Although Nice is a pretty big city (it’s the 5th biggest one in France), spending one day in Nice is enough to see the main highlights of the city. However, if you’re planning to visit more places in the French Riviera and you don’t want to stay only one night at each location, Nice can be a really good base for discovering the area! You can find many amazing cities within a short drive from Nice like Menton, Monaco, Cannes or Marseille. If you need some more ideas, here’s an amazing list about the best day trips from Nice!
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Best day trips from Nice
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Menton, the largest French town before the Italian border on the Cote D’Azur, is definitely a place worth visiting on a day trip from Nice. The journey takes around 40 minutes by train via Monaco. Alternatively, if you have your own car you can also drive to Menton on the highway, it takes around 40 minutes to get there by car as well.
Often referred as The Pearl of France, it’s a picturesque little coastal town that is a perfect place to get out of the hustle and bustle of Nice’s city centre. It’s a great place to just wander. There are small winding streets on which you’ll find an array of cafes, restaurants and little gift shops. Many of these sell products based on the local lemons: Menton is famous for these, a result of the warm micro-climate here.
It also has a pretty seafront from which you can look back at the town’s pastel coloured buildings. And for anyone who wants more of an activity based day trip, there is a casino along the promenade and a museum dedicated to the works of the artist Jean Cocteau.
If you’re visiting Nice in February, you should pop along to Menton to experience the Fete du Citron. In honour of the famous lemons, the town hosts the annual Lemon Festival which is a colourful, vibrant and fun event, involving over 140 tonnes of citrus fruit.
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If you’re planning to visit the French Riviera, Monaco has to be on your itinerary! The country is so small that spending one day in Monaco is more than enough to visit all the highlights.
It’s one of the best day trips from Nice as it’s only a 25-minute train ride or a 30-minute drive away from the city. You will find plenty of parking garages in Monaco so parking will not be a problem, but the parking fees are quite high so it might be a better option to take the train.
When thinking about Monaco, the casino of Monte-Carlo is often the first one that comes to mind. Even if you’re not into gambling, seeing the beautiful building of the casino will surely leave you speechless. Not to mention all the fancy and expensive cars parking in front of it!
Taking a walk around Port Hercules and admiring the gorgeous yachts is another unmissable things to do in Monaco. After that, head over to ‘The Rock’ – the oldest part of Monaco where you will find plenty of cute pastel colored houses. You will get the best views of the marina from there and you can also check out the Prince’s Palace and the Saint Nicholas Cathedral.
Èze, north-east of Nice, stretches from the sea via its steep coastline to the hilltop and is certainly one of the best day trips from Nice. If you can only do one day trip from Nice, Èze should be one of your top choices. It will give you all you expect from the French Riviera: access to the Mediterranean Sea from Èze-sur-Mer, exquisite views from the hills, and gorgeous cobblestone streets in Èze village.
The best way to reach Èze from Nice is by taking bus 82 which will take you to the hilltop village in under 45 minutes. Once you arrive, you will immediately fall in love with the charming village which dates back to the Middle Ages. Enjoy a stroll through the alleys and make your way to the pretty botanical garden from where you get a scenic view of the coastal region and the sea.
Because you have arrived by bus in the hilltop village, you can then make your way down to the sea. The best option is the Nietzsche Path, a medium difficulty hike of about 2 km length. But if you prefer to hike up you could instead take the train from Nice to Èze-sur-Mer and then make your way up to the village for the views. And those who don’t want to do the hike in either direction can simply take the bus 83 which takes about 20 minutes between both parts of Èze.
4. Saint Paul de Vence
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Perched on its hilltop overlooking the Cote D’Azur, the utterly charming Saint Paul de Vence is less than a half-hour drive by car or an hour ride by bus from Nice. Strolling the streets of the historic walled village through the narrow stone alleyways is the best way to see it.
Take in the picturesque window boxes and building facades, duck into the main church, visit the quaint artisan shops, and sit outside and enjoy a Provençal snack. Paved in small stone designs, even the surface of the main street that you walk along is beautiful. As is the view from the cemetery where Marc Chagall is buried. Chagall lived here and painted the surrounding landscapes for 20 years.
