© Istock/trabantos
© Istock/trabantos

Five free things to do in Nice

3 minutes to read

The capital of the French Riviera, Nice, is a glamorous and posh place, but still, it's possible to enjoy it even with a limited budget. There are several public beaches with equally turquoise water and many activities that you can do at zero cost. Once you want to get out of the city, there are still numerous enchanting villages that are waiting for you, like for example the colorful Villefranche-sur-Mer or historical Èze.

1) Walk like an Englishman

Promenade des Anglais (or "La Prom" for the locals) in Nice is undoubtedly the most famous promenade in the Mediterranean. It was built in 1820 because the English aristocracy that used to spend their winters in Nice wanted a walkway next to the Sea. Today, this 8 kilometers long seaside boulevard is a place to meet friends, go jogging, skating, "people-watching" or simply contemplate the Mediterranean from its epic blue chairs. Henry Matisse, Hitchcock, Dalí, Ava Gardner, Queen Victoria, Nietzsche (and many others) already did it.

© iStock/Delpixart
© iStock/Delpixart
Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais, 06000 Nice, France

2) Get lost in the Market 

The Market Cours Saleya (est.1897) is a delight for all the senses and the liveliest spot in the city. Besides flowers (only in the morning), fruits and veggies, you can also find some natural products and handicrafts, and check out the work of its resident artists. Even though nowadays Cours Saleya is packed with tourists, locals don't give up their shopping here. On Mondays, the place transforms into an antique market.

© iStock/nito100
© iStock/nito100
Market Cours Saleya in Nice
Market Cours Saleya in Nice
Cours Saleya, 06300 Nice, France

3) Go up to the Castle Hill park

Find a staircase right next to the Promenade and climb up to the Castle Hill. The nickname of this park, once home to a citadel important for military purposes, is "Berceau du Soleil" ("the Cradle of the Sun"). Indeed, this place can be visited from sunrise to sundown, and at any moment it provides spectacular views over different parts of the city. There is an artificial waterfall, built a couple of centuries ago, and many tourists are taking pictures at any time- except perhaps early in the morning. For those with less energy, there's also a free lift. 

© iStock/manjik
© iStock/manjik
Castle Park in Nice
Castle Park in Nice
Castle Hill, 06300 Nice, France

4) Get to know the Old Nice

Let yourself get lost in the maze of the narrow streets of Vieille Ville. There are just too many things happening around here - it's packed with bistros and eateries, markets, shops and galleries. It's difficult to get bored. You will notice that Vieille Ville looks quite Italian; that is because it only became French in 1860 when Napoleon III got it as a reward for his military intervention against Austria. The most important building around the city is its cathedral - Cathédrale Sainte Reparate. It is dedicated to Saint Reparata, a young Palestinian girl who was killed in the third century for being Christian. The legend says that the angels moved the girl's body to fly across the sea and so it ended up in Nice. 

© iStock/monticelllo
© iStock/monticelllo
Vieux Nice (Old City, Nice)
Vieux Nice (Old City, Nice)
old nice, Nice, France

5) End your day at a beach

Once you are done with the sightseeing, the only right thing to do is to chill at a beach, have a swim or just admire the turquoise water. Note that several beaches in Nice are private - usually those with umbrellas, lounge chairs, and better facilities in general. So if you don't want to spend money, look for public ones such as Voilier, Beau Rivage, Lenval or others. The beaches here are known for their pebbles, so make sure you have beach shoes and a fold-up mattress instead of just a towel to lie down. The rest is just perfect the way it is: the unique color of the water, the calming sounds of the waves and the smell of the sea. 

Hopefully, this "five free things to do in Nice" itinerary gives you ideas about how to enjoy this beautiful city without going bankrupt. Besides what's here, you can also look for countless galleries in the old Nice, visit the Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe Saint-Nicolas (considered one of the most beautiful orthodox churches outside of Russia), or take a hike in Parc du Mont Boron.

Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas in Nice
Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas in Nice
Avenue Nicolas II, 06000 Nice, France

The author

Natacha Costa

Natacha Costa

Hello, I will tell you about the south of France, the Azores, Iceland, among other places, here on itinari. Traveling has taught me more than any school, and I am excited to be sharing this passion of mine with you!

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