France, French Riviera

Nice Itinerary: 3 days in the French Riviera

The French Riviera is one of the most popular regions in France – and for good reason! It’s known for its seaside towns, beautiful weather, and colorful buildings! And the best place to base yourself on a trip to the French Riviera is Nice! And here is my exact Nice itinerary from our most recent trip!

If you find yourself questioning whether you’ll have enough time to truly experience the French Riviera in 3 days, let me reassure you. From my experience, this Nice itinerary was a great amount of time to get to know Nice as well as venture off into some of the most beautiful towns nearby. However, adding a few days wouldn’t hurt as there are many day trips you can take from Nice!

This Nice itinerary will break down for you what can manageably be achieved for 3 days to give you the best possible introduction to the French Riviera. We accomplished everything on this list, so you definitely can too!

*Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 

Tips on visiting Nice

📆 Shoulder season is a great time to visit: We visited Nice in the spring and not only was the weather perfectly comfortable, but it wasn’t as crowded as I would expect it to be in the summer months. Of course, part of the French Riviera’s charm is its beaches and summer vibes so it makes sense why it is a popular summer destination. But if you want to avoid the crowds, late spring and early autumn are great alternatives.

🚂 You DO NOT need to rent a car: I spent a chunk of time before our trip deciding whether or not we should rent a car for our few days in Nice. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Nice is extremely well connected by train! I book all of my train travel in France using Trainline. I’ve been using it for years and it’s been the best tool to find affordable tickets!

💜 Save Provence for its own trip! I’ve noticed that sometimes the terms “Provence” and the “French Riviera” are interchangeable. Although they are both part of the same region in France, they are very different experiences. In Provence, you’ll find charming hill top villages, lavender and rural areas while the Riviera is coastal. Both are beautiful and I love them both! But to get the most out of your time, focus on one or the other (unless you have more time of course!)

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Your 10 days in Provence Itinerary

 

Itinerary Outline

Day 1: Discover Nice

Day 2: Perfect day trip to Monaco

Day 3: Other unmissable day trips

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Arriving in Nice

✈️ Arriving by plane: The Nice airport has a few public transit options that will take you to the city center. You can either go by tram or by bus. Depending on where you’re going, you can take either tram line 2 which runs every 8 minutes, or tram line 3 which runs every 15 minutes.  You can also take bus line 12 which runs every 12 minutes. You can find the timetables and fare information on the Nice Airport website!

🚂 Arriving by train: The main train station in Nice is the Nice-Ville train station which is where you’d most likely arrive. The beautiful thing about train travel is that more often than not, you are dropped off right in the city center! From there, you can transfer to trams or buses to take you to where you need to go!

🏨 Where to stay in Nice: I’ve put together a list of some of the top-rated accommodations in Nice below! If you are looking for budget-friendly accommodations, check out these cool hostels on Hostelworld.

Hostel Ozz ($): The hostel has excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and has a coffee shop and game room onsite!

Hotel de France ($$): Awarded Traveller’s Choice on Trip Advisor in 2023! The space was recently renovated and looks really cute inside!

Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Mediterranee ($$$): Another property that was awarded Traveller’s Choice on Trip Advisor in 2023! On-site, you can find a pool, beach access, gym, and lounge!

 

Day 1: Discover Nice

Photos from the market in Nice displaying bouquets of flowers and stands filled with fruits and vegetables

HIGHLIGHT: Visit the Saleya Market

One of the most memorable things you need to add to your Nice itinerary is to visit the morning market. The Saleya Market is open from Tuesday to Sunday. The flower market opens at 9 am and the fruit and vegetable market opens at 6 am.

PRO TIP: We started our day here because it was the perfect place to grab an on-the-go breakfast. We had some fresh fruit and pastries and some pressed juice and were good to go! Bring a bag in case, because you can also buy some snacks or other produce for your whole stay.

 

Walk along the Promenade des Anglais

You can’t visit Nice without stopping by the Promenade des Anglais. The Promenade des Anglais is a seven-kilometer walkway along the coast that offers beautiful views of the sea as well as luxury hotels. It’s one of the main locations in Nice and hosts a lot of events and festivals.

