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Nice Attractions - Things to Do - Day Trips in Nice

Nice Top Attractions - Things to Do in Nice

OVERVIEW OF NICE ATTRACTIONS

The city is called Nice la Belle (Nissa La Bella in Niçard), which means Nice the Beautiful, which is also the title of the unofficial anthem of Nice, written by Menica Rondelly in 1912. The area of today's Nice contains Terra Amata, an archaeological site which displays evidence of a very early use of fire. Around 350 BC, Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement and called it Nikaia, after Nike, the goddess of victory.[3] Through the ages, the town has changed hands many times. Its strategic location and port significantly contributed to its maritime strength. For years it was a dominion of Savoy, then became part of France between 1792 and 1815, when it was returned to Piedmont-Sardinia until its reannexation by France in 1860.

Top Nice Attractions - Paris Day Trips

Castle Hill (Free)

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This hill offers breathtaking views over the city, out to the Alps and over the Med. You ascend via over one hundred steps, an invigorating climb which rewards you with a peaceful rest area and lookout points. Alternatively, there is a free “Art Deco” elevator. You can discover the remains of Nice Castle, but some imagination is required as this once mighty citadel was almost completely dismantled by the soldiers of King Louis XIV in 1706. However, it is easy to see why a spot with such all-encompassing views was chosen as a defensive position. The hill also features a spectacular waterfall, pine trees, a children’s playground, and a small cafe. The cemetery includes the grave of Guiseppe Garibaldi. There are many other colourful and delightful touches such as mosaics and an abundance of flowers and greenery. Sunset is beautiful seen from the hill, but bear in mind the gates close at 8pm in summer.
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Promenade du Paillon (Free)

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A delightful addition to the city of Nice, Promenade du Paillon was opened on 26th October 2013, replacing the old bus station which was widely viewed as an eyesore. The attraction stretches for 1.2km from the Promenade des Anglais (link) at the sea and up into the heart of Nice. There are numerous water features, including a “water mirror” covering 3000m² with many fountains that spurt up at random intervals - great fun for the kids and even adults on a hot day! There is also an extensive and innovative children’s playground, featuring wooden animal sculptures. Fine mist sprays allow the option of cooling off without getting totally soaked. There is also a lot of greenery, with 1600 trees, 6000 shrubs and 50000 perennial plants. The promenade is named after the River Paillon that once flowed here but was covered up over a one hundred year period due to the frequency of floods.
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Musée National Marc Chagall (Paid)

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This museum features many beautiful paintings by the renowned artist Marc Chagall. It focuses on his religion-themed artwork, including his series of seventeen large paintings depicting the Biblical Message, which illustrate Genesis, Exodus and the Song of Songs. In addition, there are over 400 other paintings, gouaches, drawings and pastels. The museum has the largest Chagall collection in the world, housed in an architecturally interesting building and with a beautiful, peaceful garden. It opened in 1973 and the artist himself oversaw the layout of his work and directed the design of the garden which was built by Henri Fish. Chagall contributed the mosaic overlooking the pond and the blue stained glass windows in the concert hall. There are audioguides available to help you understand more about the work and the artist, as well as a cinema room with a film about his life. Refreshments are available at the coffee shop.
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Old Town (Free)

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Known locally as Vieux-Nice, the old town is a charming maze of cobbled streets, cafes serving delicious authentic cuisine, and interesting old buildings. It’s a great place to just have a wander, people watch, and see what you can discover. There is a great atmosphere which is cheerful and friendly, especially in the summer months. One of the main thoroughfares is the Cours Selaya, which runs adjacent to the sea. If you come in the morning you will find the market in full swing. There are always flowers, but also fresh fruit and vegetables and general bric-a-brac depending on the day. The Cours is also lined with a selection of restaurants where you can sit outside and soak up the scene on a sunny day. There is an array of shops and galleries in Vieux-Nice and you’ll also find it remains cool due to the shade and a natural ventilation system, making it a great place to relax.
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Promenade des Anglais (Free)

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A visit to the Promenade des Anglais alongside the beautifully blue water of the Mediterranean is a must on any trip to Nice. Walk, jog, cycle, skate, or just chill out on the beach - whatever you do, it’s the ideal place to relax and soak up the seaside ambience of la Baie des Anges. Lines of palm trees add to the idyllic atmosphere. There are also many restaurants and it’s very romantic to sit at one of these and enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine. The promenade’s name derives from the fact that Nice was a popular winter destination for the English in the 18th century, seeking the milder climes of Southern France. It was their idea to construct the walkway, and used the labour of a migration of beggars who had come south to Nice one particularly cold winter. The promenade was founded by the Reverend Lewis Way and was later expanded by the citizens of Nice.
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Côte d’Azur Observatory (Paid)

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Located on Mont Gros to the east of Nice, this fascinating observatory straddles both the past and future as the 19th century building is architecturally very interesting, but the institution remains on the cutting edge of astronomical research. Built in 1881 by Charles Garnier of Paris Opéra fame, the dome was designed by Gustave Eiffel (and remains Europe’s biggest sliding dome), and the telescope was at that time the largest and highest in the world. The observatory is available to visit via guided tour, and it’s very interesting to see all the historical instruments. Tours take place three times a week and can be booked via the website. The location also offers incredible panoramas over the city of Nice, the Promenade des Anglais (link) and the Baie des Anges. The tour also takes in forest trails around the observatory, and it is an area of great natural beauty with wild animal and plant life.
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Place Masséna (Free)

