The French Riviera city of Nice is a nice place to visit. But there comes a time in any holiday when it’s time for a change of scenery, to escape to the environs for a change of pace. The French Riviera is a good place to do this.
With just a few day trips from Nice you can go celebrity-spotting in Cannes and Monaco, playgrounds for the rich and famous; visit a medieval castle; learn how perfume is made, and take a stroll along the Mediterranean into neighboring Italy.
Map of day trips from Nice
9. Villefranche-sur-Mer[SEE MAP]
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a small town that lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains. It has one of the deepest natural harbors on the Mediterranean coast, so you might see large ships and yachts anchored in the bay. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a good place to go deep sea diving and sailing.
If you get tired of water activities, you can see St. Peter’s Chapel, a 16th century church that was later used to store fishermen’s supplies, and was restored in the mid-20th century. The historic old harbor is now the home of several research institutes. A 17th century fortress houses the city hall.
Getting to Villefranche-sur-Mer
- At it lies so close to the center of Nice, there really is no need to drive to Villefranche-sur-Mer; you can easily get there in just 15 minutes via public transport. Just hop on a train at Gare de Nice Ville; two stops later, you’ll find the Mediterranean glistening before you. As it is on the same train line as Eze, Monaco, and Menton, you have lots of options for places to visit if you want to continue exploring the French Riviera after seeing Villefranche-sur-Mer.
8. St Tropez[SEE MAP]
Once upon a time, St Tropez was a military stronghold, the first French Riviera town to be liberated after World War II and fishing village. Today, it’s a ritzy resort that attracts jet-setters of the world. Like its sister cities on the coast, St Tropez is extremely scenic, both on and off the beach.
It became a haven for topless sunbathers with the invention of the monokini in the 1960s. Its Tahiti beach was immortalized in Bridget Bardot’s 1955 film, And God Created Woman. At the old harbor, you’ll find morning farm and fish markets; nearby is Old Town and the citadel.
Getting to St. Tropez
- To get to St Tropez using public transport from Nice, the quickest and easiest way is to take an hour-long train to Saint-Raphael. From here, hop on bus line 7601. While this does take another hour and a half, you will at least pass through some lovely scenery on the way to St Tropez.
- Due to the time and changes involved, it is much quicker to simply drive to St Tropez from Nice. This should take you around an hour and a half and save you valuable time which can be spent sightseeing. From Nice, take the A8 heading southwest and drive all the way to Le Muy, where you take exit 36. Follow the D25 south; at Saint-Maxime, you’ll see signs pointing you to St Tropez.
7. Grasse[SEE MAP]
If you like smelling nice, Grasse is a good place to buy perfumes: It’s considered the perfume capital of the world, and makes more than two-thirds of perfumes made in France. You can tour a perfume factory to see how fragrances are made.
August sees a festival dedicated to jasmine, one of the flowers used in perfume here; the fire department even sprays jasmine-scented water over the crowds. Perfume aside, Grasse’s most famous attraction is an 11th century cathedral, dedicated to Notre Dame de Puy and home to three Rubens’ paintings. Famous French cabaret singer Edith Piaf died here in 1963.
Getting to Grasse
- Lying to the west of Nice, Grasse is surprisingly easy to get to by public transport; direct trains run from the Gare de Nice Ville. The journey takes about an hour and 15 minutes and trains depart very frequently – if you don’t mind taking indirect ones as well. Once you arrive, it is just a short walk to the center of town.
- By car, it takes about 45 minutes to get to Grasse from Nice, although this route does include tolls. Hop on the A8 heading west from Nice and stay on it until just past Le Cannet, where you turn off onto the D6185. Keep on it until you reach Les Quatre Chemins. Here, you should see signs to Grasse. While you’re in the area, you could combine your visit with a trip to Saint-Paul de Vence or Cannes – or you could even take a scenic drive in the mountains just north of Grasse.
- Another option for visiting Grasse is to take a guided tour of the delightful Provence countryside. With an expert guide on hand, you’ll learn a lot about the traditions and culture of this part of France. In addition to visiting Grasse, you’ll also stop by the artsy Saint-Paul de Vence and Gourdon, which has stunning views on offer.
6. Saint-Paul de Vence[SEE MAP]
St Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera. It is a retreat for many famous people, including French actor Yves Montand, French artist Marc Chagall and American author James Baldwin, who died here in 1987.
The walled city is a popular tourist destination any time of the year, which can sometimes make seeing the medieval sights a little difficult. Many people come here to see the fine art galleries and museums the town is famous for. It’s a good place to buy Provencal handcrafts or go walking in the French countryside.