One popular spot along the promenade is the Negresco Hotel, a luxury hotel that has hosted several celebrities. But for the most part, it’s worth it just to take a walk along the promenade, admire the beaches, and enjoy the view.

A girl walking along the main promenade in Nice with white and blue umbrellas sitting along the coast

 

Walk through the Place Massena

This is one of the most famous squares in the French Riviera! It is tucked in a bit away from the coast and is surrounded by beautiful red buildings. What I particularly enjoyed about this area was the green spaces surrounding it. Coming up from the Promenade des Anglais there was a beautiful part with an authentic carousel. After crossing the Place Massena, there is a beautiful reflecting pool and another large spacious park. I was expecting the square to be beautiful but the parks surprised me!

Collage of photos of the place Massena in Nice including the reflecting pool, the fountain and the carousel

 

Get lost in Vieux Nice 

Vieux Nice is like a maze and one of the best ways to experience it is to just get lost and wander around. The streets are quite narrow and winding but every time we went, it was full of life! Between the shops, the restaurants, and the bars, it has to be one of the best areas in Nice!

To give you some spots to put into your GPS to get you started, I would check out Place Rossetti, and Rue de la Boucherie. I would highly recommend spending your evenings here for a drink or dinner – Bistrot d’Antoine and Fenocchio ice cream are some great choices to name a few!

Collection of photos of the narrow colourful streets inside the Old Town of Nice

 

Admire the view from Castle Hill

At the very end of the Promenade des Anglais is Castle Hill, also known as Colline de Chateau. This spot was at the top of our Nice itinerary because it has such a beautiful view overlooking the coastline and the Nice Old Town. Inside the park, there are multiple viewpoints as well as a waterfall, playgrounds, and some archeological excavations.

To keep in mind: on our trip to Nice, we actually didn’t make it up Castle Hill. We had planned to go at sunset and our GPS was taking us around the back entrance, towards the cemetery, which was unfortunately closed. By the time we figured it out, the sun had set and we moved on to finding a spot for dinner.

To access Castle Hill, I have since learned that the easiest way to get there is via the Promenade des Anglais. At the end of the road, at the foot of the hill, you will find a set of stairs as well as signs directing you to the viewpoints.

 

Enjoy some seafood for dinner 

3 colourful plates of food from a seafood restaurant in Nice

Nice being situated right on the coast means that you should definitely add at least one seafood restaurant to your Nice itinerary! We chose Peixes Restaurant, and it’s located just down the street from Place Massena. Here we had the best seafood from our entire trip to the French Riviera! We tried 3 different appetizers from their seasonal menu and I was honestly blown away by the colors, flavors, and textures! 10/10 recommend!

PRO TIP: Book a reservation or show up when they open. We arrived right at the opening time and we luckily grabbed one of the last tables. By the time we left, there was a line!

Some other authentic local dishes you should try are:

🥗 Salade Nicoise: salad made of tuna, anchovies, tomatoes, olives, hard-boiled eggs and greens

🥞 Socca: pancake made of chickpea flour (perfect street food!)

🍆 Ratatouille: mix of cooked local vegetable

🧅 Pissaladière: similar to a pizza topped with onions, anchovies, and garlic

🥪 Pan Bagnat: a sandwich made of similar ingredients from a salad nicoise

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The BEST day trips from Nice, France

 

Day 2: Perfect day trip to Monaco

I already mentioned above that I strongly encourage you to take the train while exploring the French Riviera. So many towns are very easily accessible and only require a quick train ride to get there. No need to worry about renting a car when preparing your Nice itinerary!

🚂 Getting to Monaco from Nice: From Nice Ville train station, take the train to Monaco Monte Carlo station. We bought our tickets using the Trainline app because it saved us time rather than having to wait in line to buy tickets at the station. Tickets cost us around 4.90 euros each way and the journey only takes roughly 20 – 30 minutes.

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See the changing of the Guard

Monaco to this day continues to have its own monarchy and the Monaco royal family is led by Prince Albert II and his wife Princess Charlene. Stop by the Monaco Palace on your day trip to Monaco to watch the traditional changing of the guard ceremony. It takes place every day at 11:55 am in front of the Palais des Princes de Monaco. It takes place at the royal entrance at the Palace Square and you can see the traditional guards in their white or black uniforms.

