You should start (or finish) a cruise in Nice for many good reasons. The vibrant French town is ideally situated on the Mediterranean seafront, with the Maritime Alps towering above its hinterland. This is a little guide to what to see in Nice when cruising the French Riviera!
Watch our short video on the French Riviera, an aerial journey from Toulon to Menton via Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice and Monaco ⤵
Cruising the French Riviera from/to Nice
Alongside Marseille and Toulon, it is one of the principal French harbours from where boats sail across the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, Nice is France’s second-largest port for intercontinental cruises.
Surrounded by Genoese-style buildings from the 18th century, it welcomes ferries, cruise ships, private boats, and yachts.
Luxury Mediterranean cruises that start or end in Nice are the perfect way to see the French Riviera and discover some fantastic coastal destinations.
Facts and figures about Nice Harbour:
- covers a 10-hectare body of water
- 7 hectares of quayside
- 10 wharfs
- 500 berths
- welcomes more than 487,000 passengers per year
Why Nice is a great base for cruising the French Riviera
There are many reasons why Nice makes a fantastic base for cruising the French Riviera and the Mediterranean.
A great harbour
As mentioned above in the facts & figures, Nice Harbour is a vast complex. Many boats and yachts berth there, increasing the choice of great cruises.
Close to an international airport
The harbour is only 7kms from the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, France’s second most frequented airport (after Paris), with 13.85 million travellers in 2018.
Easy access by road and train
Nice is very easy to access by road. The A8 motorway, nicknamed ‘La Provençale‘, connects Nice to Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and Genova (Italy).
As for the train, Nice is linked by a TGV and long-distance trains to all parts of France and major Western European cities. The TGV Méditerranée is a high-speed train that connects Paris and Nice in 5hrs 30 min.
Seen from the sea, the dramatic coastline that stretches from Nice to Menton offers spectacular views. It almost seems like the Maritime Alps are throwing themselves into the sea.
Cosmopolitan destination means English is spoken
As a popular tourist destination for over a hundred years, Nice is easy to get around as a foreigner. You don’t need to speak much French to find your way or experience the French Riviera.
Great sightseeing in the region of Nice
The harbour of Nice is just a few minutes on foot from the town’s main tourist sights. In fact, the harbour itself is bordered by 18th-century Genoese-style houses.
Sightseeing in the region of Nice is stunning. There are so many sites of interest from Nice to Menton, from coastal resorts to perched medieval villages, without forgetting the world-famous Monaco.
Fantastic shopping and cultural experiences in Nice
It is said that Nice is a shopper’s paradise. At least the town offers a wide range of shopping experiences, from local boutiques to markets and major department stores, high-end fashion and various stores for every taste and style.
What should you see in Nice?
When cruising the French Riviera, a stop in Nice allows you to explore the town. Here are a few sites you shouldn’t miss!
The old town
This is the oldest part of town. It comprises narrow streets bordered by the colourful façades of Italianate buildings.
This old town is lively, with many shops, cafés, restaurants and nightclubs. Its most famous monument is the St. Réparate Cathedral, built between 1650 and 1699. Climb the castle hill that dominates the city at 92 metres above sea level. The panoramic view is stunning!
Experience the market of Cours Saleva
Many would say that Nice’s best market stalls are in the old town. The most famous market is in Cours Saleya, where you’ll find a famous flower market, fresh produce, soaps and local crafts.
The seafront of Nice is arguably the most emblematic site for tourists in town. The Promenade des Anglais is, in my opinion, France’s most famous stretch of seafront. It runs 7kms from the Airport to the Quai des Etats-Unis. The beautiful promenade is bordered by luxury hotels (Negresco) and gets its name from the English expat patrons who paid for it in 1822.
Museums in Nice
Nice is home to 14 museums, including Fine Arts Museum, Archaeological Museum, Matisse Museum, Natural History Museum, Marc Chagall National Museum to name but a few…
What should you see from Nice to Menton?
From Nice to the Italian border at Menton, there are many places to discover:
The Corniche roads
The Corniche Roads of the French Riviera consist of three routes following the mountainous stretch from Nice to Menton. The Corniche offers dramatic coastal views, which can be discovered by car through three scenic routes: the Grande Corniche, the Moyenne Corniche and the Corniche Inférieure. Find out more on the blog.
The Principality of Monaco
Enjoying over 300 days of sunshine a year, the most glamorous destination on the Mediterranean looks like nowhere else on the French Riviera. The Principality of Monaco is a tiny state no more extensive than New York’s Central Park, comprised of a cluster of high-rise towers built on the side of the Maritime Alps. Find out more on the blog.
The perched village of Eze
The perched village of Èze commands stunning views of mountains with a sheer drop to the Mediterranean. With its clusters of houses perched on rock outcrops above the cliffs, Èze truly is one of the most celebrated resorts on the French Riviera. Find out more on the blog.
The border city of Menton
Sunny and Italianate, Menton is one of the prettiest towns on the French Mediterranean shores. Set on the French-Italian border, Menton is rightly nicknamed the “Pearl of France“. The town boasts many reputed parks and gardens, from intimate to exuberant or botanical gardens. Menton is famous for its lemon festival, one of the Riviera’s significant events. A stone’s throw from Menton, you’ll also find the favourite Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur. Find out more on the blog.
Nice hinterland and the Maritime Alps
The Nice Hinterland is another region that is worth a visit.
You’ll discover dramatic sunny drenched mountain landscapes. Some villages, such as Peille, Peillon or Lucéram, are set atop a narrow rocky spur overlooking their valleys.
Further North are the snow-capped peaks of the Maritime Alps. It includes the Mercantour National Park, an area of outstanding beauty.
More ideas… further afield
If you have time before or after cruising the French Riviera, wander further west to visit some other popular hotspots:
- The town of Antibes
- Cannes (home to the world-famous Film festival) and the Lérins Islands
- Vence and St. Paul de Vence
- The Esterel mountains
- The resort of Saint-Tropez
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