Nice is the most Italian city in France, which means a mixture of both cultures with the best of each of them. You will find warm people like in Italy and the luxury of the French Riviera. Nice is a centric point to move along French Riviera or to explore the Italian Cinque Terre. We planned a weekend there with all the top touristic points and some hidden secrets to discover which I would like to share in this blog post.
Regarding budget, Nice is affordable for all pockets depending on your plans. Flights to Nice from other European countries are cheap with low-cost airlines, and lodging and food are of good quality-price ratio. This weekend is thought for couples, friends, and solo travelers who want to enjoy a fun time in Nice.
We definitely recommend booking your accommodation in the city center. Lodging isn’t expensive, so you can stay close to the most important places. Our favorites are Hotel Ozz and Hotel Berne, around 100€ per 2 nights. Both are very close to Avenue Jean Médecin which is the principal way. The best time to visit Nice is June because it is then that you can visit Provence Nord which is full of lavender flowers in that month.
Our planned weekend begins on Friday evening. The transfer from the airport to the city center is easy to do by public transport, there’s a direct tram to Jean Médecin Avenue. It only takes 30 minutes and from there you can walk to your hotel in case you choose to stay in the city center. You can buy a 10-trips ticket at the airport; I assure you that you will use them all!
After the check in, you can take a walk in the area near your hotel. Walk down Jean Medecin Avenue to Rue de France. There you will find a wide range of restaurants with nice terraces to choose from. We suggest you have a cocktail in “Bclub Rooftop” close to Massena Square.
For Saturday, we have planned to discover the city. First, we need to put something in our stomach. As we love cakes, our favorite place is Hug Café, they bake delightful cakes made of organic ingredients and serve amazing cappuccinos. After this, the Free Walking Tour is waiting for us in the middle of Massena Square. It is the best way to get to know the touristic points of the city. The first part of the tour happens in the old neighborhood where you will visit the principal monuments and buildings, like Santa Reparata Church and the Notredame Basilica.
The last place we visit on the tour is Marche aux Fleurs in the Cours Saleya. It is an astonishing square in the Vielle Ville, which is a flower market during the day and a spacious terrace with bars and restaurants all around the square at night. We suggest you choose one of the restaurants there, for example our preferred “The Bocca” which impresses with its beautiful terrace on the roof.
The plan for the afternoon shows a van tour through some small and charming villages in the South Provence. For that we recommend you to book the tour in advance on any online platform, for example on Civitatis. The tour takes around 5 hours, and you will visit stone villages like Grasse, Sant Paul de Vence and Sant Juliene and Gordes. All of them are super picturesque you will get plenty of instagrammable pictures.
Grasse is well known for its parfume industry, with companies like Molinard, Galimard and Fragonard. The latter is also one of our stops during the tour. This company is based in Grasse since 1926 as a handmade soaps and perfume manufacturer with lavender perfume as their best seller. The town is built on the top of a hill which gives a charming atmosphere to the visit. From 3rd to 5th of August, you can also visit the Jasmin Festival that takes place in Grasse.
After this, we make a short stop at the Waterfalls of Saut du Loup where take some beautiful pictures of the imposing waterfall hidden in the forest. The next stop of the tour is Saint Paul de Vence. It was a point of inspiration for many artists during the 20th century like Picasso, Miró or Matisse, who has an art museum in Nice as well. It was in Restaurant Colombe d’Or where all these artists spent their time enjoying the bohemian atmosphere of the place. That’s also the reason why nowadays the town is full of small ateliers and art galleries.
Our last stop is Gordes, which, as soon as you arrive, will remind you of “The Beauty and the Beast” with all its stone houses decorated with colored window shutters. The main colors are grey stone and light blue, with terracotta roofs. This color combination makes this town the perfect Instagram photo set. Every corner is full of history, which makes you feel like traveling back to the Medieval age. The most touristic points are the Medieval Castle and San Fermin Church, but don’t forget to visit the old butcher’s shops and to buy some foodie souvenir. Gordes is a little town that will steal your heart for sure!
The tour guides will drop you off you right in front of your hotel, where you can have a shower and relax a little bit before going out for dinner. After this, Gare du Sud is open for you until 23.00. Gare du Sud is an old station reconverted into a food market with lovely restaurants and a shared space to have lunch. There is a mix of different food cultures you can taste and a great atmosphere for a memorable Saturday night.
For Sunday, we have a relaxing itinerary in mind for you. The breakfast in Moka-kfe in Massena square with the sunshine of the Sunday morning is the best possible start into the day. After that, we suggest you to go up to the Colline du Chateau, it is a nice walk to the Sainte Marie de Cimiez Cathedral. From there you will enjoy amazing views of the coast and a hidden waterfall, followed by a walk to the old Port Lympia which is full of old and colorful little boats. Close to the Port, we suggest you to have a drink in Le Plogenoir. It is quite an expensive restaurant, but here you can enjoy breathtaking views while sipping an ice-cold cocktail.
For lunch we have something different in mind. If you have the chance, you can take the local bus to Villefranche-sur-Mer. It is a charming fisherman village with a little port surrounded by small and cozy restaurants. Our favorite here is “Dry Restaurant” where you can taste the local fish in a modern cuisine, managed by young people with lots of energy and positive vibes.
Afterwards, it’s time to return to the city with the same bus that is going the way back to the Port Lympia. From there, we highly recommend you walk to the highest point of the promenade where you can enjoy the incredible sunset at the coast and take some pictures in front of the “#ILoveNice” sculpture with the sun behind. Continue your walk along the Promenade des Anglais to marvel at the famous blue chairs and the monument of them, La Chaise Bleue of SAB. If you decide to stay for the weekend, take one last look around and memorize the beautiful views, because now it is time to pick up the luggage and return to the airport. But in case you have one or two more days, here’s what you can do:
Extra day 1: If you are planning to visit Nice and the Provence in June and July, the time of lavender blossom, you can book a different tour for about a day to visit the North Provence. But if you have the chance to rent a car, we highly recommend doing the tour on your own. In this region, the best villages to visit are Castellane, Moustiers Sainte-Marie, Valensole, Oraison and Digne-les-Bains. Valensole is the flagship for the lavender fields and you can find interesting guided tours in the town, all of them done by local people who work there.
You should also make sure to stop in some of the small shops which you will find on your way to buy some handcrafts for your loved ones. If you need some inspiration, a small cloth bag of lavender is always a good souvenir to perfume the closet. Returning to Nice, you can take the opportunity and visit Gorges du Verdon. The river Verdon has molded the gorge in thousands of years, a narrow space between the mountains that makes the place look so marvelous. This spot is also perfect to do some adventure sports like kayaking or hiking.
Extra day 2: Another activity we can recommend, and totally different from all the others, is a sailing trip along the Riviera coast. It is a very relaxed way to spend a day enjoying the breathtaking views of the French Riviera. It is a bit expensive compared to the other activities, but if you love sailing, it is a good way to spend the day. Try to check if lunch and drinks are included, if not, the best way to save some money is to prepare a picnic nest.
There are many such tours available, but the most popular ones are through Cannes, Antibes and the left side of the coast. Instead of this, we prefer the other one, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Saint Jean-Cap Ferrat, Monaco and Menton. These villages and towns have a different charm than the bigger ones like Cannes. In fact, the one that we liked the least on that tour was Monaco, but the others are really nice and picturesque.
These two extra activities will make your stay in Nice complete, but as we mentioned before, one weekend is definitely enough to enjoy the highlights of the city and its surroundings and have a great and relaxing time at the French Riviera!