There are tons of great things to see and do around the city that won’t cost you anything and you’ll still be able to see all the best places in Nice. I live here full-time and definitely don’t spend as much as I would traveling or living in the US! That’s why I’ve created this guide to the best free things to do in Nice, France so you can visit Nice even if you’re on a budget.
This way you can enjoy everything that this beautiful city has to offer while saving your spending money for more important things like delicious food and wine along the coast!
Let’s dive in.
1. Walk Along the Promenade des Anglais
Looking to take in the sea air and get beautiful views across the Mediterranean Sea? It’s time that you check out the Promenade des Anglais. This seven-mile stretch of paved, pedestrian-friendly promenade hugs the beach and is littered with hotels, bars, cafes, and restaurants.
It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Nice and is always a hub of activity.
There are a few things along the Promenade that you will want to keep your eye out for while on your walk:
- Miniature Statue of Liberty
- Neuf Lignes Obliques Statue
- The Blue Chair Monument
- Le Negresco Hotel
- Hotel Amour Beach Sign
If you fancy a run or cycle on your vacation, the flat and well-maintained prom is the perfect place. Just try not to get too distracted by the amazing view, the rollerbladers and skaters might run right into you!
2. Take a Photo at the #ILOVENICE Sign
While you’re on the Promenade des Anglais, there’s the perfect Instagram-friendly photo opportunity with the huge #ILOVENICE sign. It’s pretty common to see tourists at all times of the day hovered around the sign trying to get the perfect shot.
If that’s not your kind of thing, it’s still well worth checking out this spot as it’s got the best views of the beach along the entire promenade!
3. La Coulée Verte
If you’re wanting to spend some time relaxing, surrounded by greenery, head inland to La Coulée Verte, otherwise known as the green corridor. This strip of beautifully kept green space snakes through the city, giving locals and tourists the opportunity to sit back and refresh in nature.
Bring a book, gather your friends together, or just sit and enjoy your lunch in this unique piece of parkland in the center of the city.
4. Climb Castle Hill (La Colline du Château)
Looking for some of the best views of Nice? Head up Castle Hill to get panoramic shots of the city and bay below. Although the castle that the hill gets its name from is long gone, people still flock here in droves to get photos, have a picnic, or even propose!
It’s about 200 steps to get to the top, but if you need it there is a lift that’ll take you most of the way. On your hike up, there’s even an artificial waterfall where you can catch your breath and enjoy before continuing onwards to the top.
5. Take the Elevator Up to Castle Hill
If you’re not feeling up to a hike, the elevator that goes to the top of Castle Hill is free! Since it’s free, it might be a little cramped and the line might be a bit long. However, in the summer, it might be worth it since the hike is a bit steep.
6. Go Shopping at the Flower Market / Antique Market (Cours Saleya)
Held in Place Masséna, the Cours Selaya market in Nice is a must-visit. It’s an iconic part of life here and the energy is just something else. Even though it’s labeled as a flower market, there are also stalls dedicated to fruit, vegetables, and other foodstuffs.
The market itself is free to visit, but you’ll want to bring your wallet to take advantage of all the local fare.
It’s worth noting that the Flower Market is open every day except Mondays when an Antiques Market takes its place.
7. Check out the Old Port
Dreaming of buying a boat and sailing around the most fabulous places along the Mediterranean and beyond? This is exactly the sort of daydreaming you can indulge in around the Old Port area.
If you walk around the corner from the end of Promenade des Anglais, you’ll reach the port or you can take the L2 tram all the way to the end and you’ll step off right in front of the harbor. Once there, you’ll find loads of restaurants, bars, cafes, and gorgeous architecture to enjoy.
A lot of focus when traveling to Nice is on the west side of the city, where the Old Town and main shopping centers are as well as the main beaches.
However, Port Lympia is an absolute gem and a gorgeous part of the city you shouldn’t miss.
I’ve lived in the Old Port for almost 2 years now and there is so much to love about this area. Not all of the places below have a lot of reviews, but the views from each spot are AMAZING and you won’t regret visiting them.
Here are a few spots in the Old Port that you’ll love:
- Quai Lunel
- Statue of Charles-Felix de Savoie
- The Notre-Dame du Port Church
- Boat Dock of the Port of Nice
The Quai Lunel is basically just an extension of the Promenade that goes into the Port. It passes by the Statue of Charles-Felix de Savoie, which also has a small seating area with benches.
The statue is placed in front of the Colline du Chateau and the colorful buildings behind it, which makes it so much more beautiful.
I definitely recommend walking all the way around the Port. You can even walk inside of the Port itself (you don’t only have to stay on the sidewalk) and get closer to the boats below.
Once you make it to the boat dock, you’ll be able to see those adorable and colorful boats with the backdrop of the Colline.
Port Lympia is also the starting point of many boat tours. Check out this post for a list of the best ones!
8. Take a Pause in Place Garibaldi
Place Garibaldi is a beautiful plaza a bit more inland and between the Port and Old Nice. It’s the city’s oldest major gathering place and has a beautiful statue/fountain of Garibaldi.
There are a few cafes in this area, plus a Monoprix if you wanted to grab a snack!
