Nice is the 2nd most visited city in France, behind Paris, so seeing it on a budget is probably impossible, right? No way! We got the views, savored the bites, and saw the sights all while keeping to our tight backpacking budget. In this post, we give you plenty of options for a fantastic 2 days in Nice that doesn’t break the bank. In fact, a lot of these things are free!
When’s the Best Time to Visit Nice?
For us, we love to avoid high tourist season. Less crowds, less noise, sometimes even cheaper prices, all make the shoulder season and off season a winner in our book. We found ourselves in Nice, France in early October and our 2 days never felt crowded or rushed.
While October is typically fall weather, Nice is an exception. Highs were quite warm and mornings and nights were cool. The beach is still calling you out to play in the sun and most of the tourists aren’t there.
Granted, if you can’t time your visit to Nice around the spring or fall and travel in the summer, don’t worry! Nice will still be just as gorgeous and inviting.
Masséna Square and Apollo Fountain
Bridging the gap between old Nice and new, Masséna square is very large, very open and very scenic. You’ll notice the gardens and fountains flanking both sides as well as the most popular statue: the Apollo Fountain. Be sure and have a walk through this part of town as it’s quite lovely but most importantly, this is where you’ll meet up with your free walking tour!
Since you’re only in Nice for 2 days, a free walking tour will give you some fun tidbits of history, insight into the eye-catching buildings, and give you a good feel for the city all within a couple of hours. After the tour you’ll probably realize what else you’d like to see and do during your stay! We got some amazing views because our guide led us to her favorite spot. Free walking tours are always a great idea. Don’t forget to tip!
We stopped by the Nice opera house during our walking tour but unfortunately didn’t get to go inside. Since your stay is short, you probably don’t have time to see a show but if you do you should! We’ve been told you can find cheap tickets and this building has a sad but important story behind it, even more reason to pay it a visit! Find out more about the Opera de Nice.
When seeing Nice on a budget, Auer doesn’t really fit into the picture. That said, be sure to step in and have a look anyway. Their candies are a lot of fun just to look at. If you feel like splurging, we wouldn’t blame you. Auer has been family owned 1820. Better yet, it’s located right outside the Opera House so see a show and have a sweet treat!
La Promenade des Anglais
Another hugely popular spot in Nice, the Promenade des Anglais is worth a stroll at least once during your stay. We walked up and down more than once during our visit before finding a seat to gaze out at the sea. It’s the perfect spot to spend a morning, afternoon, or evening walk.
Along the promenade you’ll find the beach. Many people complain because of how stony it is. Understandable, as it’s not the most comfortable to lie on. Bring some pads and towels! Even so, the sea and its unique blue tint make up for it!
Rosé by the Sea
Speaking of La Promenade des Anglais, our favorite thing to do in Nice (each of our 2 days) was to grab a cheap, chilled bottle of rosé (look in any Carrefour Express) and head to the seaside. Being the budget travelers we are, we packed a picnic of our own making (cheaper than eating lunch out) and spent quite a few hours on the wall, watching the water, beachgoers, and planes coming and going overhead.
Another free attraction and one that’s best done at night (in our opinion), see all the Port of Nice has to offer. From little rowboats to the massive yachts, it’s fun to witness these boats at night along the scenic port.
Be sure to stop by the market! Even if you’re not looking to buy (we weren’t), walking through was fantastic. Six days a week, the market in Nice is a beautiful flower market and then there are some fruits, vegetables, and street food thrown in there as well.
However, on Mondays, the market transforms into an antique market. We happened to be in town on Monday and just walking through the stalls was a treat. There are so many unique things on display that catch your eye.
Albert I Garden
Bordering Masséna Square, Albert I Garden is the perfect spot for nature lovers as well as those seeking some peace and quiet. However, the locals in Nice seem to have a liking for this garden; weekdays can get pretty busy and noisy with children and adults on lunch break. That said, it wasn’t a bother! Find a shady spot and have a seat for some relaxation amidst all this exploration! Just be sure and throw your trash away!
Nice Cathedral (St. Reparata) and Gelato!
The Cathedral of Nice is most definitely worth your time. Venture inside (for free) and observe the beautiful art within. After you’ve made your way around the interior and appreciated all it has, step out into “gelato square”, or so that’s how the locals named it. It’s actually called Place Rossetti and it’s where you’ll find the cathedral.
It’s also where you’ll find…gelato! So many little gelato parlors are in this little spot. After traveling through Italy for a month, we can say we’ve had a lot of gelato. But can we ever get tired of it? Is that even a question?
A great place to try gelato in this square is Fenocchio. They sell so many flavors, many we’ve never heard of before, and you need to try it. Honestly, we think the cones could’ve had more cream in them but mixing and matching new flavors was a lot of fun!
Église Saint-François-de-Paule de Nice
If you’re a fan of old churches like us then this is another one worth checking out in Nice. It’s full of art and is a beauty inside and out. It’s not hard to get to either as it’s right near Auer and the Opera House. Step in for free and admire!
Now for the best views of Nice and Riviera. Castle Hill is where a grand castle once stood, until Louis XIV had it destroyed in the early 18th century. Even though there is no castle, there are some outstanding viewpoints from which you can see Nice and its picturesque surroundings. Our walking tour ended atop Castle Hill and we spent quite a lot of time taking in the views!
While we trekked up the hill (it wasn’t bad) for our views, there is a free elevator you can use. However, the line for the elevator can be long so you have to decide whether you’d like to wait or make the climb. Either way it’s worth it!
What about some food from this region? Socca!
Socca can be found all over Nice and is technically better eaten as an appetizer or snack. While it may be better as an appetizer, we just had a lot of it and made it a dinner. It was so good! Chez Pipo, not far from the port, offers several different kinds as well as other small delights from this region.
Pro Tip: Arrive at 7pm or later for evening meals. Their specialty Socca wasn’t available until 7pm. Arriving before then, we chose the original Socca and snacked on little appetizers until they were ready.
It wouldn’t be France without macarons! Some of the best macarons on the planet can be found here in Nice at Angea Nice. Choose from a few or many, just be sure to sample as many as you can. Your taste buds will love you for it. Take note that macarons are not very budget friendly here but after all these free things to do you should have some extra spending money in your pocket. And it would be a shame not to try these while you’re in Nice. You’re traveling, after all!
Summary of 2 Days in Nice on Budget
Nice isn’t the city in France that comes to mind when thinking of cheap. Even so, we saw a lot that Nice had to offer all the while on a budget. It can be done! Hopefully this guide has given you some ideas of what to see in Nice in 2 days and helps your budget go a little further. And look at that, we’ve avoided saying the obvious and bad pun that Nice is nice.