7 of the best day trips from Nice: see more of the Côte d'Azur

Asian traveller in Nice,France.
Explore more of the Côte d'Azur with these day trips from Nice © Chalffy / Getty Images

With its mix of real-city grit, old-world opulence, year-round sunshine, vibrant street life and stunning seaside location, there is no place in France that can compare to Nice. However, there are many incredible places on the doorstep, so don't miss the chance to venture outside the city on a day trip. 

Using the efficient local bus and train services, you can easily experience many places nearby and still get back in time to enjoy sundown. Here are the best day trips from Nice.

Join the high-rollers in Monaco, the world's second-smallest country

Monaco is the world’s second-smallest country and a magnet for high-rollers and hedonists since the early 20th century. Despite its prodigious wealth, it's far from being the French Riviera's prettiest town. World-famous Monte Carlo is dominated by high-rise hotels, super yachts and apartment blocks that rise into the hills. 

Spend a few hours people-watching at the likes of the Casino de Monte Carlo soaking up the casino's glitzy history. Make sure to visit Palais Princier de Monaco whetting your appetite for royal living in the Grimaldi family's sprawling ancestral residence and see the chapel where Hollywood royal Princess Grace is buried.

How to get to Monaco from Nice: Train is the best way to get to Monaco from Nice, with frequent departures taking under 30 minutes. There is also a regular bus service, but it's very much in demand and getting on is not guaranteed. 

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Busy beach with gloomy grey clouds over medieval city walls
Have your heart stolen by the lovely old town of Antibes © Alf / Getty Images

Have a leisurely lunch in the medieval lanes of Antibes

With its boat-bedecked port, 16th-century ramparts and narrow cobblestone streets, it's no surprise that Antibes has stolen the hearts of so many. Artists and writers such as Graham Greene and Max Ernst loved it here. Picasso featured the town in many of his paintings, and a collection of his works can be seen at the dedicated museum.

Only Antibes' attractive old town would be recognizable to any of its famous former residents. The modern town, like many along the Riviera, has sprawled rather unbecomingly along the coast and inland, so the best vantage point is from the sea – ideally in one of the many posh yachts that pull into port throughout summer, or from the long series of beaches south of town. Beyond the city limits, save some time to explore beautiful Cap d'Antibes, a wooded cape of 4.8km (3 miles) studded with seaside mansions and pretty walking trails.

Vieil Antibes is the place to eat, both for the atmosphere and for its diversity of restaurants. To build your own picnic, hit Antibes' Fromagerie l'Etable for cheese and deli products, and dazzling morning market Marché Provençal for everything else.

How to get to Antibes from Nice: The Nice–Cannes bus service (route 200) operated by Lignes d'Azur has a stop just west of Antibes' train station. Alternatively, take the train.

Introducing Provence & the Côte d'Azur

Explore the magic of celeb-studded Cannes

Leaving aside its celebrity-playground status, there’s enough beauty to make a trip to Cannes worthwhile: the harbor, the bay, the clutch of offshore islands and the old quarter, Le Suquet, all spring into life on a sunny day. And, with the city's famous beaches benefiting from a serious facelift over the last few years, there's suddenly lots more space to lay your towel! 

Admiring Ferraris and Porsches and indulging in some celebrity-spotting are perennial Cannes pastimes. For lunch head to achingly cool Bobo Bistro for rotisserie chicken with creamy mash. 

How to get to Cannes from Nice: Cannes' gleaming white train station is well connected to Nice, with a train every 15 minutes. The journey takes 40 minutes. Bus services are also available.

Pastel-colored shop and restaurant fronts line a path with diners sat either side
Find a spot to eat on the harborside in Villefranche-sur-Mere © Fraser Hall / Getty Images

Wander the pretty harborside village of Villefranche-sur-Mer

Heaped above a pretty harbor, the picturesque village of Villefranche-sur-Mer with imposing citadel overlooks the Cap Ferrat peninsula. The 14th-century old town, with its tiny narrow streets broken by twisting staircases and glimpses of the sea, is a delight to amble (preferably broken with a long lazy lunch on the water's edge or bijou old-town square). Especially outside of the summer season, Villefranche offers a vision of small-town Mediterranean life that's totally unexpected so close to Nice.

