The prequel to moving halfway across the world to live in Croatia was my summer spent in Nice. I may have been just another college kid on study abroad, but there was something about those pastel-colored streets and pebbles beaches that forever changed me.

I returned to Nice for the first time in five years this past summer. This time I arrived as a solo and savvy traveler with a much better sense of direction on the last leg of my France trip. Returning made me realize how many incredible day trips from Nice that I missed out on the first time around.

Beyond Cannes and Monaco, Nice is strategically located with hours of several other historical towns, seaside villages, and national parks. Many of these can be reached by train, car, or organized day trip.

You could easily spend two weeks based in Nice while exploring the region. However, if you only have a couple days, I suggest picked 2-3 from the list below and add it onto your itinerary.

Here are the best day trips from Nice

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Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer

If you’re coming to Nice for more than a day, I highly suggest working in a couple hours to visit Villefranche Sur Mer. This colorful seaside village has become exponentially more popular in the last couple years for its quaintness and close proximity to Nice.

Even in the peak of summer, I found that the village was still relatively quiet and not nearly as crowded as Nice and other areas of the South of France. It’s an ideal village to wander through the vibrant town, grab lunch, and head to the beach.

How to get here: Villefrance Sur Mer is definitely the easiest day trip to take from Nice. You don’t need to have a car or book a day trip, as it is small enough to book on your own. You can take bus 81 here from Old Nice, or you could even take a cab, as it is only 8 km away from Nice.

Nice to Monaco

Nice to Monaco: day trip from Nice. Colorful buildings overlooking a harbor on the sea.

Monaco is perhaps the most popular day trip from Nice, and for good reason. Ruled by a constitutional monarchy, the sovereign city-state is the second smallest country in the world. The luxury port town is known for the iconic Monte-Carlo Casino, the Prince’s Palace, and luxury sports cars driving around.

How to get here: You can get from Nice to Monaco by train in 30 minutes, and it is much easier than driving. Otherwise you can book a private tour of Monaco by convertible or even helicopter if you’re feeling extra fancy.

Nice to Eze

Nice to Eze: Botanical garden of succulents overlooking the sea and town of Eze. This is one of the popular day trips from Nice.

Eze is a hill-top village overlooking the sea, and one of the most frequented day trips from Nice. Many come to visit the perfume factory and explore the city’s medieval history, and as a result the narrow streets can get crowded in the peak of the summer. There’s many small cafes and shops to explore while the narrow cobble-stone streets.

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The absolute best views is seen from the Botanical Gardens within Eze. It costs about 6 euros to enter, and the park is filled with succulents and lush gardens that overlook the riviera. I suggest coming here earlier in the morning before it gets too hot.

How to get here: Getting to Eze is not difficult, even though the village is somewhat remote. You can take the same 81 bus from the Old Town in Nice here, but I will warn you that the buses get very busy in the summer season. You can see Monaco and Eze in one day through these day tours.

Nice to Jean Saint Cap Ferrat

Pastel pink house and palm gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Jean Saint Cap Ferrat.

From the shores of Villefranche Sur Mer you can see across the bay to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. This peninsula has been historically known as another upscale vacation destination in the South of France. While here, I suggest you head to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a 20th century mansion and gardens overlooking the sea. You can also visit the popular Passable and Paloma beaches in this town.

How to get here: You can also take bus 81 here from the Old Town of Nice as well, and you’ll get dropped off near Paloma Beach. You can also take this Beautiful Villas Tour of the French Rivera, which includes a visit to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

Nice to Menton

Nice to Menton: day trips from Nice. Colorful, gothic style town along the shores of the Med. sea in Menton, France.
Photo via Flickr, edits by me.

Many travelers staying in Nice don’t go much further East beyond Monaco and miss this town entirely. Menton is located on the French, Italy border, and is best known for its beaches, colorful old town, and annual lemon festival. You can definitely see the Italian influences here, as Menton closely resembled some of the Cinque Terre villages.

How to get here: The best way to go from Nice to Menton is to take the train from Gare du Nice. The train takes about 40 minutes one way, which is still faster than driving. You can explore Menton and a little bit of Italy with any of these day tours.

Nice to Antibes

Antibes still manages to capture the atmosphere of an authentic French village, despite it also being a popular resort town nowadays. The Old Town is filled with narrow, 16th century streets draped in vines and flowers. Antibes is also home to a large marina spotted with luxury yachts and sailboats.

How to get here: To get to Antibes you can choose between bus, tram, or train. All of these options will take anywhere from 30-50 minutes one way depending on the time of day. There are day tours that go to Antibes, but I personally think this town is best to take over more than a short stop.

Nice to Cannes

Sandy beach along the shores of Cannes, France.
Photo via Flickr

Most people have heard of the Cannes Film festival, but Cannes is also filled with some of the best beaches in Southern France. Most of the beaches in the region are pebbled, but in Cannes they are mainly sandy. Long Beach is one of the beaches that draws in a large crowd of tourists, while many of the beach lounges and bars make Cannes great for nightlife.

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How to get here: The easiest way to get to Cannes is by train, which will take about 30 minutes. Other than relaxing at the beach, you can explore the town by foot with a historical tour or by electric bike through these tours here.