 

HIGHLIGHT: Enjoy the view overlooking Port de Fonvielle

A girl admiring the view from the most beautiful viewpoint in Monaco overlooking the harbour

The viewpoint overlooking Monaco and Port de Fonvielle has to be one of the best views panoramic views in Monaco. It’s located on the other side of the Palais des Princes just before the Saint Martin Gardens. I found this viewpoint better than the view from the Place du Palais and any viewpoint I found overlooking Port Hercule.

PRO TIP: Search for Vue Panoramique sur Fontvielle on Google Maps to find the exact location!

 

Enjoy the Saint Martin Gardens

After the viewpoint, there is a really beautiful garden filled with exotic plants. Its tucked away on the cliffside and is just down the way from the panoramic viewpoint. This park really surprised me! We just so happened to stumble upon it and really enjoyed wandering about (especially in the shade)!

A winding road leading through some exotic plants in Monaco City

 

Wander the streets of Monaco City

Monaco City is the old town of Monaco, with cute, tight, colorful zigzagging streets. Keep in mind that there are three general areas of Monaco: Monaco City, (the old town), La Condamine, and Monte Carlo. I personally preferred the vibe in Monaco City as it had a similar feel to Nice. You’ll find lots of shopping and snacks in this area but I wouldn’t recommend eating here as it is quite touristy and expensive.

The tight narrow streets of Monaco city

 

Enjoy lunch at the Marche de la Condamine

This was the BEST place to eat in Monaco (and the most affordable)! The Marche de la Condamine is a covered market that has multiple stalls inside. There were several food choices to choose from with plenty of seating.

I highly recommend Maison des Pates! They serve freshly made pasta with several choices of sauces. It was so good that we actually bought some fresh pasta and a carton of sauce to take with us to make another dinner back at our Airbnb.

A girl sits pulling long strands of pasta from her plate smiling in delight

 

Visit the F1 track

We were lucky that we visited Monaco a few weeks before the Grand Prix, which meant the racetrack was set up. Although this might not be the case for you, I do think it is worthwhile to walk along the streets that are later transformed into a racetrack. The Route de la Piscine along the Port Hercule is where, during the race, you can find the spectator stands set up.

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Admire the yachts in Port Hercule

Large yachts sit at the main port in Monaco

Port Hercule is where you find the most impressive yachts in Monaco. Since it is one of the only deep-water ports in the French Riviera, here you can find some of the largest, grandest yachts. Spend some time walking along the harbor to admire them and get ready to be really blown away!

 

Visit the Monte Carlo Casino

A girl stands in front of the famous Monte Carlo Casino with several luxury cars behind her

And of course, your day trip to Monaco, and your entire Nice itinerary for that matter, is not complete without a visit to the Monte Carlo Casino! This is probably the most famous spot in Monaco and the Monte Carlo area is where you can really feel the luxury and class of this small country.

Here are some things you should know before visiting the Monte Carlo Casino:

🪪 YOU NEED A PASSPORT OR GOVERNMENT ID IN ORDER TO ENTER: to be clear you can enter the atrium and main lobby with no issue. However, to get inside the actual casino where the gaming is, you need to have a passport WITH you. Not a photo of it. Driver’s Licenses are NOT accepted but a national identity card is.

👕There is a DRESS CODE: shorts, jeans with holes, running shoes, sandals, sportswear, flip flops and beachwear are some examples of what is NOT allowed! They classify their dress code as ‘smart attire’ and you can find more details of the dress code on their website. You will not be allowed inside if you do not respect the dress code. The dress code gets even stricter later in the day (after 8 pm).

📸 No photos are allowed inside: photos are allowed in the atrium but not in the gaming area!

💰You have to pay to enter: it costs 18 euros to enter, but you are given a drink or game token!

👧🏼 You have to be above 18 to enter the casino: minors can visit the atrium and the shopping area but not the gaming area.

🎧 They have audio tours of the casino: from 10 am until 2 pm you have the option to visit the casino with or without an audio tour, even for ages 6-18. After 2 pm, the gaming begins and the tours stop, but you can still visit the inside if you want to play!

