When is the best time to visit?
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, located at the centre of the popular and glamorous region of Southern France. As the main location of the international airport, many tourists book flights to Nice every year, keen to explore the glitzy location, famed for its celebrities and expensive yachts. The town of Nice itself, though, is less upmarket than its neighbours such as Cannes and St Tropez. One of the larger and more modern towns in the Riviera, this is the place from which to explore the expensive surrounding regions. That’s not to say the town isn’t a destination in its own right. It too sports a popular beachfront for promenading, a selection of fine restaurants and more than 300 days of sunshine every year.
Long, hot summers and mild winters are typical in Nice. January temperatures can drop to the very low temperatures. August averages in the 20s but it can reach 37 degrees. Sea breezes keep you cool, requiring a light jacket for summer evenings.
The best time to take a flight to Nice is from March till August when you can enjoy long daylight and warm weather. As it is the peak season, book your flight to Nice well in advance to get the best deal.
July and August are the peak season months in Nice. The hotels, beaches, and clubs are all crowded. February’s Nice Carnaval, the main winter event on the Riviera also brings in lots of visitors. As it is one of the largest carnivals in the world, expect a variety of unforgettable events and the crowds to match. Colourful parades take place day and night, a number of large floats make up carnival processions and entertainment is provided by over 1000 international musicians and dancers. The atmosphere in the city is buzzing, however, if you're looking for a relaxed holiday and some peace and quiet you might want to consider visiting Nice at another time.
The weather in spring and autumn is still warm and most of the crowds have left. November is also pleasant, but many of the local hotel and restaurants are closed as their owners and staff go on holiday. The weather remains warm till fairly late in the year, so this can be a good time to get a good deal on a cheap flight to Nice.
Winter is being rediscovered as a pleasant time to visit, but it is a little chilly for sunbathing and swimming. The mistral may blow through for a few days making it feel quite cold.
Though the modern town is sprawling, its old town centre is a romantically delightful medieval part of town, packed tightly with red roofed-houses, cobbled narrow streets with local shops, restaurants and small open air markets. It is the perfect place for a wander after swimming in the sea.
Getting around Nice
The beautiful scenery, brightly lit streets, quaint buildings and sunny beaches are well worth exploring on foot. The best walks are through historic Old Town and Promenade des Anglais, a stretch along the bay. If you do get tired of walking, most of the buses run until midnight. The Sunbus, which stops at some of the city’s main attractions, is the most popular. Buy Sunbus tickets at local cafés. The other bus option is Nice By Bus, which conveniently sells passes for one, five or seven days.
Taxis are available, but drivers are known to overcharge tourists, so keep an eye on the meter and discuss the rate before you get in.
To get yourself around the city, try renting a bike, moped, motorcycle or yacht. Trains can take you beyond the city limits.
Getting from the Airport to the City
Nice Cote d'Azur Airport (NCE) is well connected by bus, taxis, airport shuttle and trains. Train station is not in the airport so you have to walk to reach it but the airport shuttle bus stop is close to the station. Airport express buses travel from the airport to the city and from the airport to central railway station.
Nice insider information
- The cours Saleya is in the Old Town. It has a daily market, selling flowers and vegetables and, on Mondays, antiques and bric-a-brac. The area, with its Belle Epoque architecture and Henri Matisse’s old residence, is a beautiful place to people watch.
- Niceski. The city was very popular with the Russian nobility who “wintered” here. The most famous sign of this is St Nicholas Cathedral, with its "onion-shaped" domes, which was the first to be designated a Russian Orthodox Cathedral outside Russia.
- Nice has several outstanding places of worship. These include the baroque Chapelle de la Miséricorde and the Cathédrale de Ste-Réparate, built in honour of Nice’s patron saint.
- There are excellent museums too. The Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain has art by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, and the Musee National Message Biblique Marc Chagall boasts the largest public collection of works by the artist. The Musee des Beaux-Arts, housed in the former private mansion of a Ukrainian princess, has the original plaster of Rodin’s The Kiss as well as ceramics by Pablo Picasso. The Musee Matisse is on the hill of Cimiez and contains Henri Matisse’s private collection that he gave to the city including a version of the world-famous Blue Nude. Palais Lascaris, a Baroque palace in the Old Town, is a museum of local history and there is also a restored 19th-century pharmacy on the ground floor.
- Nice is expensive, but cheap treats include walking the Promenade des Anglais, bathing at one of the public beaches, and climbing Castle Hill for views of the city.
- Cimiez, an upmarket suburb, is home not only to the Matisse museum, but also of the archaeological museum (Musée et Site Archéologiques), Roman ruins, and a Franciscan monastery where Matisse and Raoul Dufy are buried.