The Top Things to See and Do in Nice, France

Here's our pick of top things you have to do in Nice | © Jim McDougall/flickr
Here's our pick of top things you have to do in Nice | © Jim McDougall/flickr
Photo of Alex Ledsom
26 January 2017

The south of France has a reputation for the high life and Nice doesn’t disappoint in terms of culture, the views, the scenery and things to do. In addition to the main sights make sure these things are on your bucket list when you next visit. They’ll turn an amazing trip into an extraordinary one.

Swim in the Sea

Swimming in the sea or sitting by it, is a must-do in Nice | © Mark Goebel/flickr

No visit to the south of France would be complete without at least a quick dip. The locals are unlikely to go in the sea except at the height of summer (other times of the year are considered too cold) but if you’re used to swimming in colder water (in England, for example), then the water is wonderful from about March until sometimes as late as November. Find a private beach to hire a lounger in relative comfort with waiter service or choose a more natural (but maybe more crowded) public beach. Don’t forget the suntan lotion.

Eat Socca

Socca is the local dish, made of chickpeas and cooked in the same way as crepes. It’s eaten in the same way as a pancake – as a healthier alternative to fast food – rolled up and wrapped in paper. It’s a great way to fill up, while you wander around the town looking for your next meal. Socca booths are all over town, but especially at Nice’s flower market on every day of the week but Monday (before 1.30pm for food).

Nice’s Flower Market, Cours Saleya, Nice

A visit to Nice should include the local delicacy of "socca" - chickpea pancake| © CucombreLibre/flickr

A visit to Nice should include the local delicacy of “socca” – chickpea pancake| © CucombreLibre/Flickr

Drink the Local Wine

The south of France has long been known and loved for its grapes. This is rosé wine territory, although the locals might think it a huge “faux pas” to continue drinking it through winter, when most switch to red (or at least white) wine. Head to Coco et Rico to try the local wines (organic available) behind the Promenade des Anglais.

Coco et Rico, 3 Rue Dalpozzo, Nice

Dine Far Above the Crowds

Nothing will make you feel more special than heading up to eat lunch or dinner on the top of one of the hotels along the Promenade des Anglais. Lounge by the pools and then mooch over to your (pre-reserved) table on the balcony, overlooking the thousands of people on the Prom below. If you want to blow the budget, try Le Chantecler, the two-star Michelin restaurant at the kooky Hotel Negresco. Try the 3e restaurant at the Hyatt Regency for a fine dining experience but where the waiters are a little less formal. Or maybe try the poolside lounge restaurant, La Terrasse, at Le Méridien, where you can get a burger cooked to perfection (albeit still not cheap). It’s worth a drink in one of them at least, if not just to get the exclusive sensation of being on top of the world.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

See Some Art (Matisse or Chagall)

Many painters like Picasso, Van Gogh and Cézanne have flocked to the region because of its clear skies and magic light. Matisse and Chagall made Nice their home for large periods of their life and the Musée Matisse and Musée Chagall are only a Boulevard apart (about a 15-minute walk).

Musée Matisse, 164 Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, Nice, +33 (0)4 93 81 08 08

Opening hours: Mon, Wed–Sun (closed Tues). 10am–6pm (June 23–Oct 15). 11am–6pm (Jan 2–Jan 22/Oct 16–Dec 31). Closed January 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, December 25.

Musée Chagall, 36 Avenue Dr Ménard, 06000 Nice, +33 (0)4 93 53 87 20

Opening hours: Mon, Wed–Sun (closed Tues). 10am–5pm (Nov–Apr). 11am–6pm (May–Oct). Closed January 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, December 25.

Henri Matisse in 1933 - You can visit much of his work at his Villa in Nice | © Carl Van Vechten/WikiCommons

Celebrate jazz

Jazz came to the region in the 1920s, brought over by American expats who came to live on the Côte D’Azur, to write or paint or party. Many of them, like F Scott Fitzgerald, hired big houses along the coast where they held ostentatious parties and invited famous US jazz bands to play. Nowadays, you can continue the tradition by visiting many local jazz bars and clubs, visiting during the Jazz festival (July) or having lunch at one of the big hotels that used to be second home to these people who called themselves the “Lost Generation”, such as the Hotel du Cap or the Hotel Belles Rives in nearby Juans-les-Pins. (Fitzgerald wrote at the Belles Rives and used the Hotel du Cap as inspiration for his books).

Party at Nice’s Carnival

Every February, thousands of people descend on Nice for the annual celebration that traditionally comes before lent (when everyone is supposed to eat up all the fattening things in their cupboards before fasting). Join in the festivities, processions, pageants, flower battles and craziness by dressing up (fancy dress isn’t obligatory but it is encouraged). Book well in advance on the website and read our guide to the carnival here.

Nice's carnival is one of the biggest in the world | © gabriela szekely/flickr

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