48hrs in the French Riviera
Updated: May 28, 2022
The French Riviera screams luxury but you don't need to break the bank to enjoy it. This blog will provide you with some budget friendly ways to explore the French Riviera without having to nickel and dime it. I had planned on visiting the French Riviera after spending 3 days in Paris not realizing it would also be Carnival (lucky me). I decided to make Nice my home base for the following reasons: affordability, accessibility to transportation and I have some family roots there. One regret I have is not spending more time in the French Riviera. There are other towns I would have liked to checkout but that just means I have an excuse to come back.
Transportation: Paris to Nice
By the time one would do the song and dance of getting to and through the airport, I opted to take the train down to Nice. Not to mention, I LOVE train travel and if it's an option, I almost always prefer that as my mode of transportation.
Journey Time: 5hrs
Cost: 118 euros round trip. Cost is going to vary depending on date and availability. I had purchased my ticket a few weeks in advance and went with the times that were more affordable. Even if that meant taking the 0500 train on Monday morning. Yes, it was brutal...
Day 1: Monaco
My train from Paris had arrived in Nice around 1300. I went directly to the hotel to drop off my bags and ran out the door to get to Monaco. I wanted to utilize my time in Monaco on Saturday so I could go to the tourism office to get my passport stamped, which I later learned they don't actually stamp your passport. Instead, they provide you with a makeshift Monaco passport and they stamp that. Still cool to have though. I had dressed appropriately so I could go inside the Monte Carlo Casino. I wanted to have the full "James Bond" experience, martini and all. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed on the casino floor so I made sure I savored every last drop and just took in the experience.
Transportation: Nice to Monaco by train
Tickets can be purchased via kiosk at the Nice-Ville train station
Cost: 1-way 4.10 EUR
Travel Time: 30 min
Monte Carlo Casino -
It's free to walk around the lobby of Monte Carlo. If you have a backpack and plan to enter the casino floor, you will need to drop the backpack at bag check until you're ready to leave. There are also a few cafes adjacent from the casino if would like to sit outside and take it all in. You can even have an impromptu photo opt with all the luxury cars.
Cost to enter the casino floor: 17.00 euros, which 10 of that goes towards free play.
Martini: 17.00 euros
The Grand Prix of Monaco -
If you're an F1 (Formula One) fan, you can walk the path of the course. This course is famous for having the most bendiest curve of any of the Grand Prix courses. Monaco hosts the Grand Prix every year and is typically in late May or early June. Tickets are quite expensive, however, there are some local establishments that charge a "reasonable" price to come and watch from their rooftop terrace. There are even some Yachties that will have viewing parties from their yacht, which that also comes with a price tag. If you plan on attending the event, I suggest staying in a town outside of Monaco as hotel costs are through the roof (obviously). Otherwise, if you want the full Monaco experience the more affordable hotel in Monaco would be Fairmont Monte Carlo. Outside of the event, this hotel is actually "do able".
Day 2: Nice
I tend to be an early riser by nature, so I decided to make the most of my day by walking the backside up to Castle Hill before it got too hot. From there, I walked part of Nice's 3 mile promenade, which sits alongside it's picturesque beach. There are several cafes and benches that line the path if you choose to take a break to take in the views or people watch.
Transportation: Inner City Tram & Bus
Cost: Unlimited Day pass 5 euros
Nice is a walkable city, however, if staying near the train station it might be nice to have an all day pass to hop on and off the tram as you please and to give your feet a break. Be sure to stamp your pass each time you enter the tram or bus.
Where I stayed: Le Riviera Collection, BW Signature Collection
Cost: 182.42 USD (total for 2 nights)
This hotel is a 10 min walk from the Nice-ville train station and about a 15 min walk to the first tram stop.
What to eat:
Nice is famous for their socca (chickpea pancake). If you're able to attend the market, this dish can typically be found there. Also, due to the close proximity to the ocean, Nice has some really fantastic seafood.
Where I ate: La Maison de Marie
There are several restaurants within the square to choose from. Due to carnival, some restaurants were at capacity or had already closed for the evening. La Maison de Marie is tucked down an alley way and if you blink, you just might pass it. They have a lovely courtyard, which is where I had my dinner.
Nice's carnival is one of the most famous in the world and it attracts many visitors each year. Unlike Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you have to pay to attend the parade and the cost will vary depending on the event. This year's theme was King of Animals.
When: Mid - end of February
Cost: 23 - 45 euros
Things to do/see:
Cathedral Saint-Nicolas de Nice: Hours of operation - Daily 1000-1800
Nice Cathedral (Basilique-Cathédrale Sainte-Marie et Sainte-Réparate de Nice)
Notre Dame de Nice
Market Days: Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 0600-1830 and Wednesday & Saturday 0600-1330