Nice – An Active Holiday Guide
On the southeast coast of France, Nice welcomes travellers with top class restaurants, a famous promenade, Mediterranean architecture and great night life. Nice is a fashionable yet fairly relaxed city with a population of 350,000 who live pretty much in harmony with its geography with one foot in the Mediterranean and the other in the foothills of the Alps.
Nice, considered the capital of the French Riviera, is culturally a little bit French and a little bit Italian with a Mediterranean spirit. After all, it’s just 50 km to the Italian border and only 150 years ago, Nice was an Italian city.
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Nice is a good walking city and a stroll along the majestic Promenade des Anglais is a must. Nice’s location and transport links makes it a great base from which to explore the surrounding region. It’s is only a short train or bus ride away from Monaco, Cannes, Eze and other Cote d’Azur hot spots. The nearest ski resorts are just 90 minutes away.
Nice blends the best of old and new France with the old town (Vieux Nice) outlined by Boulevard Jean Jaurès, Quai des Etats-Unis and Place Garibaldi to the north east. The modern city centre, the area north and west of Place Masséna, includes the pedestrianised Rue de France and Rue Masséna. The famous Promenade des Anglais, revitalised in recent years, follows the perfectly curved beachfront from the city centre all the way to the airport six kilometers to the west.
Nice’s beach is just a stone’s throw from the city centre and although it’s not much to write home about, it’s great if you hate sand as it’s a pebbley beach and a lot more comfortable to lie on than you might imagine. On a wavey day, the beach drops off sharply into the sea, so take care if you’re going for a dip with young children. In the summer months, the beach alternates between public and private access sections. If you pay to use a private area of beach you can avail of all sorts of amenities such as mattresses, showers, changing rooms, parasols and a reduced chance of theft.
Along the beach you can hire paddleboats, windsurfers, jet skis, go parasailing or water skiing. The off season is anything but if you’re a kitesurfer or a windsurfer and you’ll see lots of kites and sails in the bay from September through to the end of April, powered up by the Mistral winds.
Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur (17 min)
Côte d'Azur Pharmacy, 14 Rue de France, 06000 Nice.
La Poste, 8 Rue Foncet, 06000 Nice.
Taxi Nice, 21 Av. Scudéri, 06100 Nice.
Office Du Tourisme Nice Côte D'Azur
5 Prom. des Anglais
Phone: +33 (0)8 92 70 74 07
Active things to do in and around Nice
Skiing and Snowboarding just 1.5 hours from Nice!
Snowboarding in Isola 2000 | © R. Palomba – Mercantour Ski Resorts
Where the Alps meet the sea, Nice is perfectly positioned between the blue of the Mediterranean and the white peaks of the Maritime Alps, some of which are over 3000 m.
With 700 km of pistes within 2 hours of Nice you can enjoy the sunshine and the slopes in this privileged part of France. There are 10 ski resorts in the Alpes Maritimes, including Isola 2000 which is only 1.5 hours away by car.
Sea Kayaking at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, east of Nice | © aqua-sport-evasion.fr
Just to the east of Nice is a rocky peninsula called Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. Calm, crystal clear warm waters lap the stunning Riviera coastline making the area perfect for sea kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. Located between Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu you paddle along the cliffs, exploring secret coves as you go.
Along this stretch of coastline, nature blends with luxury villas and opulent accommodation like the Grand Hotel de Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. In your kayak, you have the best seat in the house and guests will look on with envy from their luxury sun-loungers!
Where to stay
Nice has lots of really good, reasonably priced places to stay, however during the Easter holidays, lots of US students descend on Nice making cheap accommodation hard to come by. Nice is crowded with budget travellers during July and August too.
For most of the year, but especially from Easter to September, the inexpensive places to stay fill up by late morning so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re booked in by 10 am. Most overnight trains from major cities such as Paris, Rome and Barcelona and the overnight ferries from Corsica will get you into Nice early enough to find some available rooms.
In summer, lots of young people sleep on the beach, some because the hotels and hostels are full, others because it’s free. This is illegal, but if you make sure you’re off the beach before 8 am, the Nice police usually turn a blind eye.
Ten best value hotels in Nice
Take a look at a selection of our favourite places to stay in and around Nice. Some can be classed as hostels, others are boutique budget hotels, but all the hotels on the list have been hand picked and offer great value.