Nice on the Cote D’Azur is a favourite holiday destination of ours. From two week holidays to long weekends we’ve always found something new – and familiar to enjoy .If you are looking for sun, sea, sand and shopping then look no further! I thought it might be useful to share some ideas for a long weekend in Nice.
Nice is just 2 hours direct flight from the UK, and just 20 minutes from airport to city making it an ideal place for a long weekend. Located on Côte d’Azur this city sits on the South of France coast – to the East is Cap Ferrat, Villefranche Sur Mer, Eze and Monaco. To the West is Cannes, St Tropez and Marseilles.
I recommend you stay Thursday to Monday giving you three full days in the city, with a bit either side depending on your delarture/arrival time. .
What to do and where to go on long weekend in Nice
I’ve split the inspiration into 5 different categories so you can choose:
Beach Life in Nice
Nice is blessed with miles of Beach just steps from the big hotels and shops. The beaches are more stony than the imported sand in Cannes but still offers a great chance to enjoy some time by the sea.
You can choose to sit on a private beach for which you will pay to get a lounger and a towel – usually with a bar and restaurant available for additional cost. Or you can join the local Nicoise and enjoy some public beach action if you can find some space and bring your own towel.
The right beach for you will be a totally personal choice. As we stay at Le Negresco, the Neptune Plage or Blue Plage have always been our favourites. Spending a day on the beach, drinking Rosé in the restaurant at lunch feels very indulgent but also makes the weekend seem that little bit longer. Speaking from experience, because everything is so close in Nice, it can also be a great base if one of you wants to catch some sun whilst the other checks out the shops.
The Negresco Beach Club is a relatively new place which may have taken over the Neptune spot so do check it out.
Going up in the Smily Face parachute thing is an optional extra if you are brave enough. After almost 15 years of coming here I have yet to summon the courage!
Shopping in Nice
Nice has plenty of shops to poke around in. There are broadly four main shopping areas, all of which are easy to get to on foot – heading East to West:
Rue Messina – starting at Pizza Cresci then heading west, is a pedestrianised area that has a mixture of independent and mainstream shops. Expect affordable outfits, footwear and pharmacies interspersed with some restaurants.
Follow Massena West and you will intersect with the aptly named ‘Rue Paradis’ where you will find the high end boutiques including Aubade, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
On the Rue Alphonse Karr (just off Rue Massena) and Avenue de Verdun you will find a number of independent clothing stores stocking a wide range of European and American brands. There used to be a great wine shop around here that was rumoured to stock the Pink Floyd Rosé but I never found a bottle and it looks to have gone.
Heading North ish from Place Massena is Av. Jean Médecin. Here you will find bigger brand name stores like H&M and Zara. You will cos find fnac – the French equivalent of an HMV or Tower Records – although it sells more dvds and scooters than records these days. The Galerie Lafayettes, just up from Place Messina is a great department store with plenty of French brands to discover.
The fourth shopping area are in the lanes of Vieux Nice (the old town). Expect very small boutiques and any galleries plus the odd sweet shop! These will stay open late into the evening so you can have a poke around before, or after dinner.
Art & Culture in Nice
If you fancy a little more culture during your long weekend in Nice then you can visit the modern art museum or you go with something a little more classical.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice. Housed in a beautiful old 19th century mansion, the this boasts Fine-art museum in 19th-century mansion with paintings by van Loo & Monet, plus sculptures by Rodin. It’s less than a 10 minute walk from Le Negresco. (there’s a Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, too but it’s much bigger.
In the park between Le Negresco and the hotel West End, you will see the Musée Massena. This ‘the architectural jewel’ shares collections of art and history of the French Riviera from the time of the attachment of Nice to France until the end of the Belle Epoque. It will often host dedicated exhibitions which are worth looking out for.
Further up the hill – a bus or a short Uber you can find the Marc Chagall Museum. You can expect to see lots of his religious work and prints but not too much stained glass.
Perched up high above Nice is the wonderful Musée Matisse. Set in a Set in an elegant 17th-century villa, this museum of Matisse paintings showcases some of his most famous works (or preparations for those works) and inspirations. You can imagine the artist enjoying the light from this gorgeous villa.
Whilst you are up here you can spend some time in the neighbouring Jardin des Arènes de Cimiez with the ruined remains of a Roman Amphitheatre, or find some peace in the Jardin du Monastère de Cimiez (all three in the same area) before you head back down to the city.
