With the glittering Mediterranean waters, cosmopolitan city, and a picturesque old town of cobblestones and Provencal markets, Nice has plenty to offer its visitors. Yet just outside Nice lie some of the best day-trips in France, if not the whole world.
Here are just a few of our top picks.
Ride the Train of Marvels into the mountains
Hop on the Train des Merveilles, a modern train that winds up through utterly spectacular countryside to the Alpine village of Tende, located deep in the forest of the Mercantour National Park. The train trip truly is a marvel- running through no less than 107 tunnels, including four astonishing spiral tunnels, as you climb ever higher to over 300m above sea level. As you emerge from the dark tunnels and rattle across aqueducts high above the valley floor, you’ll have extraordinary views of ancient villages perched precariously atop sheer cliffs, and snow-melt rivers winding through the green forest far below. When you arrive in Tende you can hike, see the famous prehistoric engravings, have a leisurely lunch in town, or climb the Via Ferrata route before taking the afternoon train back to Nice. A great day out.
Take a drive into the impressive Gorges de la Vésubie
Just to the north of the city of Nice the scenery changes dramatically from the calming shores of the Mediterranean to the gorges and valleys of the Alpes-Maritimes. Follow the Var river north out of Nice, taking the main road (M6202) to the town of Plan-du-Var, around a 40-minute drive. Branch off onto the M2565 which will take you through the impressive ravines of the Gorges de la Vésubie. After around 10km you reach the village of Saint-Jean-la-Riviere, nestled amongst the trees and cliff faces of the gorge. From here a narrow and winding road takes you up to Utelle and to the church of Notre-Dame des Miracles which was founded in the 9th century. Along with a touch of history, you can also enjoy spectacular views over the mountains and back down to the Mediterranean coast.
Find a tranquil cove in the Lerins Islands
A quick trip along the coast and you'll find that just offshore from Cannes lie Les Isles des Lerins, a small archipelago of tranquil, forested islands which provide the perfect antidote to the crowds of the Riviera in the summertime. Either visit Ile Sainte Marguerite with its stunning coves and crumbling fort, or visit the Cistercian monastery of Ile de Saint Honorat, and wander through the vineyards and along the pretty coastline. Take a picnic along and relax into the way the Mediterranean used to be on the enchanting Cannes Islands. From Antibes, just take the train or walk to Juan les Pins, where you can board the ferry for a quick 20-minute trip to the islands. A heavenly and easy day-trip that you’re unlikely to forget.
Visit the Royals of Monaco
No trip to the Cote d'Azur is complete without a visit to the infamous principality of Monaco, playground of the rich and famous. Ruled by the Grimaldi family for some 700 years the Prince, Albert II, and his wife, Princess Charlene still reign and live in the Palais Princier in the heart of Monaco. Lying just 44km along the coast from Antibes, Monaco is incredibly easy to access. The train from the central station in Antibes will take you on a scenic journey that hugs the cliffs and coastline of the Cote d'Azur before pulling into the station that sits high above the harbour of Monaco. A day of shopping, sightseeing and dining is all that is required once you arrive in this pint-sized state, where everything your heart could desire is crammed into just two square kilometres.