If I’m going to be honest, the sole reason I booked a holiday in Nice, France was to watch Beyonce & Jay-Z’s OTR II concert. I’d never actually considered spending a vacation in the South of France since it is, after all, notorious for its swanky hotels, restaurants and overall tourist experience.
Little did I know that I would be captured by the sheer beauty of this French Riviera city along the Cote d’Azur. But what caught me most off guard were the reasonable prices! Now the cost of any experience is dictated by how you choose to spend it. There are definitely posh, pricey hotels and exclusive experiences to be had in Nice but don’t be fooled (like I was) that the city has nothing to offer those of us seeking a great experience on a budget. To spread the word, I’m writing this article to shed light on just how amazing a budget holiday in Nice can be!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link.
How Long Should You Holiday in Nice?
The first question you should tackle when preparing for your trip to Nice is how long you intend to spend in the city. Are you city hopping along the South of France? Will it be a city trip? Or is it a beach vacay? Each of these questions warrant different time spans and can help you to discern just how much you’re willing to spend in the city.
Ideally a 5-day trip would give you enough time to enjoy a little of all the wonderful things the city of Nice has to offer. Besides, it helps not to rack up a whopping bill at the end of your visit!
For my partner, Jerry, and I the trip was a city break with the pièces de résistance being a Queen Bey concert. This meant that our trip was quite short (3 days to be exact). This was perfect for us since we not only got to enjoy Bey’s bomb performance but squeezed in a mini city trip AND beach vacay! Pricewise it was also quite affordable for us since we weren’t spending a great deal of time in Nice. Aside from our concert tickets, the next most costly item of our trip was our accommodation (which in all honesty wasn’t very bad!).
Accommodation in Nice
As I’ve mentioned, there are swanky hotels in Nice, but fret not! Seek and you shall find! Cheap accommodation in Nice is possible to find!
Aparthotel Adagio Access Nice Magnan
The Aparthotel Adagio (Magnan) was a godsend for Jerry and me. Not only did we book this hotel at admittedly the last moment at a steal of a price but it was SO conveniently located just one street away from the beach!
Although it may arguably not be the cheapest accommodation you may find in Nice, it does have its perks and definitely is worth the price because of the amenities made available to you. In your room is a fully functioning kitchenette, fully equipped with a microwave, stove, fridge and sink. Now do you catch on to why it’s called Aparthotel? Apartment, Hotel? The aparthotel even comes with access to laundry & cleaning utilities (brooms, irons etc.) that accommodate guests who plan for longer stays.
For these reasons, you’ll save a whole wad of cash on your meals which, as we both know, can be the most expensive aspect of any trip. Stock up on your groceries by visiting the local supermarket, Utile, which is conveniently located just across the road from the aparthotel.
Click Here to View Cheap Hotels in Nice France
Free Things to Do in Nice
For a city that’s located in one of the world’s most notoriously expensive regions there are quite a few free things to do in Nice.
Sunbathing at the Beach
The most obvious thing to do while in Nice is head out the shoreline and enjoy a sunny beach day along the Cote d’Azur. Although the beach isn’t sandy (it’s made of small pebbles) it’s still the ideal spot to catch a tan and enjoy the waves of the Mediterranean Sea.
Stroll Along the Promenade des Anglais
One of the most significant & oh so relaxing experiences in Nice is taking a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais. It’s one of the city’s distinct features as the pedestrian walkways are spacious allowing room for you to saunter about & marvel at the magnificent blues of the Mediterranean Sea. Many street artists & vendors perform & display their artworks along the promenade as well so there’s a non-stop source of entertainment.
Exploring the Old Town Vieille Ville
After strolling along the Promenade des Anglais you can make your way to the old town, Vieille Ville. Meandering through these quaint yet beautiful streets is quite the sensory experience. The French architecture is absolutely amazing (don’t forget to look up!) and brings the town alive with character. A wide of array of cafes and restaurants line some of the streets which provide a nice little rest stop to enjoy a quick cup of coffee or a quick bite to eat.
