Glamorous Nice is a city synonymous with the beach.
The Mediterranean’s glittering waters and pebble-strewn shores are a defining image when arriving in in this Riviera city, whether on a plane landing at Côte d’Azur Airport or from a taxi rolling up the palm tree-lined Promenade des Anglais.
But, as you consider what to know before your trip, which beach of the many here should you visit first? There are four miles of plush sun-kissed retreats in this well-heeled corner of France, so when it’s time to unwind, consult our guide of the best beaches in Nice.
Opera Beach defines the glitz of Nice
If the plan is to soak up all the glitz that Nice has to offer, then opulent Opera Beach is arguably the place to start. Nice’s oldest private beach, it’s been enchanting locals and wide-eyed holidaymakers since 1889, and is located just a stone’s throw from the meandering streets and alleys of the Old Town.
Run for generations by the Maiffret family, Opera’s white-and-cobalt-blue parasols have a Jazz Age style about them; a masseur can even be sent straight to your beach bed should you need even more unwinding. The beach restaurant is open all afternoon, so order in a decadent Mojito Royal – and don’t worry about anything else.
Ruhl Beach is ideal for families
Stepping down onto Ruhl’s shining wooden platform above Nice’s pebblestones you’ll immediately see that this is one of the city’s finer beaches. Dating back to the 1920s, it’s also conveniently located behind the popular Méridien Hotel and is an ideal beach for families.
Yes, it’s private – but Ruhl boasts its own kid-friendly swimming pool, while the Le Coin lounge and restaurant serves up classic Provençal and seafood specialties. So take a spot on one of the old-school blue-and-white striped loungers and soak up Nice’s glorious summer rays.
La Réserve is a beach removed from the city’s hustle and bustle
La Réserve occupies a tiny quarter of Nice’s beach space – which only makes it all the more seductive. This small pebble beach is located just east of the harbor, and though its limited space means it can get crowded fairly quickly, La Réserve nevertheless feels somewhat removed from the obvious tourist traps along the busy Promenade des Anglais.
The art deco curves of the beach’s diving board look like something from a sepia-toned photograph; this former amenity now forms part of La Plongeoir, a stylish restaurant hanging over the craggy shore below. Book an evening seat on its terrace perch and watch the crimson sun dip below the Nice lighthouse’s dramatic silhouette and the distant hills beyond.
Blue Beach is the best for active water sports
Lush palm and yucca plants dot the space between gleaming white tables at Blue Beach’s fine restaurant, while parasailers and water skiers pierce the breaking waves of the shimmering Mediterranean. As well as offering activities of their own, this centrally located private beach is also situated next door to La Base water sports if you’re in the mood to shed the glamour and dive in for a spell.
It’s also watched over by the famous tiled peach-colored dome of the Hôtel Negresco – though we find the nearby art-themed Hôtel Windsor a more affordable and quirkier alternative (and with a fabulously secluded garden, too).
Tiny Coco Beach is a local secret
Coco Beach is so small you’re just as likely to see towels strewn over rocks as you are on its diminutive patch of pebbles. But there’s a reason Elton John and Sean Connery both owned houses above this gorgeous stretch between eastern Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Of course, the chances of seeing celebrities of that magnitude on a small public beach like this are slim, but this is nonetheless a unique corner of the Côte d’Azur, one where few tourists venture. Coco Beach exists below the hum of the coastal road above and, if you’re lucky, you might just have the whole place to yourself, with just the gentle azure roll of the waves for company.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is the closest thing to a sandy beach in the area
Even if Villefranche-sur-Mer isn’t technically in Nice, the two towns are almost intertwined and – more importantly – Villefranche’s Plage des Marinières offers the closest thing around to a sandy beach. Laid-back ice cream stalls line the narrow coastal road, while small yachts and sailboats bob and glide on Villefranche’s sheltered waters.
Just a short 20-minute journey from Nice around the hills of Mont Boron to Villefranche’s restaurant-filled Old Town, the beach here offers a mix of fine stone and sand that means a softer landing and an excuse to explore even more of this famous coastline. Head to the eastern end for a quieter spot.
Carras Beach offers wheelchair accessibility
At Nice’s western end, Carras Beach is so close to the airport you can practically make eye contact with captains as their planes soar into the sky. Its shores also offer several other things the city’s better-known beaches don’t.
Situated between two clumps of protruding boulders, this is Nice’s only official pet-friendly beach, so expect to see plenty of carefree dogs scurrying around on the pebbles. Carras is also one of the few disability-friendly beaches, and features wheelchair accessibility alongside lifeguards on daily duty throughout the summer.