South of France holiday—a perfect family destination—Nice
Let’s just say, the majority of families with children aren’t looking forward to migrating from hotel to hotel while holidaying, they’d rather take short sweet day trips, am I right? So, you’ve tossed the dice and the choice for your long-awaited South of France holiday has fallen on Nice? Perfect! You’re on it! But first, let me point out why Nice makes the ideal middle ground in the French Riviera’s coast and the reasons you should base your family here.
In the early stages of our recent European adventure planning, everything looked like a disaster: a messed up list of countries, towns, accommodations, tours—nothing but a big pile of either crossed off or gibberish ideas. Choosing between visiting every village in our South of France holiday or instead limiting the visit and go seeing as many European countries as we could in one short trip was a hard call. The decision came painfully but it did. We decided to base ourselves in Nice because of its central position and do day trips to other parts of the Provence Cote D’Azure. Best decision ever!
Planning the South of France holiday with family
Firstly, I’ve made this guide with you in mind, to help you plan a perfect South of France getaway with your family. We have had a great time there, tons of fun, created unforgettable memories that hopefully Nick will cherish forever. When you organize to take your kids someplace, what’s the reason for that? What are you looking to achieve? My guess would be to spend more time with your family, to enjoy a simple play with kids? That was my idea too, this is why I planned the itinerary thoroughly and carefully. I’ve already done the legwork ( or more like finger pushing ) for you including tons of googling and comparing prices. All you do is read and hopefully implement.
Honestly, a few times I wanted to give up and give it all to a travel agent but I knew this wouldn’t be saving money for my family. Money that we could spend on booking an extra activity or add a new place to the list. We actually did, in the beginning, we went to Flight Centre to get a quote to see how much they were prepared to fulfill our endless list of requests. Well, you know what? After we received a quote that included only the bare essentials ( so no food, not tours, no train fees), it clearly was time for me to start researching.
What I’m saying here is everything you’re going to read here was thoroughly researched ( I spent hours and days on Google ), manually booked ( with hysterics, canceling and rebooking again ), and of course, put through the real testing of us being there doing it. Now, that’s a big job!
Also, I found it helpful creating a thorough list of things to pack and cross items off as they went into a bag. Read my 11 tips of smart travel packing.
Why Nice is the best place in French Riviera to accommodate your family
To begin with, Nice la Belle undoubtedly is a shining star of the whole of the Azure coast and offers the best French beach holidays. The vibrant cosmopolitan vibe blended with a stunning coastline, fashionable boutiques, and cafes — not many places can compete. You will not struggle for reasons to visit. Not even mentioning how truly family friendly the town is.
Although Nice is the second largest French city on the Mediterranian coast, you will find it easy to explore by feet. It’s well connected to the rest of the Coast as well as the Alps Hinterlands. The train line stretches along the coast making a journey entertaining and pleasurable. Nice’s bus network travels in every part of the surrounding villages and towns.
But isn’t food expensive there? Well, it’s a fair question indeed since kids want to eat too. This can turn into an unpredictable long discussion taking a few things into account. Are you going to eat out all of the time, some of the time or not at all?
This is how we saved on food:
- Shopped at supermarkets. Large and small. We most visited Monoprix as it was located on the main road Avenue Jean Medecin not far from Notre Dame. The tram line goes along the avenue which makes it a convenient stop. For example, groceries for 5-7 days will cost you around €50 – €70 (basic vegetables, fruits, proteins, salads, and drinks bag).
- Bought freshly-made bread and pastries in local bakeries to make take-with-us lunches and snacks. You can opt for buying already prepared sandwiches or burgers for €3 – €6.
- Cooked our own meals in the apartments. A typical family meal will cost around €5 compared to expensive eat-in cafe options that range anywhere from €15 – €100.
Family-friendly accommodation in Nice
In spite of the wide variety of accommodations, the choice will always highly dependent on what sort of traveler you are, the season and how well you can manage the budget. Considering you have a family ( and this is a family blog ), there are other expenses to consider. Expenses of an average family of 2 adults and 2 kids with 3 meals a day plus bottled water and snacks can add up in a bulky amount, especially in Europe. France, in particular, isn’t a cheap place to holiday.
