3 Days in Nice: The Perfect 3 Day Nice Itinerary

The French Riviera is an amazing place to visit and definitely one of my favorites. If you are planning to spend 3 days in Nice, follow my 3 day Nice itinerary to see the highlight of the French Riviera based on my recent trip.

Côte d’Azur (otherwise known as the French Riviera) is a dream of a destination. Nice is the capital of Côte d’Azur, with almost 1 million residents.

It offers everything you need in a perfect holiday: relaxing vibes, historical architecture, incredible beaches, perfect year-round weather, delicious cuisine, world-class museums, beautiful hikes and proximity to other towns and cities on the French Riviera.

It is not hard to see why Nice is the perfect vacation spot all year round. With its mild weather, many Europeans flock to the French Riviera to spend 3 days to a week in the winter.

I personally visited Nice in November and it was a nice escape from the gloomy and wet London winter.

Now let’s get started on how you can have the perfect holiday in the French Riviera and spend 3 days in Nice. I will show you what to do in Nice, what to eat and where to stay in Nice.

Planning a Trip to the French Riviera?

I have a number of blog articles dedicated to the French Riviera and Monaco. Whether you are just spending 3 days in Nice or planning for more to explore day trip options from Nice, you are covered!

If you are also planning a trip to Paris, be sure to check out my Paris itinerary and how to save money on attractions in Paris.

Nice beach umbrella chairs

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

How long do you need in Nice? Is 3 days in Nice enough?

Nice is a big city (5th largest city in France), so there are a lot of great things to do in Nice.

You can spend as little as one day and as long as one to two weeks in Nice and visit the surrounding towns on the French Riviera or even hop over to Italy and Monaco.

3 days in Nice is perfect to get a taste of the capital of Côte d’Azur and the French Riviera because it allows you to see the best places in the city and visit a nearby town. If you have more time, you can spend a week in Nice, use it as a base to explore other parts of the French Riviera.

How to travel to Nice France?

Nice is an extremely well connected city, so you can fly, take the train or drive to Nice.

Flying to Nice

Nice has a large international aport (Nice Côte d’Azur) that is well connected to the rest of Europe and internationally. Most major European Airlines such as Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, EasyJet, Ryan Air, Vueling all fly into Nice.

I flew into Nice from Istanbul and it was super convenient to go to the city center from the airport.

Taking the Train to Nice

Nice Ville Train Station

As with major European cities, Nice is well connected by Train. The main train station in Nice is Nice-Ville, which is about a 12 minute tram ride or 24 minute walk to the Nice old town.

If you need to visit other parts of the French Riviera or even go to Paris, you can take the train (TGV) from Nice. Although it takes about 6 hours from Paris to Nice by train, so it might be faster to just fly. Nice is about 4.5 hours by train from Lyon and 2.3 hours from Marseille. I always book my train tickets in Europe with Rail Europe.

How to get around Nice?

Nice is super easy to get around! When I visited Nice for the first time, I was super intimidated since I didn’t speak any French and I had no idea what it was going to be like. But once I was there, I realized it was so easy to get around Nice with the bus system.

Get around Nice by bus

Nice has a fantastic public bus system and it is pretty affordable. Lignes d’Azur is the company that manages Nice’s extensive bus network.

I took the bus all over the Nice area (and even some day trips) as bus is a cheap and convenient way to get around Nice as well as the surrounding towns, villas, and attraction sites.

Buses in Nice run pretty frequently, they usually come every 10 – 15 minutes from 6am to 10pm. Each bus ticket is 1.5 Euro, and you can buy it from either the bus driver or a ticket vending machine at a tram station.

You have 74 minutes to transfer on the same ticket (if you get off one bus after 15 minutes and get on another bus or tram right after). Bus tickets are cash only.

Bus numbers can be single, double or triple digits. The single and double digit bus numbers mean the bus is a local bus and bus with triple digital number goes beyond Nice (to Monaco for example).

