Whether you prefer palm-lined beaches, marvelling over art masterpieces, or channelling your inner celebrity on board a luxury yacht—Nice might be the most glamorous of all destinations awaiting rugby fans. If you’re visiting Nice for the France Rugby World Cup 2023, why not plan a few days before or after match day to take in the highlights of the French Riviera capital? To get you started, here’s our pick of the top 10 things to do in Nice.
1. Take a Walking Tour of Vieux Nice
Broad leafy plazas and sunny boulevards lined with tall, pastel-coloured townhouses lead the way through Vieux Nice, the city’s atmospheric Old Town. Architectural gems await around every corner, whether it’s the Baroque frescoes of the Chapelle de la Miséricorde, the collonaded façade of the Palais Lascaris, or the wedding-cake-esque Nice Opera House.
Take a peek at the gilt and marble interiors of the Gésu Church, stroll around the lively fish market on St. Francois Square, and admire the grandiose Apollo Fountain on Place Masséna. End your walking tour at Place Rossetti, crowned by the 17th-century Sainte Reparate Cathedral, where you can take your pick of terrace cafés or purchase a scoop (or several) from the legendary Fenocchio ice cream parlour and enjoy it by the central fountain.
2. Stroll Along the Promenade des Anglais
Nice’s seven-kilometre-long paved Promenade des Anglais (English Promenade) sweeps along the seafront west of the Old Town in a chain of luxury resorts, golden beaches, and ocean lookouts. Laid out in the 19th century by wealthy English expats (hence the name), it boasts the best views in town and serves as the backdrop for the legendary Nice Carnival parade, the largest carnival celebrations in France.
Start out from the Colline de Château and set out along ‘The Prom’ on foot, by bike, or—for the more adventurous—by Segway. Duck inland to meander between the palm trees of the Jardin Albert 1er with its monumental arch, pass the opulent 5-star Hyatt Regency and Negresco hotels, or slip down to the beachside to sink your toes into the sand.
3. Admire the Views from Castle Hill
Perched at the southeastern edge of the Old Town and the Promenade des Anglais, the Colline de Château or ‘Castle Hill’ is Nice’s highest point. Challenge yourself to climb the more than 300 steps to the summit (there’s also a lift if you don’t fancy the walk), and you’ll be rewarded with a glorious view over the city, port, and beaches, stretching along the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges) and out to the distant mountains.
Set aside plenty of time to explore the hilltop park, where you can climb the Bellandra Tower for an even more impressive view, admire the artificial waterfall, or enjoy a drink with a view at the park café. Just don’t waste time searching for the castle—the hill’s namesake fortress was destroyed by Louis XIV back in 1706.
4. Cool Off With a Swim in the Mediterranean
With over 300 sunny days a year, any day can be a beach day in Nice, and there are plenty to choose from. More than four miles of sand and shingle beaches and gleaming turquoise waters hug the shore of the Promenade des Anglais, while rocky coves and swimming bays south of the Old Port provide spots to cool off and enjoy water sports. You’ll find both public beaches (free of charge) and private beaches (where you’ll be charged a fee for a sun lounger and parasol) in Nice.
Most of Nice’s urban beaches are pebbly, so beach lovers might prefer a day trip to neighbouring Villefranche-sur-Mer, where the Plage des Marinières and Plage de l’Ange Gardien are family favourites. An added bonus: this is one of the few French Riviera towns with no private beaches, so you can lay out your beach towel wherever you choose.
5. Smell the Roses at Nice’s Flower Market
Fresh blooms from the Riviera hills brighten up the stalls of Nice’s famous Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market), held along Cours Saleya in the heart of the Old Town. Vendors have been selling flowers at the street market for more than a hundred years, and the tradition continues on with daily markets held from Tuesday through Sunday.
Even if you’re not looking to buy, come to soak up the atmosphere, admire the rainbow of geraniums, dahlias, and fuchsias as you stroll around the open-air market stalls, or pick up some gardening tips from the seasoned stall-holders. The best time to visit is in the morning, when food and produce stalls join the flower stands and the air is swirling with scents.
6. Be Inspired By Art Masterpieces at Nice’s Museums
From Picasso to Monet, many of France’s most revered artists drew inspiration from the luminous landscapes of the French Riviera, and Nice’s art legacy is on display in its many museums. Top of the to-do list for art lovers are the Henri Matisse Museum, housing the world’s largest collection of the impressionist’s work, and the Marc Chagall National Museum, designed by the artist himself and home to works including the Resistance, Resurrection, Liberation triptych.
If that’s not enough to get your creative juices flowing, there’s also the MAMAC (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), the Jules Chéret Fine Arts Museum, and the Museum of Art and History, housed in the Belle Époque mansion of Massena Palace.
7. Explore the Cimiez Neighbourhood
If you’re visiting the Matisse Museum and Marc Chagall Museum, take the time to explore the surrounding Cimiez neighbourhood. One of Nice’s most historic and affluent residential areas, its elegant avenues are embroidered with Belle Epoque mansions, ancient Roman ruins, and stylish restaurants.
Wander through the landscaped gardens of the 16th-century Cimiez Monastery, admire the grand Régina Palace where Queen Victoria once stayed, and see traces of the former Roman arena amid the olive groves at Les Arènes de Cimiez.
8. Marvel at Nice’s Most Unique Landmark
While the Promenade des Anglais nods to the French Riviera’s British expats, the city’s most unique landmark, the Nice Russian Orthodox Cathedral, pays homage to its long-standing links with the Russian imperial family. Revered as one of the most important Orthodox cathedrals outside of Russia, it’s also a banquet of flamboyant architecture that could have been plucked straight out of St. Petersburg.
Marvel at the cathedral’s ornate exterior with its characteristic onion-shaped domes capped with gilded crosses and its striking red-brick façade embellished by intricate mosaics. Built in 1912 and recently restored, you can also head inside to admire its richly decorated interiors.
9. Taste Mediterranean Flavours
Niçoise cuisine is infused with Mediterranean flavours, and no visit to the capital of the French Riviera would be complete without sampling the region’s specialities. Start with the city’s street food snack of choice, socca (chickpea-flour pancakes), followed by its close relative, panisse, fried ‘potatoes’ also made with chickpea flour.
A classic Niçoise salad is a menu staple, but foodies will also want to try pissaladière, a pizza-like flatbread topped with caramelised onions, olives, and anchovies; daube Niçoise, a braised beef stew; fougasse bread; and perennial favourite ratatouille, which also hails from the region.
10. Cruise the French Riviera
There are few places more idyllic to lounge on the sun deck of a luxury yacht than the French Riviera. Nice is ideally situated for exploring the beaches and villages of the Côte d’Azur, but if you only have time for one day trip, the best views are from the water. As the biggest port along the Riviera, you’ll be spoilt for options—rent your own motorboat, join a catamaran or sailboat tour, or charter a private yacht and join the jet set along the Mediterranean coast.
Cruise around Villefranche bay and the rocky peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, hop off to see the red carpet in Cannes, admire the dazzling yachts of Antibes, or relax on the beach at St. Tropez. You could even sail over to Monaco to drive the legendary Monte Carlo Grand Prix circuit and try your luck at the world-famous casino.
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