Nice City Guide

Timeless, glamorous and blessed with year-round sunshine, Nice is a jewel of the French Riviera, providing a sea-locked enclave for travellers, writers and artists since the 1700s.

With its blend of French-Italian culture and Mediterranean appeal, the city is a one-of-a-kind destination, and a must-see on your visit to Provence and the Côte d’Azur.

Wine, food, sun, sea and sand aren’t the only reasons why Nice has long been one of Europe’s premier Mediterranean retreats. The city has a rich history dating back to the time of the Ancient Greeks, and its popularity in the 19th century has contributed to one of the most beautiful cityscapes in all of France.

Whether you’re here to sample the local wine and produce, take in the famous Baroque and Belle Époque architecture, or simply to experience the decadent, carpe diem style of living that’s synonymous with the French Riviera – Nice deserves to be at the very top of your travel wish list in the south of France.

Discover more about this beautiful French city in our in-depth guide to Nice.

Architectural highlights

From the rich antiquities left behind by the Greeks and Romans to the glamorous hotels of La Belle Époque, Nice is home to some truly exquisite architecture.

Excelsior Régina Palace

Regina Palace, Nice
The architectural influence of La Belle Époque came to Nice at the turn of the 19th century, with several buildings emerging in this illustrious design. One of the very best is the former Excelsior Régina Palace, an iconic, luxury hotel which was considered one of the great establishments of the French Riviera from 1897 to 1935. The building was designed by architect Sébastien-Marcel Biasini, and features six floors and a fabulous ornate façade that is influenced directly by the Belle Époque architecture of Paris. In the late 1930s, the building was converted into residential apartments, but it’s still considered one of Nice’s most beautiful 19th-century buildings.

La Chapelle de la Miséricorde

La Chapelle de la Miséricorde, or ‘The Chapel of Mercy’ as it’s known in English, is one of the most famous Baroque buildings in Nice – lauded for its beautiful architecture and collection of works by Italian painter, Leonardo Bistolfi. A highlight of Nice’s Old Town quarter, the chapel is thought to have been built in the late 16th century, and has been painstakingly preserved to showcase the opulence of the Baroque architectural style. The building itself was designed by Italian architect, Bernardo Vittone, and is considered a masterpiece of the Italian Baroque movement.

La Colline du Château

Like many cities on the Mediterranean, Nice was founded by the Phoenician Greeks, and their influence remains visible in La Colline du Château, or ‘The Hill of the Castle’. This landscaped park in the centre of Nice Old Town was the site of one of the greatest Medieval strongholds of the French Riviera, until its destruction at the hands of Louis XIV in the 18th century. Still, several sections of the fortress remain today, offering a fascinating insight into Nice’s heritage. Visitors can explore the remains of Medieval Nice in a basement close to the gardens, as well as several ancient monuments which have survived since the Greek era.

Cultural Features

Much has influenced the culture of contemporary Nice, from the ever-present beauty of the Mediterranean and the historic influence of Italy, to the early English visitors who made this their ultimate retreat.

La Promenade des Anglais

La Promenade des Anglais
One of the icons of the French Riviera, La Promenade des Anglais is more than just a picturesque waterfront. It’s a place wrapped up in the cultural heritage of Nice, capturing its glamour, prestige and status as one of the Mediterranean’s best-loved coastal resorts. The promenade got its name in the early 19th century, when Nice became the go-to holiday destination for England’s upper class. Since then, it’s thrived as a tourist destination in its own right, with hundreds of luxury hotels, gardens, restaurants, and terraced cafés lining its concourse. Taking a stroll down this famous promenade is one of the great joys of visiting Nice – don’t miss it.

Nice's sensational museums

Matisse Museum
Nice may rank as only the fifth largest city in France (behind Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse), but remarkably it’s home to almost as many museums and galleries as Paris – such is its rich history and artistic legacy. From the world-renowned Matisse Museum to the Museum of Archaeology of Cimiez; history and art lovers alike will find something to discover amid Nice’s long list of museums, galleries and exhibition spaces. What’s more, visitors can enjoy entry to all of the city’s landmark cultural attractions with a Nice Museum Pass, which is available to pre-order before your visit.

Cultural holidays, festivals and traditions

Whatever time of year you visit Nice, there’s a strong likelihood that the city will be in the midst of celebrating one of its many cultural festivals. Thanks to its blend of Provencal, Mediterranean and French culture, the city hosts a wide range of traditional festivals and events throughout the year. From The Feast of Cougourdons, which is held in the gardens of Cimiez Monastery, to the colourful Wish Party, a religious event which began in 1832 as a means of asking the Virgin Mary for protection from an outbreak of cholera. Before your visit, be sure to find out what’s on in Nice on the city’s official tourism website.

Culinary delights

With the rich seafood larder of the Mediterranean to the south and the produce-laden fields of Provence and the Côte d’Azur to the north, Nice was always going to have a deep connection to gastronomy

La salade niçoise

If there’s one dish that epitomises Nice’s love for Mediterranean flavours, it’s salade niçoise. This fragrant salad, comprising of salad leaves, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, egg and seafood (usually tuna or anchovy), is a staple of the region, and the perfect accompaniment to a glass of local white wine. There are a few greater pleasures in life than enjoying this refreshing salad bowl with a fine glass of wine beside the sea – bliss.


A local delicacy you must try during your time in Nice is pissaladière, a dish whose origins hark back to the city’s Italian roots. Similar to a pizza, pissaladière is made from a thin bread dough, but where the Italians would use tomatoes, the locals of Nice use onions as the main base topping. From there, anchovies (or sardines) and black olives are added, bringing that delicious Mediterranean flavour, with the dish often finished with fresh thyme and rosemary. Again, it’s delicious enjoyed with local white wine, or as an indulgent street-food snack as you peruse Nice’s colourful Old Town quarter.

La socca

Another Niçoise delicacy with surprisingly humble origins is La Socca, a type of thin pancake that’s made from chickpea flour. Similar to the classic French crêpe, socca are large pancakes that are popular throughout the Côte d’Azur, and made exclusively using chickpea flour. Much like crêpes in Paris, you’ll find socca across Nice, with some of the finest coming from pop-up street vendors or hole-in-the-wall style eateries.

Chez Pipo is always among the list of the best places in Nice to try socca. The crêpes here are made in a traditional pizza oven and are around 3 feet in diameter, so be sure to bring your appetite.

Chez Pipo

Discover Nice with Emerald Waterways

If you’re keen to experience the full wonders of Nice, Emerald Cruisesoffers a special Extend your stay offering, giving you longer in the beautiful city.

Available on our Sensations of Lyon and Provence & Nice itinerary, this gives you the option to extend your experience in the south of France with an exclusive 3-night city stay in the heart of Nice – including hotel, transfers, and a guided bus tour of Nice and Monte Carlo.

For more information about our Rhône river cruises and exclusive Nice city stays, download our latest river cruise brochure or call us on 0808 159 6412.