Here’s a quick guide to Nice including weather, what to do, what to see, where to stay, day trips and where to eat.
Nice, the capital of the Côte d’Azur in the south of France, is a city with style. The fifth largest city in France sits majestically on the glittering blue Baie des Anges. Gracious 19th century belle époque hotels take you back to its glamorous, sometimes racy past when English aristocrats began the fashion for summers on this stretch of the Mediterranean coast.
Getting to Nice
Nice-Cote d’Azur airport to the west of the city is an international airport, serving over 100 destinations including New York. There’s fierce competition, particularly from the UK, so check out cheap flights from London and regional British airports.
Getting into Nice and surrounding towns from the airport
Shuttle buses and local services run from surrounding cities to Nice Airport. Check out the Ligne d’Azur bus services here. The site is good and in English.
Paris to Nice
The average travel time between Paris and Nice is 7.09 hours. The quickest route is 5h 47 minutes. The first train leaving Paris Gare de Lyon is at 06.59 arriving in Nice at 14.30; the last at 16.57 arriving in Nice at 22.53. Trains run frequently each day between the two cities and prices vary hugely depending on when you book.
London to Nice
From London you have two choices. The first, and long, option is to take Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord then cross to Gare de Lyon for the Nice connection. The shortest journey time is 10 hrs 07 minutes; the longest around 18 hours.
There is another great option and that is to take a direct train from London St Pancras International to Marseille, then take the train to Nice. It doesn’t save a huge amount of time but it does cut out changing in Paris. The train stops at Lyon and Avignon.
Getting around Nice
Lignes d’Azur is the main bus line, operating within Nice and to nearby towns. Other regional buses connect with nearby cities, with most stopping at the Gare Routière just north of Place Masséna in central Nice. There are 130 bus routes in the 49 towns within the Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur.
It’s easy to get by rail to most neighboring cities. There are 3 rail stations in Nice, but the main one is Nice Ville station.
A 9.2 km tramway crosses the city from north to east passing through the city centre along avenue Jean Medecin and through Place Massena daily from 4.25am to 1.35am.
A single ticket for one journey allows changes with 75 minutes and costs €1.50.
The 100% Neige bus takes you to the winter sports resorts of Auron, Isola 2000, Valberg, La Colmiane, Roubion and Le Boréon.
Pick up a map and timetables at the Tourist Office in Nice and the main bus station in Place Masséna.
When to visit Nice?
Any time is the short answer. With its balmy Mediterranean climate, Nice is the perfect all year-round city. In winter you can eat lunch outdoors in the warm sunshine. Or take a day trip up to the ski resorts in the Mercantour National Park.
February sees the start of one of the world’s greatest carnivals.
Spring brings everyone out onto the streets while summer sees the city fill up with visitors lingering on the café terraces, shopping in the Cours Saleya fruit and flower market and keeping the city buzzing into the small hours.
The autumn weather is kind.
Nice is easy to navigate, with distinct areas and good transport links (though most of the places you will want to visit are within walking distance).
The most famous address of all, and the starting point for Nice exploration is the Promenade des Anglais, a wide highway running beside the sea from west of Nice Airport to the Quai des Etats-Unis and into the old town. It’s separated from the sea by a stretch of pebbly beach. Most of the grand hotels like the famous Negresco line the Promenade, giving spectacular views out to sea.
Vieux Nice, the old medieval town where tiny cobbled street meander into and out of charming squares, runs from west of the Opera to the Parc de la Colline du Château (though there is no château there), the place where Nice originally began as the old Greek city of Nikaïa.
Beyond that lies the port, where mega yachts lie lazily at anchor and passengers gather for the ferry to Corsica.
Place Masséna is north of the Old Town, reached by steps and then crossing the wide Boulevard Jean Jaures which follows the old river Paillon. It’s a beautiful, mainly pedestrianised square.
To the east, the Promenade du Paillon offers a wonderful oasis, a 30-acre park opened in 2013 that creates a green lung running west through the Jardins Albert 1er to the sea and separating the old and new towns of Nice.
The modern city’s main street, the avenue Jean-Médecin runs to the north of Nice. It’s the main street for mid-price shopping with Galéries Lafayette at No 6 and the large Nice Etoile shopping mall at No 20.
Cimiez stands on the hills behind the centre. Full of grand belle époque mansions, it’s always been the posh residential area of Nice, right back to its Roman heyday as the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes. Worth visiting is the Musée Matisse, housing works by Henri Matisse (1860-1954), the Musée d’Archéoloqique with echoes of the ancient past, and the Roman ruins of an amphitheatre, public baths and streets.
What to see in Nice
There are museums galore for every interest from naïve art to Asian, from artists’ museums to an impressive Modern and Contemporary Art collection.
Markets are dangerously irresistible from the Cours Saleya in Vieux Nice with its daily market, alternating fruit, vegetables and flowers with antiques and arts and crafts to the morning Fish Market (except Mondays) with its flappingly fresh offerings.
What to eat in Nice
Like every city in France, Nice has its own specialities, easy to find in the small local bistros in the Old Town. The city has a strong tradition of Provençal and Niçoise foods with a heavy Italian influence. So try socca (thin pancake of chickpea flour and olive oil, baked and crisped up in the oven and seasoned with black pepper, rather like a crepe), the best pizzas, pissaladière (pizza-like onion tart), petits farcis(delicious stuffed Provençale vegetables), salade Niçoise, pan bagnat (fresh baps or bread filled with salade Niçoise), tourte aux blettes (tart of Swiss chard, raisins and pine nuts) and beignets de fleurs de courgettes (deep fried fritters with vegetables like courgettes flowers).
The best fish market in Nice is at the daily Marché de la Libération (Tram stop Vernier, just after the train station stop) where the energy is dynamic and the selection is vast. This market also features produce and a covered meat market, and is a much more local experience than Cours Saleya, less expensive, and much less crowded. Open Tues-Sun, 8am-1pm.
Check out The French Riviera – Great Gatsby Style article for the story of F Scott Fitzgerald, his racy set and how to follow in his footsteps in this seductive part of France.