French Riviera 3-Day Itinerary – Best Places to visit in Nice

  • 14.04.2024 18:42
  • Bruno Arcos

Best places to visit on a quick weekend getaway to the French Riviera. Discover what to see and do in Nice and Monaco in our French Riviera 3-day itinerary!

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This French Riviera 3-day itinerary is a part of our broader travel guide for the region. We recommend you check it out for the best travel tips and the most accurate information on transportation, hotels, restaurants and safety tips in the French Riviera.

French Riviera 3-Day Itinerary – Weekend getaway guide

In all honesty, this is more of a travel guide to Nice – the main city in the region – than to the French Riviera. Still, it comes quite in handy for those wishing to make the most of their weekend getaway in the Côte d’Azur… though you will definitely feel the urge to go back sooner rather than later to explore what was left to see! Be that as it may, and though your time may not abound, you can still explore the very best of Nice and go on a day-trip to glitzy Monaco!

That being said, if you are looking for more comprehensive itineraries and have some additional time in hands, feel free to have a look at our extended guides to the French Riviera:

So, without further ado, here are the cities, places and tourist attractions you should visit in a 3-day itinerary through the French Riviera:

French Riviera 3-Day Itinerary: Day 1 – Nice: Vieille Ville

Unsurprisingly, your mini-journey along the French Riviera will start in Nice, the most important city in the region. Despite its upscale status and neat looks, Nice is actually France’s 5th largest city, and one of the south’s key economic, urban and industrial hubs. With two full days to explore, your adventure begins with the charming Vieille Ville, the name given to the Old Town of Nice. Bordering the historic center, your first stop will take place at Place Masséna, the vibrant square that is considered the bustling heart of the city, home to the stunning Fontaine du Soleil. From there, take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Promenade du Paillon, connecting Jardin Albert 1er to Jardin de la Bourgada, before delving deep into Vieille Ville via the bustling Cours Saleya. One of the most famous streets in the Niçoise downtown, this is where you can find many of the city’s daily street markets, such as the Marché aux Fleurs.

Walking around the Old Town, it’s impossible not to be in awe at its narrow alleyways and colorful baroque architecture. Given its geographic position, there’s a very strong Italian influence, so don’t find it too odd if parts of Nice remind you of the neighboring country. Within Vieille Ville, be sure to visit notable landmarks such as the magnificent Nice Cathedral, probably the most famous building in the quarter, and the Palais Lascaris (€5,00), whose interiors rank among the most impressive in the city. While you’re at it, you may also discover hidden gems like the Eglise Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur and the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation, both boasting exquisite frescoes. As you exit the Old Town, take a detour and have your lunch break in Le Petit Marais, a trendy neighborhood brimming with chic cafes, bars and eateries around Place Garibaldi.

Finally, and to help you burn out some of those plat-du-jour calories, make your way up to Parc de la Colline du Château. Despite its name, there is no castle/palace atop the hill, mas it’s still an incredibly popular place with locals and tourists for the panoramic views of the city and the sea. Although there are several different viewpoints scattered across the park, the best ones can be found in Tour Bellanda and Point de Vue – the perfect spots to catch the sunset! To get back down, you can either walk back the same way or take the Ascenseur du Château.

First day wrap-up:

  • Vieille Ville – Old Town
  • Place Massená
  • Fontaine du Soleil
  • Promenade du Paillon
  • Cours Saleya
  • Marché aux Fleurs
  • Nice Cathedral
  • Palais Lascaris
  • Eglise Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur
  • Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation
  • Place Garibaldi – Le Petit Marais
  • Parc de la Colline du Château
  • Tour Bellanda AND/OR Point de Vue Colline du chateau

Where to eat in Nice – Best restaurants in Vieille Ville

French Riviera 3-Day Itinerary: Day 2 – Nice: Promenade des Anglais

Now that you’ve explored Nice’s ancient and historic side, it’s time to spend a few hours by the sea and have a little taste of the quintessential Côte d’Azur beach experience. Although not a beach per se, but rather an extensive waterfront promenade spanning over 7 km, the Promenade des Anglais stands as a true icon of Nice. Along the promenade, you’ll find literally dozens of public and private beaches – they may not be the most beautiful or well-maintained, but they’re the quickest solution for when it gets too hot in the region’s largest city. The avenue is also flanked by some of Nice’s most monumental buildings. Most of them have been converted into hotels, but it’s still possible to admire the exterior architecture of the likes of the Palais de la Méditerranée or Le Negresco. Behind the latter, you may also pay a visit to Villa Masséna (€10,00), a 19th-century mansion nestled amidst a lush tropical garden.

