Old-world opulence meets vibrant street culture in Nice – the gateway to the French Riviera.

Few cities in France compare to Nice

Combining beautiful heritage architecture with the promise of the Mediterranean, the city has long inspired wanderlust in those hoping to catch a glimpse of the French Riviera. But there’s a whole lot more to Nice than its warm climate and elegant beachfront restaurants – as our in-depth visitor guide reveals.

Nice may be the perfect coastal destination, but there are plenty of distractions to tempt you away from the sun lounger. Impressive Neoclassical architecture, Roman-age artefacts and a rich artistic legacy all contribute to the culture and heritage of this vibrant French city – ensuring something for every traveller, whatever their agenda.

To inspire your visit to the capital of the French Riviera as part of an Emerald Yacht Cruises itinerary, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to Nice, from its must-see sights to its celebrated gastronomy.

Must-see sights

Museums, galleries, monuments and manor houses; Nice is rich with architectural and cultural highlights which promise an immersive experience. Here’s a pick of our favourites.

Promenade des Anglais

promenade des anglais
The world-famous Promenade des Anglais is the most recognisable landmark in Nice, a sweeping historic seafront renowned for its elegant 18th-century hotels, broad boulevards and swaying palms. The origin of the name is derived from the influx of English tourists who began holidaying in Nice in the 19th century, drawn to the glamour, wealth and excess of the French Riviera. And it’s this opulence which continues to draw people to Nice today, with features like the Promenade des Anglais perfectly showcasing the city’s coastal beauty and joie de vivre.

Musée Matisse

metisse museum
The French Riviera has long been a source of inspiration for artists and writers, and many of the leading lights of the artistic world have been drawn to the region over the centuries. One such artist is Henri Matisse, who spent 37 years of his life living and working in and around Nice, specifically from a studio on the Quai des Etas-Unis, which lies on the city’s waterfront. Before his death, Matisse gifted numerous works to the city of Nice, all of which are now housed in a permanent collection on the second floor of the Villa des Arènes. Sculptures, paintings and sketchbooks are among the works and artefacts which can be admired within the Musée Matisse – making it a must for all art enthusiasts.

Castle of Nice

nice castle hill
Offering spectacular views over the city and its neighbouring bay, not to mention a surprising depth of history and natural wonder; the Castle of Nice is a cultural and historical treasure in the heart of Nice. Known today as the Parc de la Colline du Chateau, this unique heritage park is situated on Nice’s original castle site, the majority of which was dismantled by the forces of King Louis XIV in 1706. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of the ancient keep, which are revered for their decorative mosaics, as well as a stunning nature reserve, complete with a waterfall and several acres of undulating parkland. Accessed from Old Nice by a charming Art-Deco lift, it’s a must for inspiring views over the Riviera.

Place Massena

place massena
Acknowledged as the most spectacular portion of Vieux Nice, the city’s old town, Place Massena represents Nice at its most visually striking. Designed in the 19th century as an extension of the city’s celebrated old town, the square was built in an elegant Neoclassical style, its surrounding buildings featuring impressive symmetrical red façades. Perhaps the most notable feature of the square, however, is the Fontaine du Soleil, a beautiful and ornate fountain topped with a historic statue of Apollo. Close to the Jardin Albert I and the Opera de Nice, Place Massena ought to be an essential stopping point on your tour of Vieux Nice.

Cultural Features

Whatever is on your travel hit-list in Nice, the city’s cultural mainstays promise enriching encounters and unforgettable moments.

Beaches and Coast

beaches and coast
For centuries, Nice has been lauded not just for its elegant architecture and tangible sense of glamour, but also its wonderful beaches and beautifully untouched natural coastline. If you want to spread out your towel and enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine, there are few places better, with much of the city’s seaboard featuring a ribbon of pebbly beachfront. Soak up the joie de vivre of Promenade des Anglais on its neighbouring beach, or make for the Port of Nice to spot celebrity yachts or dine in a seafront bistro. Culture and coast go hand in hand in Nice – small wonder it’s regarded as the capital of the French Riviera.

Markets and Shopping

markets and shopping
Shopping is always a pleasure in Nice, with glamorous boutiques rubbing shoulders with designer flagships, and open-air markets offering up a treasure trove of Provencal wares. Opulent retail is very much part of the cultural fabric of Nice, so if you have a penchant for window shopping, make for the lauded shopping streets of Rue Masséna, Avenue de Verdun and Rue Paradis. Elsewhere, the celebrated Cours Saleya market is a wonderful place to explore local foods, produce, crafts and antiques – from olive jams and watercolour paintings, to locally-produced fabrics in the Lyonnaise style.

Nice Carnival and annual Festivals

festivals and carnivals
As the unofficial capital of the French Riviera, Nice plays host to a packed programme of annual events and festivities, celebrating many different aspects of the Côte d’Azur region and its Mediterranean-influenced culture. Chief among the city’s yearly festivities is Nice Carnival, which is recognised as one of largest such events in the world. From colourful parades to music and dance, Nice Carnival brings colour and fun to the Riviera in the winter months, while during the summer, the renowned Nice Jazz Festival continues to delight many visitors, just as it has since it was founded in 1948.

A Glimpse into Nice's past

The Celts, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Ottomans, French and Italians have all contributed to the timeline of Nice. Discover the history of the city in our interactive guide below.

Local Gastronomy

With the prized seafood larder of the Mediterranean to the south and the fertile landscapes of Provence to the north, Nice was always going to be a hotbed for great food. Here, we take a look at some of the city’s gastronomic highlights.

Salade Niçoise

salade nicoise
One of the great dishes of southern France, salade Niçoise is a celebration of both the Mediterranean and Provence – each of which has had a profound influence on local cuisine. The dish consists of fresh tomatoes, black olives, capers, beans, anchovies and lemon juice, tossed together and often served with the addition of boiled eggs, potatoes or tuna. At a kerbside bistro, glass of local wine in hand, there are a few dishes which impart the local flavours of Nice quite like this celebrated salad.


One of several dishes which highlight Italy’s enduring influence on Nice is the pissaladière. Originating in Liguria, the dish is similar to the classic Italian pizza, with some key differences. For starters, the dish is made in a rectangular shape as opposed to the usual pizza circle, and is topped not with mozzarella and tomato, but with anchovies, black olives and onions. The result is decidedly French, the slow-cooked onions imparting a rich depth of flavour, while the anchovies represent the ubiquitous influence of the Mediterranean. We urge you to give it a try.


If you’re looking for a savoury snack during your sightseeing tour of Nice, look no further than the classic socca. Originating in Nice, this is a form of pancake made from chickpea flour and water, served chopped up and doused in olive oil and sea salt. The origins of this rudimentary street foot staple are said to hark back to the Siege of Nice, when locals were forced to invent new dishes from the meagre supplies they had available. Today, it’s an absolute classic, and you’ll find it in cafes and street food stalls throughout the city.


Head over heels for Nice? Join us on-board the luxury Emerald Azzurra, and look forward to an immersive stopover in this celebrated French city. Click here to discover our collection of itineraries in the western Mediterranean or call us today on 0808 159 4193.