FRANCE FAMILY VACATIONS: Nice with Kids – It’s dusk in the south of France and you’re enjoying the sun’s last rays at an outdoor café as amber light shines on the faded façade of the centuries-old building across the street. Take a sip of rosé and glance at your only-slightly sun-burnt, very quiet children who have seemingly adopted the type of manners you only really see in French children.
OK, that last part may be a stretch but don’t worry, you are in Nice and between the mild climate, the clear Mediterranean Sea, the romantic architecture, and the cultural offerings, the kids will be too busy and too tired to misbehave. Truth is, Nice is a great place to spend a family vacation and the perfect base for exploring the French Riviera.
If you’ll only have a few days, here are my top recommended activities for experiencing Nice with kids, along with recommendations of 1 great place to eat and 1 great place to stay while there.
Activity 1: Stroll or roll on the Promenade des Anglais
The Promenade des Anglais is a seven-kilometer boulevard that runs along the Mediterranean Sea. Built in the 1830s for the then plentiful English tourists to enjoy their daily constitutionals(!), it has been expanded into truly one of the most gorgeous stretches of paved road this side of heaven. You’ll see local families, athletes, cyclists, and the occasional elderly British sorts out for their evening walks.
A great way to enjoy the Promenade as a family is on wheels. You can rent bikes (including child seats), roller skates of all sizes, scooters, and long boards at Roller Station. And if the kids get tired, park your bikes and boards and just head a few steps down to the stone beach. Find out more: www.roller-station.net
Activity 2: Eat and Shop at the Antiques Market
For locals, outdoor markets seem to be as much about shopping as they are about catching up on the latest gossip. Strolling through them in the early mornings with your children and seeing merchants set up their wares is like seeing a movie set come to life.
The Antiques Market, or Brocante, is held every Monday in Old Town’s market square, Cours Saleya. Exploring the market with kids is a real treasure hunt. A favorite thing for us is to dig through old clothes looking for unique pieces and accessories to add to our dress-up box back at home. You never know what you’re going to dig up. Bargaining is de rigueur here so go ahead practice your French numbers before you go!
Grab a chair, a croissant, and a hot cup of coffee and chocolat chaud for the children at one of the many outdoor terraces circling the market for a uniquely French breakfast experience. Find out more: www.fleamapket.com/listing/nice-flea-market/
Activity 3: Visit Roman Ruins
In a quiet neighborhood just a couple of miles from Old Town Nice lie ancient ruins from Cenemelum, a Roman city about the size of Pompeii that served as the capital of the Riviera between the 1st and 4th centuries. They also happen to be perched on a hill in a huge gorgeous park with plenty of room to run around and, obviously because you’re in Nice, a lovely café to get lunch, ice cream, and a glass of rosé.
You can also stroll—cough, cough, play hide-and-seek in—500-year-old olive groves and a spectacular Italian garden. In short, your’e in for a perfect family afternoon outdoors with a little history lesson thrown in.
A small part of the ruins is accessible for free. To have access to the rest, you’ll need to buy tickets to the small museum, which contains a collection of Roman artifacts, including gladiator helmets. Find out more: www.nice.fr/fr/culture/musees-et-galeries/musee-d-archeologie-site-de-cimiez-et-de-terra-amata-presentation
Activity 4: Take in Some Art at the Musée Marc Chagall
Chagall’s love of color, life, and heritage continues to resonate with young and old. The Musée Marc Chagall boasts stunning modern architecture that showcases the artist’s bright large-scale paintings, brilliant stained glass, and mosaics. It is also the rare museum that was designed in collaboration with the artist himself. Marc Chagall worked closely with French architect André Hermant to design the space in 1973. It’s a small museum that packs a big punch—perfect for a family visit.
The museum is located in the beautiful hilly neighborhood of Cimiez. And it’s surrounded by a large native garden the kids will love to roam through. Especially with the promise of ice cream in the gardens’ quaint outdoor café. Find out more: http://en.musees-nationaux-alpesmaritimes.fr/chagall/
1 Great Place to Stay: La Perouse
The unassuming entrance to this gem of a hotel is deceiving. After check-in, you’ll be directed up an elevator that hugs the hillside that nestles the hotel. The views of the Mediterranean and the city are insanely gorgeous, the rockside pool surrounded by lush vegetation divine, and the location is perfect.
Step outside and you are on the Promenade, just steps away the old town, though you may not need to venture far for dinner. The onsite restaurant, Le Patio, is excellent and kid-friendly. Junior suites can accommodate an extra bed and connecting rooms are available. Find out more: www.leshotelsduroy.com/en/hotel-la-perouse
Tip: Book directly through the hotel and enjoy complimentary breakfast with your stay.
1 Great Place to Eat: La Cambuse
In our experience, children (and some adults) do better eating outdoors. Lucky for you, Nice’s climate makes that possible almost year-round.
La Cambuse is located right on the Cours Saleya. It’s a gorgeous square in the heart of Nice’s Old Town, great for some prime people-watching. Try a local specialty, like boeuf a la nicoise, a red wine and tomato-based beef stew, or petit farci, stuffed tomato, pepper, zucchini, or eggplant. Kids not feeling it? Don’t worry. They also serve great pizza. Find out more: La Cambuse on TripAdvisor