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Place Masséna is the heart of the city of Nice and is a lovely place to relax with a coffee, soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere, and enjoy the delightful sight of the fountains. The plaza often plays hosts to concerts, processions and other festivities, and it’s quite likely that you’ll see street performers. The architecture consists of very attractive red-fronted Italian buildings. The sea is visible from the square, and it is a gateway to both the Promenade des Anglais (link) and the Old Town (link). The Place is bordered by palm trees and pines. What could be better than enjoying an al fresco lunch in the sunshine or moonlight at one of the many restaurants before heading off to explore the rest of Nice. Since its origins almost 200 years ago, Place Masséna has come to symbolise the vibrant and welcoming identity of Nice. It’s also a transport hub for the city with two tram stations located here.
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Parc Phoenix (Paid)

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A fantastic place to spend the day, the Parc Phoenix features an abundance of animal and plant life. The main part of the park is contained in a huge greenhouse which has an inner pool and hosts swans, pelicans, ducks and turtles, as well as a wealth of fascinating flowers. Six different tropical and subtropical climates are represented. Other animals within the park include crocodiles, terrapins, iguanas and bats, and there is also an insect house, an aquarium and an aviary. Kids will be endlessly entertained, not only by the animals but also by the innovative play areas including a maze. The attractive landscaping includes fountains and waterfalls. A cafe serves paninis, ice cream and cold drinks. Adjacent to the park is the Museum of Asian Art, which is free to enter. It’s located out of the city centre but near to the airport and can be easily reached by public transport.
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Place Garibaldi (Free)

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Another pleasant square to relax and take in the passing street life of Nice. This one is dedicated to Guiseppe Garibaldi, the Italian politician who was born in Nice. A huge statue in his honour forms the centrepiece of the square, surrounded by a pool with fountains. The Place has recently been renovated and the colours of the buildings are very much in harmony with each other, tan with green shutters. Many arches run around the edge of the square. Place Garibaldi is of great historical significance, being the oldest large square in Nice (started in 1773) and features beautiful architecture. There are all sorts of different cuisines on offer in the many restaurants. On the south side you will find the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. The Place is also well worth seeing at night when it is spectacularly lit up. The tramway now runs right through the middle of the square so you can easily reach it.
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Cimiez Convent (Free)

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This beautiful monastery with its restful garden was founded in the 9th century by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of St Pons. It has been used by the Franciscans since 1546. It’s on top of a hill which requires a fairly steep walk, but this is rewarded by incredible views over Nice, as well as the delightful features to be found at the site itself. The monastery interior is beautifully decorated with a trio of “primitive” paintings by Louis Brea and an immense altarpiece of carved wood and gold leaf. Outside, you will find the lush garden which was formerly the preserve of the Franciscan monks, and a cemetery which contains the final resting place of Matisse, among others. Nearby, you will find the Matisse Museum in the artist’s house, and an archaeological site with Roman remains. All are free of charge, making a trip up here a vital part of a trip to Nice.
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Musée d’Art et d’Histoire Palais Massena (Free)

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Acclaimed as the jewel of the Promenade des Anglais, this beautiful building houses a sumptuous collection portraying the history of Nice from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. The neoclassical building was built between 1898-1901 as a private villa and became a public museum in 1921. Over four floors, you will see a wide variety of artefacts including personal items belonging to Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte, artworks including promotional tourist posters for Nice from the early 20th century, modern art from the surrounding area, and a collection of dresses and uniforms from over the years. The ground floor has largely retained the layout and air of its days as a private residence and this is interesting in itself. The gardens are also highly attractive with intricate landscaping and after touring the museum it’s very nice to sit among the flowers with a picnic. The museum is free of charge although you must collect a ticket.
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Palais Lascaris (Free)

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Housed in a lavish former residential palace in the Genoese Baroque style, the Palais Lascaris is a museum with an extensive collection of valuable musical instruments as its centrepiece. The building dates from the early 17th century and has been open as a museum since 1970. The palace retains all its ornate decoration, including gilding, ceiling paintings and statues, from its days as a Baroque residence. It has a beautiful main staircase. There are many interesting items of furniture, and one curiosity on the ground floor is an apothecary’s shop which dates from 1738. The Lascaris received its collection of musical instruments from the Masséna Museum in 2001 and among the most exquisite are the Naderman harp (1780), a sackbut tenor (1581) and a viol from 1652. Like most museums in Nice, entry is free and be sure not to miss it as it is located down a pedestrian side street.
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Place Rossetti (Free)

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This square, located in the heart of the Old Town (link), is another perfect spot to kick back with a cappuccino or ice cream and take in the passing scene. There is an ice cream vendor with a wonderful variety of flavours. It’s enclosed by gorgeous red and yellow Italianate architecture and features a small stone fountain. There’s also the very picturesque Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate in the baroque style, built between 1650 and 1699. It’s well worth a look at the interior too for the splendid decoration, inspired by St Peter’s in Rome. Place Rossetti is also an ideal starting point for a night on the town and the atmosphere changes as evening draws in, with younger crowds gathering for drinks and to check out some of the street musicians who ply their trade here. You’re also within easy reach of the beaches and all the quirky shops of the Old Town.
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Train des Pignes (Paid)

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The Train des Pignes is a charming narrow gauge railway that will take you on a scenic journey from Nice up to Digne-les-Bains, taking in all the rustic villages along the way and finishing high up in the snow-capped mountains. You will see breathtaking gorges and groves of olive trees as part of the trip. Along the way you will stop at the interesting citadel town of Entrevaux, where a variety of lunch options are available. The citadel on a rocky outcrop above the town was a position of strategic defence in days gone by. Also here, you will find a cathedral, a motorcycle museum, and a 19th century oil mill which is still in operation. There is a steam train option during the summer which uses a restored train from the 19th century. This runs every Sunday from May to October as well as Fridays in July and August.
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