The carousel isn’t set up or running year-round, but this Place is worth visiting regardless! The yellow buildings and arches that surround the Place make it such a beautiful stop in Nice.
9. Watch the diving at La Réserve
Want to check out some rustic athletic prowess? Head a short distance out of the city to La Réserve and see locals take to the old diving boards at the beach. As the diving boards aren’t exactly up to code, the authorities have technically banned diving here, but no one seems to take any notice.
10. Walk Along the Coastal Path at Cap de Nice & Cliff Jump
There is a lesser-known seaside path in Nice called “The Coastal Path” or the “Sentier du Litteral” that wraps around the Cap de Nice. You are literally walking along the water, passing by tons of beautiful places to stop and layout or jump off into the ocean!
11. Lay Out at the Plage de la Plateform
At the end of the Coastal Path, you get to the “Plage de la Plateform” or the Platform Beach, where there is a large cement platform with room to layout and even a step ladder to go swimming from there.
It takes about 9 minutes to walk to the end of the Coastal Path, which ends at the Plage de la Plateforme.
You can either head back the way you came, or there is a seriously steep set of stairs that will take you up to the Avenue du Cap-de-Nice.
Once you get to the top, you can head to the left (unlike what it shows on the map below) and you can walk down a winding road called Avenue Jean Lorrain and get some of the best views of the Port. I’ll go into that walk in the next point.
12. People Watch at Place Masséna
Who doesn’t like sitting in a cafe or bar and watching the world go by? The perfect place to do this in Nice is at Place Massena. This plaza is a hub of activity at all times of the day, being just one street back from Promenade Des Anglais and the beach.
Home to the flower market, the iconic Sun Fountain, and jaw-dropping architecture that’ll stop you in your tracks, it’s an ideal way to while away a few lazy hours.
13. Visit Notre Dame de l’Assomption Basilica
Towards the end of Saint-Jean-Medecin, you can find the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Basilica, which looks like a more white-washed version of the Notre Dame in Paris.
The hours at the Basilica are 9 am to 12 pm, then 4 pm to 7 pm.
Unfortunately, this was the site of a terrorist attack in Nice in 2020, so you might see flowers or memorials outside the cathedral to commemorate it.
14. Visit the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral
As you get to the end of Saint-Jean-Medecin, you will see an overpass that you’ll need to go under in order to get to St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral. (This is where the Domino’s is as well, fun fact lol)
If you would like to go inside, make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothing to enter the cathedral. It’s open every day, but the hours vary.
15. Walk to the Pink Castle with Views (Chateau De L’Anglais)
Walking is always free! And has so many amazing views, walking is almost always worth it. I wouldn’t recommend this particular walk in June, July, or August since it’ll be way too hot and this hike doesn’t end with any water to jump into.
If you already plan to walk around the Cap de Nice on the Coastal Path and you want a bit of a workout, walk up and down Avenue Jean Lorrain to get some incredible views of the Port of Nice from above.
There is a big pink castle, called the Chateau de L’Anglais, that sits at the top of Avenue Jean Lorrain.
There are a couple of ways to get to these views, and there are multiple viewpoints as well!
You can walk from the bottom of Avenue Jean Lorrain, up to Villa Beau.
Then from Villa Beau, you walk up to the Belvedere du Mont Boron viewing platform for more amazing views. From there, walk down the Boulevard du Mont Boron, turn right on Boulevard Carnot, and then left to walk down Avenue Jean Lorrain.
The most important thing is to get the views while walking down Avenue Jean Lorrain, so all of these walks are just if you want to see more viewpoints along the way!
16. Get Lost in Old Town (Vieux Nice)
Nice’s Old Town, also known as Vieille Ville or Vieux Nice, has been a favorite among locals and tourists alike for centuries. With new and exciting things to be discovered down every alleyway and side street, you can spend hours just wandering around and getting lost.
Here, you can bounce from cafe to bar to restaurant throughout the day. Take pit stops in local shops and boutiques, or just look up around you at the historic architecture. There really is a lot to love about Nice’s Old Town.
17. Visit the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate (Nice Cathedral)
Want to check out one of the most ornate cathedrals you’ve ever seen? Head to Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate.
Filled with legends and stories, including one of a 3rd-century Palestinian girl who, after refusing to denounce Christianity, was killed and – legend says – her body was blown across the Mediterranean by Angels all the way to Nice. Now, she’s the Patron Saint of Nice and the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate is a testament to her.
18. Monastere de Cimiez
Looking for a peaceful and tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city? Monastere de Cimiez is about a 30-minute walk from Old Town but feels like an oasis in the middle of the countryside.
The gardens here date back to 1546 when the monks used them as vegetable gardens. Now, you can come and sit here with a picnic or a book and recharge your batteries. It’s the perfect place to come if you just need some peace and quiet.
The monastery building itself is something special too, so if you’re into architecture, it’s well worth the walk.
19. Spot La Maison d’Adam et Eve
Whenever you’re in a European city and wandering around the older parts of town, it’s always a good idea to look up. From gargoyles to friezes to ancient architecture, you miss so much by keeping your gaze at street level.
