5 days in Nice, France is not enough, let’s start this blog post with the ugly truth. It’s just not possible to explore every places mentioned in the guidebooks as well as those off-the-beaten path in 5 days, I reckon it’ll require a minimum of 2 weeks to be able to explore most of it. Most, not all. I plan on living there sometime in the future though because I just couldn’t get enough of it, if only it’s that easy right? :p
It was my second time to visit Nice, we stayed for 2 nights on our first trip which was a part of a 14-day European tour with my Aunts. This time around I was with The Greek Mister and we stayed for 4 nights thinking that it’ll be enough to re-visit the places I fell in love with on my first trip and explore new places at the same time – how wrong was I?
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera and the second most visited city of France next to Paris. The city is synonymous to glamour, luxury and picture-perfect sceneries. We planned on spending our Christmas holiday break this year here to run away from the cold and gloomy London. Having said that, Nice is an all-year round destination but I’d say that visiting it during the Christmas season had its pros since it wasn’t as crowded as when I was there the first time during the summer period.
I highly recommend a visit to Nice if you’re not yet planning on doing it. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to and both times that I was there, it made me crave for more. If you do plan on going there sometime soon, here’s our rough itinerary to give you an idea of what to see, do and everything in between. 🙂
5 Days in Nice, France Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Nice
We arrived Nice on Christmas day at 3pm, we collected our car rental from Avis and immediately made our way to our hotel – Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée. It was a great hotel choice for us as it’s right on the famous and beautiful Promenade des Anglais and close to the Old Town where restaurants and bars are abundant.
Our first day was reserved to explore Nice city itself which was the first of my many mistakes in this trip. I didn’t consider the fact that sunset is earlier during winter time so we weren’t really able to explore much of it as it went dark quite quickly. Plus, we were also a bit tired and hungry so we just had a quick walk around and then searched for a restaurant for dinner.
Surprisingly, lots of restaurants in Nice were open during Christmas day – very different to our experience of Christmas in Bath and Dijon. We had dinner at Moris Bar and had some drinks at Le Quebec afterwards for a nightcap before heading to our very comfortable bed.
Tip # 1: Hiring your own car while in Nice is highly recommendable as you get to explore more of what you’d personally like and will not be constrained in time. This is one of the differences I’ve noticed between my first visit in Nice when we joined group tours instead of having our own car. I enjoyed taking my own time this time around and wasn’t in a rush compared to when I was with the group tour.
Tip # 2: If you plan on staying at Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Méditerranée, it is cheaper to book your stay directly at their website as you’ll get a discounted price if you sign up to their membership program. The room that I booked on their website was GBP100 cheaper than the rate I was getting on booking[.]com. 🙂
Tip # 3: There weren’t much restaurants in Nice where we received good service so Moris’ Bar stood out, not only was the service quick and friendly, food was also very good.
Day 2: Eze, Monaco and San Remo
We told ourselves the previous night that we’ll start our second day early to cover a lot of places but as the sun rose quite late as well that day, so did we. Lol. By the time we finished breakfast and was ready to go, it was already 11am. Our first stop was the beautiful village of Eze which was just awe-inspiring.
Eze is a medieval, hilltop village overlooking lush vegetation and the Mediterranean sea. Despite our late start, we were able to enjoy it without much crowd. I still remember how busy it was during summer which was very different this time around. I was able to take photos of the charming alleyways without having to fight with the crowd. It will take your breathe away, I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. We stayed there for only over an hour as our parking ticket was already running out but I reckon it would be easy for me to stay there even for a whole day.
Our next stop was the glamorous Monaco, I didn’t realize that the Greek Mister was looking forward to seeing it the most because he wanted to drive through the Circuit de Monaco used in the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. He got so excited as he drove through the iconic Monaco hairpin famous for its tight turn, and onwards to the well-known tunnel section running under Fairmont Hotel.
As we explored the tiny and affluent country of Monaco on foot, the Greek Mister was in awe. He told me several times as we basked on Monte-Carlo’s luxury that we’ll definitely buy a house here when we win the lottery. Lol. Even if it was already my second visit to Monaco, I was still filled with astonishment just like the Greek Mister. It’s such a pretty little country, so perfect that it looks like you’ve walked in a fairy tale setting.
We left Monaco with a heavy heart to explore more nearby villages, the Greek Mister was so sure that we’ll definitely be back in Monaco either during this trip or another.
