The 5 Reasons Why People Visit Nice
If you’re flying into the French Riviera, you’ll most likely arrive to Nice’s airport on the coast. You might notice a sign announcing this is the “Gateway to the Côte d’Azur”, and it is!
Nice is the most famous tourist destination in France, aside from Paris. Rich in history, architecture, heritage, seafront, festivities, and many other surprises, this amazing spot on the French Riviera has quite a lot to offer its visitors, including possibly the best market in France.
Nice’s sprawling metropolis—the fifth largest in France—includes a vibrant old-town district with a down-home feel that’s not to be overlooked. Aside from a legacy shaped by artists and writers who came to visit and sometimes stayed (ahem, Matisse), Nice is well known for its cuisine—a Franco-Italian mashup that ditches butter for olive oil and veers heavy on the garlic, chard and tomatoes.
With its central location, an international airport, trains to almost everywhere, and plenty to do, Nice is a perfect place to stay while you’re exploring the region. Colorful and busy, Nice is a bit more casual than many of its ritzier neighbors. Set aside at least a day for the city itself, even if it’s your home base.
|Located on the southeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea in France, Nice has two large bays in its coastline. It’s near an enclosed bay, Villefranche-sur-Mer. The main region of the city is on the other curved bay, just to the west. Surrounded by the Alps, the city’s expanse begins from a flat beach and ascends into gentle rising hills in the French Riviera. |
Should you hanker for an island escape, there’s a five-hour ferry that shuttles back and forth to Corsica seven days a week.
Why People Visit Nice, France
There are many reasons why people visit Nice. For one, Nice can be an inexpensive destination compared to others on the French Riviera. Secondly, Nice has one of the warmest climates in the region: the area has about 330 days of sun per year!
Here are five more reasons why people visit Nice:
#1: The Beach
Nice is first-and-foremost a beach destination. It’s probably best known by images of the Promenade des Anglais , a beach-side boardwalk is a tourist attraction in itself. It is one of the most beautifully-paved seafront promenades in the world. This palm-lined Promenade has been written about by James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov and Ernest Hemingway.
With ornate 19th- and 20th-century edifices on one side and the ocean on the other, you can walk, hop in the water, keep walking and then repeat along this four-mile stretch. If the Opéra de Nice’s elaborate exterior captures your attention, stop inside for a 2pm tour after getting lunch at one of the many cafés and seaside restaurants that line the pebbly beach and make Nice the perfect location to experience the Mediterranean sun and the turquoise French Riviera sea.
On the beach, splash out on a chair at one of the many private beach clubs – the rocky shore isn’t exactly comfortable for laying out on a towel. Just before sunset, climb the stairs up to Castle Hill for panoramic views over the coastline and city below.
#2: The gastronomy & wine
There are many local specialties to be found in Nice, and the best way to sample them has to be in the Old Town. Here you will find “Pissaladière”, a pizza-like pastry with sweet onion and anchovy topping. “Les Petits Farcis Niçois”, baked peppers, courgettes, and courgette flowers stuffed with mince and rice, and of course the world-famous “Salade Niçoise”.
Nice has some of the best food markets and restaurants in the world. You can find many varieties of products like olives and olive oil, the wines of Bellet, the flowers of the Niçois Hills, and candied fruits. Their intense flavor is a testament to the richness of the land.
And if you’re into wine (and really, who isn’t?!) there are nearly 80 vineyards on the hillsides behind the seafront, producing some of France’s most prized bottles. Forget Napa! The French Riviera is the authentic epicenter of wine-making, and this is the best place in the world to tour wineries.
#3: The Festivals
Nice observes many festivals and holidays that attract and charm tourists. They help to give Nice a lively vibe. Some of them are Nice Carnival, Nice Jazz Festival, Chinese Lantern Festival, free concerts, beach festivals, music festivals, etc. And, of course, Christmas in Nice is a huge spectacle. See our list of events and festivals in Nice.
#4: The Sports
A center of major sporting events, Nice hosts many high-level competitions. Examples are the Paris-Nice cycling race, the international triathlon of Nice, The Nice Côte d’Azur Tennis Open, and The Martial Arts Festival.
In addition, this is one of the best places in the world for scuba diving, jet skiing, snorkeling, and other water sports.
