Nice is an incredible city to just visit and relax, enjoying the immaculate beaches and crystal-clear waters of the French Riviera in style. For centuries, it has attracted millions of people to do just that. However, the city is also rich in history and complexity, with many unique things to do and see. No visit to Nice would be complete without making time for these essentials:
Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais stretches for 7 kilometers along the shore in Nice, connecting the city with the airport. This historic boulevard is not only essential access to most of the plentiful beaches, posh hotels, and thriving nightlife of the city, but a stroll along the Promenade is a favorite Sunday pastime for the locals, who enjoy the sun and ocean breezes along with spectacular views of the sparkling blue waters.
The Old Town is the historic and cultural heart of the city. The narrow, winding streets, shaded squares, historic architecture, and pastel houses combine to present an experience unlike anywhere else. Give yourself ample time to explore the Old Town, lounging in the cafes, browsing the shops, and taking in the sights as this is a must-do when visiting the city.
Open air markets are an essential part of life in France, where locals go to get the best possible produce, seafood, flowers, and other goods. Cours Saleya in Nice is a massive market square in the Old Town, and it plays a central role in the life of the city. In the summer, it’s thronged with locals and tourists alike, enjoying the sights and smells of the bountiful produce and fresh foods. But it’s the flower market that makes Cours Saleya truly special, with the spectacular blooms and incredible scents of every kind of flower imaginable. This market is so special that its recognized throughout France, and is one-of-a-kind experience in Nice. Make this a morning event as the majority of stands pack up by 1:30PM although some flower stalls stay open until 5:30PM.
Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill)
Castle Hill rises 92 meters above sea level, just outside of the Old Town. It commands incredible views of the city, the shoreline, and the ocean, and has been inhabited for thousands of years due to its strong defensive position. But there is more to do on Castle Hill than just admire the view. It also has a charming park, children’s play areas, and a beautiful waterfall making it perfect for a stroll above the noise of the city. Colline du Chateau is an essential Nice experience, and if you want to avoid the hike to the top, there is an elevator available.
Place Massena is the largest square in Vieux Nice, and thanks to an extensive renovation in the early 2000s it has return; it is considered the most spectacular and the most representative of all squares in the city. Due to its long historic significance of the square, and position as the meeting point of the different boulevards and districts of the city makes it truly the hub of Nice. Make sure you take time to hang out and experience the square itself, not just use it as a place to pass through. It’s the site of Nice’s major celebrations, from Carnaval and Bastille Day to concerts and festivals. It is lined with palm trees, with ample restaurants and cafes. It’s a spectacular place to see the historic Fontaine du Soleil and appreciate the gorgeous neoclassical architecture bounding the square, as well as just to stroll, browse, and people-watch. It’s only a couple of minutes from every other destination in Nice, so don’t miss it!
The Musee Matisse celebrates the work of Henri Matisse, who had a special connection to Nice. It houses one of the largest collections of his works in the world, and is a fantastic place to see the breadth of his talent and how his work evolved over time. Housed in the stunning Villa des Arenes and displaying hundreds of the artists works and personal effects, a visit to this museum is a chance to explore this incredible artist, and learn about how he and the city came to so closely reflect each other.
When in Nice, in addition to enjoying the weather, the atmosphere, the fine food, and the wonderful wines, make time to see these special places in order to better understand and appreciate this incredible place.