What sort of traveler are you?
- You prefer someone else to cook and wash for you on holidays
- You prefer home-made meals, don’t mind to clean a few dishes
We are definitely the second type. And it’s not just about money. If I can’t control what goes into our meals, the only answer is to cook from scratch. So our first and foremost preference for accommodation has always been a rented apartment. We don’t use private homes( Airbnb) as I don’t like the idea of sniffing around people’s houses. Nope, not me.
To our surprise, we managed to secure a perfect apartment in a perfect side of the town. Apartment Auber is great for a small group like ourselves: 2 adults and a-now-teenager, or three adults or 2 adults and 1 small kid because the second bed is a pull-out sofa. Click on the link I’ve posted above and check if the host has bigger apartments available if that’s what you’re looking for.
The booked apartment was conveniently located 2 mins walk from the station so we knew it wouldn’t be an issue to transit with ease. Our host personally greeted us at the train station even though the building was a stone throw away but the gesture has made us feel exceptionally valued. As we approached the apartment block, I remembered exactly why I loved the European way of living: the locked secure entrance, cleanliness and a sense of community where the residents leave their bulky items stored safely and openly on the ground floor.
As we walked in, we felt comfortable and at home. The apartment is a type of place with a WOW factor – I can’t recommend it enough. It was self-contained included a washing machine ( very rare ) and fresh towels provided ( both bath and beach ) with a high ceiling and a lovely typically tall European window in the room.
The host was diligent, hospitable and accessible at all times. Because the whole experience was extremely positive I’m happily sharing the details with you. Use the link provided above to contact the host Ludovic.
Check all holiday places to book in France here: Accommodation in Nice
Getting around Nice
Nice’s well-connected transportation leaves TAXis for death. You will not need to call one. To begin with, the town is walkable even with children.
The town main street is equipped with the tram line, it’s such a cool and fun way to get around. Although we personally prefer to explore by foot, the tram was a great choice to give it a break, sit back and relax.
Starting from our beautiful apartments it took all but 10 mins to reach the seaside on foot with plenty of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bakeries on the way.
Things to do in Nice with kids
Explore Promenade des Anglais
The most famous seafront stretch in France ( and you can guess who named it An-gla-iiissss ). OMG, the watercolor – it’s something surreal. This part of the world sure earned its name: Azure ( of the color blue). The walk is quite long about 5 km leading up to the Port of Nice. We thoroughly enjoyed the little cozy coastal area – no rush, no hassle to get anywhere in a hurry. After the busy first three weeks of travels, it was the first time we genuinely chillaxed and did next to nothing but still managed to squeeze a lot of sightseeing and wowing.
Eat-drink-repeat at Old Town
Vieille Ville (link) is the oldest part of the city as suggested by the name. Old but not less modern with rows of alleys with shops, cafes, restaurants, and exquisite French architecture, of course. It’s certainly a perfect introduction to Nice that offers historical insights as well as cultural exploration. Put your best walking shoes on because you’ll be walking Old Town by foot- that’s what the locals would suggest to you.
Dip your toes at Blue Beach
Nice has over 7 km of the coastal stretch but the most central one is the Blue Beach (link) because it’s located opposite to the legendary Le Negresco Hotel and lives up to its name, truly. The turquoise waters washing onto the black-stoned shore capture visitors’ attention not without a reason. There’s a row of seats placed in from of the beach so that bypassers can enjoy the magnificent contrast of the true Cote D’Azure’s colors. Although the beach is private, it’s equipped with sunbeds and umbrellas. The service also offers a range of available for hire water sport options, kids swimming pool and a seaside restaurant.
Walk Port de Nice
From the Blue Beach make your way to the Port that resides in Nice’s Old Town area. The Port is more than just a harbour, it’s an important infrastructural hub surrounded by the 18th-century buildings. Apart from its commercial purpose, the Port offers quite a few sightseeing opportunities. There are two main ferry companies operating out of here that focus on Nice-Corsica and Nice-Sardinia connections.
