The gateway to the French Riviera and the crown jewel of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, the coastal French city of Nice combines a little bit of everything. Here, you'll find high fashion and haute cuisine, ancient history and sparking modernity, a playground for the rich and famous, and a vibrant port city open to everyone.
When most people think of Nice, they think of the sea, the city, and perhaps the many museums and cultural institutions. But the city and its region are also a haven for nature lovers and hikers. There are plenty of hiking trails right in the city and the surrounding area, and if you're willing to go a little further afield, you'll find even more places to stretch your legs. Whether you're looking to hike through medieval villages, discover pristine wilderness, or explore a mountain or two, nice offers hiking trails you won't soon forget. Both the city itself and the countryside around it offers some of the best hiking in France. Don't forget to drop off your bags at a Nice luggage storage to make your hiking easier.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Nice
Hiking doesn't have to mean heading out into the wilderness where there's no cell phone reception. A walk through the cobbled streets of Nice's old town will stretch your legs and give you a chance to soak up the atmosphere of the city. The joy of walking through the old town is you can explore your own pace and cover as many or as few kilometers as you like, a good place to start is at Place Massena. From there, you can follow a route past the upscale shops of rue Saint François de Paule to the Cours Saleya and its famous flower market. From there, you can head to the waterfront and enjoy Nices's ample sunshine before grabbing some food or drink at one of the many waterfront restaurants in the area. Don't forget to get your selfies at the #ILove Nice sign before heading back to your starting point. This round-trip of approximately 2 km is ideal for those who aren't hard-core hikers but would like a nice walk through some of the best areas in the city.
The best part about taking a walk through Nice if you don't necessarily need to spend any money. But that's not the only way to travel on a budget. Check out some other fun and, best of all, free things to do in Nice.
Promenade des Anglais
Nice's most famous Street is the perfect place to enjoy the stunning coastline of Provence. On days with clear weather, you'll be able to see the mountains that rise behind the city as well as the stunning blue ocean in front of it. You'll also be able to discover some of Nice's best beaches.
Again, this is less the hiking trail and more of a stroll through the city. The Promenade des Anglais is generally considered the living room of Nice, where locals come to enjoy the sun and mingle with their neighbors. Even in winter, you'll find plenty of residents taking this walk, especially after dinner.
The Promenade stretches for 7 km, or nearly 4 1/2 miles, along the oceanfront of the city. You can walk only a section, what's all thing and take a bus back to your starting point, or walk there and back again for a total distance of around 9 miles. However long you take, you're sure to be entertained by the locals and impressed by the stunning scenery.
All this exploration is likely to leave you hungry. If your stomach growling after your walk, here's where you can find the best brunch in Nice.
Mercantour National Park
The city of Nice has so many great places to go for a stroll. But if you're after a more strenuous hike and are willing to get outside of the city and see the wilder side of France, Mercantour National Park is the place to do it. Spread over 650 km², this vast protected area encompasses mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, small villages, and historic sites.
The park straddles the border between Italy and Spain, and the Alpine terrain is the last stronghold of many species of European wildlife, such as ibex and even a few wolves. There are endless trails to explore here, and so much to discover that you could spend a lifetime venturing through the park and never see it all. The rugged valleys and Alpine villages offer you a glimpse of a different world from the bustling city of Nice. For those who feel the call of the wild, there's nowhere quite like Mercantour National Park.
It takes about an hour to reach the park from Nice by car. There are long-distance buses that make the trip, or you could hire a private shuttle. Check out this article if you're looking for more information on how to get around Nice.
Vallée des Merveilles
Okay, so technically, this hiking trail is located within Mercantour National Park. But as a highlight of the area and one of the most significant sites in the Côte d'Azur and in all of France, it deserves its own entry. The Vallée des Merveilles, or Valley of Marvels, offers a rugged Alpine landscape that will challenge even accomplished hikers. But the reward, along with the stunning mountain scenery and dizzying coastal cliffs, is an encounter with the mysteries of the past. The Valley of Marvels is one of the most significant sites of prehistoric rock art in all of Europe, and contains more than 10,000 drawings from the Bronze Age. That makes it the perfect place to combine an encounter with nature with an exploration of the mysteries of the past.
The French Riviera may be known for glitzy cities and fancy beach resorts, but away from the glamour of Nice, there are other aspects of the Côte d'Azur to explore. One of these lesser-known aspects is the so-called 'perched villages'. These medieval villages seem to defy gravity, built into cliffs in the surrounding mountains that are so characteristic of the South of France. By tradition, there are 100 of these villages, and it could take years to explore them all.