Our plan was to drive through Menton, cross the border of Italy, drive through Ventimiglia and finally have an Italian dinner in San Remo. This was my second mistake during this trip. We didn’t consider the siesta time in Italy so by the time we arrived in San Remo, most of the restaurants were closed and will only open 3 hours from when we arrived. There wasn’t much to do in San Remo but don’t take my word for it because I’m pretty sure I didn’t like San Remo because of two things: 1. I was hangry. 2. Anything you visit right after Monaco wouldn’t be nice.
I had a small meal in a cafe to ease my hanger which was the only place serving food at the time in San Remo. Afterwards, we drove back to Nice as we didn’t feel like staying there for 3 hours just to wait for restaurants to open.
In Nice, we had pizza for dinner and pretended that we’re in Italy which was the plan. Lol. As Nice is very close to the border of Italy, we noticed that there were a lot of Italian restaurants around so it wasn’t hard for us to satisfy our Italian food cravings in Nice.
Tip # 4: Visiting the villages from Nice during the Christmas season does have a plus side, parking is mostly free. We didn’t pay for parking fee in most of the villages we visited and we also found parking space quite easily in all of it. 🙂
Tip # 5: If you’re visiting Monaco on your own, make sure that you visit the area of Monte Carlo Casino as well as the area near Prince’s Palace of Monaco. When you put Monte Carlo on google maps, it will only direct you to the casino. I wouldn’t have known that there’s another must-see area in Monte Carlo which is where the palace is if not for the fact that I have been there before.
Tip # 6: If I am to do this trip again, I would’ve skipped crossing the Italian border and just stayed in Menton instead which looked really beautiful when we drove through it.
Day 3: Biot, Saint Paul de Vence, Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Gourdon, Valbonne and Cannes
So many places to visit, so little time – that’s how I’d summarize this day. It’s my third mistake during this trip, I included a lot of places to visit in our itinerary which are mostly medieval villages that at some point, both the Greek Mister and myself felt villaged-out. Lol. It was tiring to be honest and your tiredness will definitely affect your experience.
The first village we visited was Biot which to be completely honest, we should’ve skipped. It was a tiny village, I am sure that if we spent more time there we would’ve loved it but we wanted to make the most out of this day so after a few photos taken, we immediately left.
Our second stop was the breathtaking Saint Paul de Vence, this village is definitely a must if you’re planning to do this trip. It is extremely touristic and always crowded for a reason, it is extremely charming with its untouched medieval architecture. It will make you feel like you’ve walked back in time.
Wandering through the village is the best thing to do, you will discover countless treasures which will immerse you in its heritage and history. I visited it during my first trip and just the same, I was mesmerized by it the second time around.
Tourrettes-sur-Loup was our next stop, perched on a rocky outcrop – this medieval village offers yet again an amazing view. It’s less crowded than Saint Paul de Vence so we were able to explore it more and slower. Lots of pretty narrow streets to explore as well as beautiful small squares.
We went to Gourdon next as I remember having lunch here in a small square during my first trip to Nice. To our disappointment, it wasn’t set up this time. Maybe because it was winter? Or maybe the restaurant itself wasn’t open during this period. We were looking forward to having some drinks under the sun so we immediately drove to Valbonne next.
Luckily, there was still some sun shining through the main square when we arrived in Valbonne so we immediately grabbed a seat to enjoy it. I had a latte while the Greek Mister had a pint, as soon as I had my caffeine fix I left the Greek Mister to finish his beer (and another) and explored Valbonne on my own.
I wasn’t able to visit Valbonne on our first trip which is a shame because it’s a beautiful old town. It doesn’t have the stone facade like the other villages have but I actually liked Valbonne because it looks like it is a functioning old town and not just geared towards tourists. Or at least that’s what I felt like.
One thing I noticed is how the historic centre is planned, it’s a whole square with lanes intersecting in right angles which creates smaller squares. You’ll understand it more when you look at Valbonne’s centre on google maps. 🙂 Because of this layout, it was easier to navigate on foot without having to worry if you’ve missed out on anything. :p
We went to Cannes afterwards, we got stuck in traffic on our way into the centre so by the time we parked the car it was already very dark. We weren’t able to explore it much so we decided to just have some drinks at Da Laura which was one of the best restaurants we’ve visited during this trip. We noticed that service wasn’t very good in this part of the world in general, it’s either a grumpy staff or a forgetful staff that we encountered during our meals so when we receive a good service, it gets stuck in your mind. Lol. Da Laura staff was extremely friendly and attentive, as we were finishing our drinks I spotted Lily van der Woodsen of Gossip Girls. Lol.
