Top Free Things to Do in Nice

Nice |© creative commons / Pixabay
Nice |© creative commons / Pixabay
Photo of Alex Ledsom
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

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

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

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)

Map View
The Marché Saleya in Nice
The Marché Saleya in Nice | © rolypolys / Pixabay
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).

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.

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.

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