Everyone dreams of visiting the French Riviera – a glamorous stretch of coastline where bustling ports, hilltop villages, pristine beaches, turquoise creeks and red rocks greet you at every corner. The top spot to stay in for a Cote d’Azur journey is Nice. This vibrant seaside city has everything you need to enjoy the summer sun and venture deeper into the culture of Southern France on one of the best tours in Nice with local guide Gianni.
He runs a fantastic company called Esplouratour which takes travelers off the beaten path in his hometown of Nice. All the city’s main points of interest are embedded on his circuits, plus hidden gems that opens visitors’ eyes to the soul of this fabulous destination. Gianni is a professional guide who is passionate about “Nissa la Bella”, especially the little known secrets of the city like favorite bistro restaurants and ancient Roman ruins.
Much of the local vibe can’t be experienced by reading blogs or flicking through the pages of a Lonely Planet book. That is why we recommend booking with Gianni so he can bring you away from the crowds and into the heart of Nice. He leads the tours at Esploratour, and you can benefit from his encyclopedic knowledge and personal touch. All your desires can be accommodated, ensuring your ideal vacation becomes a reality.
Nice is emblematic of the French Riviera as a whole. The city combines grit with opulence – an exquisite balancing of the old and new. The food has a distinctly French style with Mediterranean influences. Its promenades provide the chance to soak up pleasant year-round sunshine. You can also visit nearby attractions such as Cimiez and Mont Boron, and travel further along Cote d’Azur to St. Tropez in the west and Menton in the east.
One could set up camp in Nice for weeks and head out on various day trips. For example, Eze (a medieval commune perched on a hill), is 20 minutes away. But before you explore further afield, it’s essential to immerse yourself in the Nice way of life. An endlessly fascinating place like this needs to be given the time it deserves. In between your own explorations, here are the best tours in Nice that will add a bit of zest to your holiday.
Best Tours in Nice with Gianni
1. Nice Tour in Two Hours
There is no better introduction to Nice than this two hour tour. At only €15 per person – the value for money is immense. Get lost down the colorful and narrow streets of the Old Town, marvel at Baroque churches, engage all your senses at the markets, stroll down the famous Promenade des Anglais and take in the panoramic views from the castle on the hill. These are just some of the highlights packed into the Nice Tour in Two Hours.
It kicks off at the meeting point – Place Massena – with its Fountain of the Sun. From there, guests link up with Gianni and take a leisurely walk to Old Nice which boasts the Cours Saleya market, Prefecture Palace and Sainte Reparate cathedral. Afterwards, it’s time to wander along the Promenade des Anglais and take pictures at the #ILoveNICE sign. Then the Castle of Nice will be visited where stunning architecture and views abound.
To finish is the busy little square of Place Saint-Francois, with its awesome fish market, and then back to the Old Town via the Place Garibaldi. Sessions can be booked for 10am, 1pm, 3:30pm or 6pm – no matter what time of day you arrive the tour can be joined. Gianni is fluent in both French and English, so globetrotters from the English-speaking world can have all the information relayed in their native tongues. It’s a phenomenal excursion.
2. Paddle Tour in Villefranche
Villefranche-sur-Mer is just 20 minutes from Nice, and it’s a resort town equipped with a lovely harbor and gorgeous beaches. Due to its proximity to tranquil waters, one of the best ways to experience the town is by paddling. Not only is paddling a joy in itself but the vistas afforded by being out on the sea, and looking back towards the town, make it even more enjoyable. Paddling is just the beginning of what’s in store on this tour.
The two hour, €35 per person, Paddle Tour in Villefranche starts with a visit to the citadel of Saint-Elme – a historic 16th century monument which once formed part of the region’s military defenses. Next on the itinerary are the seductive streets of Villefranche en route to the Saint-Michel church and into the Old Town to see La Place du Conseil (council square). The square used to be where local administration took place in medieval times.