Getting to Saint-Paul de Vence
- To get to Saint-Paul de Vence by public transport takes about an hour, despite the lovely town being only 20 kilometers away from Nice. Bus 400 departs every 30 to 45 minutes from Nice Albert 1er on the outskirts of the Vieille Ville, and everything is within walking distance once you arrive.
- It is not a bad idea to drive to Saint-Paul de Vence if you can; this enables you to not only visit the charming town, but also to continue on to Vence, Grasse or even Antibes if you feel like it. By car, it is very simple to get there from Nice – the A8 will take you most of the way. At Cagnes-sur-Mer, turn off onto the M336 and take the Route des Serres all the way to Saint-Paul.
- Many people who want to visit Saint-Paul de Vence opt to take a guided tour of the region, as this enables you to see a number of picturesque towns in just one day. As well as exploring Saint-Paul, you’ll get to visit Grasse and Gourdon, with your guide on hand to tell you all about their fascinating history and culture. The day trip culminates with a wonderful sightseeing tour around Cannes.
5. Menton[SEE MAP]
Menton is located along the Mediterranean Sea between Nice and the Italian border. Inhabited since Paleolithic times, Menton is not as hectic as Nice. If you go to the harbor and head east, you can stroll across into Italy in a short while. You’ll walk by gracious old villas that are now hotels.
Menton is famous for its gardens, including an exotic garden, and St. Michael the Archangel, a 17th century baroque basilica. Mention also has some nice beaches, an historic covered market, and a town hall wedding room pained by Jean Cocteau, who also decorated the Bastion Museum. Menton is just 30 km (20 miles) east of Nice, making it a convenient and quick day trip.
Getting to Menton
- By train, it is straightforward to get to Menton from Nice, as direct trains run between the two cities. The trip should take around 40 minutes. As you pass through Eze and Monaco on the way there, it is well worth stopping off at either place on the return journey. Once you arrive, it is around a 15-minute walk to the Old Port through some lovely parts of the city.
- To get to Menton by car takes roughly the same amount of time and you can again stop off at neighboring Monaco or Eze on the way there or back. Just hop on the A8 at Nice and simply follow it until you see signs directing you to Menton.
4. Antibes[SEE MAP]
Founded by the Greeks 2,000 years ago, Antibes has been a playground for the wealthy since the 19th century. Antibes has a charming old town that hosts a daily (except Mondays) covered market where you can buy fixin’s for a picnic on the beach or a walk around the scenic cape.
The old town in enclosed with 16th century ramparts and Fort Carre. If you get tired of the beach, watching yachts at Port Vauban or scuba diving, you can take in the Picasso Museum housed in his former home, visit a botanical garden with an olive grove or browse through shops and art galleries.
Getting to Antibes
- From the Gare du Nice Ville in the city center, it only takes 15 minutes by train to get to Antibes, and direct trains run very frequently from one to the other. Once you arrive, the lovely harbor is just a stone’s throw away from the train station, and all of the rest of the sights on show are within walking distance. As direct trains only take ten minutes from Antibes to Cannes, you can easily visit both cities in one day.
- Driving to Antibes also enables you to visit nearby Cannes after you’ve enjoyed its fabulous sights, although driving from Nice does take a lot longer than public transport. To get to Antibes, head southwest out of Nice and take the A8 from St-Laurent-du-Var. After this, continue until you see signs to Antibes. All in all, it should take around 35 minutes to drive, although this route does involve tolls.
- To get more of a feel for the glitzy Cote d’Azur, it is not a bad idea to take a guided tour; this not only takes you to see the ancient Antibes but also to the mesmerizing medieval villages of Eze and Saint-Paul de Vence. With sightseeing tours around Cannes and Monaco also included, it really is the optimum way to see as much of the beautiful Mediterranean coastline as possible in one day.
3. Eze[SEE MAP]
If you’re looking to capture stunning views for your memory scrapbook, Eze is the place to make them. Eze is a medieval village perched on a hill high above the Mediterranean. Reached by a winding road about 30 minutes from Nice, this charming medieval village is definitely a treat.
You’ll need comfortable walking shoes for this, as the cobblestone walkways up the hill aren’t always even. Boutiques and art galleries fill the old stone buildings along the way. Expect the unexpected at the top: a botanical garden complete with cactus and succulents. Oh, and, of course, stunning views of the sea and Nice below.