Stroll the harborside for your pick of water-facing seafood eateries, or wander a block or two inland to discover a host of inviting bistros including the wonderful L'Aparté. Order the parrillada de la mer, a mixed grill of fresh seafood accompanied with beautifully presented side dishes. 

How to get to Villefranche-sur-Mer from Nice: Bus services run from Nice's Promenade des Arts stop to Villefranche and take around 20 minutes.

A view of the ancient city of Saint-Paul-de-Vence in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
The walled St-Paul de Vence is home to many galleries © ClaudiaMMImages / Shutterstock

Tour the art galleries in hilltop village St-Paul de Vence

Once upon a time, St-Paul de Vence was a small medieval village atop a hill looking out to sea. Then came the likes of Picasso in the postwar years, followed by showbiz stars such as Yves Montand and Roger Moore, and St-Paul shot to fame. The village is now home to dozens of art galleries as well as the renowned Fondation Maeght. Among the many artists who have lived in or passed through St-Paul over the years are Soutine, Léger, Cocteau, Matisse and Chagall. 

St-Paul’s tiny cobbled lanes get overwhelmingly busy in high season – come early or late to avoid the bulk of the crowds.

How to get to St-Paul de Vence from Nice: The most cost-effective way to get there is via tram and bus. Jump on tramway n°2 from the city center to station Parc Phoenix and then take Bus 400. Journey time is one hour 40 minutes. St-Paul de Vence is about 19km (12 miles) from Nice, so if you are pressed for time, you could splurge on an Uber. 

A shot from on high of a coastline
Èze is perched on a peak with lovely views over the coastline © Sabine Klein / 500px

See Èze, one of the most lovely towns in the Riviera

The tiny village of Èze perched on an impossibly steep peak is considered by many as the jewel in the Riviera's crown. The main attraction is the medieval village itself, with small higgledy-piggledy stone houses and winding lanes (and plenty of galleries and shops), and mesmerizing views of the coast.

The village gets very crowded during the day; for a quieter wander, come early in the morning or late afternoon. You’ll get the best panorama from Jardin Exotique d’Èze, a cactus garden at the top of the village where you’ll also find the old castle ruins. U2’s The Edge chose this village for his wedding and gave his daughter away at her wedding in the same location. The village is a favorite vacation spot of the rock band, who own beachside villas nearby. 

Sitting just below Èze,  the Fort de la Revere is the perfect place to revel in 360-degree views. Built in 1870 to protect Nice (it served as an allied prisoner camp during WWII). There are picnic tables under the trees for an alfresco lunch and dozens of trails in the surrounding Parc Naturel Départemental de la Grande Corniche.

How to get to Èze from Nice: By car, Èze is about a 20-minute drive from Nice. The 82 and 112 bus routes go there too, taking around 30 minutes.

Perfume bottles on display inside the Fragonard Perfume Museum.
Grasse has been manufacturing perfumes since the 16th century © Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock

Take a tour of a perfume factory in Grasse

Up in the hills to the north of Nice, the town of Grasse has been synonymous with perfumery since the 16th century, and the town is still home to around 30 makers – a few of which offer guided tours of their factories. The perfumes of Provence are something that lingers long after you return home – especially if you happen to have bought a few soaps and sprays to take home with you.

Grasse’s most famous perfumery Fragonard runs free 45-minute guided tours of its modern factory just outside of the town, covering extraction, distillation, the science of scent creation and, of course, the chance to buy some perfume. Perfume-making workshops are run at its older factory in town.

How to get to Grasse from Nice: Trains take around 1 hour and 10 minutes.

This article was first published on February 22, 2021 and updated on January 13, 2022

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