#5: The History
Nice is full of historical buildings, ruins, and landmarks, and its history can be felt and explored through visiting them. Check out our guide to experiencing Nice’s history.
Nice’s historic neighborhood of Cimiez is calm and secluded, wafted by gentle sea breezes and blessed with incredible views. While visiting this town once favored by glamorous aristocrats, make sure to wander into old town for a pan bagnat at local-favorite, A Buteghinn’a.
Below is a list of the most famous historical attractions, all of which have a long and interesting history:
Castle Hill Park: This is one of Nice’s top tourist attractions. Phoenician Greeks found the city of Nike on this exact spot a few millennia ago. In medieval times, a castle, now missing, protected the area. Today, it is a large landscape park and gardens (dating back to 1829) with a grand fortification which retains much of its Medieval look.
The Old Town (Vieux Ville): With local markets and churches, it is here that you can observe and experience the traditional Nice way of life. It’s home to an impressive flower market, cafés serving socca (large chickpea crêpe, a local staple), and shops selling everything from tourist trinkets to cool vintage clothes.
Cimiez: Leafy Cimiez is an upscale residential area known its expansive park with a vast olive grove, the ruins of a Roman city, an archaeology museum and the Monastery of Cimiez. Elegant apartment buildings fill the area, including the regal late-1800s ‘Excelsior Regina Palace’. During the Belle Epoque, Cimiez became the favorite holiday resort for the Kings and Queens of Europe, including Victoria, Edward VII, George V, and Leopold II.
Notre Dame: This church is an impressive architectural landmark in Nice built in 1868. It is the largest Church in Nice, France. It has two square towers, both twenty-five meters high, in Gothic-style design.
Le Jardin Botanique: What this garden offers is more than beauty. It gives knowledge about the world of plants and flora of the continents. Created in 1983, it houses more than 3000 plant species on its 3.5 hectares with an open-air museum.
Cours Saleya Market: You can purchase fresh goods such as olives, cheese, herbs, and flowers here every morning. It ia also a Broconte (‘antique market’), where antiques and other collectibles are present. During summer nights it moonlights as an artisan market. Check out our guide to Nice’s best market.
Matisse Museum: A must-see is the Matisse Museum, housed in a magnificent 17th century mansion. Once home to the master himself, several of his major works are on display – both art lovers and the uninitiated alike will be captivated. Here, you can learn about the life and works of modern art master Henri Matisse.
Masséna Square: This local meetup square has a beautiful fountain, street performers, and uniquely checkered pavement. You can follow the main boulevard to shopping like the classic French department store Galeries Lafayette.
Russian Orthodox Cathedral: Tsar Alexander II inaugurated the construction of the Russian Cathedral in Nice, which was dedicated to his son, the successor of the Russian Empire, who died in Nice at the age of 21. The cathedral was conceived for the growing Russian community in Nice and its surrounding areas in the XIX century.
Fort du Mont-Alban: A military fort, its location is on the hill with the same name. It has a majestic panoramic scene. Westward, you can view Baie des Anges to the Esterel mountains. On the east, the scene starts from the bay of Villefranche that extends to Italian Riviera.
Place Garibaldi: It is the oldest and largest square in the city. Buildings with baroque layouts surround the square. You can find the statue of Garibaldi (the Italian revolutionary leader) in the center.
Museum of Fine Arts: The Museum of Fine Arts of Nice opened in 1928 in a former private residence which dates back to the late 19th century. The collections retrace the history of art from the 16th to the 20th century, with highlights referring to the works of Fragonard, Rodin, Rude, Ziem, Raffaelli, Boudin, Monet, Sisley, Van Dongen, Dufy, Cheret, Degas and plenty other artists.
Cimiez Monastery: A beautiful Franciscan monastery from the 800s filled with hundreds of items of art, immaculate gardens overlooking Nice, a museum, and Matisse’s grave. Originally founded in the 11th century by Benedictine monks, it was later turned into a Franciscan convent.
Check out our guide to the best art museums in Nice and along the French Riviera.
Nice: A Mediterranean Jewel
Nice, France is a real city of wonders and a must-see. One of the jewels on the Mediterranean coast, Nice is certainly worth a visit thanks to its wealthy heritage and contemporary atmosphere. It is a perfect combination of beaches and the gentle Mediterranean climate during the summer.