WHAT TO DO IN NICE IN 3 DAYS – ITINERARY
Are you planning your Nice itinerary and wondering what to do in Nice in 3 days? Then read on – here are the answers on how to spend a long weekend in this beautiful city.
IS NICE WORTH VISITING?
Between the sea and mountains, Nice is the perfect place to spend a couple of days. The French Riviera region is full of charming villages, historical monuments, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking landscapes. It is also near at least one of the best towns to visit in France. So, don’t make the mistake of visiting Nice for a day only. If you’re planning your Nice itinerary, 3 days is the perfect length of time.
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This post was written by Julie
HOW TO SPEND 3 DAYS IN NICE
Here are some tips on the best things to do.
Day 1 in Nice
Start your 3 days by visiting some of the top attractions in Nice, France. Here’s how to fit them all in.
LA PROMENADE DES ANGLAIS
One of the top things to do in Nice is to take a stroll on this world-renowned Promenade. On one side, you’ll find the Mediterranean Sea and its pebble beach, and on the other side, 5-star hotels, fine dining restaurants, and casinos.
The Promenade is around 4 miles long, starting at the Colline du Château and ending at the airport. Most of the interesting Nice sights are located between the Vieux Nice (the city center) and the Negresco Hotel. If the weather is nice, you can rent a bike or a pair of roller skates.
If you’re there during summer, you can also have lunch or a drink at one of the restaurants installed on the beach.
THE VIEUX NICE (OLD NICE)
Take a stroll through the city’s historic center, and notice the small paved streets, the colorful houses, and the shutters, typical of the Mediterranean architectural style.
There, you shouldn’t miss:
- Cours Saleya and its market (every morning)
- Palace of Justice Plaza
- Rossetti Plaza (great place for ice cream)
- Saint François Plaza
- Massena Plaza (try to go at night so you can see Jaume Plensa’s sculptures lighting up)
- Saint Jacques le Majeur Church
- Sainte Réparate Basilica-Cathedral
- Check out this Nice old town walking tour.
THE COLLINE DU CHÂTEAU (CASTLE’S HILL)
From the Vieux Nice, you can go up to the Colline du Château to get a beautiful view over the bay, the city, and the mountains. The fort that was there got destroyed in the 18th century under Louis the 14th’s orders, and now it is just a park.
There are many different ways to get up there. It can be nice to go up from the Vieux Nice and go down through the cemetery. You can also take the elevator.
THE CIMIEZ ARENAS
Cimiez district is mostly residential but is known for its ancient Roman Arenas. Built during the 2nd century, they were extended a century later. It still is a small amphitheater that could host up to 5000 people. The arena is mostly in ruins now, but it’s nice to stroll around the structure and the park surrounding it.
You can also visit the Cimiez Archaeological Museum, retracing Roman history in the region and featuring the artifacts found in Cimiez.
In the Cimiez District, you should visit the Garden of the Cimiez Monastery, from which you’ll get a panoramic view of Nice and the Bay. There are also two museums in this area: the Henri Matisse Museum and the Marc Chagall National Museum.
THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL
Not what you’ll expect to see in Nice is this cathedral – the biggest Orthodox church outside of Russia. The Saint-Nicolas-and-Saint-Alexander Church was built in the 19th century due to the presence of a large Russian community in Nice at this time. It’s open to the public so you can visit it.
So, if you have some more time on your first day in Nice, then you can also consider visiting one of the museums.
There are a lot of museums in Nice you can visit depending on your taste. Here are some of the most popular :
- Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain de Nice: Nice Contemporary and Modern Art Museum ;
- Musée des Arts Asiatiques: Asian Arts Museum ;
- Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Palais Masséna: Art and History Museum, located in a luxurious 19th-century villa ;
- Palais Lascaris: an interesting collection of musical instruments
- Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret: Fine Art Museum
To visit the municipal museums in Nice, you’ll need to buy the city’s Museum Pass (10€ for 24 hours) at any of the museums or online.
READ MORE: Beautiful landscapes in France
Day 2 in Nice
Continue your Nice itinerary with a little day trip.
Trek to Villefranche-Sur-Mer via the Sentier du Littoral (littoral path). It takes around 2 hours, it’s accessible to everyone, but some parts are a bit tough, bring good shoes – it is surely one of the best day trips to take from Nice.
From the city center, take bus 38 and get out at the Théodore de Banville / Lorrain stop. From there, you should easily spot the beginning of the path. Most of the trail goes along the coastline, through cliffs, creeks, and breathtaking views over the turquoise water. If you don’t want to trek, you can take the bus 81 or 100 from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Once in Villefranche, take a walk through the old town, the port, and the beach. You can also visit the Citadelle Saint-Elme, built in the 16th century, to protect the state of Savoie from enemies’ raids.
After lunch, head for the Mont Boron, a beautiful pine forest. From the top, enjoy the view over Nice on one side and Villefranche on the other. Go up from Villefranche by the Escalier de Verre (glass staircase); once up there, visit the Mont Alban Fort. Built in the 16th century, the fort is a few examples of military architecture from this period left intact. The building is still really well preserved.
You can then either walk back to Nice, go down the Mont Boron on the west side, or catch a bus there.
DAY 3 IN NICE
To finish off your 3 days in Nice, it is time to head out and discover some of the beautiful surroundings.
