Nice, in the south-east of France, is a world-renowned destination and highly popular with tourists who want to enjoy the beach and warm sunshine.
From the Old town with its maze of cobbled streets and picturesque squares and marketplaces, and the new town with its wide boulevards and grand hotels and apartments, there is something to please everyone. But if you are planning to spend a few days in Nice, why not put aside some time to visit the surrounding area.
The surrounding French Riviera is home to some of the most stunning coastline in the world, but the region has a lot more to offer than just beaches. Whether you’re looking for a quiet coastal getaway or want to check out some of the many cities, towns and villages along the coast, there’s plenty to see and do in the region.
From Monaco and Cannes, to Saint Tropez and Grasse, the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) is lined with fantastic day trip opportunities. And that doesn’t even count cities like Marseille and Aix-en-Provence that are nearby, but may need a bit more time to visit.
With hundreds of miles of coastline and plenty of places to explore, hiking trails, and wineries, you’re sure to find something that will scratch that travel itch.
To help narrow down the selection, I have chosen destinations that are all within 1-2 hours drive of Nice, to account for traffic delays and other unexpected adventures. So let get to some of the best day trips from Nice, shall we? Allons-y!
1. Monaco and Monte Carlo
Any trip to Nice has to be complimented by a trip to nearby Monaco. It lies about 13 miles (21km) to the west of Nice, and is everything you would expect from this luxury enclave on the French Riviera.
With flashy cars, chic boutiques, and giant yachts in its harbour, Monaco is where the rich and famous hang out. But there is plenty to see, even if your wallet is not as accommodating.
From the changing of the guards outside the Royal Palace of Monaco to the Monte Carlo Casino, and old town of Monaco, it is a lovely way to spend the day. You can take a tour from Nice to Monaco, and read more about visiting Monaco here.
About 30 miles (50km) from Nice, lies the French capital of luxury perfume. Grasse is a small town in Provence, that has become an international leader when it comes to scents and perfumery.
And even if you are not into perfume, this little town in the south of France, with its pastel buildings and colorful shops will undoubtedly leave you with a smile on your face. With its lovely town center perched on a hill, it is a wonderful day trip from Nice.
There are a number of perfume museums and workshops where you can learn about the history of this beautiful industry. There are several tours you can take from Nice to visit Grasse and its perfume workshops. You can read more about visiting Grasse here.
3. Saint Tropez
Glitzy Saint Tropez may seem to be quite a change from middle-of-the-road Nice, but in reality it is only 70 miles (112 km) away. If you are looking for a luxurious beach holiday that will help you relax and enjoy life, the coastal town of Saint Tropez is the place to be.
Now, I’m suggesting it on this list but the real glamor of Saint-Tropez is the nightlife and the people you meet. It is a party town, and just walking through its streets on a simple day trip, may not help you get to know this luxury enclave, compared to staying at least 1-2 nights.
4. Gorges du Verdon
About 90miles (150km) away from Nice lies the Gorges du Verdon. It is gorgeous natural river canyon about 15 miles (25km) long. If you are a nature-lover who enjoys hiking, kayaking, and swimming, you will not want to miss this beautiful protected natural park.
Along with hiking trails and kayak rentals, there is also a man-made Lac de Sainte-Croix at one end of the Verdon Gorge, which has sandy beaches for those who want to spend the day relaxing.
There are several tours leaving from Nice to the Gorges du Verdon to help you make the most of your time in the area.
Perched on a hill, near the Gorges du Verdon is the charming town of Moustier-Sainte-Marie which has been voted one of the “most beautiful villages in France”.
The provencal hilltop village was founded by a group of monks in the 5th century, who built a church there, high on the hillside.
There are many small shops selling local artisanal products as well as a couple of small art galleries you can wander through. With beautiful views of the valley below, there are also several great restaurants offering local specialties to have lunch in rather exquisite surroundings.
People from all over flock to this beautiful part of Provence, which has managed to retain its charm and village feel in a fast-paced world. There are several tours visiting the village from Nice, and you can read more about visiting Moustiers-Sainte-Marie here.
6. Valensole Plateau
If you are visiting this part of France, you will not want to miss out on the famed lavender fields in Provence. Those sweet-smelling purple flowers are certainly a sight to behold.
Now, I should note that if you want to see lavender fields, you have to visit Provence in the summer. The best time to visit the lavender fields is between mid-June to mid-July. There is no point visiting in October because there will be no lavender growing, it will already have been harvested.
If you do happen to be in Nice during that time, you can visit a nearby lavender farm and learn about its cultivation and uses from a local producer. There are several tours, some which leave in the mornings or in the afternoons that you can see here.
