Nice, France is an attractive destination for anyone looking for French culture and great weather. This is the best 2 days in Nice France itinerary you’ll want to mimic to see and do everything.
There’s nothing quite like the French Riviera – the beautiful and glamorous coastline on the Mediterranean. And you can do it affordably with this 48 hours in Nice, France itinerary. (btw: Nice is pronounced Neese).
I’m a big fan of bleisure travel (when you tack on a few days of leisure time to a business trip to explore the area outside those conference room walls). So when my former company made me go to Paris twice within two months, I decided to check out someplace different since I already toured The City of Light on my first trip.
I chose Nice, France as it was June and I wanted to do a beach getaway. I heard that it was very expensive, but, honestly, I did not find the costs to be exorbitant.
While you could take a train from Paris to Nice, I was short on time so decided to take a direct flight via Air France. It was fast (only 1.5 hours) and relatively inexpensive ($120 Euros roundtrip), which makes it a reasonable day trip from Paris.
Best Things to do in Nice, France
Other than hanging out on the French Riviera, I did not have a preplanned agenda (which is so not me). So I decided to wing it. I don’t regret it as I enjoyed walking in Nice and discovering surprises along the way.
I learned that this Mediterranean city offers much more than beautiful beaches. With 300 hectares (741 acres) of green spaces and parks, you will also find a cosmopolitan vibe as well as mountains, ski resorts, museums, foodie destinations, and a rich cultural history dating back to 400,000 BC.
It’s no wonder Nice is the second most popular tourist destination in France (only second behind Paris), and also a popular port destination for cruises.
While the country’s fifth-largest city attracts about 5 million visitors annually, it’s easy to get around in the metro area of 550,000 people (about the size of Albuquerque, New Mexico). I found it very walkable and only took an Uber for the airport/hotel transfer.
So here are a few things I enjoyed during my 48 hours in Nice, France (and most of them were free) – as well as a few things I added to my bucket list for when I return.
Wake up in a room with a view
You can find several hotels right on the Promenade des Anglais. I selected the Radisson Blu because of its great wake-up view of the Mediterranean, affordable room rates, fun rooftop bar and pool, and a private beach directly across the street.
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Walk / run along Promenade des Anglais
I also chose this location because it was right on the Promenade des Anglais (nicknamed Prom) – a famous road that winds along the Mediterranean coastline with a wide and long pedestrian walkway. It’s a great place to take a leisurely stroll, check out the beaches, and a restaurant.
I did a couple of morning runs and it was not crowded at all. A little bit of history: this road had humble beginnings as a 6-foot-wide footpath. It wasn’t until 1931 that the Prom became two roads separated by a boulevard of palm trees.
You definitely want to add a walk or run along the Promenade to your list of things to do in Nice, France.
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Enjoy an afternoon on a pebble beach
Nice offers six miles of coastline with nearly five miles of beaches. While the beautiful pebble beach on the Mediterranean requires no filter, it definitely requires water shoes or sandals. You won’t find sand here.
My hotel offered a private beach so I didn’t have to worry about finding a beach chair or umbrella. The area includes about 30 beaches in all (with half of them private). The largest and most popular public and free beach is La Plage Publique de Beau Rivage.
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Enjoy an afternoon or evening on a rooftop
Many of the Nice’s hotels offer stunning panoramic views from their rooftop bars, restaurants, and pools – beautiful day or night to enjoy a cocktail or meal. This view was taken next to the Calade Rooftop Restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Hike to the top of Castle Hill
And if you’re more in the mood for a more natural setting to capture some iconic shots of the Cote d’Azur or Old Town, simply hike to the top of Castle Hill. It’s 426 steps (305 feet high) and a relatively easy climb if you’re in good health. An elevator or a trolley/train is also available to take you to the top if needed.
Bring a travel backpack to pack water and snacks on a hot day.
You will find several landings and photo ops along the way so you do have the option to stop and rest. And there is a small café at the top if you’re looking for light refreshments.
Or bring your own lunch as you admire the views. Other things to check out on Castle Hill, a former military citadel, are its three cemeteries, the ruins of the citadel, playgrounds, a waterfall (Cascades or Cascade du Casteu), and possibly a street musician or two. I came across a violinist on one of the landings, which made the experience even more magical with the classical music filling the entire area.
I could have spent an entire weekend exploring this place so definitely add Castle Hill to your Nice, France itinerary.
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Explore Old Town
After my run and hike to the top of Castle Hill, I meandered over to the charming Old Town. Loved wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets checking out the quaint shops, the Garibaldi Square and Massena Square, churches and cathedrals, the architecture, art galleries, and restaurants.
Most of the area is pedestrian-only so it’s best to explore on your own on foot or take a walking tour. Segway tours are also popular to tour this area. Old Town also offers a lively nightlife with several pubs and bars.
Take in a street performance
You don’t have to search far or hard for street musicians or talented street performers. They appear in the most unexpected places such as on an empty street, on a corner, or even right by your dinner table.
They’re a nice value-add to your Nice, France itinerary.
Enjoy foodie experiences
Nice offers a huge range of French foodie experiences – from charming outdoor cafes (where I fell in love with this goat cheese with apricots on toast) to elegant dining to cooking classes.
If you’re looking for authentic local cuisine, all you need to do is look for the Cuisine Nissarde label. It’s a special designation the Nice Convention and Visitors Bureau awards restaurants to let tourists know where they can find quality meals that respect traditional recipes and reflect the history of Nice cuisine.