In the Summer months you can find live music in the city. The Nice Jazz Festival covers a long weekend in July every year. This years line up includes Fela Kuti. It is worth keeping an eye out for future concerts as the City has hosted some crackers – I have enjoyed Simple Minds and Supertamp’s Roger Hodgson as part of the old Crazy Week.
You will also see live music on the streets and there will be performances on the Promenade Des Anglais for Bastille Day.
Where to Eat in Nice
With four nights to play with, I suggest an easy dinner on the first night then two ‘fancy’ dinners (if that’s your thing) on Friday and Saturday night leaving Sunday flexible if you spot something you want to try. Here are some of my favourite restaurants in Nice:
Pizza Cresci – always the first dinner of the holiday. Located at the edge of the shopping area, this is a great place to enjoy a relaxed dinner and indulge in some people watching.
Sitting outside on a warn evening you can enjoy delicious, fresh pizzas or a bowl of pasta from this family institution. Portions are high and service is quick making that ideal first night dinner. You can stick around for dessert or head into old town (Vieux Nice) for a nightcap or an ice cream – more on that later. https://www.pizza-cresci-nice.com/en/
For a fancy dinner you could try the Michelin Starred Chanteclare at Le Negresco, or head out to La Reserve or La Piscine for a truly memorable dinner by the sea.
Le Chantecler – is a Michelin-starred restaurant located at the iconic Negresco Hotel in Nice, France. this is Michelin starred French cooking at its best. Expect full on ceremony with a champagne trolley to get you started followed by excellent degustations. The menu can be quite rich for some and you don’t get much of a sea/sunset view but it is an experience worth doing. https://www.hotel-negresco-nice.com/en/restaurants/the-chantecler
La Reserve de Nice – Located on the peninsula as you head West from Nice, this small restaurant is set across three floors right next to the sea. The first floor is the bar, the second is bar/dining in cooler weather but it’s the top deck you want to be on.
If you book a table around sunset you can sit and enjoy the most incredible light as you sup Rosé and dine on xx and y. As the sun sets you can watch the lights come on across the Nice waterfront as the lighthouse starts to glow.
Service here has been funny over the years. Sometimes just too quick, sometimes too slow but we keep going back for the food and the light. https://www.lareservedenice.fr/en/
Le Plongeoir – Balanced precariously on two rocky outcrops, Le Plongeoir got its name from being the location of some old high diving boards that used to jut into the sea. It has also been the site if an incredible sight – a stylish fishing boat was secured on the rock. During “La Belle Époque”, guests could eat and drink tea perched six metres above the waves. This restaurant, connected by a walkway to a charming gazebo typical of that era on the French Riviera, soon became emblematic of the city of Nice.
Now transformed into a wonderful restaurant, with views to die for. I think it is the closest thing to dining on a boat without leaving the shore!
Sunday night in Nice can be a challenge as many restaurants close in France. You should have time to poke around and see what you can find before the Sunday!
If you don’t want to race around for your long weekend in Nice, then you can just chill. Take a long walk along the Promenade Des Anglais (or hire a Velo Bleu to cover more ground,) Relax in the shade of the castle trees with one of the best views of the city – or just poke around the lanes of vieux nice and stop for a coffee and watch the world go by!
Where to Stay in Nice
We always stay at Le Negresco, it is just such a unique hotel that it is part of the holiday. You can read why we love it so much on this post.
Most of the major hotels are along the seafront. We’ve stayed at Hotel Le West End, which is metres from Negresco and offers a wonderful sea view from the best rooms. The hotel is compact, comfy and friendly.
Getting Around Nice
Nice is really easy to get around. If you don’t mind walking then most places are accessible on foot. The main areas are pretty flat (even the old town lanes aren’t that steep) but you may want pack some flats if you are dressing up for the night. Walking from the Negresco into the old town can take about half an hour but probably longer as you meander between shops and check out the restaurants. At night the Promenade Des Anglais comes alive so we often walk home this way.
The new tram system will get you from the airport to the old port (to connect with the Corsica ferry) and many stops in between. You can grab an Uber or pick up one of the bicycle taxis that will hang around Place Massena.
Getting to Nice
You can fly direct from many UK cities to Nice. The airport is about 20 minutes from town so you can grab a taxi, or hop on the tram and head into town maximising the time for your long weekend in Nice.
You can get direct flights to Nice from Belfast, Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh
and London (all major airports.)
The TGV runs from Paris Gare St. Lazare direct to Nice Ville SNCF station. The trip takes about 8 hours but you can do the Eurostar > TGV from London in a day.