What to Do in December in and around Nice – 2023

An archway in Nice with a palm tree covered with Christmas lights

The holidays on the French Riviera are kind of magical, between the amazing lights, the old French traditions, and all kinds of activities…

Visit The Christmas Village  – Free – Opening Dec. 7 2023 – Chat with the artisans, shop for handmade gifts in the 45 chalets, sip hot spiced wine, much roasted chestnuts right off the fire… plus demonstrations, music and other festivities. Tram stop Massena

Bird’s Eye View:  Take in the view from the top of the giant Winter Ferris Wheel, right in the middle of the Christmas Village.  Tram stop Massena

Sunday Orchestra Concerts – FREE – Every Sunday at 3:30pm the Nice Orchestra d’Harmonie gives a free concert in the either the Church in the Port (tramway Port) or the Basilica Notre Dame (tramway Jean Medecin).  Click here for this week’s concert program.

Classical Concerts in Nice – There are at least 10 classical concerts every month by different Baroque and Classical ensembles performing in Nice’s fabulous Baroque Churches, and I’ve listed them all so you can easily see all the info in one place.

Take in a Show: The Opera de Monte-Carlo is presenting a new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera from December 16-31, 2023.  Tickets are expensive, but what an experience!

Seating at the Nice OperaThe Nice Opera has all kinds of events going on every week: Here is this month’s schedule

  • Deal Alert:  The Nice Opera ticket office has a last-minute ticket line, where one hour before the performance, unsold tickets drop to half-price …and for students and under-30s tickets are just 5€! 

The Nice Opera’s annual Christmas Choral Concert is at 8pm on Tuesday 19 December 2023, tickets 20€ adults, 10€ for children under 18.   Also, tickets are half-price in the last-minute ticket line one hour before the start.

Candlelight Nutcracker: Homage to Tchaikovsky  Dec 22 2023, Palais de la Mediterranee Hyatt, 7:30pm and 9:30pm, tickets 19-45€

Free Parc Phoenix Weekend for local residents – Free – The first full weekend of each month Parc Phoenix nature park/arboretum is free to local residents (but you need to bring proof: a recent phone or electric bill, or tax notice).  Right after lunch is the busiest time with a line to get in so mornings or late afternoons are best.  Tram stop Parc Phoenix

Ice Skating:  All the local Christmas Villages have miniature ice rinks for the kiddies, but Nice has a full-sized indoor ice skating rink with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the rooftops, and it’s just 7€ including skate rental.  Easy access: the Patinoire Jean Bouin is right across from the Palais des Expositions tram stop.

Speaking of skating, here’s an unusual skating event, and FREE: A Retro roller Disco Party at the cavernous post-industrial art-hub space Le 109, Friday December 15, 2023,  from 6pm-midnight.  Skate rentals, hot spiced wine, food trucks, Disco DJ… 89 route de Turin à Nice, tram stop Vauban then 10 minutes on foot.

Stand up Comedy in English – December 17, 2023 – The new Bobar Comedy Club in Old Nice does monthly stand-up comedy shows in English  ‘Spill the Tea’, at 5:30pm and cover charge is just 8€ or 5€ students.  27 rue Benoit Bunico, tram stop Cathedrale.

Blind Date?  Here’s an out-of-the-box idea, a Blind Dinner December 6, 2023 – Blindfolded before being lead to your table, you’ll experience your meal in a way you will never forget!  Tickets for the 3-course blind dinner are 60€, and you select meat, fish or veg.  Starts at 8:30pm at Ornato Restaurant 54 blvd Jean Jaures, tram stop Massena.

Run Away to Italy: The Sanremo Marathon/Semi-Marathon/10-k and Family 3k Run – December 3, 2023  Spend a day on the Italian Riviera (just an hour from Nice by train) for possibly the most beautiful (and flat) running course in Europe.  There are races for every level.

Bargain Hunting: Monaco’s annual winter Kermesse is a giant charity raffle/flea market/gift bazar held under the big top tent in Monaco’s Fontvieille district.  Saturday, December 2, 2023 from 10am-6pm; grand raffle drawing starts at 5pm.

Flea Market on the Nice Port – FREE – Sunday December 10, 2023 – Vide Grenier means ’empty your attic’ and empty it they do, with all kinds of oddball stuff trading hands at bargain basement prices.   Tram stop Port

Take a Dip… if you dare!  The Bain de Noel Polar Bear Swim – free and open to all – Sunday, December 16, 2023  Show up at Ruhl Plage ready for a bracing dip, with festivities happening until the moment of truth just before noon.  Last year there were 300 brave souls for the chilly open water swim.  After there is lots of celebrating and hot drinks and festive snacks to warm back up with.