The village’s history is intertwined with art. Visit the famous restaurant La Colombe D’Or for a gourmet meal, or to view works by some of the greatest names in modern art, like Picasso, Calder, and Matisse.
Art enthusiasts should continue outside of the walled village by car, bus, or shuttle (free upon request) to the Fondation Maeght Museum (just 2 kilometers away), which is open every day from 10 am to 6 or 7 pm, depending on the season. Much of the collection is outside, including the Miro Labyrinth at the entrance and a sculpture garden by Giacometti. The entrance fee of 16 EUR (19 USD) covers both the indoor and outdoor exhibits.
Cannes is probably one of the most glamorous cities along the French Riviera. Once a year when the Cannes Film Festival takes place, the city becomes a true hotspot for celebrities from all over the world. But it has so much more to offer and with a drive of less than an hour, it’s also the perfect day trip from Nice!
One of the best things to do in Cannes is to stroll along the wonderful Promenade de la Croisette or take a swim in the deep-blue ocean. If you’re lucky, you can spot some artists making really big and fascinating sand sculptures in various forms. Head over to the Palais des Festival, the venue for the above-mentioned Film Festival. There’s a small park nearby on which ground you can find the handprints of many actors such as Cameron Diaz or Angelina Jolie. This place is also called “Cannes Walk of Fame”.
Less than a kilometer from the mainland, there’s the small island “Île Sainte-Marguerite” that you can reach by boat. It’s a lush and lovely small island with an old fort on its top from where you can enjoy a stunning view of Cannes’ coastline. The boat ride takes not more than 15 minutes and a round-trip ticket costs around 15 EUR (18 USD).
Located on the French Riviera in Southern France, just 68 km west of Nice, Saint-Tropez is famous around the world for being a top choice destination for the rich and famous. Littered with extraordinary yachts, dreamy villas and expensive supercars, Saint-Tropez just oozes wealth and luxury.
It’s an easy and scenic drive from Nice, it takes around 2.5 hours by car. There is also the option of taking the train which takes approximately 2 hours 45 minutes, although this does involve some changes.
When embarking on a trip to the glamorous location of Saint Tropez, there are some things that should be on your to – do list. Firstly, take a walk around the harbour. It’s a stunning spot, with breathtaking views of boats and yachts bobbing proudly on their anchors. As you stroll towards the bustling boutique shops and restaurants, you will pass by market stalls selling quality arts and crafts as well as inspiring and unobtrusive street performers.
Some of the best views of Saint Tropez can be enjoyed from the Citadel, which has kept guard over the city below since the 17th century. Whilst up at the Citadel, a visit to the Museum of Maritime History is highly recommended. It allows access to the infamous dungeons and celebrates the lives of the local fishermen and sailors whose livelihoods were linked to the seas.
The beaches of Saint-Tropez are glorious, with pure white sandy shores and gorgeous blue waters. There are a variety of water sports on offer for those who prefer to be active as opposed to soaking up some French sunshine.
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A day trip from Nice offering a different experience to the rest of the French Riviera region is the centuries old naval port of Toulon.
Located 150 km south-west of Nice, Toulon can be reached by either a 1 hour and 45 minute car drive or using the excellent rail service running between Nice and Marseille. The train journey takes around 2 hours and usually costs from as little as 15 EUR (17.6 USD) for a one way ticket.
Toulon is rather a naval base than a beach destination, therefore it does not boast the same glamorous reputation of its near neighbours. However, with a charming old town district, beautiful marina and rich natural environment of both the mediterranean coast and the adjacent Mount Furon, Toulon genuinely offers something for everyone.
Best things to do in Toulon include a hugely interesting walking tour of the Old Town, a visit to one of France’s most popular local markets and of course a trip to the majestic Mount Furon. Overlooking Toulon to the north, Mount Furon is accessible by cable car and provides visitors with incredible panoramas over the city and Bay. Mount Furon is also a splendid destination for mountain bikers and hikers.
