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Although beautiful Nice, France is associated with the glitz and glamour of the surrounding Cotz d’Azur, it’s actually a way more affordable city than people may realize. In fact, there are plenty of activities for out-of-towners to partake in while in the famous French Riviera capital without having to budget! Plus, there are tons of completely free things to do in Nice, one of the best places to visit in France.
From fascinating museums to beautiful churches, to picturesque gardens with breathtaking views, there are complimentary treasures around every turn in this incredible city.
Here are some of the best free activities for travelers to enjoy in Nice while keeping their wallets intact.
Explore Nice’s Charming Old City
Nice has so many charming streets and squares that are just waiting to be explored. Fortunately, visitors can wander the city’s narrow alleyways for hours without ever spending a single dime!
In particular, Vieux Nice is the perfect place to get lost and uncover some of the city’s best hidden gems. This is the city’s beloved Old Town and historical center, where visitors can stroll through a labyrinth of colorful streets that are sure to stimulate the senses. Wanderers can easily dedicate two to three hours to Vieux Nice alone, as there’s much to see here. From picturesque churches and squares to interesting art galleries, visitors will never feel bored.
While here, travelers should definitely make a stop at Rue du Malonat, one of the prettiest streets in the Vieux Nice neighborhood. In addition, the beautiful Cathedrale Sainte-Reparate is a must-see as well, located on the corner of Place Rossetti.
Photograph the Popular Place Masséna
Speaking of colorful facades, travelers won’t want to miss a visit to the iconic Place Masséna, Nice’s largest square. In fact, it’s one of the busiest hubs in the city, connecting the Old Town to the New Town.
Unsurprisingly, out-of-towners can’t help but stop at Place Masséna to admire and photograph the eccentric design of the square. From the checkerboard-covered ground to the vibrant orange and pink facades, there’s a photo opportunity at every angle.
In addition, the square is also quite popular amongst locals, and it’s not uncommon to see this area bustling with daily commuters heading to and from work.
For this reason, Place Masséna is an ideal setting for people watching.
Take a Refreshing Dip at One of the City’s Public Beaches
While many of Nice’s beaches are private, there are also a number of free public alternatives to enjoy as well.
Although beachgoers shouldn’t expect to find the luxury of loungers and umbrellas on public beaches, these areas can be a refreshing way to cool off after a long day of exploring.
Some of the most popular public beach options are La Reserve, Coco Beach, Plage de Carras, and Plage du Centenaire.
Ideally, visitors will want to bring along their own towels and any additional creature comforts to provide the best possible beach experience.
Hike Up to Castle Hill Park for an Unbeatable Panoramic View
While in Nice, sightseers will love taking the scenic hike up to Castle Hill Park. Since this popular park has the highest elevation of all the landmarks in the city, it offers unrivaled views of the Bay of Angels. It’s especially beautiful in the early morning hours as well as at sunset, so visitors should make the effort to witness both, if possible.
Although the view is arguably the crown jewel of the park, Castle Hill is also home to a manmade waterfall and a three-area cemetery consisting of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish sections.
Plus, those traveling in late June can also enjoy the added bonus of Fete de la Chateau, a free two-day music festival. Held annually on the last weekend in June, this lively, family-friendly event is a favorite amongst the locals and a great opportunity to observe the Nice skyline at night.
Although adventurous travelers will likely prefer hiking up the stone steps to the park, there’s also a handy and free elevator alternative. This is a more suitable option for those with limited mobility or travelers who may be running low on energy from a packed schedule of sightseeing. The lift can be accessed underneath Tour Bellanda.
Check Out Nice’s Manmade Waterfall
Before heading down from Castle Hill Park, venturers should check out Cascade Dijon, Nice’s manmade waterfall dating back to 1885.
Located at the top of the hill, this interesting spot is ideal for cooling off on a hot day. In fact, hikers can enjoy a refreshing – and totally free – mist shower by standing close to the water’s edge!