On day 3 of your Nice itinerary, visit the region’s cutest village: Eze. Perched on top of a cliff, the town is a famous seaside destination. Stroll around the small paved streets, gaze at the luxurious villa and take in the laid-back atmosphere of this small village.
Have a look at the church, built in the 18th century on the model of a 12th-century church. Next, head for the city’s exotic garden and a castle’s ruins from the 12th century. Then go down to the beach via the Nietsche’s Path, where you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery and the spectacular view over the sea.
You can easily get to Eze from the Nice city center via the 82 bus. Head for Eze Village, not Eze Bord de Mer.
Your next destination is Menton, nicknamed the pearl of France. Known for its cute streets and picturesque seaside, Menton and its historic center are the perfect places to wander around. You’ll find many small craft shops selling local products and handicrafts (the town is famous for its lemon) near the shore.
Don’t hesitate to get farther away from the commercial streets and explore the village. Don’t miss the Saint Michel Basilica and the cemetery « du Vieux château,» from there. The view is spectacular.
To get to Menton, take bus 100 from Eze Bord de Mer.
From there, you can trek to Monaco through the Cap Martin and Roquebrune, which takes around three hours, or you can take the bus 100 from Menton to Monaco. The trek is really scenic and charming, and the path is accessible to any fitness level, but it is time-consuming.
Spend the rest of the day visiting Monaco. There are tons of things to do there, here are a few you can choose from :
- The Rock (le Rocher): this neighborhood, located on top of a big rock, is full of 16th to 18th centuries villas. Don’t miss the Chapelle de la Visitation, the cathedral, and the Palace
- The Monte Carlo Casino: a luxurious palace built by Charles Garnier in 1879
- The Exotic Garden
- The Oceanographic Museum
- The Palais Princier: the Prince’s Palace, you can visit part of it. Try to be there during the changing of the carabinieri
- The Monte Carlo district
To get back to Nice, take the bus from the Monaco bus station (about 30 minutes).
TRAVEL TIPS FOR NICE
Here are a few travel tips for your first trip to Nice, France.
How to Arrive in Nice
The easiest and fastest way to arrive in Nice is by flying. The international Nice Côte d’Azur Airport serves most European cities, North Africa, the Middle East, and some US destinations.
The airport is only 8km away from the city center. You can take the airport shuttle to get to the city or take the city bus which is way cheaper. You can also get there by train or bus. The train station is right in the center, and the bus terminal is at the airport. Both are great options if you’re not coming from too far.
How to Get Around in Nice
The region is well served by public transportation. You can easily get around by bus or train. For short distances, there’s no need to book in advance. You can also check out hop-on and hop-off tickets for Nice.
If you prefer driving, you can rent a car at the airport or the train station. Here are some tips for driving in France:
- Speed limits are 130 km/h (80 mph) on the highways (110 km/h if raining), 90 km/h outside of cities on regional roads, and 30 to 50 km/h in the cities.
- Most highways charge you when you exit.
- On highways, you can’t stay on the left lane. The left is only for passing.
- Gasoline is usually cheaper at supermarkets.
- Parking in city centers is never free. There’s usually one place on the street where you pay, get a receipt, and put it in your car. It’s usually free on Sundays and at night (check you’re not in a market zone). Sometimes you can only park for a couple of hours.
- When driving in Nice or around, don’t put any of your belongings on the seats, always under.
Where to Stay in Nice
The best area to stay in Nice is the city center. You should book as soon as you can, hotels in Nice often get fully booked. Here are a couple of options you can check out:
- Budget: Hôtel Ozz by Happyculture: nice hostel with 4 to 6-bed dorms, AC, lockers, and soundproof rooms. They also have a couple of private rooms. Check out rates here.
- Mid-range: Hotel Aria: artsy hotel, mixing contemporary decoration in a historic building, all rooms have AC and a cable TV, a buffet breakfast is available every day. Find out about prices and availability.
- Luxury: Hôtel Negresco: The Negresco is Nice’s most iconic 5-star hotel. There, ancient traditions and modernity combine to create a unique experience. You can find out about the rates and get more information here.
Best Time to Visit
Nice can be visited year-round. Most winters are chilly but not too cold. July and August are usually the hottest and most crowded months. If you want to enjoy the beach and warm weather without the hordes of tourists, try going from May to June or in September.
What to Eat in Nice (Vegetarian-Friendly)
- Socca: a type of pizza, only the dough is made of chickpea flour, and the toppings are different. There are tons of different options as to what’s on it.
- Panisse: also made of chickpea flour, they are usually fried and resemble polenta fries.
- Pissaladière: an onion pie, traditionally made with anchovies, but you can easily find one without it.
- Pan Bagnat: a sandwich made with a round bread, it typically is filled with Salade Niçoise, but you can find many different options.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THIS 3-DAY NICE ITINERARY
As you can tell by now, many of Nice’s best activities can be fit into a busy yet comfortable 3 days in Nice. I don’t blame you, though, if you fall in love with the country and decide to extend your trip (check out my one-week France itinerary for ideas). There is so much beauty to be seen in this part of the world. Enjoy it and make the most of it.
Heading to places nearby? Then check out my Provence post!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Julie has been traveling full-time since 2016 and is always on the lookout for great destinations and travel hacks.
She shares her best travel experiences on her blog, Julie, Around the Globe, and aims to inspire others to travel more and places less known.