After a refreshing morning by the Mediterranean, you will slowly get away from the shores to discover a lesser-explored part of Nice. That said, you’ll start off with a visit to the captivating Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, considered one of the prettiest orthodox churches in the West, reminiscent of the traditional onion-shaped architecture found in Russia or Ukraine. Further north, continue your journey towards Cimiez, a quaint district often overlooked by tourists. Besides the Monastery of Cimiez, well worth a visit to see its private gardens, the quarter is famous for the ancient Roman Ruins of Cemenelum, a complex where you can stumble upon archaeological remains of amphitheaters, thermal baths and basilicas. A pretty unique place to add to your itinerary of the French Riviera.

Second day wrap-up:

  • Promenade des Anglais
  • Beaches of Nice
  • Palais de la Méditerranée
  • Le Negresco
  • Villa Masséna
  • Cathedral of Saint Nicholas
  • Monastery of Cimiez
  • Ruins of Cemenelum

Where to eat in Nice – Best restaurants around the Promenade des Anglais

French Riviera 3-Day Itinerary: Day 3 – Monaco

Why limit yourself to one country when you can visit two? While the City-State seems to blend into the stunning landscape of the French Riviera, Monaco stands on its own as an entirely independent nation (the second smallest in the world), with its own legislative, executive and judicial branches. Located just a short 20-km away from Nice, Monaco makes for an excellent day trip before getting back for your return flight! Famous for its opulent casinos and outrageous displays of wealth – 30% of the population consists of millionaires who benefit from Monaco’s status as a tax haven – there’s also a quieter side to this tiny nation. Today, we invite you to experience both! Without further ado, start your day at the iconic Monte Carlo Casino (€17,00 entrance fee), arguably the most famous institution in the country. However, the gambling tables and slot machines don’t really matter (though the rooms are admittedly impressive), as it’s all about the grandeur of the district, its monumental architecture and lavish displays of wealth. It’s a pretty area, but also a fantastic spot for people-watching as you can find all sort of characters around Monte Carlo. Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Salle Garnier (€17,00 for a guided tour), also known as the Monte Carlo Opera House.

Although you’ll then depart from Monaco’s most luxurious district, your next stop is Port Hercules, the country’s largest port, renowned for its bustling marina filled with luxurious yachts and private boats. After all, it’s no coincidence Monaco earned its moniker as the world capital of yachting. Wealth and eccentricities aside, one thing you can’t miss in the country is its magnificent gardens. Throughout its compact 2 square kilometers, Monaco is dotted with beautifully maintained parks offering stunning views of the sea and harbor. Notable among these are the Jardin Exotique (€7,20, including admission to the Observatory Cave), the Jardin Japonais and the Jardins Saint-Martin. From the former, you can then ascend towards Monaco-Ville, the historic district that marks the site of the Old Town. After the high-rise buildings, the private boats and the monumental architecture, this is the place to unwind and enjoy the quarter’s medieval streets. In the Old Town, you can visit the Palais Princier (€10,00, open from April to October), the official residence of the Grimaldi Royal Family; the Monaco Cathedral; and the Oceanographic Museum (€19,00 admission), one of the oldest and most spectacular oceanariums in the world. On your way out of Monaco-Ville, take in the panoramic views of the country from Rue des Remparts, before capping off your visit at Fort Antoine, an innovative open-air theater housed inside an 18th-century defensive fort. At the end of the day, simply hop on a train or bus back to Nice. It was short, but definitely sweet!

Third day wrap-up:

  • Monaco
    • Monte Carlo Casino
    • Salle Garnier
    • Port Hércule
    • Jardin Exotique (Observatory Cave)
    • Jardin Japonais
    • Jardins Saint-Martin
    • Monaco-Ville (Old Town)
    • Palais Princier
    • Monaco Cathedral
    • Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
    • Rue des Remparts (for the views)
    • Fort Antoine

Where to eat in the French Riviera – Best restaurants in Monaco

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