When I took the bus around Nice, I just used Google Maps to navigate and figure out what bus to take, where to get on and off the bus. I didn’t speak any French and Google Maps was a life saver since I literally could not have known when the bus stop was coming up without it.

Get around Nice by Tram

tram in Nice France

Tram is another cheap and convenient public transportation in Nice and it is owned by the same company as the bus. There are 3 tram lines in Nice.

You can take the tram all around Nice and to/ from the Nice Airport. The tram ticket cost the same as a bus ticket, and within 74 minutes you can transfer between buses and trams for free.

Unlike the public bus, you can’t buy tram tickets from the driver. Instead, you can buy Nice tram tickets from the vending machine at each stop and you will need to validate the ticket before boarding.

Walk around in Nice

If you are in Central Nice and in the touristy areas, it often is best to explore Nice by walking. Everything is relatively close together, and the most you will walk from place to place is 15 to 20 minutes.

Unless it’s super hot or raining, I recommend walking around Nice to best explore and experience the city during your 3 days Nice holiday.

Uber in Nice

If you really need to take a private car in Nice, Uber is a good choice. It is cheaper (and more available) than local taxis (I did not see one taxi when I was in Nice unless I was at the airport).

Where can you get Sim Cards in Nice?

Nice France at night with ferris wheel

When I travel, I always need internet on my phone, whether it’s through roaming, pocket wifi (like in Japan) or a local sim card. If you are like me, you would be happy to hear that it is easy to get sim cards in Nice.

The most popular sim card brands to get in Nice is Orange and SFR. You can get their sim cards at Relay store in the Nice airport (but the store closes at 9:30pm). Of course you can also get these sim cards from their brand stores in Nice, local tobacco shops, supermarkets such as Carrefour, Newspaper kiosks.

If you don’t like making last minute purchases, you can order your Orange sim card and SFR sim card online ahead of time. But you should check to see where they deliver the physical sim card (unless you get eSim).

If you are a European resident, you may not need to even get a local French sim card. Check with your provider to find out. Besides Orange and SFR, you can also get other brands such as LeFrenchMobile, Lyca Mobile, Lebara, etc.

3 Day Nice France Itinerary

Day 1 of 3 day Nice Itinerary

Nice Old Town (Vieux Nice)

Start your 3 days in Nice from Vieux Nice, Nice’s vibrant old down with its cobblestone streets, shaded alleyways, colorful facades, historical buildings and delicious restaurants. Exploring the old town is an essential activity for anyone visiting Nice.

Historically, Nice had always had an Italian influence even though it was never part of Italy. Therefore you may see some Italian style buildings and villas in the old town of Nice. You can even find some awesome gelato places in the old town.

Nice old Town

Some of the most popular spots in Vieux Nice include:

  • Cathedral Sainte Reparate (Nice Cathedral)
  • Lascaris Palace
  • Opera of Nice
  • Cours Saleya Market

Nice Cathedral is one of the most famous cathedrals in Nice, located at the center of Nice Old Town. It is a Baroque style cathedral, and it was rebuilt after Santa Susanna in Rome. You can visit Nice Cathedral for free and there are some fantastic installations and art pieces inside the Cathedral.

Nice old town,  Vieux Nice
Vieux Nice

Lascaris Palace is a 17th century Baroque palace that houses antique musical instruments and tapestries. On the second floor you will find beautiful frescoed ceilings. It’s not a large palace but definitely a beautiful and interesting one to stop by while you are exploring Nice.

Opera of Nice is the main opera venue in Nice, which offers operas, ballets and classic music concerts. You can watch a performance in the opera house or just take a tour of the beautiful theater.

Cours Saleya Market is a famous market and flower market in the old town of Nice. When you wander around Old Nice it is inevitable that you will stumble onto this lively pedestrian street. It is open every morning and on Mondays it turns into a large flea market with old furniture and trinkets instead of flowers and produces. You can grab a drink there or eat on one of the terraces.