We went back to Nice after our drinks and had dinner in Restaurant Rina, another great find once again. The waiter who assisted us was genuinely nice and gave us good recommendations on wine and also dish to order. I was craving for a seafood linguini for whatever reasons so I had that, not expecting that their portion of this dish can feed half of Africa. It was huge! But because it was extremely good and tasty, I almost finished it. The Greek Mister helped me in the end though.
Tip # 7: If I am to do this trip again, I’d skip Biot and Gourdon. Gourdon is beautiful but because I’ve been there on our first trip, I felt like we should’ve just skipped it this time so we could’ve spent more time in Cannes. Cannes looks fabulous but I wasn’t able to explore it both times that I’ve visited it, such a shame.
Day 4: Moustiers-Sainte-Anne
Visiting Moustiers-Sainte-Anne on our 4th day was both a mistake and also a good thing. Mistake because the 2-hr drive per way took most of our day which isn’t very ideal specially when sun is setting early. We could’ve spent this day exploring more villages nearer to Nice instead of being on the car for 4 hours BUT the drive was definitely worth it.
It was a scenic drive passing through a beautiful gorge before arriving in the picture-perfect Moustiers-Sainte-Anne. The Provencal village is set between two mountains which adds a more dramatic effect to its overall look. It is also listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Just like Valbonne, it looks like a functioning village where locals actually live. There are numerous shops, cafes and restaurants which most are closed for the Christmas season. Thankfully, one cafe was open where I had a crepe and latte while the Greek Mister had a pint (what else).
The highlight of Moustiers-Sainte-Anne is definitely its view from the top. I am not much of a hiker but if there’s a promise of a good view at the top, I can climb anything – this is one of it. 🙂
We drove back to Nice afterwards with a detour to Villefranche-sur-Mer to get a glimpse of it. We then had our best meal in Nice, dinner at La Rossettisserie. The restaurant only has one thing on their menu – grilled meat and based on my experience, if an establishment has a small menu it will always be good and I wasn’t mistaken.
I had grilled pork with salad while the Greek Mister had grilled veal with ratatouille (did you know that ratatouille originated from Nice?). We also had an appetizer to share which was roasted perugini on toast, perugini is a local sausage in Nice. The restaurant itself was unique and had its own charm, we had dinner in some sort of an underground cave – quite tight but nothing to complain about. Service was also very good. We left the restaurant with a satisfied stomach and was so glad that we had our last dinner there.
Tip # 8: I was glad we visited Moustiers-Sainte-Anne but if I am to go to Nice again during the winter period, I definitely won’t waste 4 hours of our day just driving around. I’d explore more of Nice on this day and maybe combine it with some other villages nearby.
Day 5: Villefranche-sur-Mer
It was our last day in Nice, our flight was departing at 6pm so we had time to explore one more village before going back to the airport. I gave The Greek Mister full control of this day so he can decide where to go, he was saying that he’d like to go back to Monaco before we leave but after getting a glimpse of Villefranche-sur-Mer the previous day, he decided that we should just go there instead.
Before heading to Villefranche-sur-Mer, I had to see the view of Nice from Castle Hill. I still feel bad that we didn’t have time to actually explore Nice during this trip so seeing the view of Nice from above is something I really want to do before this trip ends.
Afterwards, we drove to the nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer which was a good choice as our destination on our last day. It was near to the airport so we didn’t have to stress ourselves too much about the drive back.
The view was stunning, it reminded me so much of Greece with its seaside restaurants and the beautiful turquoise water. The Greek Mister fell in love with it immediately. We sat on one of the seaside restaurants and had a drink, it was a very warm day. We felt like we were overdressed with our jumpers as it seems like it’s a t-shirt kind of day. After finishing my latte, I left The Greek Mister with his beer as I explored the many alleyways of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
We enjoyed an amazing seafood lunch at Lou Bantry before heading back to the airport. It was heartbreaking to leave this wonderful place, I’m pleased that the Greek Mister loved it as much as I did. It truly was a good choice of a destination to run away from the cold and wintry weather of London for some sun and warmth.
Tip # 9:: I love medieval villages immensely but even with my love for it, I got burnt out after the 4th village that we visited. I noticed that at some point, I wasn’t really able to appreciate the beauty of the village that we’re in completely because it looked all the same to me. If or when I ever go back to Nice, I’d definitely not pack my itinerary with so many villages to visit but instead pick just a few and explore it more in depth.
I hope you found this guide useful or it made you want to visit Nice in the near future. Trust me, the photos don’t do it justice. It is prettier in reality. 🙂
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you’ve packed a lot in just 5 days! maybe next time you’d visit Antibes too?
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