To see a classic village and one of the prettiest in the region, head to Saorge. This gorgeous village overlooks the Roya River. And even more impressively, wild orchids sprout from the rooftops of the houses, making this a truly unforgettable and uniquely photogenic place to visit. For avid hikers, there are plenty of trails in the mountains behind the village, taking you over precipitous crags and narrow passageways that will test your nerves but reward you with stunning views in every direction.
Peille and Baudon Peak
Hikers looking for a challenge will find it at Baudon Peak. This 1264 meter mountain dominates the surrounding landscape, and the summit offers breathtaking views over the countryside and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. However, the steep and rocky trail is not for the faint of heart. Still, accomplished hikers will enjoy the challenge, and will definitely find the view from the top rewarding.
The trail up Baudon Peak begins in the charming village of Peille, which you can reach from Gare de Ville-Nice by train in around 40 minutes. Whether you're up to tackling the peak or not, the cobbled streets and old stone houses of this village are worth exploring by themselves, and offer a less demanding option for those who don't feel like tackling the summit.
Baou Saint Jeannet
You don't have to go far from Nice to find some truly incredible hiking trails. Just 30 minutes from the city, you'll find the Alpine village of Saint Jeannet. Baou is the local word for cliffs and hills, and the minute you lay eyes on this stunning village, you'll see exactly why. The villages are surrounded by some stunning rocky cliffs, and on a clear day, you'll get jaw-dropping views of Nice, Menton, Monaco, and the entire Côte d'Azur. You'll also get the chance to explore this village and nearby Saint Paul de Vence, an artist community that provides an insight into the rich cultural history of the region.
The city of Nice has so much to offer travelers, but it's just part of a fascinating wider region. Film buffs especially will want to make the trip to Cannes, the legendary coastal town that is easily reached from Nice by public transport. For more details on that, check out our guide on how to get around Nice.
But while this city may be known for the glamour of the movie industry, it also offers a chance to explore more of the endless hiking opportunities in the region.
Esterel's striking appearance is a result of volcanic activity. This rocky massif lies around 30 minutes outside of Cannes, and the red rocks piercing through the surrounding forest can make it feel like another world. Be warned that this area can get very hot in summer, so it may be better to explore during spring or fall. But whenever you choose to visit, you'll get stunning views of a truly unique Riviera landscape along with the glittering blue Mediterranean and the charming towns in the area.
Of course, the presence of the ocean is one of the main attractions of the French River. If you just can't get enough of the sea, take a walk along the Sentier Littoral, the coastal path that runs along the shoreline from Nice to the neighboring town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. You'll see gorgeous rocky coves, crashing waves, pristine bays, and no end of beautiful Marine scenery.
The trail runs for a little over six kilometers, or around four miles. The elevation gain is around 153 m, or 500 feet, making this suitable for most fitness levels. However, be warned that this coastal path has its share of crumbling rocky steps to climb and descend, so it's better suited for those who are steady on their feet. The reward is well worth the effort.
Easy Hikes in Nice
If you're just looking for a gentle stroll, there are few better places to do that than in Nice. A walk through the Old Town or along the Promenade des Anglais is a real treat, and will allow you to experience the best of the city at zero cost and without tiring yourself out too much. Plus, you'll be surrounded by bars and restaurants where you can stop and refresh yourself at every turn.
Intermediate Hikes in Nice
If you're up for more of a challenge, Nice and the Côte d'Azur can definitely accommodate you. Head out of town to the pretty perched village of Saorge, or explore the stunning coastline with the relatively short Sentier Littoral from Nice to Villefranche. These walks are arduous enough to get your blood pumping, but not so difficult that you'll be too exhausted to enjoy the scenery.
Difficult Hikes in Nice
Accomplished hikers may want to challenge themselves on some of the more rugged trails in the area. And the Côte d'Azur has plenty of those. Mercantour National Park by itself has enough trails to occupy you for a lifetime, ranging from easy to extremely challenging. Likewise, the climb up Baudon Peak will not only challenge your endurance, but also reward you with absolutely incredible views of the area.
When most people think of the French Riveria, they imagine lounging on the beach or enjoying incredible meals in fancy restaurants. And they are not wrong. There's no question that you can definitely live the high life in Nice. But if you prefer to get some miles behind you, the city and the country around it are the perfect places to explore on two legs. Pack your hiking boots along with your high heels and get ready to explore a wilder side of this fascinating destination.