9 September 2021
Are you looking forward to coming to Nice for a weekend and are you already wondering what your ideal sightseeing programme could be? You don’t want to miss the most emblematic places in Nice and live two unforgettable days? Follow the guide… All the places mentioned in this article are close to each other and can be visited on foot. So if you came by car, you can leave it in the garage!
Nice is a beautiful and complex megalopolis, full of paradoxes, full of tradition, multiplying pleasures and emotions through baroque walks, Roman, Belle-Epoque and Art Nouveau itineraries and culinary tours. From architectural and cultural discoveries to gentle and peaceful strolls, from museums to old palaces, come and discover the art of living à la Niçoise!
1 – Take a walk along the famous Promenade des Anglais
Since 27 July 2021, Nice has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a “Winter resort town on the Riviera”. The Promenade des Anglais is the spearhead of this classification. Therefore, it is a must-see during your weekend in Nice!
It is the postcard of Nice, the one that may have made you choose Nice rather than another destination: the Promenade des Anglais! Known throughout the world, this long avenue runs along the Mediterranean coastline for 7 kilometres.
Join the walkers, cyclists, joggers and swimmers who enjoy the intense light and colours of Nice from daybreak, especially the breathtaking blue tones of the sky and sea, and the mythical blue chairs!
The Prom’, as the people of Nice call it, is also famous for its many palm trees and its resplendent hotels and palaces, such as the legendary Négresco and le Palais de la Méditerranée.
An invitation to swim
If you feel like taking a dip in the temperate, translucent waters of the Baie des Anges, just walk down a few steps to one of the many public or private beaches. You may be surprised, or even bewildered, to have to walk and lie down on these round pebbles, emblematic of Nice. If you have a sensitive feet, opt for water shoes or plastic sandals… The advantage with pebbles is that you won’t have to suffer from the little grain of sand that gets lodged between your toes when you leave…
OK, there is no sand on the beaches of Nice… That’s their only little flaw because everything else is perfect!
(photo opposite: instagram @coconutsandchampagne).
To the east, the Promenade des Anglais continues beautifully along the Quai des Etats-Unis, so much so that you won’t even know you’ve left. Continue your walk to the Rauba Capeu sundial au pied de la Colline du Château. at the foot of the Castle Hill. You won’t be able to resist taking a selfie in front of the monumental #ILoveNice Hashtag, a very popular site for Instagrammers.
2 – Lose yourself with delight in the narrow streets of Old Nice
A lively and colourful village in the city!
Just a few metres from the sea, Vieux-Nice is the authentic and historic district of Nice. It is a must for all visitors and locals alike. It is the pulse of the city, that beats both day and night and concentrates the essential charms of the Côte d’Azur capital: small Nice restaurants, fragrant markets, craft shops, colourful facades, squares and sunny terraces, remarkable religious or private buildings… Lose yourself in the labyrinth of narrow streets and explore at your own pace this extremely lively district full of character.
Every day, except Monday, the Cours Saleya market takes place. Classified as an exceptional market in France, it is a pure delight for the senses. You can buy sun-drenched fruit and vegetables, but also spices, olives from Nice and flowers from local production. On Mondays, the fresh produce gives way to a flea and antique market!
3 – Taste the specialities of Nice’s cuisine
A successful trip includes the discovery of the local gastronomy.
Fresh salads, grilled fish, seasonal vegetables, local wine… Nice’s cuisine is above all a simple and sunny cuisine which honours the products of its soil. Olive oil is used in all culinary preparations as well as aromatic plants such as basil, garlic, thyme or rosemary… Healthy and light, the olive oil is harvested on the hills of Nice with a protected designation of origin (PDO) and pressed at the mills, still in operation.
Valued and protected by the label “Cuisine Nissarde, respect for tradition”, Nice’s cuisine is now part of France’s intangible cultural heritage and is the subject of an application for inclusion in UNESCO’s Inventory of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity. All the diversity of the local cuisine can be savoured in a small bistro, a large table or on the terrace, accompanied by a view of the port, Old Nice or the Baie des Anges.
You will also be tempted by the speciality counters to take away and eat on the go, such as socca (a chickpea flour galette to be eaten as soon as it comes out of the wood fire), pissaladière (a kind of onion tart cooked in olive oil), delicious stuffed vegetables, pan bagnat (a generous sandwich which is the pride of Nice) or fougasse (a brioche delicately flavoured with orange blossom).
The wineries on the hills of Nice also produce excellent red, white and rosé wines. In 2021, the AOC “Bellet wines” celebrate its 80th anniversary!
4 – Treat yourself to an awesome view!
From the Bellanda Tower, the esplanade of the Castle Hill or the top of the Saint-François Tower… the view is breathtaking!
To enjoy the most beautiful views of Nice, take some height!
The Colline du Château
Climb the Colline du Château (a castle that has now disappeared). Halfway up the flight of stairs that starts in front of #ILoveNice, you will stop at the Bellanda Tower, the same one you were already observing from the Prom. The panorama over the Baie des Anges, the old town and the surrounding hills will surely delight you. How can you remain insensitive in front of so much beauty?
At the top of the hill, above a magnificent and refreshing waterfall, you will overlook the rooftops of Old Nice and enjoy the view that reaches all the way to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and beyond. Then, on the other side, you will dominate the port and the lighthouse sea wall. Does the panorama leave you dreaming?