Cours Saleya Market in Nice

If you are a fan of photography, you may be interested to visit Museum of Photography Charles Nègre, a museum featuring local and international photographic cart. Other landmarks you may see in Vieux Nice include Caserne Rusca (bell tower), Palais de la Prefecture, Palais Rusca, and Tour Saint-Francois (bell tower).

When you are in the old town of Nice, don’t forget to grab some ice cream! The Old Town is known for its gelato and some of the best ice cream parlors (called glaciers) in Nice are Azzurro, Fenocchio and Oui, jelato.

Castle Hill

Nice Castle hill

Castle Hill is a park on hill located right next to the Nice Old town, with an amazing view of Nice, the port, mountains and Baie des Anges. Castle Hill features a military fortress that overlooks the bay of Nice.

There are a number of great viewpoints on top of Castle Hill, including Bellanda Tower, Cascade du Château, and top of the Hill. As you walk around Castle Hill, you will discover the various view points.

Castle Hill View

You can walk up Castle Hill by stairs or you can take a lift. I personally walked up and I don’t remember it being too bad.

view from Le Chateau Castle hill in Nice
View from Castle Hill

Grab some lunch in the Old Town to end your busy morning and I have a couple of options for you to choose from in the afternoon!

Walking Tour of Nice Old Town and Castle Hill: if you don’t want to explore by yourself, you should consider taking a nice guided walking tour to learn more about the history of Nice or a culture and gourmet tour of Nice.

Afternoon Option 1: Relax on a Beach

Nice beach umbrella chairs

After grabbing lunch in the Old Town, you should spend some time on the beach and explore the promenade.

If you are visiting Nice in the summer, you definitely should take advantage of the beach during your 3 days in Nice Trip.

However beaches in Nice are pebble beaches and not white sand beaches, so the best thing to do may be to chill on a lounge chair, relax and enjoy the view after a busy morning in the Old Town.

There are a number of private beaches in Nice, with Castel Plage being the most famous. There you will find lounge chairs, umbrellas, restaurant and bar service.

If you do not want to pay for a private beach, don’t worry! As you walk along the beach you will find non-private beaches (just no beach chair and umbrella).

Afternoon Option 2: Check out Nice Port (Port de Nice Lympia)

Port of Nice

You can see Nice Port from Castle Hill, so now why not walk there and take a look?

Nice Port is a wonderful Port on the east side of Castle Hill. It is a little quieter but nevertheless beautiful with mega yachts and small boats.

There are a lot of restaurants, bars and cafes near the Port, making it the perfect place to chill and relax after a busy morning. There is also a tram stop directly at the Port.

If you have time, you can take an one hour sightseeing cruise to view Nice and the surrounding towns from the water before returning to Nice.

You can also take a sunset cruise to Cap Ferrat, which is an unforgettable experience on your French Riviera holiday.

Promenade des Anglais

Promenade des Anglais

Promenade des Anglais is a 7km (5 mile) promenade along the beach in Nice from Nice Airport in the west to Castle Hill in the east.

Originally it was said that this was where the British came to visit during the winter time but now of course it is a world renowned attraction in Nice.

Lined by palm trees and luxury hotels, Promenade des Anglais is the spot where you can take a leisurely stroll, jog, rollerskate or bike. Just by walking alone the promenade, you will be able to enjoy the view of the ocean and Nice.

You don’t even need to walk the entire Promenade, just walking a little bit is a nice experience. Be sure to stop by the #ILoveNICE sign and take a photo there.

I love Nice sign

While you are walking on the Promenade, be sure to watch out for hotels like the Le Negresco, the most famous hotel in Nice. You will also pass by places such as Jardin Albert 1er and Villa Massena Musee.

If you have time, go inside Villa Massena Musee, a museum with art and artifacts including Napoleon’s death mask.

You will learn a lot about the history of Nice and how it was the winter destination of rich and noble Northern Europeans. You should also visit the garden.

