The best shore excursions in Nice, France

Welcome to the French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur—a playground for the rich and famous and a paradise we’ve had the joy of exploring for many years. Known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant culture, and warm Mediterranean climate, this breathtaking coastline extends from southern France to Italy’s doorstep. If you’re docking at one of the two cruise ports in Nice, get ready to discover the best shore excursions in Nice and fall in love with this wonderful region just as we have!

1. Port of Nice (Port Lympia)

The Port of Nice is the gateway to the Riviera’s charm for many cruisers on smaller cruise ships. Located just a short walk from the city center, this port is a perfect starting point to explore Nice’s attractions. The famous Promenade des Anglais, the historic Old Town (Vieux Nice), and numerous museums are within walking distance, providing a rich cultural experience within steps of the dock.

2. Cruise Port Villefranche

Just a stone’s throw from Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer offers a quaint but stunning cruise port. The Bay of Villefranche is one of the deepest natural harbours in the Mediterranean, making it a popular stop for larger cruise ships.

Your cruise ship will drop anchor offshore, and tender boats will take you into the port. Find out more about this area in our next article about Villefranche.

Things to Do in Nice

Nice is a cultural hub with must-visit destinations like the Matisse Museum, housed in a 17th-century villa, and the Marc Chagall National Museum, which holds some of the artist’s best works. In addition, hundreds of exhibitions and concerts are held throughout the city each year.

Cours Saleya Market is in the heart of the Old Town on Rue Saint-François de Paule. Head there after breakfast for the best produce, local crafts, and an array of French antiques. The Old Town, with its narrow winding streets, is perfect for enjoying local cuisine and finding unique artisan boutiques.

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Nice covers 522 hectares, including the coastline, the center of Nice, Libération and Cimiez hills. To make it easier for you to discover this incredible heritage area, we’ve chosen our favourite, tried and tested shore excursions that let you choose how you want to spend your time in and around this fantastic city.

The 6 distinct districts of Nice

Let’s dive into the six distinct districts that you absolutely must explore while you’re in town.

1. UNESCO gems in the heart of the city

  • Castle Hill
    Head up to Castle Hill for some of the most stunning views you’ll see across the Baie des Anges. The place has lovely spots like the Bellanda Tower and a charming fountain. It’s quite a climb, so wear good walking shoes and take a bottle of water from the ship with you. Better still, bring your own refillable water bottle from home in your cruise packing and top up when you are out and about to avoid dehydration in the warm weather.
  • Promenade des Ponchettes
    As you walk from Castle Hill, you can’t miss the “#I love Nice” sign outside the luxury La Perouse Hotel on the opposite side of the street. Take a leisurely walk where the old Promenade des Ponchettes used to be. These days, it’s lined with restaurants that have set up expansive terraces.
  • Place Masséna
    The 18th-century Place Masséna is home to the beautiful Fontaine du Soleil and those iconic neoclassical buildings that frame the square. It is right on the edge of the Old Town and a central hub for the trams and many hotels. Our favorite mid-priced hotel, the hotel Aston La Scala is located here.
  • Musée Masséna and Musée des Beaux-Arts
    Both the Musée Masséna and the Musée des Beaux-Arts are housed in what were once holiday villas. They’re absolutely stunning, with architecture that takes you back to another time. Definitely worth a visit.

2. Mont Boron – The “Perched” District

Venture east to Mont Boron, nestled between Nice and Villefranche. Known for its limestone hills and luxurious villas, this area offers a quieter escape with breathtaking views.

From the top, you get a clear view of Nice’s Port Lympia, the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges), the city of Nice, the Cap Ferrat peninsula, and the eastern Riviera. The sunset views from Mount Boron are wonderful.

The walk from Port Lympia to the top of Mount Boron takes just under one hour. Alternatively, bus number 33 from the center of Nice takes you to the park in around 20 minutes.

3. Campo Longo in Croix-de-Marbre

This charming district has transformed from agricultural lands to a fashionable resort area. West of Avenue Jean Médecin, its streets are lined with striking facades, quaint churches, and a central garden where you can sit for hours with a baguette, local cheeses from the market (brie, chèvre, blue, and camembert), and a bottle of wine for a perfect afternoon pique-nique.

4. Campo Longo in Saint Jean Baptiste

Similar in its origins to its neighbor, the Campo Longo district lies east of Avenue Jean Médecin, on the right bank of the Paillon River. It boasts grand buildings, historic villas, and a unique, neo-classical Waldensian temple that is now used as an auction house.

You can walk or take Bus Number 5 or 22 from a central stop like “Jean Médecin”. The journey takes about 10-15 minutes.

5. Cimiez

Promoted by none other than Queen Victoria, Cimiez flourished into a haven for royalty and vacationers during the Belle Époque. Today, it remains a prestigious neighborhood with grand hotels and a statue of Queen Victoria in front of the Hotel Regina gardens.

To get there, a popular starting point in the city center is the “Jean Médecin” bus stop.

Look for Bus Number 5 from a bus stop on Avenue Jean Médecin (destination: “Rimiez—Les Sauges”). This bus will take you directly to Cimiez. Buy a ticket at the machine next to the bus stop. When you get on the bus, make sure to validate your ticket or pass. The ride will take about 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic.

Get Off at “Arènes / Musée Matisse”.This stop is right near the main attractions in Cimiez, including the Roman ruins, the Musée Matisse, and the Monastère de Cimiez

6. Palaces and villas of Carabacel

Carabacel is famous for its magnificent villas and palatial hotels, particularly along Boulevard Carabacel and the southern part of Cimiez. The architecture here tells a story of luxury and elegance from a bygone era.

Day Trips from Nice

From Nice, families can easily venture to glamorous Monaco, the film-famous Cannes, or the perched village of Eze, each offering their own unique slice of Riviera life.

Things to do in Villefranche

Villefranche conjures a truly Mediterranean experience with its charming streets and waterfront restaurants. Visitors can explore the 16th-century citadel or the Saint-Pierre Chapel, adorned with artwork by Jean Cocteau.

Where to Stay

  1. In Nice: Choose from family-friendly hotels near the Promenade des Anglais for quick beach access and stunning sea views. Our go-to mid-priced favorite hotel in Nice is Hotel Aston La Scala. It is a perfect location for exploring the city.
  2. In Villefranche: Opt for boutique accommodations with views of the bay, perfect for a quieter, more intimate stay.
Click to search, find and compare hotels in Nice and Villefranche.

Tips for Cruise Travelers

Transportation Tips

Both Nice and Villefranche are well-connected by public transport. Buses and trams offer an easy way to explore the coast, while rental scooters can provide a fun, flexible travel option for families.

Click to search, find and compare train and transfer options in Nice and Villefranche.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time to visit the French Riviera is from May through October when the weather is warm, and the cities are vibrant with tourists and locals alike.

The peak summer months of June, July, and August are busiest and often the warmest. When away from the ship, pack layers, sunscreen, a big hat, and a water bottle. For more information about our essential items to pack, we have some tried-and-tested tips here that you may find helpful!

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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