The last sites before paddling are heading down a dark walkway which soldiers followed to reach the port and admiring the cute chapel of Saint-Pierre. Finally, you get the opportunity to jump on a paddle board and go on a water-based adventure. Villefranche’s bay is a very pleasant place to paddle around – crossing over to find yourself alongside wealthy villas on the shoreline, and spotting marvelous examples of local fauna and flora.
3. Visit of Cimiez in One Hour
Nice spreads out at the foot of Cimiez – an upscale neighborhood which houses the ruins of the Roman town, Cemenelum. The remains contain an amphitheater, bath complexes, cobble streets and sewers. Cemenelum was important to the Romans as it connected Rome to Southern France via the Via Julia Augusta. While the Romans appreciated this spot centuries ago, more recently the British aristocracy fell in love with it too.
In the hillside setting of Cimiez, you can find the resplendent Hotel Regina – accommodation built for Queen Victoria when she holidayed in Nice. The area is full of history and has become a cultural hotspot for the locals whereby many festivals are held every year. On the Visit of Cimiez in One Hour with Gianni, you will be able to acquaint yourself with this historical neighborhood and learn about its rich past, present and potential future.
Features of the tour include: marveling at the Regina Hotel, checking out the Garden of Arenas that held 5,000 spectators in its amphitheater in addition to boasting a nice olive grove, walking around the ruins of Cemenelum, and paying a visit to the Cimiez Monastery which was built by the Benedictines in the ninth century. Tours run between 10am – 6:45pm and guests meet Gianni at the foot of the large tower by the Hotel Regina.
4. Hiking in Mont Boron’s Forest Park
This outdoor activity is often overlooked by travelers visiting Nice and what a shame that is because Mont Boron is the only hill in Nice to have a typical green Mediterranean forest park on display. At 200 meters above sea level, Parc du Mont Boron has all the ingredients for a perfect hike – lush pine, eucalyptus and olive trees surround well marked trails. From the park, Villefranche’s bay can be seen as well as Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Nice.
The Hiking in Mont Boron’s Forest Park commences with a brisk walk to the Felix Rainaux garden, and then ascends to shaded areas where pines, holm oaks and olive trees are present. The first major viewpoint on offer is the panorama of Nice, on a clear day the sweeping vistas are outstanding. As the hike continues, the highest point will be reached at the Mont Alban fort. This military fortification dates back some 500 years.
Villefranche can be spotted in the distance from the fort and with the right conditions so too can the Rock of Monaco. All of this before returning to the Nice port where the hike comes to an end. Total distance is 6.8 kilometers, so you need to be in reasonably good shape to complete it. There is also 200 meters of elevation gain – just keep that in mind if you really struggle with uphill walking. Most people will find it relatively easy though.
Tips for Visiting Nice for the First Time
The first consideration for visiting Nice is the time of year you go. June to August are the summer months – with temperatures hovering over 30°C (86°F) but this is when the French Riviera is packed with tourists. The crowds get large, and hotels and restaurants can become difficult to book. August in particular is extremely busy. You could try coming at the start of June or even in May or September/October for a more relaxed experience.
Prices are higher in peak season, so if you are planning on a budget trip then the shoulder season is your best bet. The weather is still warm then with highs around 24°C (75°F). Compared to other spots on the Cote d’Azur, Nice is affordable. There are plenty of ways to save money by walking, cycling or utilizing public transport to get around, and by taking advantage of the free sights like the Old Town, beach, promenade and parks.
Food is a big part of the culture and one must-try dish is the Salad Nicoise. Be sure to book tables at your preferred restaurant in advance to taste this delicious meal. You can walk up to most of the eateries and bistros but some might be booked. It doesn’t harm to call up and reserve a table. Nice is also a wonderful place to drink locally made Patsis – a resoundingly French aperitif. Enjoy this drink any time of the day, just like the locals do.
Getting to Nice is simple if you are a jetsetter. Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is well connected to many French and European cities, and from there you can hop on a 30-40 minute tram into the city center. Another alternative is arriving by train at Nice-Ville. If you are coming from Paris then a train ride is definitely an option, however it will take more time than a flight. Train journeys are fun. Once in Nice, Cote d’Azur is at your fingertips!