June 20, 2024

8 ways to enjoy Nice on a budget

8 ways to enjoy Nice on a budget

The French Riviera might be known for its glitz and glam, its old-world opulence and its elegant villas, but Nice needn’t be an expensive destination to visit.

Getting around is easy and inexpensive, entry to the main sights and attractions doesn’t cost much (if anything at all), with plenty of free things to see and do. You can also dine on delicious Mediterranean and Niçoise cuisine without breaking the bank. Follow our tips to make the most of your visit to Nice on a budget.

Avoid traveling to Nice in peak season or during carnival

Summer – August especially – is the worst time to visit Nice if you want to remain budget conscious. Most of Europe is on vacation, and prices for flights and accommodations tend to skyrocket. Popular tourist spots get very crowded, and even the heat can get too much. You should also avoid visiting during carnival season in February (unless you’re specifically visiting to see Nice’s rightly famous Carnaval) – flights might seem affordable but accommodations get booked up fast and prices tend to rise accordingly.

Visiting Nice in May, June, or September is a safer bet, with pleasant weather, fewer crowds and more wallet-friendly flight, food, and accommodation costs.

Consider staying in a hostel or self-catering apartment

Let’s be honest, hotels in Nice are seldom cheap, but there are ways to save. If your budget can stretch a little, there are many worthy boutique hotels and lovely hip places to stay – although a double room will often cost you at least € 50–100 per night at best.

Travelers on a tighter budget (think €20–40 a night) should opt for a cozy guesthouse such as La Maïoun Guesthouse, a stylish hostel like Ozz Hostel or Villa Saint Exupéry Beach Hostel, or a self-catering apartment with Airbnb.

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A middle-aged holidaying couple stroll through a square with water jets and fountains shooting out of the sidewalk in a palm-fringed square
Consider which sights you’re visiting and how much transportation you’ll need before investing in a multi-day pass © VanoVasaio / Shutterstock

Buy the transportation or sightseeing pass that’s right for you

Buy your pass wisely, factoring in how long you’re going to be in the city for, how you’re planning on getting around, and what sort of attractions you’re going to visit.

For example, if you’re only in town for 2 or 3 days and are thinking of packing in as many cultural attractions and activities as possible, you should consider getting a French Riviera Pass (1 day €26, 2 days €38, 3 days €56), which gives free access to many of the city’s top sights, including the MAMAC, the Musée Matisse, the Palais Lascaris and more – from walking tours to electric scooter hire. For an extra €4 per day, the pass can also cover unlimited travel on the city’s trams and buses. Alternatively, the Pass musées Ville de Nice is a steal, at only €15 for 3 days of unlimited access to the city’s museums and galleries.

If you’re not much of a culture vulture and want to spend your time shopping or laying on the beach, you’ll want to buy the €10 for 10 rides transport ticket from Lignes d’Azur. It’s valid for transportation to and from the airport, as well as travel between different parts of the city using the local bus and tram network. If you’re staying for longer, then the €15 7-day transport pass is better value, with unlimited travel on the bus and tram network for a week.

Browse the stalls at local food markets for the perfect picnic

Head to the city’s famous Marché du Cours Saleya or Marché de la Libération to cobble together a tasty lunch for under €10. From colorful fruits and vegetables, to creamy cheeses, olives and breads, find the best local produce and treat yourself to a gorgeous picnic on the beach or in one of the city’s many green spaces.

At both markets, you can also buy cheap and delicious Niçois street snacks (under €5 a pop), including socca (chickpea-flour pancakes), pissaladière (caramelized onion and anchovy tart), and pan bagnat (round-shaped sandwich filled with tuna, raw veggies, eggs, and olive oil). Try Chez Thérésa at Cours Saleya and Kiosque Tintin at Libération.

Open-air restaurants with table packed with guests in the French city of Nice
Look beyond the restaurants in the main touristy areas for better value meals © Fraser Hall / Getty Images

Choose restaurants wisely

Generally, avoid restaurants in busy, touristy spots with lengthy menus and eye-watering prices. Prefer places favored by locals and anywhere with a Lonely Planet sticker. Lunch menus can often offer excellent value, too.

For a special treat, here are a few places with excellent grub and reasonable prices that are definitely worth checking out: Olive & Artichaut in the old town (excellent 3-course menu for €34), La Maison de Marie in the city center (3-course Niçois menu: €27.90; 2–3-course lunch menu: €17.90–21.90), and L’Uzine near the port (go at lunchtime for the great-value, 2–3-course lunch menu: €18–23).

Make the most of discounted happy-hour drinks

Most pubs and bars in Nice, especially those in the old town, by the beach, near place Garibaldi and in the port district, offer discounts on pints, bottled beers and cocktails during “happy hour”, which is usually between 5pm and 8pm (sometimes from 6pm to 9pm in summer). That’s a whole three hours to enjoy an “apéro” drink or three in the sunshine for around €5 a pop. We’ll cheers to that!

Avoid Nice’s private beaches

Nice’s seafront is split between 15 private beaches and 20 public ones (including two that are wheelchair accessible). The rows of perfectly lined comfy sun loungers on the private beaches may look appealing, but they will set you back a good €20 a day. If you’re budget-conscious, they’re not worth splashing your cash on.

Nice’s beaches are all pebbles, with the exception of a sandy beach-volleyball court at the eastern edge of the seafront. Our tip? Bring along a beach mat or a fold-up mattress. You can ask your accommodation if they could loan you one (hostels and hotels often do), or buy one for next to nothing in a tourist shop near the beach, most supermarkets or a sports store like Decathlon. Jelly shoes might come in handy too!

A waterfront promenade at sunset, Nice, France, with people in silhouette as the sun sets in the distance
It’s free to enjoy the beauty of Nice and its lovely surroundings © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Make the most of Nice’s free sights and scenery

Nice is a lovely city to explore on foot, and taking in all the beautiful scenery along the way is of course completely free.

Stroll along the palm tree-lined Promenade des Anglais, climb up to the Colline du Château for unparalleled views of the city and the azure sea, explore every corner of the quaint old town and relax in the city’s many free parks and gardens.

Daily costs in Nice

Hostel room: €20–30 (dorm bed)
Basic hotel room for two: from €50–60
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): from €30–40
Public transport ticket: €1.50 for 1 ride, €10 for 10 rides, €5 for 1-day pass, €15 for 7-day pass
Coffee: €2–4
Sandwich: €4–5
Dinner for two: €40–60
Beer/pint at the bar: €7–8 (around €5 during happy hour)

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7 of the best day trips from Nice: see more of the Côte d’Azur  
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First-time France: where to go and what to do