« Voilà le plus beau des paysages qu’il m’ait été donné de voir. C’est « This is the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. It is beyond what I had imagined; it is admirable! »
exclaimed Napoleon, in front of the panorama from the hill of the Château de Nice, on September 12th 1860.
La Tour Saint-François
The Tour Saint- François is the new “100% wow” effect spot! Built in the 13th century, the tower dominates Old Nice at a height of 42 metres and offers an absolutely magical 360° panorama over Nice, the middle and upper country. It was recently opened to the public (2019). “Departure every 30 minutes. You can visit it on Saturdays and Sundays from 9.30am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4.30pm (the tower closes at 5pm). It will also be open in July on Fridays by night from 7pm to 10pm.
The ticket office is at the foot of the tower: 6€ per person (reduced rate 2.50€) – payment by credit card only.
Plan to climb some 288 spiral steps (flat shoes required)… But the view from the top is well worth it (photo below)!
5 – Oxygenate your mind on the Promenade du Paillon
Inaugurated in October 2013, this 12-hectare green belt in the heart of Nice has won everyone over, with its 1,600 trees, 6,000 shrubs and 50,000 perennials, its water features and mirrors.
Your visit starts with the Place Masséna, THE central square of Nice. You can admire the ochre facades of the buildings, the black and white geometrical paving, the 7 “Conversation” statues, which, in the evening, are illuminated with warm and vivid colours, the fountain of the sun with, in its centre, the statue of Apollo and a pretty view of the sea. On either side of the square, two gardens in a row: the Jardin Albert 1er and the Promenade du Paillon.
The latter has revolutionised the heart of the city, offering residents and walkers a pleasant stroll through the hyper centre.
With its 2,800m2 water mirror equipped with 128 jets, its “plateau des brumisateurs” (900 mist sprays on 1,400m2), its children’s play areas with giant wooden structures representing marine animals, its central grassy area and its themed botanical zones, this park is a link of greenery and conviviality between Old Nice, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Place Masséna and the Promenade des Anglais. Benches and seats punctuate the walk to allow you to stop and make the most of the moment.
Mediterranean and exotic species take you on a journey around the world. Olive trees, vines, carnations, carob trees, pomegranate trees, fig trees, camphor trees, giant bamboo, Phoenix, giant tree ferns… Over the years, nature has reclaimed its rights on the tarmac.
Reflections, sparkles, water droplets, refreshing jets, local and exotic plants will certainly make you and your children happy!
6 – Enjoy a beautiful sunset from a rooftop
Take advantage of open-air spaces to spend some delicious, trendy and romantic moments!
To fully immerse yourself in the Mediterranean culture, do as the locals do, who love to meet up in the evening on the rooftops of Nice’s most beautiful hotels.
You can enjoy an excellent alcoholic or fruit cocktail accompanied by a tapas platter or even enjoy a Mediterranean dinner. The rooftop terraces offer magnificent views of the sea, the city or the surrounding hills. Some have a jacuzzi or swimming pool for a relaxing moment. At dusk, the sun will certainly offer you a dazzling spectacle. At that very moment, time will stop… Absolutely irresistible!
A musical programme punctuates the summer. The canapés and lounges complete the warm and relaxed offer that suits the magic of this moment. Go for it!
7 – Marvel at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
Treat yourself to a dive into art from the 1950s to the present day! The Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain de Nice (MAMAC), originally designed in the 1990s, has become one of the most visited sites in Nice!
Located in the extension of the Promenade du Paillon, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art seduces from the outside, by its singular architecture: four rather massive square towers, 30 meters high and linked together by glass walkways. Inside, the museum presents a permanent collection of 1,300 key works, notably from the Ecole de Nice, an artistic movement that developed in Nice at the end of the 1950s and which brings together artists who are now internationally renowned: Ben, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Klein, Arman, Warhol, Rosenquist, Christo…
Sculptures, paintings, engravings, drawings, assemblages and visual and sound installations question the visitor on consumer society, on the object and on the diversion of codes. The roof terraces are accessible to the public. Treated as belvederes with a plunging view of the city and a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, they are linked together by vertiginous walkways.
On your way back down from the museum, head for Place Garibaldi, one of the oldest squares in Nice. Admire the fantastic trompe-l’oeil facades on all four sides. Can you distinguish the real cornices on the windows from the fake ones? A little hunger, a little thirst? Bars and restaurants offer us large and comfortable terraces shaded by magnificent silk trees (Albizia). In spring, the spectacle offered by their blossoming is strikingly beautiful.
Then head for the Port of Nice. On the way, you will pass through the village of the Antique dealers and will be able to bargain at the Nice Flea Market. I’ll tell you more about it in an article about flea markets and antiques.
I have presented you with my selection of sites to visit and must-see experiences to have in a weekend. Of course, Nice has a lot more to offer. If you stay one or more days longer, you will have the possibility to visit other districts or other small towns of the Nice Côte d’Azur metropolitan area, such as :
- The Cimiez district and its Matisse and Chagall museums, Franciscan museum and archaeology museum, Cimiez Monastery garden, Cimiez Arena garden
- The West of Nice (Petit port de Carras, Phoenix Floral Park, Asian Arts Museum, Anatole Jakovsky Museum of Naive Art)
- The Liberation district (the market)
- but also the surrounding towns and villages (Villefranche-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Eze village, Vence, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Falicon) and the green high country in summer and white in winter.
Now you definitely know what to do and see during your next weekend in Nice! You will undoubtedly spend two unforgettable days in Nice, a UNESCO World Heritage city!