Face it: sometimes you don’t have a great deal of time to spend in a city. But I’ve learned that you can pack a lot in in just 24 hours, if you plan ahead and prioritize what you want to do. Here's what I did with my short 24 hours in Nice, France. By Susan Guillory.
24 Hours in Nice
On a recent trip to Provence, I flew into Nice. Having spent a handful of days there as a college student, I was eager to retrace my steps in this beautiful seaside city. With just a day before I had to hop a train to a yoga retreat amid the grapevines, I had to make my time count.
Here are my recommendations if you only have a little time, for example 24 hours in Nice.
Traveling to Nice? Check out these tours by Get Your Guide our preferred choice for local excursions.
3 Hour Guided Bike Tour: $35.07 USD – See the highlights of Nice on a guided bike tour – Includes Tour Guide, Bicycle and bottled water.
Cultural Gourmet Walking Tour – $66.52 USD – A 4 hour sightseeing and tasting tour with 10 tasting stops where you'll sample wine and cheese and end with an aperitif.
Nice Guided Walking tour – $16.33 USD – 100 minute highlights of Nice walking tour that includes local food tasting.
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Float in the Water
If you do only one thing, make it this. I had such fond memories of being buoyant in the super-salinated waters of the Mediterranean Sea in my youth, and I wasn’t disappointed this time around.
My friend Rose and I, who had met me in Nice, bought cheap €3 straw mats that would protect us from the smooth but bumpy stones that lined the shore. She had never been to Nice, nor floated in the sea.
The water was cool, but comfortable enough. We swam out a bit from the shore, which was still empty at 10 am in September. Then we laid back and let the water hold us.
The sound of rocks clattering beneath the sea was lulling. The water, which changed colors as the clouds passed overhead, lapped at our bodies. This was pure happiness.
Bonus Tip: Early fall is a great time to visit Nice, and the water is still warm and lovely in September. You won’t compete for a spot to lay your straw mat out on this time of year. Also, late morning is less crowded than the afternoon, so plan accordingly.
Eat Some Niçoise Cuisine
Something that’s really interesting about Nice is that it’s got its own cuisine that it is fiercely proud of. Only one other city in France — Lyon — has a cuisine named after it. Here in Nice, it’s called Niçoise, and it’s an eclectic mix of French and Italian, because it is so close to the Italian border.
Look for dishes like pan bagnat, salade Niçoise, socca, and pissaladière for an authentic taste of Nice. And you can’t go wrong with pizzas either! They’re different from what we have in the US, and even different from eastern Italy.
You’ll be spoiled for choice in terms of great dining options, but if you want authentic local cuisine, look for a sign with “Cuisine Nissarde,” which indicates that this is one of a handful of restaurants certified in Niçoise cuisine. Lu Fran Calin is a great example of a certified restaurant specializing in Niçoise cuisine, as well as treats from across the border in Italy.
Bonus Tip: You’re certainly not limited to Niçoise cuisine in Nice. Give a nice pizza with fruits de mer (seafood, including baby octopus) a try! Even if you think a pizza is a pizza is a pizza, I guarantee the ones you’ll try in Nice will blow your mind. They’re not quite Italian, but can’t be compared to pizza anywhere else in the world.
Take Photos at the Cours Saleya Market
I’m a sucker for a good French market, and the open air market on the Cours Saleya is one of the most picturesque. Zucchini blossoms, squash, honey, flowers, peppers…you name it, you can find it here.
Because I usually don’t have a kitchen when I travel for a day or two, I’m always sad that I can’t justify buying the gorgeous produce, but there are a few stands of local treats like merengue and candy you can take home.
Bonus Tip: The lighting for your photos is best mid morning. If you go midweek, you won’t be jostling through throngs of people.
Mount the Colline du Château
There’s a wonderful park that overlooks Nice. You can see both the Promenade des Anglais; where tourists and locals walk along the coastline and the harbor on the other side. Called Colline du Château (hill of the castle), this overlook housed a castle at one time, but no longer.
This is also a great public place where you can eat your baguette and cheese, listen to an accordion player play Ed Sheeran, or watch kids tumble on the playground. Plus it's an excellent place for selfies with the coast in the background!
Bonus Tip: Pick your method for getting to the top. If you want to work off that pizza, take the 300 stairs. Otherwise there’s an elevator.
Have a Drink at the Beach
Sure, you can go to any number of museums in Nice if that’s your thing, but with time short, I recommend plopping down at one of the beach bars at sunset and ordering a Spritz Aperol. This is actually an Italian drink, with prosecco and a bitter citrus liqueur called Aperol. It is neon orange and fun to drink!
Rose and I chose our hotel’s bar, Hotel Riviera. We had to wait for a seat, but once we had a front-seat view of the picturesque blue and white chairs and umbrellas that lined the beach, as well as the setting sun, we couldn’t be happier.
Bonus Tip: You’re not the only one planning to watch the sunset from a beachfront bar, so get there long before sunset time to wait patiently for a table.
Rest After a Fun Day
You’re spoiled for choice in terms of hotels in Nice. There are many hotels near the Promenade des Anglais that put you just steps away from the beach, all at different price points.
I recommend the Hotel Riviera, a 4-star hotel one block from the beach, with reasonable prices (we paid under €100 per person per night). And, of course, you get the beach bar and a lovely bar in the hotel.
Just 24 hours in Nice is long enough to make you realize that you need to plan a more extensive visit. We didn’t even hit on the winding alleys of Old Town or the shopping district!
If you want to stay a little further from the bustle of the beach, Villa Victoria Hotel is ideal. Nestled in a neighborhood just 10 minutes’ walk from both the beach and the shopping district, the hotel’s biggest appeal is the courtyard garden that doubles as a dining and bar area.
When Susan Guillory isn’t running her marketing company, she’s traveling and writing about it on The Unexplorer.