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What to do with a few days in Nice, France

It’s museums, food and beaches galore! Plus, is the water really that blue?

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Le Port, Nice, France, on Nov. 16, 2023.

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TikTok isn’t lying to you; the water off the coast of Nice, France, really is that blue.

I also came to find that the hype surrounding the French Riviera was not misplaced. Maybe I had rose-colored glasses on and not a Slack message in sight, but there was something magical about the southern French city.

While I’d like to be able to lay out a whole itinerary of my visit (that I, of course, planned beforehand), I can only admit to a penchant for a good stroll, during which I will find the principal of my daily activities.

Besides my internal desire to lead my own walking tours that take me into museums named after people I don’t know of and still won’t understand upon leaving, I have it on good authority that the best way to explore a city is to walk it.

Of course, you can take alternate transportation if you need to speed up your exploration or require other accommodations to make the most of your trip.

With a few days at your disposal, here’s how to get the most out of your visit to Nice.

Visit a museum or two

Now, this likely isn’t news to anyone who’s traveled to Europe before. Museums are probably on a majority of travelers’ lists, but believe it or not, I have specific reasons for including them here that aren’t just about seeing art. If you’re anything like me during my visit to Nice, you have a passable understanding of written French, less so of the spoken language. Museums are an easy way to practice both skills with the abundance of signs (that often have English translations) and docents that will speak to you in French regarding the art and your trip. I conversed in French for an excruciatingly long minute about where I was visiting from and why I was in Nice. Besides the language aspect, walking around a museum can give you a look into Nice’s past as well as the important figures in its history, while also posing a cool reprieve from walking around in the hot sun.

Museums to visit in Nice include:

  • Le Musée Masséna: Located just off the Promenade des Anglais, this museum displays the history of the city and artifacts related to Napoleon. Housed in an authentic villa, the museum’s wares are on display for visitors daily, except on Tuesdays.
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Le Musée Masséna, Nice, France, pictured on Nov. 10, 2023.

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  • Musée National Marc Chagall: Further from the coast, this museum’s offerings are slimmer, though the gallery is more than worth a visit. It traces Marc Chagall’s art and his spiritual/religious journey in tandem.
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Musée National Marc Chagall pictured on Nov. 12, 2023.

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Dedicate time to multiple neighborhoods

One of the biggest mistakes you could make in Nice is confining yourself to one neighborhood. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest trying to see as much as possible, but giving yourself a variety of sites allows you to get a better understanding of the city and, of course, more to love.

Due to my haphazard planning style and desire to explore, I made it a priority to see as much of the city as I could.

With only a few days, you are limited, so I’d recommend picking a few areas to spend time in over the course of your trip. For me, that was Le Musiciens, Jean-Médecin, Vieux Nice, Le Port and The Promenade.

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A road in Le Port, Nice, France, on Nov. 16, 2023.

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A street in the Carabacel neighborhood of Nice, France, on Nov. 12, 2023.

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Vieux Nice, Nice, France, on Nov. 12, 2023.

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Don’t skip the beach

If you’re going to Nice, you’ve probably clocked the beaches already, especially if you’re visiting in the height of summer. This may sound less pleasant, though, to travelers visiting in colder seasons, but I’d argue that there’s still much to appreciate about Nice’s beaches in cooler weather. The water is magically blue (which came as a bit of a shock to this native Californian), the reading on the beach potential is endless and people watching is always entertaining. Even if you aren’t planning on a swim, there’s nothing like bringing a baguette or pastry down to the rocks and watching the water ebb and flow when you’re on vacation. It’s part of the French Riviera experience.

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Aside from the main beaches in Nice, there are other areas where people prefer to sit out, like on the rocky outcrops pictured above on Nov. 11, 2023.

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Get that croissant (and then do it again)

One of the best parts about being in France is the access to high quality food, specifically decadent pastries. I am not embarrassed to admit that my pain aux chocolat counter hit 10 (over a nine-day trip), and my chaussons aux pommes counter hit three. On that note, I implore all travelers heading to France in general to find and order chaussons aux pommes. It’s the French version of an apple turnover, but each one I had beat every American apple turnover I’ve tasted by a mile. They say calories don’t count on vacation, but if they did I’d still recommend multiple trips to the boulangerie.

Take a day trip

There’s plenty to do in Nice, but I’d guess a day trip will only enrich your experience. The ideal cities for a day trip include Eze, Menton, Marseille, Monte-Carlo, Antibes and Cannes, though there are various other options. I, for example, made a new acquaintance and walked from Vieux Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer, a small neighboring town. In the high season, this town would have been bustling with tourists, but early November saw small crowds and an easy walk. The unwalkable day trips are made possible by a robust public transit system, which can be used to plan months in advance or the day of, so spontaneous day trips aren’t out of the question.

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A street in Villefranche-sur-Mer on Nov. 11, 2023.

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