In Nice’s Old Town, you can find the last remaining Medieval house – The Adam and Eve House. It was decorated back in the sixteenth century with intricate artwork of the two biblical figures. If you’re into history, art, architecture, or just hidden secret spots, this is for you.
20. Attend the Nice Carnival
Heading to Nice during February? Well, you’re in for a hell of a party. Every February Nice transforms for the Nice Carnival. You can expect firework displays, dancers, street performers, concerts, costumes, and much, much more.
As most of the carnival festivities spill out onto the streets of Nice, it’s free to watch and enjoy. There are certain events in the carnival that are not free, but these are well signposted and ticketed.
21. Hike Parc du Mont Boron and Visit Fort du Mont Alban
Looking to get your heart rate soaring? Why not strap on your hiking boots and check out Parc du Mont Boron. With seven miles of forest trails, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. Once you’re at the top you can enjoy panoramic views both of Nice itself and the surrounding area down towards Monaco on a clear day!
There is a sixteenth-century castle at Parc du Mont Boron called Fort du Mont Alban, but you can’t actually get in. That being said, you can enjoy walking around the walls and sitting back with a picnic. There are some amazing viewpoints to enjoy in this area!
Just make sure you bring supplies with you – there are no shops or bathrooms at Parc du Mont Boron!
22. Hang Out on the Beach on the Baie des Anges
When you’re having a vacation on the French Riviera, you’ve got to factor in at least one day to just hang at the beach. There are tons of beaches around Nice so there are plenty of spots to choose from.
Here are my four favorite beaches along the Promenade:
Another thing I love about Nice is that even though there are lots of beach clubs, all of the beaches are public beaches so it can be completely free to visit the beach.
If the pebble beach by Promenade des Anglais isn’t sparking joy, there are sandy beaches just outside the city, all along the coast that are easily accessible by bus or train.
Pack up a day bag, grab your friends and family, and just have some fun in the sun!
23. Visit the Garden of Arenas Cimiez
It’s not surprising that Nice is full of Roman ruins – we’re so close to the Italian border here and the Roman Empire spanned most of Europe. If you head to the Cimiez area of the city, you can check out the Garden of Arenas for free.
The highlight of this place is the Roman amphitheater that used to hold up to 5,000 spectators. As a lot of the ruined areas charge entry, if you’re on a budget but love Ancient History, the Garden of Arenas Cimiez is a must-visit.
24. Hike to Villefranche-sur-Mer
Did you know that you can actually hike to Villefranche-sur-Mer from the Cap de Nice? It’s a beautiful coastal walk that starts near the Maeterlinck bus stop and ends at Pointe Madame with some stops along the way to dip in and cool off.
It takes about 20 minutes and is 1.4 kilometers long one way. However, if you want this hike to be 100% free, you can walk from the Port to Villefranche and back without taking any bus at all.
I’ve done it a few times, and it’s definitely a full-day activity. Especially if you stop and swim along the way or at the beaches once you get there. I highly recommend bringing a picnic and eating at the beach once you get there!
You don’t walk along the freeway the whole way, you’ll come across some stairs to go down (you can see the green dotted line below, that’s the actual hike).
Make sure to go down those stairs towards the “Vestiges bunker allemand” that is marked on Google Maps. Then follow that coastal path all the way to Villefranche-sur-Mer.
You can end the hike at Pointe Madame if you want and head back the way you came, or you can walk another 1.3 kilometers (about 17 minutes) into the center of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous little town with incredibly colorful architecture right along the water. Although it’s not in Nice itself, it’s a must-do while you are in Nice and it can be done for FREE.
25. Promenade du Paillon Park
If you’re traveling with kids in tow, then you’re definitely going to want to check out the Promenade du Paillon Park near Place Masséna. This small green area is the perfect place to let your kids run around and tire themselves out – it even has a splash pad and a playground.
There’s also plenty of space to lay out a picnic blanket and relax if everyone needs a bit of a rest after a long day exploring. If you’re heading to Nice during Christmas, there’s an ice rink at Promenade du Paillon Park, but this does cost, so be aware of that.
26. Cimiez Cemetery
If looking back and paying your respects to those who’ve come before us is your kind of thing, then head to the Cimiez Cemetery. This expansive cemetery is home to famous politicians, artists, and more, so you’re likely to spot a few names that you recognize while you stroll around.
The most famous perhaps is the artist Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice and whose villa is actually now a museum dedicated to his life and work. Sadly, that museum is not free.
27. Villa Arson Art Gallery
Want to inject some culture into your trip without paying a fortune? If you’re an art lover, you’ll love the Villa Arson Art Gallery. Located in the North of the city, away from the crowds, it’s home to the national center of contemporary art and a national school of art, as well as a media library and an artist’s residency that’s run for 40 years!
Once you’ve had your fill of art, you can relax in the hanging gardens that offer a gorgeous and unique view of the city.
So, we all know that the South of France can be expensive, but if you’re visiting Nice, there are plenty of free tourist attractions and things to see, do and enjoy. You really can have an amazing trip without breaking your bank balance!