nicoise food in your mouth with the candied lemon on a meringue tart. C’est tres bon.
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