Thinking of taking a trip to France, but aren’t sure where to start? While the glamorous capital city of Paris may feel like the best place to explore France, some visitors may feel intimidated or even overwhelmed by the City of Lights and its abundance of tourists. In this case, a city like Nice may be the answer—though another popular French tourist destination, Nice is a bit more laid back—and its location on the French Riviera is far removed from the lights and attractions of Paris, but still has a distinctive Mediterranean charm all its own.
Below are some of the best reasons to visit both cities for those travelers who are having a hard time deciding which fabulous French location is the right one for their travel itinerary.
About Nice, France
Nice has long been a popular tourist destination due to its location on the French Riviera—and its stellar views of the Mediterranean Sea. However, unlike Paris, Nice is a hybrid of both French and Italian cultures, mainly due to its proximity to nearby Italian cities Liguria and Sardinia. The Italian influence can be seen in everything from the city’s architecture to its dialect.
Nice, like Paris, is a city with an artistic past that still permeates its sunny shores to this day. Once frequented by the likes of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, there is a myriad of museums throughout the area that represents the city’s artistic heritage.
Though Nice does have plenty of cultures, history, and recreation to recommend it, it is the beaches that keep tourists coming back in both summer and winter. For visitors looking for the perfect balance of city culture and beautiful, beachy vibes, Nice is the perfect French destination.
Things To Do In Nice
- Take the ultimate seaside walk on the Promenade de Anglais, the perfect spot for the best views of the glittering Mediterranean on one side, and the colorful, distinctive city architecture on the other.
- Experience the Italian side of Nice in the oldest part of the city—the Vielle Ville. Home to meandering streets and distinctive architecture like the Colline du Château (climb to the top for an amazing view!) and the Nice Cathedral, the neighborhood is buzzing with activity.
- Get artistic with a visit to the Musée Chagall, Musée Matisse, or the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC).
- Stroll along the Boulevard de Cimiez, one of Nice’s most beautiful thoroughfares. Be sure to visit the lovely Monastére de Cimiez and explore its lovely gardens—and its spectacular view of the city
- Nice is known for its delightful cuisine, and one great way to experience it is through its street food. Want to learn more about Nice’s contributions to French cuisine? Then take a Nice Food Tour.
About Paris, France
Paris is the capital and most populated city in France. Situated along the Seine River, the city is one of Europe’s shining jewels; its cosmopolitan combination of history, culture, art, and fashion is known the world over.
Paris’ cobblestone streets lead visitors into a world of classic beauty and sophisticated charm, dotted with world-renowned landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre, and the Musée du Louvre, to name a few. Because there is so much to see and do in the City of Lights, it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the entire world.
But Paris isn’t just about its tourist attractions—the city’s atmosphere and vibes are unlike anywhere else, making it so much more than the sum of its parts. While seeing its famous landmarks is a must while visiting, there’s also another side to Paris—the side that’s a bit off the beaten track. Less touristy, yet still distinctly Paris, there are plenty of spots that fly under the radar—for those who want a more laidback city experience. The beauty of Paris is that there’s a surprise around every corner and an experience for every type of traveler.
Things To Do In Paris
Almost everyone knows about Paris’ top attractions like Notre Dame and the Champs Élysées, but what about some other fun things to do that are off the beaten track?
- Tour La Conciergerie, a former medieval palace/prison that is often underrated in comparison with Notre Dame and other cathedrals in the city. Visitors should be sure to check out nearby Tour de l’Horloge as well, as it’s the oldest clock in Paris.
- Paris has plenty of macabre places to explore, but the Paris Catacombs might be the eeriest. Fascinating, historical, and creepy, this gem is buried far beneath the streets of the city.
- Stroll along the Canal Saint-Martin, a less touristy way to experience the city’s signature Seine River. Along the canal are plenty of shops, cafes, and gardens to explore, too.
- The Musée Édith Piaf and Musée Curie may not be the Louvre, but they are worth checking out to explore two women known for their contributions to the City of Lights.
- Take a deep dive into French history with a visit to the Archives Nationales
- Passage Brady is a great spot to experience Paris’ thriving and diverse Pakistani and Indian food communities—and a cool place to grab a bite to eat for those who need a break from French food (as if).
Choosing between Paris and Nice may seem impossible, especially for travelers visiting France for the first time. Both cities have their own distinctive charms—Paris is bustling, cosmopolitan, and historic; and Nice is artistic, beachy, and beautiful; with a uniquely Italian flair. However, both are popular, world-famous tourist destinations that have a plethora of things to see and do for the intrepid traveler—and both make for a delightful and unforgettable French vacation.