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…

Annual Lighting Ceremony – Free –  3-5pm December 7 at Place Massena.  The mayor presides over this festive annual event to inaugurate the Christmas Village, but the best part is when suddenly all the holiday illuminations surrounding Place Massena go live all at once.

Christmas Parade – Free – Saturday December 9, 2023, from 5-6:30pm –  200 artists/musicians throw an old fashioned Christmas Parade all along boulevard Jean Medecin, starting at the top and finishing at Place Massena.  It’s not on the Carnaval scale, but come enjoy a sweet traditional Christmas Parade put on by the local merchants, with the participation of lots of local youth groups.

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.

Another important date: December 18 at 10am France time is when the Nice Carnaval tickets go on sale, so order early online for best seats.

Retro Roller-Disco Party – FREE- 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.

Thrills and Chills – December 8 to January 7 – Did you know that there is a massive indoor amusement park inside the cavernous Palais des Expositions?  With 18 giant gravity-defying stomach-churning rides, you can spin and fly while staying warm and dry.  The 31€ all-ride pass (good for the whole month) is a great solution for a rainy winter afternoons…  Tram stop Palais des Expositions.

Sporty Types

The Bain de Noel Polar Bear Swim – free and open to all – Sunday, December 17, 2023  Show up at Ruhl Plage at 10:30am 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.

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.

The ski resorts open mid December: Isola 2000 and Auron on December 9 and Valberg on Dec 16…   In just 90-minutes you can be up in the mountains, and it’s a bargain with the Snow Buses.

Here is a recent ranking of the best ski resorts and why, but know that Valberg (from Dec 16) 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.

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.

Music Lovers

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.

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.

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

  • Insider Tip:  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€! 

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

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.

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!

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!

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.

Bargain Hunters

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 or order online.

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

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

Holiday Magic in Nice

Christmas lights in NiceVisit 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, and get a bird’s eye view from the top of the giant Winter Ferris Wheel … plus demonstrations, music and other festivities. Tram stop Massena

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.

The spectacular baroque Church du Gesu in the Old Town  is open every night until midnight during this period.  Then head to the Promenade des Anglais which is lined with 500 illuminated palm trees.

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

New Years in Nice

Whatever you do for New Years Eve dinner, it’s a tradition to head to the Promenade des Anglais at midnight, Champagne bottle in hand, and pop that cork!

On New Years Day, the Nice Philharmonic gives 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 10am…

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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