Thrills and Chills: Did you know that there is a massive indoor amusement park inside the cavernous Palais des Expositions?  With 20 giant gravity-defying stomach-churning rides, you can spin and fly while staying warm and dry.  The 25€ all-ride pass is a great solution for a rainy winter afternoon…  Tram stop Palais des Expositions.

Lunch on the Beach:  At least two beaches can usually be found open for lunch on sunny weekends even in the winter:   Beau Rivage and Blue Beach.   Obligatory photo op to make all your Facebook friends in frozen climes green with envy.  Here’s an up-to-the-hour webcam view from the Prom.

Jazz/Blues/Rock Concerts in Nice  Besides nightly concerts at local jazz clubs and rock bars, there is also a robust monthly concert schedule with Nice Music Live;  the concerts at Theatre de Verdure, Black Box, and Stockfish, all have easy tramway access.

FestiJazz – a mini-jazz fest in tribute to violinist Stephen Grappelli – 3 concerts November 30 – December 2 2023 at 8:30pm, in the AnimaNice concert hall behind the Cimiez Music Conservatory.  Bus 16, 18 or 36, or better yet, just Uber!

Wander the Old Town by day and don’t miss the pheasants and fowl that festoon the Boucherie St. Francoise in Old Nice, not to mention the wild boar sitting right out front.

Shop ’til you Drop: Here’s the Best of Nice Holiday Gift Guide for some of the best and most original stocking stuffers and more to pick up in Nice.

Christmas lights in NiceAfter dinner stroll: Meander through the Old Town to admire the over-the-top lighting display Place Garibaldi then traverse  the Old Town on rue Droite to the Promenade des Anglais, which is lined with 500 illuminated palm trees.

On the way you’ll pass the spectacular baroque Church du Gesu in the Old Town which is open every night until midnight during this period.  Corner of rue du Jesus (Gesu) and rue Droite.

Away in a Manger: Take a day trip to the charming village of Luceram, where you will discover the 400 nativity scenes (creches) hidden in every nook and cranny in the village. It’s just 1 hour away by bus #615/616 (which leaves from the bus station just behind the Vauban tramstop), and goes all of December until mid-January.  Don’t miss it.

Unassuming entrance to Sainte-Rita Church in Old NiceFor a pretty impressive nativity scene closer to home, check out the almost hidden rose-hued Eglise Sainte Rita in Old Nice, which features a fascinatingly vast creche inside, with hand-made santons representing every profession in the village.  The deceptively discrete church entrance can be found at 1 rue de la Poissonnerie, just off Cours Saleya, and during the holidays is exceptionally open in the evenings.

The kitschiest nativity scene can be found during Christmas week right in the middle of Place Rossetti in Old Nice directly in front of the Cathedrale, featuring life-sized moving automaton farm animals.

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is held at the Cathedral Saint Reparate in Old Nice. It actually starts at 11pm, and you’ll want to come early for a good seat so your view won’t be blocked by the marble pillars…  Tram stop Cathedrale

Ski liftGo to the Snow:  Take the bargain snow-bus for just 14€  round trip and in just 90-minutes, you can be up in the mountains for an easy day-trip with the feel of a mini-vacation. Here is a recent ranking of the best ski resorts and why, but know that Valberg is worth the day trip even if you don’t ski: you can still play in the snow, warm up with raclette for lunch,  soak up the alpine ambiance, hike or snowshoe the Planetary Trail in the afternoon (a multimedia GPS guide is available at the tourist office), and sip hot spiced wine in a warm chalet before napping on the bus ride back.

How to get there on the Ski Buses:  Besides the Valberg ski bus, there are three other Ski Express Buses to three different ski resorts, Isola 2000, La Colmiane and Auron… so really you can shuss in a different ski resort every weekend of the month and your transpo costs are only 7€ each way!

New Years in Nice

Corks a-poppin’ non-stop on the Promenade at midnight. It must be an Italian tradition to come to the Riviera for New Year’s, because the town fills up with dapper Italians dressed-to-the-nines with furs, high heels, impeccable make up and big hair.

The Nice Philharmonic give a fantastic free New Year’s Day concert at 11am at the Nice Opera.  You can get your free tickets at the Opera on the day-of starting at 9:30am….    See January page for more New Year’s ideas….

For a whole week after New Year’s, savor the delicious almond cake Galette des Rois, …just don’t chip a tooth on the feve!

See Related Pages:

  • Nice by Nite – concerts, jazz clubs, salsa and tango venues, pub quiz nights, English-language theater and movie venues…

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Photo credits: Christmas in Nice, Winter in Nice, Opera, and Sainte-Rita by Best of Nice Blog.  Ski Lift courtesy of Nice-Properties apartments in Nice.

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