5 Reasons Why People Visit Nice
Henri Matisse summed up the appeal of Nice thus: “Do you remember the light through the shutters?” he said. “It came from below, as if from theater footlights. Everything was fake, absurd, amazing, delicious.”
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.
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 every day of the week.
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 (and less expensive) than many of its ritzier neighbors. Set aside at least a day for the city itself, even if it’s your home base.
Here are five more reasons why people visit Nice:
#1: Nice’s Seaside Area
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: Niçoise Gastronomy & Wine
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.
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.
Check out our guide to Nice’s unique cuisine, and where to try it.
#3: Nice’s Incredible Festivals
Nice hosts many artistic festivals and holiday events that attract and charm tourists. With a legacy shaped by artists and writers who came to visit and sometimes stayed (ahem, Matisse), Nice is home to the world’s first-ever jazz festival (since 1948) and the world’s first, and largest, carnival (since 1876). They help to give Nice a lively vibe year-round. Don’t miss the incredible Carnaval de Nice, the Nice Jazz Festival, and the numerous 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: Nice’s Sporting Events
A center of major world-class sporting events, Nice hosts many high-level competitions. Examples are the Maraton des Alpes-Maritimes (from Nice to Cannes), 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: Nice’s Historic Sights
Nice is full of historical buildings, ruins, and landmarks, and its history can be felt and explored through visiting them.
Nice’s sprawling metropolis—the fifth largest in France—includes a vibrant old-town district (with charming, narrow streets that don’t allow cars) with a down-home feel that’s not to be overlooked.
You can learn about the two main historic areas, the old town and Cimiez, in our guide to experiencing Nice’s history and our list of Nice’s historic sights.
We’ve also created a guide to the best art museums in Nice and along the French Riviera.
Nice is 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.