The French Riviera has endless swathes of stop-you-in-your-tracks scenery along its coast and you can see more of it in a day than you think. Nice is as nice as its name suggests but those who have seen its sights before will find some of the prettiest places in the Côte d’Azur a mere stone’s throw away from the popular port. From glitzy Monaco to fairytale Saint Paul de Vence, here are six of the best day trips from Nice.
The playground of the rich and the famous has to be seen to be believed and a day trip from Nice is the perfect way to do it. As such a petite principality, Monaco’s highlights are easily seen in a day, whether you’re here to see the world’s most famous Formula 1 race track first hand or fancy following in the footsteps of James Bond, up the red-carpeted steps to the Casino de Monte-Carlo while supercars line the way outside.
Getting from Nice to Monaco: It might not sound very glamorous but the scenery along the #100 bus route will blow you away. Sit on the right-hand side for the best views of the coast. The trip takes 45 minutes and costs just €1.50.
Alternatively, make like the millionaires and arrive in Monaco by helicopter. It’ll cost around €140 but the experience and the views are well worth it.
Antibes is the south of France summed up in one beautiful mass of tangled old town lanes and bobbing boats in a super-sleek marina. The marina port here just so happens to be the largest in Europe actually and the yachts arrive often, bringing with them a well-heeled clientele and an air of exclusivity. The other side of Antibes is a delightful old town on the Bay of Angels, which is every bit as heavenly as it sounds. As one of many places Pablo Picasso called home, the old town’s Chateau Grimaldi has become a museum to some of his best work, along with the nearby Musée Picasso.
Getting from Nice to Antibes: The train from Nice connects both Antibes and Cannes on the same line, so you can see both if you like. It’s 20 minutes from Nice Ville train station to Antibes, then a further 20 minutes to Cannes.
Enjoy your own movie star moment in Cannes, home to the Cannes Film Festival. Compare your handprints to Sly Stallone or Angelina Jolie, stand on those famous steps and keep your eyes peeled for film-themed murals on walls around the city. The one above the other unassuming bus station is our favourite. There’s more to Cannes than its film-star credentials. There’s plenty going on along the waterfront and the beaches are impressive soft sand affairs, particularly Plage de la Bocca and Palm Beach. For some quiet time amidst the summer hustle and bustle, venture into the hilltop old town of Le Suquet.
Getting from Nice to Cannes: The train from Nice takes 40 minutes and costs €14.40 return. Cannes station is right in the middle of town; walk straight ahead for the marina or turn left for the high-end boutiques along La Croisette.
SAINT PAUL DE VENCE
This medieval town at the heart of the Provençal hills has inspired many a masterpiece and perhaps a fairytale or two, too. Set amongst rolling hills, cypress forests and vineyards, Saint Paul de Vence is a maze of ancient cobbled streets encased in 15th-century ramparts. Rue Grande is a million miles away from your usual high street, its artisan shops and galleries squeezed into tiny spaces that once housed medieval families. Don’t forget to leave enough time to watch locals remonstrate with great passion over their current boules battle.
Getting from Nice to Saint Paul de Vence: Catch the #400 bus to Vence (par St Pau). The bus runs every 30-45 minutes on weekdays, edging closer to hourly on weekends, and costs €1.50. Make sure you get off the bus in Saint Paul de Vence and not nearby Vence; it’s a pretty strenuous walk to the hilltop town if you get off at the wrong stop!
Like Saint Paul de Vence, Eze sends you back in time on stone streets in a beautifully underdeveloped Provençal village perched 1,400ft above sea level. Built around the ruins of a 12th-century castle, Eze overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding hills, making for many a photo opportunity. Stroll the tranquil Jardin Exotique d’Eze and enjoy lunch with a view at La Chevre d’Or, one of the region’s best restaurants.
Getting from Nice to Eze: Coming from Nice, Eze is in the same direction as Monaco and you could easily combine the two in a single day trip. You’ll need to take the #82 or #112 bus though, rather than the scenic #100 recommended for Monaco; the latter stops at Eze-sur-Mer and it’s a steep walk up to the hilltop town!
Despite Nice sitting to its left and Monaco sitting to the right, Villefranche-sur-Mer holds its own as a destination worth visiting. It’s also a well-used tender port for cruises to the French Riviera. The old fishing village has a pretty waterfront typical of the Côte d’Azur, tempting passers-by with morning-fresh seafood and Provençal wines. Still a functioning fishing town, Villefranche-sur-Mer feels gorgeously authentic. There are no private beaches here, instead just the long sandy stretch of Plage des Marinières that attracts locals and visitors alike with shallow waters that are perfect for paddling.
Getting from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer: If you’re keen to stretch your legs after time spent at sea, the meandering coastal walk from Nice to Villefranche-sur-Mer is a great way to spend a couple of hours. It’ll give you enough time to have a wander around the Old Town and grab some lunch on the waterfront, before heading back. Alternatively, take the #100 bus from Nice. The journey takes around 15 minutes and costs €1.50.