Often regarded as one of the jewels of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Nice has plenty to offer even during the briefest of visits. Indeed, 24 hours is just enough time to sample some of its bustling seaside cafés while soaking up its charming French architecture and spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea.
The city’s vibrant old town, known as Vieille Ville, is easily Nice’s most popular tourist destination, thanks to the nostalgic charm of its twisting cobblestone streets as well as its proximity to the Mediterranean coastline. However, it is more than possible to visit this historic area and beyond in just 24 hours. So, if you are visiting the French Riviera and only have one day to spend in Nice, here’s how to ensure you get the most out of your short séjourn in this seaside city.
Visit Castle Hill
Start the morning with a walk towards Nice’s Castle Hill, where, confusingly, you won’t actually come across a castle. Either ride the elevator up the hill or if you are feeling a bit more energetic, climb a staircase to the top. Here, you’ll find a beautiful cascading artificial waterfall and an observation deck, which is the perfect place to watch as the sun rises over the city. From this hillside spot, snap a few pictures of Nice’s world-famous Promenade des Anglais as well as the old port with its orange rooftops and cathedrals, before heading to the Castle Hill café. Here on the top floor, you can enjoy a morning coffee before heading back down to the city.
Pro tip: Try and visit Castle Hill on a clear day so you can fully appreciate the city’s stunning panoramas.
Dine on traditional Niçoise dishes
After working up an appetite hiking up and down Castle Hill, make your way into Garibaldi Square for a bite to eat. As Nice is so close to the Italian border, many of the city’s traditional dishes are a fusion of French and Italian cuisine. Try local specialities such as socca (a chickpea pancake), ratatouille (a stewed melange of Mediterranean vegetables), pissaladière (a delicious pizza-style pastry) and les farcis (stuffed peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables). Chez René Socca is a great option, which is loved by Nice’s residents and visitors alike. This small restaurant serves up traditional local food, but almost always has a line out the door; however, it’s worth the wait. Wherever you end up getting a bite in Garibaldi Square, bear in mind that most restaurants stop serving lunch around 2pm.
Explore Nice’s historic old town Vieille Ville
After sampling a traditional lunch in the picturesque Garibaldi Square, walk a short distance to the Old Town of Nice (Vieille Ville). Get lost in the maze of winding narrow streets, and discover a host of charming restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries located here. It is also worth heading over to Place Massena, the busiest square in the city. Many of Nice’s main attractions are here, including great shopping along the Avenue Jean Médecin and the Cours Saleya (the fresh fruit and flower market). Be sure to stop for a midday pick-me-up at Maison Auer, one of the oldest bakeries in Nice.
Soak up the sun and sea at Promenade des Anglais
Arguably among the most famous stretches of seafront in the world, Promenade des Anglais is a 7km (4mi) stretch of golden coastline that is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach on the French Riviera. Here, you can rent a sunbed or umbrella and spend the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun and having a dip in the sea. Alternatively, you can rent roller skates, scooters or bikes and work up an appetite for dinner along the dedicated bike lanes that stretch the length of the Baie des Anges.
Pro tip: Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase along the beach; however, consuming your own drinks is strictly prohibited.
Get your fill of seafood fare
After a relaxing afternoon in the sun, head inland again to the legendary Café de Turin, located in Garibaldi Square. This restaurant is one of the oldest in the city and serves up a selection of delicious and local seafood dishes. Choose from a variety of specialities, including sea urchins, oysters, fresh pasta and croquettes, all in a laid-back atmosphere on a lively outdoor patio space.
Enjoy a lazy evening at Hotel Negresco
If you fancy a nightcap, hop on a bike or take a pleasant stroll through the Old Town and order a drink at Hotel Negresco. Dating back to 1913, this grand beachfront hotel boasts a carousel-themed bistro with a terrace, and for unobstructed views across Nice and over the sea below, visit its rooftop bar, which is the perfect place to round off your city break with a cocktail or a glass of wine in hand. After a long day of sightseeing, relax to the sounds of Hotel Negresco’s live jazz, soul or Latin tunes.