Have a picnic at Parc Phoenix
For a change of scenery, take your family to the 7-hectare Park Phoenix encompassing a tropical garden, a large lake- a habitat for many birds, a zoo where you meet all sorts of curious animals including free-flying exotic birds, and the ‘Green Diamond’ – one of the largest greenhouses in Europe. A perfect place to wrap up a busy day the whole family will thank you for, so make sure you bring fresh yummy meals to enjoy for a picnic. The admission is FREE for French Riviera Pass holders, it also includes the entrance to the Museum of Asian Art located on the right of the lake.
Kids will certainly appreciate the Zoo because of its range of marvelous animals like curious ostrich, kangaroos resting in the shade and even lemurs. There’s also a playground behind the very end of the parrots’ aviary- you can’t miss it, the noise coming out of it is horrendous but truly sophisticating.
Visit Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St Nicholas ( good name, huh)
Can you imagine my excitement when I’ve heard there’s a piece of my motherland in the middle of the French Riviera? Not just that, in fact, it’s the largest Eastern Cathedral (link) outside of Russia in Western Europe and is recognized as a national monument of France. So if you’re a history buff and architecture admirer who don’t mind learning diverse cultural aspects, this’s your place by all means. You can adore the building’s glamorous statue from the outside or if choose to go inside, a small donation might be appreciated but totally optional.
Stop by Notre Dame de Nice
I swear, every town in France has its own Notre Dame but hey, who minds? I find their Gothic architecture stunning, gobsmacking even. Located in the very center of Nice, Notre Dame de Nice is considered one of the newest city’s landmarks. Plenty of musical events get organized inside its walls due to the excellent autistics properties. If you are lucky, you might catch one of them while you there, who knows? If your children are too young to appreciate the inside beauty, the outside glass-stained windows so typical for French Cathedrals and the impressive large Rose window just above the entrance are picturesque enough for a few memorable street photoshoots.
Take a snapshot at Nice Sign
In addition to taking selfies in front of the la Negresco or Notre Dame, there’s certainly one special place in Nice for a photo you don’t want to miss. I mean, the visit to Nice wouldn’t be complete without visiting #LOVENICE hashtag. Although the sign has a sad pre-history, it now bears a significant value in its monument. It has become a symbol of love to the citizens of Nice and the French Riviera following by the terrorist attack on the Promenade des Anglais in July 2016.
Admire the world’s famous Hotel Le Negresco
Over 100 years old now but still fabulous intricate, the famous landmark has seen nothing but fame. A stop-over for the world’s most powerful and richest, the hotel proudly overlooks the Nice’s beachfront. Although its pink-dome roof will be the first to spot once you approach the Promenade des Anglais, the real treasure is hidden inside and no visible to the incurious eye. Walk past the sign at the entrance ( saying it’s only open to guests ) and go check the foyer’s unbiased decor or splash on a meal in La Rotonde Brasserie.
Walk up to Castle Hill
You won’t find a better position to capture Nice’s pristine coastline than from the top hills of “La Colline du Château” aka Castle Hill. Situated between the Old Town and Port de Nice, the place bears a castle no more but its ruins that have been transformed into a park with a man-made waterfall and playgrounds. Although you’ll need to prepare yourself (and kids) to climb some 200+steps, once you get to the top, you’ll instantly remember why you even started this trouble in the first place. The views of the city and the Mediterranean are something unforgettable!
Although Nice is a large family-friendly playground, it’s surrounded by most picturesque towns and villages in Southern France you’d regret not visiting while there. Spread out along the magnificent Riviera’s coastline, they are easily reachable by driving or taking a train — equally scenic either way. Regardless whether you decide to spend the whole;e time exploring Nice or its neighboring towns, you will leave the place refreshed with a suitcase full of beautiful souvenirs and most amazing pictures.
Make sure to Repin this images to your Pinterest and thank you wholeheartedly!