Free Things To Do in Nice
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Vieille Ville, or Old Town, is a nook of a neighborhood enjoyed by both travelers and locals alike. There are the usual tourist traps, but you can also find some authentic French restaurants and shops, not to mention the Cours Saleya flower and fruit market.
Past visitors claim that the neighborhood is best experienced in the morning, so you can scour the market. Traipse through in the afternoon to shop, or take a dip at the adjacent beaches. Then in the evening, grab a small bite from a charming restaurant or have a drink in one of the countless bars.
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You'll likely pass by Place Masséna, the city's main square, several times while in Nice thanks to its central location. With the seafront to the south, the shopping street Avenue Jean Médecin jutting off to the north, and the lovely Albert I and Massena gardens surrounding it, you can walk to it from virtually anywhere in the small city.
Recent travelers highlighted Place Masséna as an idyllic location to snap your photos, with a hypnotic tilework, illuminated display fountains and seven famous statues to serve as memorable backdrops. Reviewers also recommended stopping by at various hours of the day to see how the square changes with the rising and setting sun. The square is free to visit 24/7.
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The Promenade des Anglais (English Walk) runs parallel to the pebbly shore of Nice's beachfront, stretching for more than 2 miles along Baie des Anges. Locals simply refer to this world-famous stretch of road as the Promenade or La Prom. Recent travelers said that it's not only a beautiful place for a stroll, but it's also a great place to get your directional bearings early on in your trip since the city's main attractions spoke off from here. Plus, with a dedicated lane for cyclists and skaters and plenty of rental shops nearby, it can be a great way to exercise while sightseeing. Along the way, keep you eyes peeled for the ornate Hotel Negresco, the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée and La Chaise, a large iron sculpture of a chair created by Niçoise artist Sabine Géraudie that has become the unofficial symbol of the city.
The walkway is open at all hours. Keep in mind: Prices near the Promenade des Anglais are expensive because it is a tourist hot spot, so budget for food and shopping accordingly.
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Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau) is more of an impressive hill than a castle. Even though most of the original Chateau de Nice structure has crumbled away, travelers still recommend climbing the hundreds of steps to reach the stellar view from its peak.
In addition to the sweeping panorama of Nice and the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), a park area welcomes visitors at the hill's summit. The park is a great destination for families because of the playground and ample space for picnics. Once you've gotten some rest and taken in the view, be sure to snap some pics at the artificial waterfall, cemetery and Belanda Tower (Tour Belanda).
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One of the main draws to a vacation in Nice is the beach, which is punctuated by the French Riviera sun, the rolling Mediterranean waves and the legendary blue chairs. However, there are some things to note. First, about 15 private (and costly) beaches break up the 20 public beaches, so be prepared to shell out several euros if you are hoping to lounge on a stretch of sand equipped with chairs, umbrellas and nearby restaurants. You should also note that the private beaches don't allow you to bring in your own food and drink, so you'll have to purchase refreshments from the adjoining (and expensive) restaurants. They even charge for lounge chairs and towels.
The public beaches are free, but they often don't have any restroom facilities or lounge chairs, which are almost a necessity against the pebbly ground. And speaking of the rocky sand, some travelers recommend wearing water shoes, even in the water, since the ground is so uncompromising.
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This fruit, veggie and flower market makes for a colorful and aromatic experience. Located in Old Town (Vieille Ville) off the Promenade des Anglais as it turns into the Quai des Etats-Unis, the Cours Saleya is open nearly every morning, but an antique market takes the place of the produce on Mondays.
Recent visitors suggested you plan on arriving early (a little past 6 a.m.) to beat the crowds because you’ll have to compete with the masses by the time breakfast is over. Bring small bills to pay the vendors, and you should also carry a small bag to tote anything you buy. Also, keep in mind that the Cours Saleya is free to enter, but the prices for specific fruit, flowers and veggies can be a bit high. If you need a break from shopping, or simply want to people-watch, you'll find cafes and restaurants surrounding the market. The market is open from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except Mondays, Sunday afternoons and public holidays.
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Tsar Nicholas II, the head of the tragic Romanov family, commissioned the building of the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the early 20th century to accommodate the religious needs of the city's growing Russian population. The church's onion domes, bright colors and detailed ornamentation are hard to miss from its location on the aptly named Avenue Nicholas II. Women are asked to cover their heads while inside, but scarves are provided at the entrance.
The church is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but keep in mind it's closed on Sunday mornings for its regular services. Admission is free. Recent visitors suggest booking a guided tour of the church, which cost 10 euros (around $12) per person and can be reserved online. Walking or driving is the best way to access this residential area of Nice, although a handful of bus routes, including Nos. 4, 7 and 23, also have stops nearby.
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For some retail therapy, travelers ought to stroll Avenue Jean Médecin, which begins its upward ascent at Place Masséna. There are international chains, but you'll also find the Galeries Lafayette department store and the Nice Etoile shopping mall, as well as a number of French boutiques and cafes. If you've shopped the entire street and still want more, you'll find that the streets surrounding Avenue Jean Médecin are lined with retailers too.
Access to the area is free 24/7, though stores operate on their own hours. Recent visitors suggest walking the avenue relatively early in the day and grabbing a cup of coffee during your visit. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the tram, which runs down the center of the street.
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The layout of Garden of the Cimiez Monastery (Jardin du Monastère de Cimiez) has not changed since its original construction in 1546, when it was used by the monks as their orchard and vegetable garden. Among the various flora and fauna, the garden boasts beautiful climbing roses and a stellar view of the city and bay.
Recent visitors recommended using a stop at the Garden of the Cimiez Monastery as a chance to recharge, calling the tranquil park a great opportunity to take a break from Nice's bustling beaches and squares.
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For a free retreat from the city and a breath of fresh air, travelers recommend taking a hike in Parc du Mont Boron (located in east Nice). With about 7 miles of hiking trails, you can work up quite a sweat and perhaps burn off some calories from the previous evening's dinner. Climb to the top for the prettiest panoramas. And if you're a history buff, you might enjoy seeing the nearby military fort on Mont Alban. You'll see both tourists and locals enjoying the park daily.
Despite its paved trails, Parc du Mont Boron has no food, shops or toilets. Recent visitors suggest packing plenty of food and water before you leave for the park. Jump on bus No. 14 from Square Daudet to reach Mont Boron, or simply call a taxi or Uber. There is also free parking at the park.
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