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Stroll through botanical gardens
At the Parc Forestier du Mont-Boron, you will find beautiful mountain, city, and sea views as well as nearly seven miles of trails in a botanical garden. It’s situated in the middle of a Mediterranean forest of Aleppo pine and olive trees.
And that’s just one of the many green spaces in Nice. In fact, the metro area boasts 741 acres of natural greenery. Here are just a few other popular gardens to add to your list of things to do in Nice, France.
- Albert 1 Garden is the city’s oldest public garden that you can find along Promenade des Anglais – and you can stroll through it all the way to Place Massena.
- Promenade du Paillon is located in the city center near the Museum of Modern Art and Contemporary Art, the Theatre de Verdure, and the Promenade des Anglais. Nearly 30 acres, this garden is especially popular for families as it includes children’s games and water fun such as mist sprays and water mirrors. It also hosts events such as art exhibitions.
- Parc Phoenix, a 17-acre park located across from the Mediterranean, features 20 themed gardens. You’ll also find the Asian Arts Museum and one of Europe’s largest greenhouses called the Green Diamond. This park is also home to crocodiles, iguanas, exotic birds, and lemurs.
- The Jardin des Arenes de Cimiez is located across from the Monastery of Cimiez and features a large olive grove with thousands of trees that are centuries of years old.
- For panoramic views of San Remo, Italy and Saint-Tropez, visit Parc Naturel Departemental de la Grande Corniche (more than 1,600 acres). They say when visibility is cooperating, it’s possible to even see Corsica.
- Sentier du Canal de Gairaut is a great place for joggers and walkers – a beautiful trail with bridges, olive, and fig trees along an old canal with panoramic views of the city.
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Get your culture on at Nice museums
You’ll find 15 museums throughout Nice (and many are free admission if you purchase a French Riviera pass). Here are just a few you can visit.
- Musée Matisse / Matisse Museum, also known as the Museum of France, displays the painter’s collections in a 17th-century villa – most of which were painted in Nice. The museum is part of a larger historical complex of the Cimiez site that also includes Roman arenas and ruins, the monastery as well as a garden with olive trees that are hundreds of years old.
- The National Marc Chagall Museum features the largest public collection of this artist – more than 400, including many paintings inspired by the Old Testament.
- Musée D’art Moderne et D’art Contemporain (Museum of Modern Art – MAMAC) features more than 1,300 European and American avant-garde works from the 1960s and 1970s.
- If you’re a prehistoric buff, the Musée de Prehistoire de Terra Amata is a must-visit. A dig at this site discovered an elephant hunter’s camp going back 400,000 years – and where the domestication of fire was discovered.
Gather at historic Place Massena
Place Massena, a centrally located square or plaza, features a large fountain with statues and is Nice’s main shopping area and is only minutes away from the Prom and Old Town. A tram also goes through the area, which is mainly a pedestrian area at this gathering space.
You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and beautiful architecture here (with its famous red facades). It’s also a great place for people-watching.
Take a one-hour sightseeing cruise
For a different perspective of the French Riviera, take a one-hour sightseeing cruise. You’ll appreciate some spectacular views of the Mediterranean coast from the water as well as some historic hamlets, ancient villages, the Promenade des Anglais, while also learning some fascinating history of the area.
Half-day trip to Monaco and Eze
If you’re looking to check off another country on your travel bucket list, take a day trip from Nice, France to Monaco – the second smallest country in the world and one of five microstates in Europe.
You can find several tour operators who offer half-day trips to Monaco (as well as the medieval town of Eze). Or you can take a train or bus – it’s only about 13 miles away.
Some highlights: watch the changing of the guard at Monaco’s Royal Palace, do a lap at Monaco’s Formula One Grand Prix circuit, or try your luck at the famous casino.
Experience Nice Carnival
If you happen to visit Nice in mid-to-late February, you won’t want to miss the Carnival. Actually, it’s unlikely you can miss it. Carnival is a festival of events and parades that occur before Lent.
The Nice Carnival is one of the world’s oldest (going back to 1294) and major carnival events, attracting over a million visitors during that two-week period. You’ll find many parades, events, and things to do in Nice, France during the Carnival season.
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Did I feel safe? That’s a common question I receive when people learn I traveled solo to Nice, France. When I visited, the horrific terrorist attack on the Promenade was still on people’s minds and hearts as it had occurred less than a year before.
I felt very safe. Concrete barriers had been installed along the Promenade to protect pedestrians and there was a large police presence.
People were very friendly and not once did I feel unsafe walking in Nice, France. I would definitely recommend this beautiful area as a solo traveler destination.
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Create your own 48 hours in Nice, France itinerary
So there are plenty of options to create your own two days in Nice, France itinerary. Here’s a sample itinerary that you can customize.
- Take a walk along Promenade des Anglais and the pebble beaches.
- Climb to the top of Castle Hill for some great photo ops.
- Walk through the cobblestone streets of Old Town.
- Enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the Old Town street cafes.
- Spend the afternoon at one of Nice’s 15 museums such as Musée Marc Chagall or Musée Massena.
- Make reservations at a rooftop restaurant and enjoy the sunset.
- Take a half-day tour to Monaco to watch the changing of the guard and visit Ese, a medieval hilltop town.
- Pack a lunch and enjoy it among the olive trees in one of the beautiful botanical gardens such as Parc Forestier du Mont-Boron.
- Sail along the Mediterranean coastline on an hour-long cruise for some breathtaking views.
- For the remainder of the afternoon, relax on one of Nice’s pebble beaches. See these other amazing black sand beaches from around the world.
- Visit the historic Place Massena and enjoy an authentic Nicoise dinner at a restaurant awarded with the Cuisine Nissarde label.