Perfume Making Class

The French Riviera is known for its perfume. If you want to learn how to make perfume and immerse yourself in the perfume making tradition, be sure to take a perfume making class.

Day 2 of 3 day Nice Itinerary

Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice

St. Nicholas Cathedral in Nice Russian Orthodox church

St. Nicholas Cathedral is a famous Russian Orthodox church located on the west of Nice-Ville train station. Depending on where you are staying in Nice, you can either walk there or take the local bus in the morning (it opens at 10am everyday).

This Byzantine style Russian Orthodox church is a great contrast to the rest of the European churches and mediterranean style building in Nice. So why is a Russian Orthodox church in France?

This historical monument is the first Russian Orthodox church in France and one of the most important one outside of Russia. In the mid 19th century, Russian nobility started visiting Nice just like the British. After the death of Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarevich of Russia in Nice, the cathedral was built in his memory (and funded by Tsar Nicholas II).

You can visit the inside of St. Nicholas Cathedral and it is actually my favorite cathedral in Nice, so definitely worth a visit.

Basilique Notre-Dame de I’Assomption

Basilique Notre-Dame de I'Assomption

A huge contrast from St. Nicholas Cathedral, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de nice is a Roman Catholic basilica in the center of Nice with a Neo-Gothic architecture style. It is founded in 1864 and it is the largest cathedral in Nice. Stop by really quick to peak inside and see the vibrant stained glass.

Marc Chagall National Museum (Closed Tuesday)

Marc Chagall National Museum

Located in Cimiez, Marc Chagall National Museum is a famous art museum that is dedicated to the art work by Marc Chagall, a Russian-born French artist. It is a must see for anyone who is a fan of Chagall or a fan of Modernist Art.

You can also find a few stained glass window work from Chagall here. However keep in mind that the collection is mostly religious-inspired work from Chagall (and not all of its work). To best enjoy the museum, you can use the audio guide and also visit the garden.

Musée Matisse (Closed Tuesday) & its surrounding areas

Matisse Musee

Another famous museum in Cimiez area of Nice is Musée Matisse, a villa featuring some of the work by Henri Matisse. Henri Matisse was a French visual artist, known for his use of fluid, color and original draughtmanship. He was also known as a printmaker, sculptor and draughtsman.

Cimiez Roman Ruins

Outside of the villa itself, you will find archeological sites including the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, a park (Jardin du Monastere de Cimiez), Cimiez Monastery, and the tomb of Henri Matisse.

Av. Jean Médecin

Av.-Jean-Medecin in NIce

Av. Jean Médecin is the main shopping street in Nice and it has a tram running through the middle of the street. You can take the bus from Cimiez area down to Av. Jean Médecin and start (window) shopping.

On this street you will find chain stores like Zara and Mango, hotels, restaurants, super markets and cafes. You can also find department store like Galeries Lafayette here. If you want high end designer stores such as Hermes and Chanel, walk around Av. de Verdun near Jardin Albert 1er.

I visited Av. Jean Médecin both during the day and at night and I actually like visiting it at night much more, with all the people and lights! It is a huge contrast to the nearby Old Town of Nice.

Fontaine du Soleil (Fountain of the Sun)

things to do in Nice: Place Massena

If you have not seen Fontaine du Soleil yet during day 1 of your 3 days in Nice, then stop by this at night! This was one of the first places I saw in Nice.

The fountain is located at Place Massena. It features a bronze sculpture of the Greed God Apollo. The surrounding architecture is also lovely due to its colors and symmetry.

This fountain is also the meeting place for many Nice walking tours and has many restaurants, stores and hotels nearby. People also come here to just chill by the fountain while meeting up with their friends.

Read my post on the 25 amazing things to do in Nice for other Nice inspirations.

Day 3 of 3 day Nice Itinerary

During the first 2 days of your Nice holiday you saw the essence of Nice. If you want, you can spend Day 3 just chilling on the beach and relax or you can do some exciting day trips to towns near Nice. I will list a few options that for you since I did a number of them when I was in Nice!