Art + Food Markets
Once you’ve made it to the heart of the old town you’ll be quick to notice the culturally rich art & food markets. Vendors set up stalls displaying a wide variety of products ranging from fresh fruit and veggies, lavender soap bars & freshly cut seasonal flowers. Walking through this bustling market will have you on sensory overload! It’s the perfect place to snag a souvenir or a healthy snack (the fruits are packed with flavor!).
While exploring the old town, you’ll eventually find your way at the Place Massena (it’s hard to miss). This architecturally impressive square teems with life as street artists perform and trams make their way through the center.
Promenade du Paillon
Nearby the Place Massena is the Promenade du Paillon, a park featuring water jet displays. During the daytime this place offers a fun & refreshing respite from the daytime heat. It’s also the perfect playground for kids to splash about in the summertime.
Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill)
To get a stunning birds eye view of the old town & the sea visit the Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill). Once the grounds of an ancient castle, the property has been renovated to become a beautiful public garden for all to enjoy. As the name suggests, the park is set atop a small hill where you’ll have to climb multiple sets of stairs to get to the top. Although it’s quite the work out the views from above are totally worth it! The lush gardens provide a quiet respite from the city’s hustle and bustle and even feature special landmarks like a man-made waterfall & an eery yet intriguing Jewish cemetery.
Port de Nice Marina
At the furthest end of the old town is the Port de Nice Marina where boats of all sizes are made to dock. The boats (and yes, yachts) bop up and down on the small waves as the colorful French architecture provide the perfect backdrop.
Cost-Friendly Tours in Nice
If you’re interested in more than just exploring solo, taking a tour in Nice is a fantastic way to learn interesting facts about this French Riviera city. There was a myriad of cost-friendly tours that Jerry and I found on Viator (a TripAdvisor company) that seemed like perfect choices.
French Riviera Sightseeing Cruise from Nice – €19
The French Riviera Sightseeing Cruise was our first tour choice since it involved cruising along the Cote d’Azur. The tour begins once you board the ferry at the Port de Nice Marina and lasts 1 whole hour. As you cruise along the gorgeous coastline of the French Riviera, a friendly guide highlights (in French & English) the historical landmarks you’ll see and even points out homes of celebrities who live there.
Nice Le Grand Tour Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour – €22
One of the most popular ways to see & learn about a new city, especially in Europe, is the ever-popular Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour. This double-decker bus tour offers a unique way of seeing the city of Nice at your own pace. On-board are well-informed guides who let you know all the important and interesting facts about the city and its important sights. At each important stop (of which there are 16 in Nice) you have the freedom to hop-off the bus to explore the sight and then hop-on again when the next scheduled bus arrives.
Segway Tour – €30
Another popular tour you’ll find in Nice is the city Segway Tour. Whizz around town on your personal Segway while learning interesting facts about Nice’s special landmarks from a personal guide who heads the group.
Parasailing – €33
If you’re feeling adventurous, parasailing in Nice may be a great option for you. Not only do you get to enjoy the magnificently blue waters of the Cote d’Azur by air, but you’ll also have probably the most extraordinary perspective of the city of Nice.
Nice City Sightseeing Small Group Tour – €68
The Nice City Sightseeing tour is more like other traditional tours where you’ll be shuttled around in a private minivan with your own guide. The 4-hour tour even includes a visit to the Matisse Museum and Russian Cathedral in hilltop Cimiez.
Popular Day Trips from Nice
One of the perks of visiting Nice is the proximity of other popular French Riviera towns. Day trips are quite do-able especially if you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in Nice. Need I mention that they are the best ways to explore these lavish cities without breaking your pocket?
Day trip to Cannes
Just a 40-minute distance from Nice is the famous French Riviera town of Cannes. Planning a day trip to Cannes is actually quite easy and if you choose you can even make a quick stop in Antibes.
