Ever since I first visited Paris, I’ve wanted to experience the magic of the French Riviera. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until almost three years later that I finally got my chance. After spending 18 months living in Florence and working for Bus2alps Travel, my parents decided to come overseas and have one last hoorah before I moved back to the states. Our itinerary consisted of Paris, Avignon and the French Riviera. Although we only had two days to spend on this scenic stretch of French coastline, we did our research and were able to hit all the highlights! Keep reading for my ultimate itinerary for 2 days on the French Riviera.
For some useful French phrases and vocabulary, see my post How to Spend a Weekend in Paris.
Where to Stay
Although we wanted to take day trips to both Èze and Monaco, we decided to make Nice our home point during the trip. Since we were visiting in November (the off-season), we were able to book a spacious Airbnb in the center of Old Town Nice. Martine was a very gracious host and the apartment was stocked with everything we needed for a comfortable stay. We only had three people but it would have easily fit five!
Find the listing here.
We arrived in Nice late on our first night after driving in from the nearby town of Avignon. We had minimal problems driving through most of France. Nice, however, was an extremely difficult city to navigate due to all the construction, closures and one-way streets.
After finally making it to our Airbnb, we were too exhausted to do anything besides eat and drink. So we set out to find a spot where we could do both…
Dinner at Chez Acchiardo
Chez Acchiardo is on every list of Nice’s best restaurants and it’s surprisingly affordable! We arrived for a late dinner, even by French standards, and were sat immediately. While we enjoyed a bottle of de-licious house merlot and complementary baguette, we chatted with the friendly waiter and received many great suggestions of what to order.
We left Chez Acchiardo feeling full and happy! It was the perfect restaurant to include on our itinerary to 2 days on the French Riviera!
Day One: Nice
Since we wanted to spend a day exploring Èze and Monaco, we knew we had to make our only day in Nice count! After returning the rental car, we grabbed a quick espresso and set off to enjoy the perfect day in sunny Nice.
Climb Castle Hill
If you regularly read my blog or follow me on Instagram, you know the first thing I like to do in a new city is get to the highest vantage point and take in the views. Nice was no different. As soon as we were caffeinated enough to explore, we headed down the Promenade des Anglais and to the bottom of Castle Hill or Colline du Chateau.
After a short, but sweaty, walk up the hill, we arrived at the Parc de la Colline du Chateau. This small lookout area boasts the best views of Nice, including Baie des Anges, Old Nice and the Port. If you only have two days to spend in the French Riviera, I urge you not to miss this viewpoint.
And Tour the Beautiful Cimetière du Château
After spending a half hour taking in the views from Parc de la Colline du Chateau, we decided to explore a bit more of Castle Hill and headed to the scenic Cimetière du Château. This beautiful cemetery, founded in 1738, has a whopping 2,800 graves. These graves include many of Nice’s most famous writers, opera singers, actors and more.
While we wandered around the cemetery, the sunlight came through the clouds and illuminated many of the gravestones. This, combined with the views of Nice below, created a magical illusion. It was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve seen in my travels!
Stop for Lunch at Chez Pipo
Since it likely took you a couple hours to climb and enjoy the views from Castle Hill, you’ve probably worked up quite the appetite. Chez Pipo is the perfect spot to satisfy your hunger with delicious French food and to sample some of Nice’s local cuisine.
Socca, a type of flatbread made from chickpeas, is one of Nice’s most famous local dishes. It’s a must-try on the French Riviera. Every food blog will agree that Chez Pipo serves the best socca in the city. It’s a bit of a hike from Castle Hill, but the delicious food will taste even better when you finally reach it!
Chez Pipo was my favorite restaurant we tried during our trip. It’s a must-visit when spending two days on the French Riviera!
Tour St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral
This beautiful Russian Orthodox Cathedral is recognized as the national monument of France and currently belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate. Interestingly enough, the St. Nicholas Cathedral is the largest Orthodox Cathedral in Western Europe.
The outer facade is colorful and ornate, with gold detailing and large lavish crosses perched on top of its turquoise domes. Sadly, you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the cathedral. However, the interior is just as splendid as the exterior and is definitely worth a look around. (Plus, it’s free!)
Have Drinks at Le Negresco Hotel
My biggest regret during our trip to Nice is that we didn’t have time to have drinks inside Nice’s world-famous Le Negresco Hotel. The 5-star hotel first opened its doors in 1912 and ever since has been catering to wealthy international clientele such as artists, politicians and even royalty. Among Le Negresco’s most famous guests are Salvador Dalí, Princess Grace of Monaco, the Beatles, Louis Armstrong and Elton John.
If you get a chance to visit while in Nice, drop a comment below and let me know what you thought!
Enjoy Dinner at Le Petit Lascaris
Although we didn’t have time to drink at one of the world’s most famous luxury hotels, we did have time to stuff our faces with more French food. We happened upon Le Petit Lascaris in the pouring rain and immediately dashed inside for refuge and a glass of delicious French wine.