Nice to Grasse

Grasse, one of the popular day trips fron Nice. Town is covered in orange houses surrounding by green hills and mountains.
Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr

Moving away from the coastline, you’ll find Grasse nestled in the hills above Cannes. The town has a long-standing history with perfume production. The town holds an international museum of perfume, and also a 13th century Cathedral.

How to get here: To get from Nice to Grasse you can take the train from the Gare du Nice or you can drive. Both will take around 1 hour from central Nice. Grasse is a relatively small town, so you can take a tour of Grasse and the surrounding countryside.

Nice to Provence Lavender Region

Lavender fields in the Provence region, overlooking vineyards and small villages.
Photo via Flickr

The nearby Provence region is another area area you may want to consider spending more than one day in. The country side is coved in olive groves and lavender fields, while the coast is filled with resort towns and cliff-side beaches. You even have national parks within the Alps. If you only have a day here however, the most common day trip in Provence is to visit the lavender fields.

Peak lavender season goes from late June to July. You can visit the Avignon region to first the lavender museum. Otherwise, many of the lavender fields are located around the Manosque region. Please keep in mind that these are privately owned and harvested fields. You should always have permission to explore the fields, and never pick lavender without asking.

How to get there: Getting to the lavender fields from Nice by public transport is nearly impossible (trust me, I tried). It would be ideal if you have a car to explore the region. Otherwise if you don’t want the hassle of finding the best places to visit, there are lavender tours from Nice in the summer.

Nice to Verdon National Park

Verdon Gorges in the Verdon national park.
Photo via Flickr

Explore the Alps of Provence by heading out to Verdon National Park. You can hike through certain sections of the park, and also visit the iconic Verdon Gorge. This is a popular place to kayak along the river canyon, go white-water rafting, or simply take in the nature away from the crowds of the French Riviera.

How to get here: Unfortunately there is no public transport that connects Nice to Verdon National Park. You can drive here and it will take about 2.5 hours one way. If you don’t want the hassle of driving or don’t have a car, this tour will take you on a tour of the park.

Nice to Marseille

Marseille port at night light up.
Photo via Flickr

On the coastal side of the Provence region you have the second most populated city in France: Marseille. Simply because of its size it may be better to spend a couple of days here instead, but a day trip is still doable.

The port town is more industrial and rustic than Monaco or Cannes, but its also part of its charm. The city is known for being a fusion of many different nationalities and cultural background. With a thriving culinary and cultural scene, it’s definitely more of a cosmopolitan city than it gets a reputation for.

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How to get here: You can easily get from Nice to Marseille by taking the train going West. It will take you a little under 3 hours by train, and about the same if you end up driving. You can check out some of the cool things to do in Marseille here.

Nice to Calanques National Park

Calanque d'en Vau birds eye view, featuring an inlet overlooking the clear sea water.
Photo via Flicker

Often overlooked in day trips from Nice, this national park is where the coastline and the mountains meet. Calanques National Park is the area between Marseille and Cassis, which became a protected coastline in 2012 for its natural beauty. Calanque in French translates to rocky inlet on the sea. The particular inlet in the photo above is known as Calanque d’En-Vau, but you’ll find several others scattered throughout the national park.

How to get here: If you wanted to take public transport here, you’d have to go through Marseille, and it would end up taking more than 3 hours. However, driving only takes about 2 hours.

Nice to St. Tropez

The luxury resort town of Saint Tropez. This is one of the popular day trips from Nice, especially by boat.
Photo via Wikimedia

Along the shore of the Provence region you’ll find the luxurious resort town of St. Tropez. The former naval base is only a little beyond Cannes, and is ideal if you’re looking for more upscale beaches and nightlife. With a day in St. Tropez you can explore the Old Town, fishing quarter of La Ponche, and relax along the spotless beaches.

How to get here: Unfortunately there aren’t much public transport options to get from Nice to St. Tropez. Driving here will take about 1.5 hours one way. Otherwise the most convenient option is to take a boat into St. Tropez from Nice.

Nice to Calavaire Sur Mer

Remote beach along the French rivera within the region of Calavaire Sur Mer.
Photo via Flickr

If you really want to just avoid the boujee crowds of the French Riviera, head to Calavaire Sur Mer. This seaside region is filled with unspoiled beaches without any of the pretentious attitudes you may find elsewhere. If you’re looking for a great sandy beach, head to the Plage du Débarquement. The small town of Calavaire Sur Mer has a casino and a couple of French restaurants to stop at for lunch.

How to get here: Since this area is close to Saint Tropez, you could take the boat option above and then head over to this area. Beyond this, really the only way to get here is by driving. It will take between 1.5 to 2 hours, but the breathtaking beaches will be worth the trek.

Nice to Lerin Islands

Photo via Flickr

There actually aren’t many islands within close proximity to Nice other than the Lerin Islands. The string of Islands are filled with untouched nature, overlooking the city of Cannes. Saint Margurete and Saint Honorat are the only islands that are inhabited. On the islands you can indulge in the crystal clear waters, history, and organic wines of the region.

How to get here: You’ll first need to get to Cannes first to reach these islands. From here you can take the ferry over from the port, which you can book in advance here.

 

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