France tops the list for the most visited countries in the world. All of us want to see Paris, but go beyond that. Go to the French Riviera and Nice in the south-east. To help you explore Nice in one day, I marked a Nice walking itinerary on a Google map.
So wherever you choose to stay on the Riviera, spend at least a day in Nice.
What to see in Nice in one day: stroll the old town
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur) and has a population of 350 000. As a historic city Nice mainly has very narrow streets.
That makes traffic in Nice slow, so slow that the best way to see the city is to walk. Park your car in the boat harbor (Le Port), or use a parking garage that there are many of around Promenade des Anglais and Place Massena.
As the French Riviera has very good public transport, it’s even better if you can arrive by bus or train. An example of how to use public transport in the French Riviera: Read about our bus trip to Monaco
Walking in Nice like the Englishmen: Promenade des Angais
My Nice walking itinerary will help you to the top sights of this amazing Mediterranean city, most of which are in a small area in the heart of the city.
Then, if you stay longer in Nice, the next day you can look for more to see according to your preference. Maybe exhibitions and museums?
A Walking Itinerary to See Nice in One Day
Below you will se what Nice looks like on the map.
There is a port in the east, and next to it a green hill with winding walkways. The old town hides well protected on the foots of the hill, and then there is a kilometres long beach that lines the seashore all the way to Nice Airport.
How to see Nice in one day, the map
The walking route is marked on the map, see the blue dots. You will see the old town, beach, Promenade des Anglais and some more city quarters beyond the Promenade, an area in which you easily spend a whole day.
We started our trip in the port:
1. The Port of Nice
The Port of Nice seen from our rental car
To begin with, the Nice cruise harbour (Le Port) is a place to visit. Above all, go and see the Mediterranean buildings beyond the yacht harbour.
Then spend some time strolling in Le Port that might still be shaded by the hill in the morning. At that time there should not be any crowds.
When evening comes it’s the opposite. Evening sun from the west makes it all glow in colours and draws locals and tourists alike to the area. As the old harbour is a dining area, an evening here might be a good idea.
Panorama from the Hill
Then you might want to climb to the hill Colline du Chateau for a great panorama of Nice. There are stairs up from the Quai Rauba Capeu, both from the seaside and from the other side.
The hill has a misleading name. There’s no castle after it was destroyed in 1706. Only a park is left, and many walkways in the forest.
Nice in One Day: 2. The Beach
The pebble beach of Nice, one of the best in the French Riviera
From the hill you can see how long the beach is, stretching up to the airport.
To be exact, it’s not only one beach. In Nice the beach consists of 30 separate beaches, a lot to choose from. You first have to know what you want.
Some sections are incredibly deep when you step into the water. They don’t suit children and may cause danger to adults aw well, but in between you will find shallow sections.
The landmark of Nice in photos:
Not to make it easy, the beach is partly private and partly public.
There are 15 private beaches with beach chairs, umbrellas and facilities, and free public beaches in between. So, even when it looks like there’s only one long beach, you will have to think about where to enter.
A lonely fisherman on the Nice beach
The beach is the biggest magnet of Nice that has always drawn tourists to the city. I guess you wanted to see it as well, or maybe you came to Nice for another attraction, the seafront boulevard Promenade des Anglais?
3. Promenade des Anglais
Nice in one day: old building-style of Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais is an iconic street with plenty of room for cars and, in places, even more for pedestrians. Following s the Mediterranean seafront for a length of 5 km, it begins from the old town.
Promenade des Anglais was built two hundred years ago, as a response to the English upper classes who were looking for places with a milder winter climate.
So they came and built their mansions in Nice and spent their winters walking up and down the Promenade. This is what gave Promenade des Anglais its name, “Walkway of the English”.
Today the buildings of the English still stand there, for the most part, but the street had to transform when cars needed more and more of it. Today there are eight lanes for cars.
Luckily they had made the Promenade was so wide from the beginning and there was room for a walking area as well.
An old mansion on Promenade des Anglais, Nice
My photos will show you some samples of typical Promenade des Anglais buildings, many of which are now hotels. The most exclusive of them is Hotel Negresco.
Quai des Etats-Units
Walk Nice in one day
Towards the Old Town the promenade gets narrower and buildings simpler and lower. You can see buildings form a wall between the Promenade and the Old Town.
The long white wall of flat houses is called Les Ponchettes. Les Ponchettes contains ateliers, cafes and restaurants on its both sides, the sea and town sides.
This area, Quai des Etats-Units with the flat houses, was the most fashionable area before the Promenade. It still looks nice – and protects the old town against winds from the sea. Through gates in the Les Ponchettes walls you can access the old town:
4. Le Vieux Nice (Nice Old Town)
Nice Old Town beyond Les Ponchettes
So the old town, Le Vieux Nice in French, has a city wall against winter storms, but in the old days protection against attacks from the sea was the primary purpose.
What do we find on the other side?
Cours Saleya Street Market
The street market Cours Saleya, Nice old town
The first thing you will come across is Cours Saleya, the main street in the old town that at the same time is a flower and vegetable market (daily except Mondays).