I recommend the morning tours, especially if you are visiting in the summer because it gets very hot under the sun in this part of the world.
The small town of Eze is about 7 miles (12 km) away from Nice. According to legend, this small provençale village received its name on behalf of the Egyptian goddess Isis.
There is an Egyptian cross in the local church that was said to initially be a temple. It was said to be erected in her honor by those who colonized these lands from across the Mediterranean.
Check out the views from the Jardin Exotique, and wander down its cobblestone streets.
There are plenty of small shops and restaurants in the small village and make your way to Château d’Èze. You can read more about taking a tour from Nice to Eze here.
Most people have never heard of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence. And they don’t know its connection to Mary Magdalene, and her years in France.
Located about 87 miles (140 km) away from Nice, this is reputed to be the town that Mary Magdalene is buried in.
Provençale tradition recounts that she arrives in France in a broken-down little boat with Lazarus, Maximinus, Mary Salomé, and their servant Sara. From there she is said to have gone to Marseille, and converted the locals to Christianity.
In Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is the church where her body is believed to be buried. The town is named after Saint Maximinus, one of the most well-known saints in France.
The vibrant seaside town of Antibes is about 17 miles (28 km) away from Nice. With beautiful beaches, a Picasso museum, and several small festival events held around the year to attract visitors, Antibes is a lovely place to visit on a day trip from Nice.
This is also where the super rich arrive to park their yachts in relative anonymity, compared to the fish bowls of Saint Tropez and Monaco.
Visit Port Vaughan, walk along the Sentier de Tirepoil and head to Cap d’Antibes for some of the most beautiful seaviews of French Riviera. You can read more about taking a tour from Nice to Antibes here.
10. Saint Paul de Vence
Known as the town that the rich and famous flock to, the small village of Saint Paul de Vence is about 12 miles (19 km) away from Nice. Once catering to Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre, it still attracts a high-end clientele looking for fun in the sun.
One of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera, it is known for its modern art museums and galleries like Fondation Maeght, and for the 17-century Chapel Saint Charles-Saint Claude. You can read more about taking a tour from Nice to Saint Paul de Vence here.
About 10 miles (16 km) from Nice near the Italian border, lies the leafy suburb of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. It is a tiny, Mediterranean peninsula nestled between Nice and Monaco that was once modest fishing village.
Today, however, it is better known as an enclave for billionaires and a lovely stop for tourists visiting the French Riviera.
There are two major trails that meander around the Peninsula. The longer at 6 km, is a cliff-top Tour du Cap path which hugs the coast, affording views all the way to Cannes on one side, and Italy on the other.
Then there’s the shorter, but no less beautiful, walk around the Pointe Saint-Hospice. Starting just a few steps away from the port and village, this 2 km trail winds around Saint-Jean’s other, smaller headland.
It is very easy to get to the town and its surrounding area, whether by car, taxi, or public transportation. You can read more about visiting Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat here.
Located on the outskirts of Nice about 5 miles away, Villefranche-sur-mer has a lovely beach, a harbor, and a maze of narrow winding alleys.
It is a favored beach escape for local residents, as well as being a village with a ton of charm. In all, an obligatory stop for tourists visiting the area.
The waterfront promenade leads to the most popular beach in the area, known as Plage des Marinières.
Villefranche’s Saint Elme Citadel is a fortification structure overlooking the Bay of Villefranche and is a more than just a pleasant area to stroll. Nowadays it houses the town hall.
There are also a few museums you can visit. However, it is the views from the Citadel that are truly spectacular. You can read more about visiting Villefranche-sur-mer here.
Tourrettes-Sur-Loup is a charming hill-top village in Provence, known for its violet confectionery and artisan shops. It is easily accessible from cities on the Mediterranean such as Nice, Cannes, and Aix-en-Provence.
Located about 17 miles (27 km) away from Nice, this medieval city is quite a world away. The village is renowned for its arts and crafts artisans, like weaving, pottery, paintings, sculptures, jewellery, crystallized flowers, candied fruit, organic goat cheese, etc.
It is also known for growing violets and making various provençale souvenirs and products from them, such as perfume, candied violets, and even ice cream. You can read more about visiting Tourrettes-sur-Loup here.
About 20 miles (33 km) away from Nice, is the town of Cannes which of course hosts that rather wellknown international film festival.
On the famed Boulevard de la Croissette, you will find designer boutiques, palm trees and a casino. This is also where the finest hotels are, some with private beaches, filling up with Hollywood royalty during festival season.
From the Old port, the beaches, and the hill of Le “Suquet”, there is plenty to see and experience in this seaside town. You can read more about taking a tour from Nice to Cannes here.
If you enjoyed that post, you may want to read more about traveling around Provence and the French Riviera. A bientôt!