Walk the Famous Promenade des Anglais
In addition to admiring the Promenade des Anglais from atop Castle Hill, travelers can stroll (and cycle) across this beautiful walkway from the ground level completely free of charge.
The promenade, affectionately known by locals as “the Prom,” spans 7 kilometers and essentially serves as a giant boardwalk adjacent to the sea.
In addition to a generous walking strip, it also includes a bike path for cyclists and roller skaters.
Regardless of whether explorers are traveling on two feet or two wheels, the Promenade des Anglais is a must on every Nice itinerary.
Stroll Through Nice’s Colorful Old Port
Nice’s Old Port is one of the most significant harbors in the Mediterranean.
As such, it’s an important docking location for ferry companies and private yacht owners alike.
Here, visitors can get a glimpse of the glamorous “yacht life” along the Riviera, as many beautiful boats dock here.
This is the perfect place to stop for a photo and admire the gorgeous and colorful vessels.
Admire the Stunning St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral
St. Nicholas Church is considered to be a national monument of France and is, therefore, one of Nice’s biggest draws.
This beautiful Russian Orthodox Church dazzles visitors with its rich colors and impressive golden cupolas.
Plus, it’s completely free to visit, making it all the more appealing for curious travelers.
That said, churchgoers should remember to dress modestly here by covering the shoulders and knees as a sign of respect for this humbling place of worship.
In addition, while visitors are free to photograph the church’s stunning exterior to their heart’s content, indoor photography is strictly prohibited.
Spend a Fun Afternoon at One of Nice’s Free Museums
Art lovers and history buffs will relish a visit to Nice for its rich culture.
Plus, visitors can enjoy a day at one of four museums in the city completely free of charge!
That’s right, there are three different free museums located throughout the city: The Museum of Asian Art, Villa Arson, and the Franciscan Monk Museum.
Museumgoers should be sure to check online for the operating hours of their chosen venue before planning a visit.
Get Those Daily Steps In with a Free Walking Tour
If it isn’t already readily apparent, Nice is an incredibly walkable city.
Fortunately, travelers can enjoy the added bonus of a free walking tour while getting their steps in!
These tours can usually be booked for morning or evening and typically run for about two to three hours. Walking tours are a great way to learn about the history and culture of Nice while discovering hidden city gems that may not have otherwise been apparent.
They can also be ideal for solo travelers, as they’re a fun and authentic way to meet new people with potentially similar interests.
Visitors should keep in mind that while many tours are offered free of charge, there is typically the expectation that guests will leave a small tip as a token of appreciation if they enjoyed the tour.
Visit the Jardin du Monastére de Cimiez
While Nice has everything travelers could want in a city, nature enthusiasts may appreciate a pause from the fast pace of urban life.
In this case, the Jardin du Monastére will provide a welcome and relaxing respite from city chaos. Nestled on the hillside of Nice and described as a miniature Versailles, this Italian-inspired marvel is the oldest garden in Nice.
Surrounding the Franciscan monastery and including a lovely rose garden, the Jardin du Monastére offers breathtaking views over Nice in its peaceful terrace garden, a favorite amongst photographers.
Beyond its visual offerings, the garden is a treat for the olfactory senses as well, as it’s home to beautifully fragrant citrus lemon, orange, and mandarin trees.
It’s hard to believe that such a slice of heaven exists in the middle of the city, let alone one that’s free to visit!
Unsurprisingly, visitors will have no problem finding free ways to stay busy in a city as stimulating and activity-rich as Nice. Therefore, travelers should make sure to dedicate enough time to explore the wonderful gems this seaside capital has to offer.
In addition, travelers should set aside time in their itineraries to enjoy some of the neighboring French Riviera towns, such as Villefranche-sur-Mer, a perfect day trip option from Nice. This idyllic village is conveniently located just over ten minutes away by train and offers plentiful free enjoyments as well.
If you’re planning a trip to France, you’re in luck. Explore our other posts on this country to plan your France itinerary!
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