Mont Boron

Mont Boron is a hill on the east side of Nice, on which Fort du Mont Alban is located. Mont Boron is about 200m above sea level and it separate Nice from Villefranche-sur-Mer. Even Elton John owns a villa on top of Mont Boron.

There are many different trails on Mont Boron with beautiful views of Nice, Baie des Anges to the west and the bay of Villefranche to the east.

Villefranche-sur-Mer-view-from-Mont-Boron
Bay of Villefranche

You can get to Mont Boron from Nice by bus, hike up or drive up. If you are walking up Mont Boron, then take a quick stop at the Greek Church Notre-Dame-du-Perpetuel-Secours before reaching the top, which is a forest park called Parc du Mont Boron.

You can also visit Fort du Mont-Alban, a fortress that was built between 1557 and 1560 by the Duke of Savoy. You cannot get inside the fort but there are guided tours.

Fort du Mont Alban

You can either return to Nice or go on to visit Villefranche-sur-Mer (or you can go to Villefranche-sur-Mer as a day trip by itself).

Monaco

Monaco is a place you have to visit at least once in your life. It is its own city-state nestled between France and Italy.

Even though Monaco is the world’s 2nd smallest country, it is where the rich and famous live. There are grand casinos, designer malls, man-made beaches and incredible bars and clubs that attract celebrities and tourists all year round.

It is easy to get to Monaco from Nice. Read my detailed post on how to get to Monaco from Nice.

Monaco Aquarium

Some of the best things you can do in Monaco include paying a visit to the Monaco Aquarium, see the Palace of Monaco, visit Saint Nicholas Cathedral, take the panorama view of Monaco from Vue Panoramique sur Monaco lookout, rent a Ferrari in Monaco (best thing I did there),stop by Monte Carlo Casino, enjoy the Japanese Garden and window shop.

View of Monaco
View of Monaco
Renting a Ferrari in Monaco

You can also take a hop-on hop-off bus or take a guided walking tour to discover Monaco.

See my detailed Monaco Itinerary to find out how you can spend one day in Monaco.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is a French villa located at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat between Nice and Monaco. It was the home of Baroness Beatrice de Rothschild. Upon her death, the Baroness donated the property and it is now open to the public for visits.

The villa itself is magnificent, with beautiful views of the ocean as well as the gardens. The villa has 9 gardens, each with a different theme.

Villa-Ephrussi de Rothschild garden

You can go inside the villa to view all the rooms and decors, have lunch in the French garden or eat in the tea room/restaurant’s terrace with the view of Bay of Villefranche.

You can purchase tickets online or in person. Children under 7 can go in for free without reservation. You can take a bus from Nice or the TER (and walk) and it generally takes less than an hour to get to the villa, making it the perfect day trip from Nice on your 3 day Nice itinerary.

St. Paul de Vence

St. Paul de Vence

Another wonderful day trip you can take during your last day of 3 days in Nice is to St. Paul de Vence, a hilltop medieval French town. When I first saw a photo of St. Paul de Vence I thought it was where all the fairytales made so I just had to visit.

St. Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval town in the French Riviera, famous for its art galleries, cobblestone streets, narrow alleys and view of the surrounding areas and the sea. It is also the final resting place of Marc Chagall, whose museum you may have visited the day before.

St. Paul de Vence alleyways

When you come to St. Paul de Vence, you truly feel that you’ve been transported back in history. You can spend some time exploring this small village, admire art at the art galleries, visit the truffle market, stroll along the fortress wall and take photos from view points.

You can reach St. Paul de Vence from Nice by Bus 400, which comes once an hour. The bus ride from Nice to St. Paul de Vence takes about an hour.

Best time to visit Nice

Nice annual weather and rainfall

Due to its Mediterranean climate, Nice has mild weather all year round, making it pleasant to visit most of the year. But the most pleasant months to visit Nice is probably spring and early fall and perhaps December and I will explain why.