Back at sea level, you can enjoy the Bay itself from either one of Toulon’s beach suburbs or a boat tour to the nearby Porquerolles Islands. In recent years, Toulon has become famous for its successful Rugby team. If you’re interested in rugby, you can enjoy this beautiful sport at Toulon’s State Muyol, just metres from the marina and its several seafood restaurants.
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Cassis was once known as the ‘poor man’s Saint-Tropez’, but it has well and truly outgrown that reputation and is now one of the most desirable places to visit in the South of France. It’s a village that has managed to maintain its small-town feel, and traditional daily rhythms (such as the small fish market in the port), but the upmarket boutiques and restaurants give it a luxurious edge also.
There are plenty of things to do in Cassis, so whether you’re after a beachside break or a culture fix, you’ll be well catered for. But one of the unmissable activities is to take a hike or a boat trip around the Calanques of Cassis.
Situated in the Calanques National Park, between Cassis and Marseille, you’ll find the three deepest, and arguably most beautiful calanques, within a short walk of the seaside town. It’s an enjoyable trek, with the whole circuit taking around 3 hours (without stopping at the incredible beaches). But if it’s simply too hot, or the National Park is closed due to adverse weather conditions, you can also take a tour from the port to visit the calanques via sea.
Getting to Cassis from Nice is a pleasant 2-hour drive. Just before you arrive in town, stop by at one of the hillside vineyards for a glass of the Cassis AOC wine, and when you pull yourself away from Cassis at the end of the day, be sure to take a small detour and drive the Route des Cretes where you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the town and its surroundings to send you off.
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Marseille makes a great day trip from Nice. The capital of the French region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is a bustling city with many interesting things to see and do. Marseille and Nice are connected by TGV trains, and the train journey is around 2.5 hours one way.
Marseille is set by the Mediterranean Sea and it is one of the oldest cities in France, founded 2,600 years ago. It is also a big harbor-city with good connections to the Mediterranean islands, France, and Spain.
Despite it is recommended to spend at least 2 days in Marseille, it is possible to see many things in one (packed) day. A good way to spend one day in Marseille is to start from the city’s highest point, from Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. The Basilica is beautiful to see plus it comes with the best views of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea.
Then there’s the picturesque old harbor, with its colorful boats, some Italian-style piazzas nearby, and the traditional fish market. On the port’s background, there’s Le Panier, the most picturesque neighborhood of Marseille, the city’s cathedral, (Cathédrale La Major), the 17th century Fort Saint-Jean, and the MuCEM (Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean). The MuCEM was built after Marseille’s nomination as the European City of Culture in 2013, and it always has some interesting exhibitions about the Mediterranean people.
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Located within a short 2-hour drive from Nice, Aix-en-Provence may just be the perfect day trip from Nice. The area’s vibe differs greatly from that of Côte d’Azur! The town’s cozy narrow streets wind between centuries-old buildings. The main promenade of the Vielle Ville, Cours Mirabeau, hides in the shadows of the tall plane trees. The alleys where the local vendors sell souvenirs smell of lavender and small cafes offer delicious Provençal cuisine.
The list of the most popular things to do in the heart of Provence starts with wandering the old town and looking for public fountains with drinkable water. There are more than 40, most of them dating back to the 1600s and the 1800s. One of such fountains is located near la Place d’Albertas. This is also a place where the talented street musicians come to play, and many locals and visitors gather to listen.
Another activity not to miss in Aix is visiting the studio of Paul Cezanne, where the legendary artist created his masterpieces. After the studio, it might be a great idea to head to the market not far from the Hotel de Ville to get a true taste of Provence, or to order mouthwatering Artichauts à la Barigoule (fried artichokes with bacon and garlic) in one of the local cafes.
The best way to get to Aix-en-Provence is by car via the toll road A8, which will cost around 14 EUR (16.5 USD) one way and will take two hours. Alternatively, Flixbus runs four buses a day to Aix, and the first bus leaves the station at around 9 am. The cost of the round trip is 30 EUR (35 USD), and it takes about 3 hours to get to the destination. In high season, it is recommended to book tickets in advance.