Getting to Eze
- While it is only 12 kilometers away from Nice, Eze takes about 40 minutes to get to by public transport, as the bus stops off at lots of places along the way. The bus ride is very pretty though, offering up fantastic views of the Mediterranean as you wind your way up to Eze which is perched upon the hillside. From the Gare Routiere in Nice, take either bus 82 or 112 to the charming village. As it is quite small, you can easily visit either Monaco or Menton after taking in the stunning views.
- Although it is a very easy and quick to drive to Eze from Nice, you may find it hard to find a parking space once you get there. As the village is very hilly, you will probably find yourself clambering up and down steep steps to get back to where you’ve parked. Driving does mean that you can easily continue on to Monaco or Menton once you’ve explored Eze to your heart’s content. After heading southeast out of the city center, just hop on the M6007, which will take you directly to Eze.
- A great way to see both Monaco and Eze in one day is to take a guided tour to the two places, which couldn’t be more different in terms of their look and feel. While Eze is quaint, laidback and quiet, glitzy Monaco bustles with life and the sounds of Formula One. Over the course of the day, you’ll visit a traditional perfumery, a casino, and Monte Carlo Old Town, while your expert guide tells you all about the sights you visit.
2. Cannes[SEE MAP]
From Nice, a half-hour journey west will take you to Cannes, a playground for the rich and famous who seek luxury in this seaside resort. It’s a good place to go celebrity-spotting any time of the year, but especially during the annual Cannes Film Festival.
While looking for the famous, you can stroll the Promenade de la Croisette, a tree-lined waterfront avenue; check out Le Suguet, its old town, or the landmark Russian Orthodox Church. Cannes has many fine museums and art galleries, such as the Musee de la Castre. You’ll also find grand 19th century villas to ooh and aah over.
Getting to Cannes
- Cannes is just a short distance away from Nice by public transport, so it should only take you 30 to 40 minutes to get there. From the Gare de Nice Ville, trains run very regularly; once you arrive, you’ll find that all the main sights are within walking distance.
- By car, it takes about 40 minutes to drive from one city to the other, although this route does include tolls. Simply head southwest out of the city center on the Voie Pierre Mathis and follow it to St-Laurent-du-Var, where you hop on the A8. At exit 42, turn off and follow the directions to Cannes. When heading back to Nice, it is a good idea to take a different route along the Mediterranean coastline; this then means you can stop off at the beautiful city of Antibes on the way.
- To really get a feel for this wonderful part of France, you may want to consider taking a guided tour; in just one day, you’ll get to see the many different sides of Provence. As well as visiting Cannes’ main sights, you’ll also be taken to a perfumery in Grasse, to the scenic village of Gourdon, and the picturesque Saint-Paul de Vence, with each stop adding to your understanding and appreciation for this delightful part of the country.
1. Monaco[SEE MAP]
Monaco is a tiny principality where fairy tales du come true, such as when American actress Grace Kelly became a princess by marrying Monaco’s ruler, Prince Rainier. Monaco is a glamorous place, with some pretty awesome yachts filling the harbor. It’s known for fast cars, i.e., the Formula One; casinos and expensive shopping.
But the second smallest country in the world does have other sights which are worth the visit during a day trip from Nice. The list includes Japanese and exotic gardens plus one dedicated to Princess Grace, the Oceanographic Museum, St. Nicholas Cathedral with its neoclassical exterior and baroque interior, antique cars owned by Prince Rainier, and the Prince’s Palace.
Getting to Monaco
- To get to the principality from Nice by public transport is very simple, as the two cities only lie 20 kilometers apart. Simply hop on a train at Gare de Nice Ville, and you’ll find yourself in the center of Monaco just 20 minutes later. Trains run all the time, so if you miss one, it won’t be long until another comes along. As the travel times involved are so short, you could take the train on to nearby Menton after you’ve had your fill of Monaco.
- By car, it takes about half-an-hour to get there. Once you’ve headed north out of the center of Nice, all you need to do is follow the A8 east, which will take you all the way to Monaco. On the way to or from the principality, it is well worth driving to either the scenic village of Eze or the Mediterranean town of Menton; both of which are just a stone’s throw away.
- A lovely way to visit Monaco is to take a guided tour to the city; this not only takes you to explore Monte Carlo’s fabulous Old Town but also takes you on a lap of the principality’s famous Formula One Grand Prix circuit. In addition to this, you’ll take a tour around a traditional perfumery at the medieval village of Eze and have free time to shop in the city’s high-end boutiques in the center of Monaco.