Nice does not have very cold winter as you can see. In general winters in Nice are between 40s to 50sF (4.5 – 12.5C). It’s still pleasant to walk around with a jacket and get some sun on the promenade.

The Nice Carnival takes place every February for 2 weeks from mid February to the end of February. It is one of the world’s major carnival events, comparable to the Brazilian Carnival, Mardi Gras in the US and Venetian Carnival in Italy. You do not want to miss this event.

Nice Carnival celebration

If you visit Nice during December, you will be able to visit its cute Christmas market and see all the Christmas decorations around the city.

Nice Christmas fireworks

Summer is not a great time to visit Nice despite what people may think because of the humidity and thunderstorms in August. Nice can be super crowded in the summer and hotel prices are very high, so I would actually avoid visiting Nice in the summer.

Instead of visiting in the peak of summer, consider visiting Nice in September. There are way fewer tourists in Nice and hotel prices are a lot cheaper than July and August. You can still soak in the sun and swim in the water in September (but probably not swimming after September).

Nice Beach in November

Spring is also one of the best times to visit Nice due to warmer weather, longer days and less crowds.

Where to stay in Nice

If you are visiting Nice only for a few days, it is best to stay within walking distance to the major tourist sites even though you can take bus and tram around Nice and stay further away.

I highly recommend staying near the Nice Old Town, Place Massena, or the Port.

Hotel Le Negresco is perhaps the most famous luxury hotel in Nice, sitting on the Promenade Des Anglais. Each room is decorated with beautiful period furniture and you will have access to the Neptune private beach area. If you want the ultimate luxury, Le Negresco is the place to stay.

Nice Le Negresco Hotel

Hotel Du Centre is located near the Nice Trail station as well as Av. Jean Médecin, the main shopping street in Nice. It is located in front of the Notre-Dame Basilica and a short walk to Place Massena and the beach.

Le Meridien is a luxury hotel right on the Promenade des Anglais, steps away from the Old Town. It features an outdoor swimming pool and of course amazing ocean view from the rooms and balcony.

Share Inn is located in the heart of Nice, a stone’s throw away from the Beach and Jardin Albert 1er as well as the fancy luxury stores.

Best Things to Eat in Nice

There are many great restaurants in Nice, but I would like to show you some of the most famous traditional Nice cuisine.

socca nice specialty food
Socca

Socca is perhaps the most well known Nice specialty. It is a chickpea flour pancake that is eaten hot and lightly toasted. It should be slightly creamy on the inside.

Pissaladiere Nice specialty food
Pissaladière

Pissaladière is another Nice specialty. It is a pastry topped with caramelized onion and anchovy (it used to be fish sauce instead of anchovy). You can find this in most Nice food stalls.

Nicoise Salad in Nice

Niçoise salad is a classic salad from Nice, made with lettuce, tomato, tuna, anchovy, hard-boiled egg and olive oil.

Nice specialty food Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat is the sandwich version of Niçoise salad.

Pistou Soup is a type of soup that is popular throughout Provence. It is a soup made of mixture of basil, garlic, olive oil, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes and pasta.

Food in Nice have always been heavily influenced by its Italian neighbor. You will see a lot of pizzerias and Italian restaurants in Nice as well as glaciers (gelato shops) as mentioned earlier.

Nice is a wonderful place to visit in the French Riviera. Spending 3 days in Nice is the perfect amount of time to see the highlights of Nice as well as its surrounding areas.

Is Nice Worth Visiting?

When people think of France, Paris is the first city that comes to mind. So you may wonder if Nice is worth visiting.

The answer is absolutely! Nice is an awesome city to visit in Southern France. It has mild climate, beautiful scenery and friendly locals. It has its own charm that you will not find anywhere else.

If you are looking for a truly beautiful and relaxing place to visit in France, then Nice is your answer.

Other French Riviera Resources

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