On the Cours Saleya market you will get an overview on what the French Riviera produces. The market is where local farmers from the countryside come to sell what they produce.
Then there are sellers of lavender bags and Marseille soap in twenty different flavors.
If you are going to buy lavender bags, buy them here. The ones I bought on the market were much better quality than the ones hanging in old town tourist shops.
Narrow Alleys, Shops and Street Cafes
What to see in Nice in one day: stroll in the old town
The rest of the old town is all narrow alleys and pastel buildings.
As all townhouses are so high and the alleys so narrow, the sun won’t get into where you walk. Most of the day the old town is a shady place, a positive thing during the Mediterranean summer. At other times of the year it’s not so pleasant, as the old town is so cold.
As this is a tourist area, there is to be found what tourists like most: small shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes. Wonderful Provence textiles in all colors, Provence spices, tastes and scents.
One more shady Vieux Nice alley:
A shady street in Nice Old Town
Then there is the large square Place du Palaice:
Place du Palaice
The pink church tower of Place du Palaice, Nice
Below middle you will see the Palais du Justice where the square’s name comes from, and Place du Palaice, the busy square in front of the palace:
Wouldn’t you love to sit on this sunny balcony, watching street life and, at the same time, see the sun set in the Mediterranean?
A sunny Nice balcony
We will be back in the Vieux nice after dark, and now have a look at the “new town” instead.
5.Beyond the Old Town
Place Massena in Central Nice
This is the main square of Nice. The Italian style Place Massena is located right behind the old town. Place Massena with these arcades and pavement decorations looks so Italian.
This is where the main shopping area of the city begins. Avenue Jean Medecin is the main shopping street where most department stores exist.
Promenade du Paillon
Central Nice, built on the covered river Paillon
On its both sides Place Massena has parks that are built where a river used to be. The River Paillon split the city in two, but was covered over.
The Paillon still runs through the city us an underground river. That way it gives more room for a playground and tram line.
Central Nice has a classical look. One more square, located next to the old town:
One more Nice square
Jardin Albert 1er
Jardin Albert 1er carousel, Promenade des Anglais
The same river has given way to the small park of Jardin Albert 1er, located on the north side of Promenade de Anglais.
Our kids loved the fountain and the traditional old-time carousel, and it looked like the local children liked the same things. There was no common language, just fun together.
Jardin Albert 1er is the place where French independence day ceremonies happen each July. That of course makes a lot of locals come around.
What to see in Nice in one day: a pretty fountain next to Promenade des Anglais
Time to walk on and look at the sea waves. The Mediterranean is as blue as always and we feel so happy to be in Nice!
6. Promenade des Anglais
Hello! Greetings from the French Riviera!
This is one of the pretty gates through which you will get to the beach, the old-style Beau Rivage gate.
Nice is one of the very few cities in the world that has beach like this right in the city center. What a luxury for those who live here, and what a luxury for us that visit!
You can tell this is an essential part of their daily life. A place to sit in evenings, on blue chairs, looking at the sea:
Promenade des Anglais is where Nice residents like to come after work to spend their leisure time, in the Mediterranean way:
Roller skating on Promenade des Anglais
Roller skaters, walkers, joggers – and on the other side an endless flow of cars:
Then, after sunset, it’s the right time to get back to the old town.
7. Back to the Old Town
Nice old town after dark
In old town canyons it gets dark sooner than out on the Promenade. Looking up, it feels like all houses are leaning and falling on me, a strange feeling that I kind of like.
Before dinner there’s still time to wander the cobbled streets and see if there’s something to buy.
Can you see how narrow and high the old town buildings are?
Raising my head to see the sky
Shopping in the French Riviera: Nice Old Town
Strolling in the old town evening you will feel you are in South France. Sounds, flavors, scents, the language.
As I always only travel with a cabin baggage, I just have to look at the items, not buy. Putting limits your baggage size makes traveling easier but converts shopping to window-shopping.
Some more views of Nice old town evening:
Relax, sit down in a street cafe and enjoy the French Riviera atmosphere. Street musicians, performers, nice people, just get to know them.
A French Riviera cocktail bar
Street musicians in a busy corner
As walking makes you hungry it’s time to find where to have dinner. Hope you will find a place where you can sit outdoors. The streets and squares are so nice to look at while dining.
The Mediterranean Nice Old Town in France
Dining in Nice Old Town
Sit down where typical Provencal dishes are served: Mediterranean fish, mussels, squid – and once you are in Nice, you just have to taste Socca, chickpea pancakes.
See Nice in one day: dining in Nice
Two more street views: a silent street and a busy one:
Two Nice streets
And finally, the Place Massena sculpture will wave goodbye to you, good night!
So now have spent a day in Nice, and walked a lot. To be honest, there was no time for art museums that there are so many of in Nice. Maybe that will be the next day’s program.
Goodye Nice, have a good night!
Read more about Nice and its art museums on the official website of Nice Convention and Visitors Bureau:
More about the French Riviera
You might also be interested in these posts: