Nice, one of France’s most populous and sprawling cities, is many things to different travelers and locals.
One of southern France’s largest port cities, Nice is found on the warm climes of the Mediterranean coast, in the shadow of the Alps.
Some see this big metropolis as just a transport hub because it is located very conveniently in the center of the French Riviera, making it easy to travel to the many iconic towns and cities that everyone has heard the names of – from Cannes to Monaco.
To many though, Nice’s ideal location makes it the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding provinces and famous locations.
Nice has the perfect mixture of French culture and cuisine that mixes well with influences from the diverse array of nationalities and people that have migrated here from across the Mediterranean over the years.
Let’s have a look at the best day trips from Nice:
You may have only just arrived in Nice – and perhaps even in France itself – but one of the first day trips that has to be made is a trip to the city-state of Monaco, meaning that you may find yourself leaving France as you soon as you land.
Monaco is a small, independent country that’s located east along the coast from Nice.
It’s renowned for the world famous Monaco Grand Prix, held every year on the winding, old streets of the city.
It’s also home to Monte Carlo and the infamous Monte Carlo casino, where gamblers and reckless travelers have risked their money for decades – some winning big and many more losing.
Monaco has a reputation for lavish opulence; it’s a playground for rich Arab Sheiks, Hollywood stars, and western Royalty.
But through all the glitz and glamour of Monaco, it’s an ever-intriguing destination.
It’s a country with its own very unique history.
It’s a culture that is very French, but at the same time peculiarly different, and it’s an excellent day trip from Nice.
Suggested tour: From Nice : 4-Hour Monaco by Night
Along the coast from Nice, this time to the west, is Marseilles, the largest city on the southern Mediterranean shoreline of France.
Marseilles, just like Nice and many more large French cities, is a strange mix of opulence and decay, but it’s a place that is always interesting.
Grand hotels overshadow poor urban areas, but in the middle can be found a vibrant, multicultural mix of rich, poor, French and foreign influences that create a unique atmosphere.
Marseilles is one of the oldest cities in France.
It’s a place that has stood on the shores of the Mediterranean since before the days of the Romans; in Marseilles, you will find an incredible wealth of history to explore.
There’s a scenic, sunny harbor and a beautifully historic corniche, while many of the beaches are of the best quality in France.
Away from the coastline, and just north of Marseilles, an excellent day trip to the west of Nice will bring you to the small city of Aix-en-Provence – or Aix, as it is more simply known by the local residents.
Aix is another extremely historic city – with roots founded thousands of years ago – that has developed into the charming, quintessentially French city that you will find today.
Aix is home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe.
A friendly cafe culture that spills onto the streets is just waiting to be enjoyed by visitors.
Cannes is, of course, most famous for the iconic International Film Festival that’s held here annually, when visitors can walk the streets with celebrities and film stars from across the globe.
Cannes is much more than just its film festival though.
The rest of the year it’s still busy – this is the heart of the French Riviera after all, but you can still enjoy the old streets, historic scenes, and spectacular vistas.
There are always hundreds of elegant yachts in the harbor, while the tree-lined, breezy, seafront boulevard is simply beautiful.
Recommended tour: Cote d’Azur Back Country Private Day Tour
5. Ile de Sainte Marguerite
Just off the coast of Cannes is the beautiful, rustic island of Sainte Marguerite.
You can travel here from Cannes or take the fast ferry directly from Nice, with fantastic views of the entirety of the French Riviera along the way.
It’s a small place, with a length of no more than three kilometers at any point.
It’s not just beautiful, it’s a historic place.
Make sure to visit the Fort Royal – one of France’s most famous prisons – because this fortress was used to hold The Man in the Iron Mask.
Toulon is, first and foremost, a French Naval base, and visiting the city will give you a completely different perspective on the French Riviera.
Rather than seeing yachts in the harbor, you will be looking out at warships.
It makes for an interesting escape from the glitz and lavish wealth of much of the rest of the coastline, and in its own strange way makes for a very unique escape from Nice – you can see how the average hard working Frenchman lives in this part of the world.
Saint-Tropez is found halfway between Nice and Marseilles and it’s most certainly one of the most iconic names to be heard along the French Riviera.
This was one of the first of France’s south coast cities to really begin to experience the tourism and opulence that you feel keenly today, after it was the setting for a famous Hollywood movie.
Saint-Tropez still retains the ramshackle cobbled streets and vibrant seafront culture that originally drew visitors, and even today, with all the visitors, it’s a fantastic day trip from Nice.
If, however, Saint-Tropez is too busy, bustling and popular for you, then waiting just down the road is Sainte-Maxime.
Like Saint-Tropez, this coastal town is beautiful, historic and charming, but unlike Saint-Tropez, almost no one visits.
It’s very close by, but travelers will pass through with their sights firmly set on the famous Saint-Tropez.
Stop in though, and enjoy the rustic French charm that has been lost elsewhere.
Enjoy the quaint cafes and peaceful seafront restaurants.
Most of all, enjoy the quiet atmosphere.
Antibes is best known for the beautiful beaches that are found around the town.
It’s a favorite place for holidaymakers looking purely for sun, sea, and sand, and there are many resorts here to cater to that demand.
At times, it may feel a little touristy, especially in summer, but when you look out over the spectacular, white sand beaches as the waters of the Mediterranean lap against the shore, you will realize exactly why so many people love to come here.
If you want a great day at the beach, then Antibes is the place to go.
Eze is located to the east of Nice, on the road to Monaco.
It’s a popular stop for those looking to indulge in the long history of the French Riviera.
Eze is a small place, but this village is found perched spectacularly on a hilltop, overlooking the coastline for mile upon mile.
The streets here are preserved as they have been for hundreds of years, and the cathedral and buildings are from a time lost in other areas of the coast.
It looks and feels almost medieval, and it’s a must do day trip from Nice.
Menton is the last big town before you reach the Italian border.
Being along the road beyond Monaco, it’s a part of the French Riviera that is much less famous and low key than Nice and its surrounds.
That means that Menton makes for a refreshing day trip, with an excellent culinary scene that’s a distinct mix of French and Italian flavors and styles.
Across the river to the west of Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer is a beautiful choice for a day trip.
The small town is picturesque, found on the seafront overlooking the Mediterranean.
Away from the coast is a charming old town, with a medieval feel, and beyond that, forests, hills and the delights of the French countryside are all within easy reach.
Grasse is found inland, about one hour’s drive from Nice, and is known for its long association with perfume.
As well as being a beautiful little place in excellent surroundings, the town has at least three perfume museums and factories that can be toured to learn more about this very French of scents.
Peillon is where the mountains really begin.
This is the start of the Alps, and a winding, stunning road brings you from Nice, through the hills and into the mountains, where you can find Peillon – just a small village – perched on a clifftop, in spectacular surroundings.
15. Verdon Gorge
If you have seen all the intricacies of the French Riviera and would enjoy traveling inland and away from the coast, then waiting just two hours away from Nice is the absolutely stunning Verdon Gorge.
This is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural attractions in the south of France.
A long river cuts through a deep gorge, reaching depths of up to 700 meters in places.
You can hike, kayak and rock climb, making it an adventure seeker’s paradise.