11. Verdon Gorge
About 2.5 hours’ drive north west from Nice is the magnificent Gorges du Verdon, the perfect day out from hustle and bustle of the city. The drive will take you along the A8 towards Antibes/Cannes and off at the junction 36 sign posted for St Tropez/Drauginan. The A8 is a toll road, so make sure you have coins or your credit card ready. From the junction head north through the beautiful countryside in the Var region.
When you reach Verdon Gorge, the roads wind through the hills above the stunning turquoise blue waters of the river below. The water’s colour comes from the glacial minerals deposited in the waters from the limestone canyons.
One of the best places to view the Gorges du Verdon is from Pont du Galetas bridge. From here you can have an amazing view of the rock formations and the Verdon River. There is a nearby car park and it’s an easy walk to the bridge to take in the scenery.
If you want to rent a kayak, paddleboat or motorboat, there are boat rental places on both sides of the bridge. There are small beaches along the river to stop and get out for a swim, though check first if you have taken a motorboat out. Alternatively head for the man-made Lake of Sainte-Croix which has a beach to swim from.
There are plenty of parking areas where you can leave your car while you go for a stroll or hike through the peaceful ravines. Try the popular Blanc-Martel trail or maybe the Imbut trail through the canyons.
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Visiting the lavender fields in Provence is a true bucket list experience. The lavender season generally lasts from mid-June to mid-July so if you’re planning to visit Nice around this time, make sure to take a day trip to Valensole! Although you can find many lavender fields in Provence, the most beautiful ones are located around Valensole so if you have only one day to see them, that’s the best place for it.
As there is basically no public transportation in the area, you will need to have your own car in order to get around. It takes around 2.5 hours to reach Valensole from Nice which will leave you plenty of time to explore the fields and have a look around the town of Valensole as well.
The good news is that parking is free almost everywhere and since the lavender fields are located near the roads, you can basically stop anywhere without paying for parking. On top of that, visiting the lavender fields is also free! If you don’t have your own car, you can take an organized day trip from Nice to the lavender fields as well.
Apart from lavender fields, you can also find many other fields like sunflower, sage or hay. The whole area is absolutely beautiful, so if you have more time, it’s worth spending at least 3-4 days there to be able to explore all the beauty Provence has to offer.
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Visiting Avignon in Provence is one of the best day trips from Nice. One day in Avignon is enough to explore its main sights so if you leave Nice early in the morning there’s enough time to visit the essentials. Nice and Avignon are connected by TGV trains and the train journey takes around 3 hours (one way).
Avignon is a small and compact city, easy to navigate on foot plus most of the action happens within its medieval walls. Avignon is famous for the Bridge of Avignon (le Pont d’Avignon) and for the impressive Palace of the Popes.
The Pont d’Avignon is a medieval bridge that crossed the river Rhône. It was destroyed and reconstructed several times until it was abandoned. Today, it is possible to visit the top of the bridge and its two chapels but the perspective from Ile de la Barthelasse is much more interesting.
The Palace of the Popes is a jewel of gothic architecture, built in only 20 years to host 7 Popes of the Catholic Church. The visit to the Palace inside is a must and booking tickets in advance is highly recommended to avoid waiting in line.
Then, there are the medieval streets around the Palace which also interesting to explore. The architecture is beautiful and there are little squares here and there perfect for a coffee break.
Best day trips from Nice on the map
On the below map I collected all the best day trips from Nice that was discussed above. This way you can have an idea how far away are them from Nice and maybe you can even combine a few of them in a day trip.
If you open up the blog post on your mobile, you can click on the bracket in the upper right corner and it will save this map in your Google Maps app, so you can always have it with you! Super convenient, right?
Nice is not only an amazing city to visit on your French Riviera road trip, but it’s actually an amazing base to discover the area without having to move to another hotel every night. I hope this blog post convinced you to take at least a few day trips from Nice when you’re in the Cote d’Azur area!
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email, I always love helping you out! Do you know some other destinations that would make a great day trip from Nice? Let me know in the comments!