Can you see Nice in one day? There are so many delightful things to see and do in this fascinating Mediterranean city that it would take a lifetime to do it justice. But yes, you can experience the magic of Nice and cover major highlights in one day, especially if you stay in central Nice.
There are plenty of AirBnBs in the old town but few hotels. If you stay on or near the Promenade des Anglais you'll be in reach of everything you need to see.
Here's how to spend your day in Nice.
Breakfast on the Beach
What could be better than starting the day with breakfast (or at least coffee) in one of Nice's beach restaurants. I recommend Beau Rivage, near the Old Town, which is open all year from 9am.
Stroll the Promenade des Anglais
After breakfast, stroll the Promenade des Anglais, Nice's iconic seaside walk, built by the English in 1822. The glistening Mediterranean makes a dramatic backdrop to fine public sculptures. Don't miss L'Obélisque or Neuf Lignes Obliques by Nice artist Bernar Venet. (You couldn't miss it if you tried)
And the mini Statue of Liberty sculpted by Bartholdi before he created the sculpture that presides over New York harbor.
Contrary to popular belief, it's an original, not a replica.
Maybe take a rest and contemplate the sea on one of Nice's famous blue chairs.
Or, relax in the shade under a pergola.
Continue walking east along the Promenade and finish with a sweeping view over the sea at the "I Love Nice" sign.
Visit Castle Hill
From the I Love Nice sign, Castle Hill or the Colline du Chateau, is right behind you. Now the hill is a spacious park dotted with medieval ruins but it was once the site of Nikaïa, Nice's oldest colony dating from the third century BC. There's no "chateau" here but there are a number of lookout points to enjoy the city's best views.
There are stairs leading to the top or you can take the elevator. The walk up is shady in the morning and there are a number of places to stop and rest along the way.
Visit the Old Town
After descending the hill, you'll be near one of the entrances to Vieux Nice or the Vieille Ville. Nice's old town is the historical heart of the city. The narrow, shady streets date mostly from the 16th to 18th centuries. Start your visit at the Cours Saleya, Nice's food market from Tuesday to Sunday (6am-12.30pm). On Monday, it becomes an antiques and bric-a-brac market.
The market is a great place to marvel at the variety of local produce, especially fruits, olives and vegetables grown in the region.
At the eastern end of the Cours Saleya, don't miss the 17th-century "Matisse House", where the legendary painter lived and worked from 1921 to 1938.
Before leaving the Cours Saleya, eat like a Nicois and stop for a snack at Chez Theresa. Socca, the chickpea pancake is a local specialty that's cooked right in front of you. Or perhaps a slice of pissaladière which is a sort of onion pizza?
The streets of the old town are a pleasure to explore.
Watch out for unusual details such as this frieze of a gourd-wielding couple at the corner of rue de la Poissonnerie and rue Barillerie. It's known as the "Adam and Eve" frieze even though the evidently perturbed couple seem far from the Garden of Eden.
You're right near Chapelle de l'Annonciation, popularly known as Saint Rita's Church, an intimate and richly decorated baroque masterpiece.
Lunch is an opportunity to sample Nice's traditional cooking. I recommend Acchiardo, a family-run restaurant at 38 rue Droite (reservation recommended; closed weekends).
The restaurant is located in a 17th-century palace erected by a wealthy local family and still retains some original features. And the food is good! Here is the place to try petit farcis niçois (stuffed vegetables) or a genuine salade niçoise.
Another good address for Nice food is Escalinada 22 rue Pairolière (closed Tuesday).
After lunch, continue through the Old Town. Head first to Place Rossetti, one of the Old Town's liveliest squares, dominated by the Saint Reparate Cathedral.
Saint Reparata is the patron saint of Nice. A statue of her adorns the 19th-century facade and her life is recalled in the magnificent interior decoration of this 18th-century church.
No visit to Nice is complete without sampling the ice cream from Fenocchio, right on Place Rossetti. This family-run ice cream shop is known for its unusual flavors such as olive and chewing gum!
Take the rue Colonna d'Istria to the Place du Palais du Justice dominated by the 19th-century Courthouse (Palais du Justice).
Note the 18th-century clock tower with plaques commemorating the two WWII resistance fighters who died here during the liberation of Nice on August 28, 1944.
From this grandiose square, take any street running north (away from the sea) and you'll come to Place Massena, the geographic center of Nice. This handsome square is dominated by the Fontaine du Soleil, a group of five bronze statues representing Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury. In the center is a statue of Apollo that was considered scandalous when it was created in 1956.
Finish off the day with cocktails at Nice's newest hotspot: the Seen rooftop bar of the Hotel Anantara Plaza, only steps from the Place Massena.