Nice: the capital of the French Riviera

The Glamour of Nice and the French Riviera

Nice on the French Riviera is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and desirable cities on the south coast of France. No visit to the South of France is complete without spending at least a few days in Nice. The capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département, Nice was initially founded by the Greeks in the 4th century BC. Then the Romans had a settlement at Cimiez later ruined by Saracens. Nice began to thrive again in the Middle Ages, first under the Counts of Provence, then under the Italian Dukes of Savoy. Only unified with France in 1860, it retains a strong Italianate character, combining Italian temperament and lifestyle with French finesse and savoir-faire. From this date on, Nice was to be the winter capital of Europe, particularly as doctors had discovered that a mild climate helped in the treatment of respiratory disorders.

Arriving in Nice

Nice-Côte d'Azur Airport (NCE) on the French Riviera
Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE).

Located in the beautiful south of Europe and in the south-east of France, the country’s fifth-largest city with almost 350,000 inhabitants is very easy to reach.  Nice-Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE) is five miles (3km) from Vieux-Nice, the city’s historic city centre. It is of course particularly convenient to travel to Nice by plane. Besides, you will have a fantastic full view of the beautiful city in the heart of the Côte d’Azur just before landing. You can find cheap flights from most European cities for less than €100.  If you are not travelling by car but would like to explore surrounding towns, a rental car is highly recommended.

What to See in Nice on the French Riviera

Parc de la Colline du Château

East of the old town of Nice with its labyrinth of exotic plants and an overwhelming view, Le Chàteau provides unforgettable memories of your holiday in Nice. The city’s fortress was destroyed by the French in the early 18th century when Nice belonged to Savoy.

Promenade des Anglais

Any visit to Nice begins along this splendid palm-tree-lined boulevard stretching 5 kilometres from just outside the airport along the Baie des Anges, joining up with the Quai des Etats-Unis, to Le Chàteau, the rock that cuts Nice off from its harbour.

Cathedral Orthodoxe Russe

This magnificent pink and grey Russian Orthodox church crowned by six gleaming green onion-shaped cupolas was built by Tsar Nicholas II in 1903 in memory of his son Nicolas who is buried in the grounds.

Cathedrale Ste Reparate

Nice’s beautiful baroque cathedral was built by local architect Jean Andre Guibera in 1650 and is dedicated to the city’s patron saint Reparate, who was martyred in Asia Minor at the age of 15.


Cimiez is a district of luxury villas and palatial residences on the low hills overlooking the city.

Nice on the French Riviera

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice

Once home to a Ukrainian princess, this beautiful residence built in the style of 17th-century Genoese palaces, is home to Nice’ s Museum of Fine Arts. The central theme here are paintings of the 19th century. Modern art is scarcely represented except the Dufy collection, which is exhibited on a rotating basis.

Massena Palace Museum of Art and History

Palais Massena was built in the original Empire style in 1901 by Prince Victor Massena, Napoleons ruthlessly ambitions military genius.

Place Garibaldi

Overlooked by ochre facades and airy arcades, Place Garibaldi is reminiscent of Turin. The 18th century Place Garibaldi, on the northern edge of Veux Nice, is close to the church of St-Martin-St-Augustin where Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi was baptized.

Musée du Palais Lascaris

Palais Lascaris is a 17th-century mansion now restored as an elegant museum complete with a pharmacy and a splendid open staircase in the Genoese style, frescoed ceilings, Flemish tapestries and rococo silver inlaid doors.

Nice on the French Riviera

Beaches & bays around Nice

The crystal-clear waters off Nice will make you want to jump right in.  There are 15 private and 20 public beaches. Below are the most beautiful places to swim and relax.

  • Nice city beach: from the Colline du Château to the port Nice Carras, the city beach stretches along the coast for five kilometres. Although perfect for a quick refreshment, the city beaches are covered in pebbles and are rather full during the summer months.
  • Plage des Marinières: if you want to lie in the sun and be away from the hustle and bustle, this beautiful beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer is perfect. A mixture of fine gravel and sand, the shimmering turquoise sea and the view of the surroundings are guaranteed to impress you.
  • Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula: on the small peninsula, you will find many magical bays. Here you are surrounded by the picturesque landscape of the Côte d’Azur, boats bob in front of you, and the atmosphere couldn’t be more beautiful.
  • Plage des Fourmis: In the charming village of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, there is a beach, which borders the peninsula and offers a breathtaking view when sunbathing. Besides, you can stroll wonderfully through the place, admire the yellow-orange, plant-covered houses and have lunch in one of the charming restaurants.

Where to Stay in Nice on the French Riviera

The Côte d’Azur is particularly popular with the “rich and famous”, and you will find numerous 4 to 5-star hotels in Nice with a rooftop pool.  There are also simpler hotels in Nice or even much cheaper alternatives in the neighbouring towns of Villefranche-sur-Mer or Beaulieu-sur-Mer.

Hotel recommendations

Luxury: the most celebrated building along the Promenade is the Hôtel Negresco. The interior is full of surprises, and sitting on the terrace with a drink or ice cream is an enjoyable way to admire the Hotel’s Belle Epoque architecture.

Deluxe: the Hôtel La Pérouse is located right on the Promenade des Anglais on the beach of Nice at the foot of the fortress mountain.

Comfort: renovated in 2019, Hotel de France is located in the heart of Nice in the Carré d’Or district and just behind the Negresco and the Villa Massena

Where to eat in Nice on the French Riviera

L’Escalinada – 22, rue Pairolière

L’Escalinada has had an excellent reputation for 60 years of traditional cuisine typical of Nice. Everything is homemade: the gnocchi, the vegetable beignets and the filled sardines. A 3-course menu is available from just € 15, and if you get a table on the pretty terrace, the visit to the restaurant becomes a real Mediterranean experience with a touch of Italy. The restaurant offers both lunch and dinner, reservations are recommended.

Oliviera – 8 bis, Rue du Collet

If you like olives, you should remember this shop because there are wonderful Mediterranean dishes prepared with love by the Lebanese owner and his wife. The home-pressed olive oil tastes great in fresh salads and with pasta, which you can find there on the menu. Not expensive and not touristy.

Les Sens – 37, rue Pastorelli

All your senses will be challenged here because there are special taste combinations and an extraordinary presentation of the dishes. The atmosphere is relaxed and prices affordable. Reservations are advisable.

Le Plongeoir – 60, Boulevard Franck Pilatte

The food here is reason enough to kidnap your loved ones to Nice for a weekend. Le Plongeoir was built on top of the old diving tower at the harbour. Open for lunch all year round except in December. During the summer months, dinner is also served. Reservation is necessary.

What places have you visited in Nice? What do you recommend?

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