On the very most Southern tip of France, in a place where the sea sparkles all year long and the sun sets late in the day, Nice is a dream destination that’s worthy of a stop off on any European adventure. But after you’ve strolled along the Promenade des Anglais and made your way through the old town, there’s plenty of hidden gems left to discover. Here’s your guide to the best of secret spots in Nice, and the most unusual things to do!
Adam & Eve House
When strolling the streets of Old Town Nice, don’t forget to look up! For hidden amongst the rustic shutters and laundry lines, there are plenty of stunning architectural features to be spied. One of the best examples of hidden Nice architecture is to be found in the form of the Adam and Eve House.
Situated on the rue de la Poissonnerie, the house dates back to 1850 and features a bas-relief which is widely thought to depict Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. However, as you know how these things often go, local gossip at the time once suggested that the sgraffito (a 15th/16th-century type of plastering originating in Italy) actually depicted the couple who lived there during the 19th-century.
Légion d’Honneur Garden
For those looking for a little oasis of calm in the heart of the busy and bustling city, the little garden surrounding the Musée Masséna is free to visit and open during daylight hours. Filled with park benches, shrubs, and plenty of the cacti and other succulents which are so synonymous with the South, this beautiful place to relax is a great location to hang out with friends, enjoy a picnic, or plan your Nice itinerary!
On the intersection of where rue de la Poissonnerie and Carriera Dou Gouvernou meet, close to where you’ll find some of the very best socca in Nice, a series of stone fragments, monuments, and epitaphs dating back to the Roman Era can be found behind a metallic grill.
This may well be the very spot where the Loge Communale (otherwise known as City Lodge or Loggia Communale) could be found. Much like the Greeks had the agora, the Roman Forum was where public debates would be held, regular markets took place, and where public notices would be issued. Either way, what is known is that the last Loge Communale was built here during the 15th-century, at the base of the Château Hill, though it has since disappeared.
St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Nice
A surprising sight when you round a corner from an otherwise nondescript underpass and gas station, the Russian Orthodox Church is easily one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the city. Dating back to the early 20th-century, this ecclesiastical building was constructed, in part thanks to a sizeable donation from Tsar Nicholas II.
The structure, constructed in the Old Russian Style, was to be built close to the very spot where the Tsar’s son had died of meningitis and close to a previous chapel on site that the ever increasing Russian community of Nice had long since outgrown.
From the 19th-century onwards, there have been strong ties between Russia and the French Riviera, a link that carries on through to the present day. If you wish to visit the stunning church now, you should know that it’s free to enter, though no photography is allowed inside and shoulders/ knees must be covered.
Canon balls on the façade of Chapelle du Saint-Sépulcre-des-Pénitents-Bleus
Here’s something you don’t see every day: look up above the doorways on the façade of the Chapelle du Saint-Sépulcre-des-Pénitents-Bleus, an 18th-century chapel in the heart of the city, and you’ll soon spot several cannon balls. These three cannonballs were fired by the Turkish fleet during the siege of Nice in 1543.
Mini Replica of the Statue of Liberty
Along the Promenade des Anglais, a boulevard that is so-called thanks to Nice’s popularity with English aristocrats during the 17th and 18th-centuries, there’s one statue that you won’t want to miss off your list. The teeny tiny Statue of Liberty replica was unveiled along the boardwalk in 2014.
You may well not know this, but the original Statue of Liberty (that of NYC) was actually gifted to the people of America by the people of France all those decades ago. Nowadays, several replicas can be found across France, including in the French capital of Paris and the South West City of Bordeaux.
Château de Bellet & the Bellet Wine Region
Many people don’t realise this, but Nice actually has its own small wine growing area. Located on the hills overlooking the city, the vineyards here grow grapes to produce red, white, and rosé wines, though of course, this area of France is most famous for its rosé wines! If you want to experience Bellet wine for yourself, then this Grasse, Valbonne & Gourdon: Day Tour with Wine Tasting will allow for some Bellet wine tastings at a local vineyard.
l’Église Sainte Rita de Nice
In the very heart of the Vieux Nice quarter of the city, the Baroque church of Saint Rita dates back to the 1600s. Featuring six side chapels, beautiful frescoed ceilings, and ornate carvings throughout the church, this small yet sumptuous ecclesiastical building is a welcome calm from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the tiny streets of Old Town Nice.
Cimiez Monastery Complex (Gardens and Church)
Of all the hidden gems in Nice, one of the very most unusual things to do is to head up to the Cimiez district. Populated by mansions and on a hill high up and overlooking the rest of the city, at the very top of the hill you’ll discover a monastery dating back to the 800s.
Within the complex, there’s a small museum documenting the history of the area, a breathtakingly beautiful church that’s free to enter, and sprawling monastery gardens that offer panoramic views onto the city of Nice below, and beyond towards the Mediterranean Sea. Also at Cimiez Monastery is the grave of Matisse and paintings by Brea.
Arènes de Cimiez (Roman Cimiez Amphitheatre)
Of course, Nice’s history dates back to a time when the city was likely founded as a colony by the nearby Greeks of Massalia (what is now Marseille) and would have been known as Nikaia (Νίκαια). Today, a few crumbling remains of Roman times can still be found around the city, particularly in the Cimiez District, an area of Nice characterised by its handful of museums and grand villas which was once a city in its own right that of Cemenelum.
Now free to visit, Nice’s Roman Amphitheatre was likely constructed during the 2nd Century and once seated up to 5000 spectators. Classified as a National Historical Monument since 1965, nearby you’ll find the Musee D’Archeologie, a sprawling complex that comprises of statues, crumbling walls, and finds from Cemenelum such as coins and trinkets.
La Tete Carrée Library
Tucked away in a beautiful elevated garden behind the Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain, Nice’s main library was designed by French artist Sacha Sosno as a way of demonstrating ‘thinking inside the box’. A strange sight to see when strolling through the Southern French city, you’ll most definitely want to take a snap on any wander past!
Things to know before visiting Nice for the first time
A stunning French destination with world-famous beaches, ease of access, and plenty of day trips that are easy to take via public transport, there are a few things you’ll want to know before visiting Nice. Before you go, you should know that while English is widely spoken, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language, French.
In order to help you get by, I recommend bringing along a simple French Phrasebook like this one. Otherwise, since Nice is such a popular destination, you’ll want to book your accommodation well in advance so as to secure the best deals. Check the best accommodation prices in Nice here.