What followed was a fantastic dinner filled with flaky french bread, savory roasted quail and hilarious conversation with the waitstaff and our fellow diners. The atmosphere at Le Petit Lascaris is unparalleled and we all shared a laugh when the waiter brought out the english-translated menu and we ordered the “quail stuffed asshole.” As a bonus, all of our food was incredibly affordable!
We concluded the perfect day in Nice with a frosty Guinness in an Irish pub and by snuggling a newborn yellow lab puppy we passed in a pet shop. Although it would have been nice to have a week to explore Nice, we made the best of our time and saw the most we could in only 24 hours! We enjoyed a good night’s sleep (aided by many glasses of French wine) and got ready to spend the next day exploring Èze and Monte Carlo.
Day Two: Èze and Monaco
We went back and forth between spending an entire day in Monaco vs. stopping in Èze for a couple hours. In the end, we decided to split up the day and were all very glad we did. Even though we only spent a half-day in both Èze and Monte Carlo, both stops are a must-see when planning an itinerary for 2 days on the French Riviera.
Getting to Èze from Nice is not the easiest without a car, but it’s definitely worth the hassle. It’s very easy to get from Nice to Monaco, all you need to do is hop on a quick train. However, stopping in Èze makes the journey a lot more complicated. The two buses from Nice to Èze are the #82 and the #112, both leaving from the Max Barel bus stop. Don’t take the #100 bus because it’ll take you to Èze-sur-mer (on the beach) instead of the hilltop town of Èze. You can buy tickets for €1.50 directly onboard!
A charming hilltop town with a spectacular seaside view, Èze is not to be missed while visiting the French Riviera. The bus will drop you off on the outskirts of town. After that, a short, uphill walk will bring you to a cobblestoned, medieval town with fantastic views of the ocean and the surrounding hills.
Admire the Views From Le Jardin Exotique d’Èze
Since we only had a half-day to spend exploring, we headed straight to the best viewpoint! Le Jardin Exotique d’Èze, pictured below, is the spot for views in Èze. You can clearly see why. Rolling hills, cliffside towns, colorful sunsets and blue ocean as far as the eye can see…it doesn’t get much better than this.
There is a small fee to enter the botanical garden. It costs €6 from April to October but we paid a bit less by visiting in November.
Stop for a Scenic Lunch at Deli’
After a very long bus ride and a lot of incredible sightseeing, we worked up quite the appetite. These cliffside towns can get a bit pricey, so we opted for something simple: sandwiches and beers. Deli’ serves delicious sammies on french baguettes with a beautiful garden patio. And don’t forget the ice-cold 1664 beers!
Monte Carlo, Monaco
After a yummy lunch in Èze, and some souvenir shopping, it was time to head to Monte Carlo. Unfortunately, getting to Monte Carlo from Èze was even trickier than navigating to Èze from Nice. The bus you need to take does not show up on Google Maps (I felt betrayed.). By asking around, we discovered that we needed to take the #112 bus to Monte Carlo from Èze Village. You can buy tickets directly on the bus and the drive is beautiful.
Stroll Through Monte Carlo’s Famous Casinos
Unfortunately, it’s very hard to enjoy Monte Carlo’s world-famous casinos when you have only a half-day. Many of the casinos require black tie attire, which is pretty much impossible to wear while you’re riding a crowded bus or climbing the stairs in Èze. Since we weren’t interested in gambling anyway, we decided walking through the casinos and taking a few photos was enough for us!
And Admire the Bougie Sports Cars
The casinos are beautiful, but don’t forget to check out the parking lot. Here you can find some of the most expensive sports cars in the world. We saw Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugatti’s in every color!
Take in the Views from the Prince’s Palace of Monaco
Built in the late 12th century, the Palace of Monaco has belonged to the Grimaldi family since the end of the 13th century. The Grimaldi’s ruled Monaco from this palace for over 700 years. In the late 18th century, the palace was overtaken by the French and the family was exiled for 20 years. Today, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the current Prince of Monaco, Albert II.
It doesn’t hurt that the walk up to the Palace is filled with incredible views of Monte Carlo!
Catch the Sunset
If there’s two things the French Riviera does really well, it’s FOOD and SUNSETS. The views from the square of the Palace of Monaco are some of the best in the country! We timed our visit perfectly and arrived in time to watch the spectacular sunset over the port. Definitely a sunset to remember and the perfect end our itinerary for 2 days on the French Riviera.
It can be challenging to visit Nice, Èze and Monaco with only two days in the French Riviera. However, it’s definitely possible with careful planning. Ideally, you’d have a week or more to spend on this magical stretch of French coastline, but unfortunately vacations are always too short. I hope you enjoyed my guide to how to spend two days on the French Riviera!
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And don’t forget to follow my adventures on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps 🙂