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Nice |© creative commons / Pixabay
Nice |© creative commons / Pixabay

Top Free Things to Do in Nice

Picture of Alex Ledsom
Updated: 10 November 2017

Nice is a popular tourist destination—after Paris, it has the highest number of hotel rooms of any French city. Unsurprisingly then, there’s a lot to do without spending any money.

Aside from Nice’s carnival (one of the biggest in the world) and the much-loved beaches, Nice has a lot to offer for free.

Play Queen Victoria on Boulevard Cimiez

At the end of the 19th century, people began to winter into Nice from all over Europe and beyond. The grand Boulevard Cimiez was laid out in 1880 and many major hotels were built to house the crowds, like the Grand Hotel the Majestic or The Excelsior Régina Palace, which Queen Victoria loved and where she stayed twice.

Boulevard Cimiez, Nice

Pay your respects at Cimiez Cemetery

The tree-lined streets of Cimiez were later home to many of Nice’s famous residents and the cemetery is a good place to pay homage to French painter, Matisse (who lived nearby in a villa that is now a museum to his life and work) and fellow painter, Raoul Dufy. Lots of British and U.S. diplomats were also buried in this wonderfully grand resting place.

Promenade like the English

When the English started to arrive to holiday in Nice, they wanted a boulevard along the coast that they could stroll along. After a particularly harsh winter, when lots of people were homeless, an English Reverand suggested funding it, and employed the homeless people to build it. The Promenade des Anglais was the result and is now one of the most famous boulevards in France. Stretching seven miles, it’s where all of Niçoise life hangs out.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

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The Promenade des Anglais |© stgeorgemr / Pixabay

Chill out on La Coulée Verte

From the seafront at the Promenade des Anglais, two very grand avenues (Avenue Félix Faure and Boulevard Jean Jaurès) sweep inland in a curve. The area between the two has been transformed into a green corridor (la coulée verte) where people picnic, kids play imaginatively on huge dinosaurs, and boat structures and where everyone watches the world go by.

La Coulée Verte, Nice

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La Coulée Verte, the green heart of Nice |© bogitw / Pixabay

Be kooky at Hotel Negresco

The kooky Hotel Negresco is one of Nice’s most iconic, from the décor to the uniforms. While there isn’t anything cheap about this place, you can take a peak inside for free. The Negresco pops up a lot in movies that take place on the Côte d’Azur.

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The Hotel Negresco |© hpgruesen / Pixabay

Climb Castle Hill

There used to be a working castle on the hill above Nice. It’s a perfect opportunity for panoramic shots of the town, a place to propose, have a picnic, or just watch the passing crowds as they climb the hill.

Castle Hill, Nice

Pay homage at Monument aux Morts

At the foot of Castle Hill, you’ll find this monument to local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. It’s 32 meters high and carved into the hillside. It was inaugurated in 1928 and designed by French architect, Roger Pierre Honoré Seassal. Nowadays, it’s where people meet up, where they come to reflect, and where they gaze out at the coastline.

Monument aux Morts de Rauba-Capeù, Quai Rauba Capeu, Nice, France

Whet your appetite at the Flower Market (Marché Saleya)

The flower market is an institution in Nice that’s free to get into. You can wander the rows of stripy-covered awnings, smelling the flowers, organic fruits, and vegetables produced by local farmers and artisans. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday (Monday is the antique market).

Nice’s Flower Market, Cours Saleya, Nice

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The Marché Saleya in Nice |© rolypolys / Pixabay

Hike Mont Boron

If you want a little hike, head out to Mont Boron, the hill to the east of the town center. You can swim on the way home or take the bus back.

Mont Boron, Nice

Watch the diving at La Réserve

La Réserve is a public beach which is popular with locals. It’s a fair walk out of town but worth it to watch the locals who jump into the sea from dilapidated diving boards. The authority has banned it but they still do it.

La Réserve, Nice

Wander the Old Town and Le Vieux Port (Old Port)

Like many of the coastal towns along the French Riviera, Nice’s Old Port is a must-see and forms the lifeblood of the city. It’s where people go to look at the boats. Then take the time to wander Nice’s pastel-colored houses and cobbled streets of Old Town. It might be touristy but it’s where you’ll find celebrated architecture and family-run restaurants that have been here for years.

Old Town, Nice

Old Port, Nice

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The old port in Nice |© ronaldepics / Pixabay

Learn Nice’s legends at Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate

Legend has it that in the 3rd century, a 15-year-old Palestinian girl refused to denounce Christianity. After her death, her body was blown by Angels across the Mediterranean Sea to Nice, where she became the patron saint. This cathedral pays homage to her and is one of the oldest and ornate places of worship in town.