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Day 3: Other unmissable day trips

Morning: Visit Èze

A girl exploring the medieval stone streets of Eze

🚌 Getting to Èze from Nice: Unlike most day trips on your Nice itinerary, Èze is the only one I do NOT recommend taking a train to visit. Èze is located on a hill top while the Èze train station on the other hand is not! If you take the train, you then have roughly an hour walk uphill to reach the actual village. Instead, take the #602 bus from the Vauban GR bus terminal and make sure you get off at Èze Village.

To keep in mind: when we went, we actually went to Èze in the afternoon instead of the morning. However, it was PACKED! It was so busy it was actually hard to enjoy the medieval charm of the town. I recommend starting your day in Èze instead, which hopefully will mean you will beat the crowds!

 

HIGHLIGHT: Explore the Jardin Exotique d’Èze

A girl admiring the view overlooking the French Riviera from the Jardin Exotique in Eze on top of a hill

Èze is quite small so the main thing to do during your visit is to explore the tiny streets and pop into local shops and cafes. But, when visiting Èze, you cannot miss the Jardin Exotique! We were debating whether or not it was worth it, but I can confirm, it is definitely worth it.

We spent just over 1 hour exploring the gardens

⛰️ The Jardin Exotique sits on a hilltop and has a spectacular view of the French Riviera. This also means there are a lot of stairs and uphill walking is required!

💰It cost 8 euros per adult to enter

🌅 The gardens are open every day from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm depending on the season. Head to the official website to check the opening times for your particular visit!

🎟️ Tickets are only available in person, they cannot be bought in advance.

 

Afternoon: Villefranche-sur-Mer

A girl explores the bright colour streets of Villefranche-sur-Mer

🚌 Getting to Villefranche-sur-Mer from Èze: The easiest way to get to Villefranche from Èze is by taking the #82 bus and getting off at La Corne d’Or, which is a stop just up the street from the town. This journey will take you roughly 30 minutes! Alternatively, you can also walk downhill from Èze to the Èze train station. From there you can take a quick 6-minute train to the Villefranche-sur-Mer train station!

 

Explore the Old Town

Similar to Èze, the best thing to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer is to wander around and explore. The buildings are mainly from the 12th century and are incredibly colorful! It was one of our favorite stops on our Nice itinerary! It felt a lot more authentic, quaint, and less crowded than some of the other spots we visited.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can also find the local market which would be a great spot for a snack. Or you can also spend some time relaxing at the beach! The Plage des Mariniere is a great choice to add to your Nice itinerary because compared to many of the other beaches in the French Riviera, this one is softer and sandier.

 

Visit the Citadel

On the right stands a large stone wall next to a stone walk way which leads towards the sea - these are the walls of the old citadel in Villefranche-sur-Mer

As you wander around, don’t miss the Citadel walls! It is a 16th-century medieval fortress that sits beside the coast. We started by walking along the walls along the sea before walking up the fortress to admire the views of the harbor!

 

Head to the port for dinner

A girl sitting a table with a menu in front of her and several boats behind her. The coast line is glowing from the sunset

For dinner, you can either head back into Nice or head to the Villefranche Port to choose from one of the many seafood restaurants. We went to Lou Bantry which was very delicious and very reasonably priced! We wanted to enjoy at least one meal beside the water and this was a great choice! There are a few others in this area to choose from if Lou Bantry doesn’t work for you!

 

3 days in Nice: is it worth it?

I hope this Nice itinerary gave you the perfect introduction to the French Riviera! 3 days in Nice can feel quite overwhelming since there are just so many beautiful day trips to choose from! However, 3 days is definitely enough time to get to know Nice and explore at least 2-3 other towns along the coast! I hope you have an incredible time in Nice and that you use some of these tips for your own travel planning!

Did you know: I also offer customized travel itineraries and guides to help make your travel planning a little less stressful!

If Nice is just one of your stops on your trip to the south of France, you might be heading on to Provence next! If this sounds like you, be sure to check out some of my other free Provence travel planning resources below:

💜 Best tours of the lavender fields in Provence

💜  Cutest villages in Provence

💜  5 things you should know when visiting Provence

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Your 10 days in Provence Itinerary

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Caity Zagar

Travel Planner & Blogger

Welcome to CZ Phones Home! I’m here to help make your travels easier by giving you tips, advice and inspiration to make your trips memorable!

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