Day Trip to Monaco
The luxurious sovereign city-state of Monaco is the best day trip for you if you enjoy gleaning the lifestyles of the super-rich. It is just an easy 45-50-minute ride away from Nice.
Day Trip to Saint- Tropez
A day trip to Saint-Tropez is another popular option you’ll have on your vacation to Nice. This coastal French Riviera town features not only beautiful architecture but also is a hot spot for its beaches and nightlife.Click Here to Book Other Tours & Day Trips
Transportation in Nice
Transportation in Nice is straight-forward since the town isn’t very big. You’ll find many cost-effective ways to get around the city.
Cote d’Azur Airport Transportation
Getting to & from the Cote d’Azur Airport in Nice is an easy 10-15-minute drive depending on your accommodation’s location. However, I’d like to warn you that there will be many taxis who will want to charge an exorbitant fee for this quick ride. Since Jerry and I arrived late at night we ended being ripped off by a taximan who charged us a steep €30 for a one-way ride. The better option is to book your airport arrival and departure ride ahead of time to avoid being conned like we unfortunately were. The cost of each ride is only €14, half the cost we ended up paying.
If you have time to spare, another option you can also consider is travelling by bus. A standard ticket to and from the airport using the “express” bus is €6.
Of course, as you may have guessed, the cheapest option for getting around Nice is by foot. The city is not awfully large (at least the places you may want to see) so walking to your desired destinations is quite easy and achievable. I mean, not only do you get a full workout but you also get to marvel at all the wonderful sights the city has to offer.
However, if you’re feeling tired and wish to skip the option of walking you’ll find a myriad of transportation options throughout the city.
Stationed around the city, particularly along the Promenade des Anglais, are city bikes that you can easily rent. It’s hard to miss these bikes as their distinctive shade of blue match quite well with the amazingly blue waters of the Mediterranean. Even better is that the city has made it absolutely easy for bicycle riders to cycle through town along spacious bike lanes. So, there’s no need to worry about bumping into star gazed pedestrians.
Another option you’ll have for transportation in Nice is the local bus system. All throughout the town and along the Promenade des Anglais buses shuttle passengers to their destinations. The cost of these rides is quite affordable. For a solo trip (one ride) it costs only €1.50 while a day pass will run you a mere €5. It’s also quite easy to catch a bus to the airport with the cost being €6.
Trams are also another mode of transportation you may consider taking while in Nice. Much like the bus system, these trams criss-cross their way through the central locations of the city.
Uber + Taxis
Uber is another easy mode of transport in Nice that may be convenient if you’re used to the service. Regular taxis can also be hailed in the city as well. Something to note about taxis in Nice, however, is that some do run on a meter and traffic throughout the city can get congested at particular times of the day. So if you choose to go by taxi I’d suggest negotiating a fixed cost beforehand.
Extra Nuggets of Information about Nice
- Do your best to get to the Cote d’Azur airport at least 1-2 hours ahead of your flight as the organization and layout of the airport can be quite confusing.
- Sun cream, sun cream, SUN CREAM! Did I mention sun cream? Seriously, the sun is out in full force in this city so protect yourself from the harmful sun-rays. Take my advice and bring along a huge bottle of sun cream so you can escape looking like a boiled lobster on a hot summer’s day! Other nifty ways to escape the scorching sun is wearing a hat and purchasing a beach umbrella for your beach bum days. They’re easily accessible in any of the local supermarkets or gas-station convenience stores.
- Order your taxis way ahead of time. Traffic can get congested in the city. So, if you’re trying to get to your destination punctual, ensure you plan your taxi trip ahead of time.
Hopefully I’ve shared enough with you to inspire your unforgettable (but still budget-friendly!) holiday to Nice France. Have fun & don’t be shy to let me know how your trip was down in the comments below!
Very detailed and nice write up!
Just a word of caution: the Hop on Hop off bus is NOT reliable around Nice. It runs on its own timetable. Read their reviews on TripAdvisor.
Monaco can be reached in 20 minutes by train.