Nice has miles and miles of beaches for every taste and budget, whether you want to chill at a public beach or splurge for a day at a private beach, along the Promenade des Anglais you’re spoiled for choice. Here’s the top picks for best beaches in Nice for every style and budget.
Nice has the particularity of beaches covered in smooth stones instead of sand, which is due to being situated at the mouth of several rivers, whose river stones have being washing into the sea for eons. The stones tend to be larger on the Old Nice end, and smaller – read: more comfortable and easier to walk on – towards the beaches in the middle to airport end.
Insider tip: Get yourself a pair of cheap plastic beach shoes straight away. They may look dorky, but I promise that coming out of the water flapping your arms and jerk-strutting like a wild crane is an even worse look!
Because sunbathing on stones can be a challenge, private beaches are especially appealing in Nice: the comfy padded sun lounges lie high above the stones, not to mention the parasols, padded walkways, security, wifi, restaurant and bar service, toilets and changing rooms. And even with 15 private beaches along the miles of beautiful bay, in July and August they all book up fast, so be sure to reserve in advance during high season… if you just show up at 11:30am you will be out of luck and end up on the rocks.
But comfort has a price… and a day at a private beach can really set you back, so here are a few tips to keep the tab reasonable.
- Double check that the parasol is included in the price, as it should be. The parasol is already there between every two lounge chairs, so it is a greedy little add-on that many beaches tack on an extra fiver just for opening it up.
- Save 5€ right of the get go by bringing your own towel (I bring 2: one to lie on and one to dry off with, and sometimes even a third for a pillow).
- Stash a frozen bottle of water in your beach bag. You are technically not allowed to bring in outside food or bevvies, but over the course of the day you will run up quite a tab anyway, so give yourself this one little break.
- Don’t forget that you can cut the price even further if you go after lunch for the half-day deal… and with the sun still out at 8pm, you’ll still have a nice long time to bake.
In general, count on a minimum of 20€ per sunbed (can be 15€ if you just do a half-day), 15-20€ for 1 course at lunch, 7€ for a glass or rose or a coke, 5€ for a small draft beer, and 3€ for a coffee… so basically you’re talking about 50€ minimum, …and be forewarned, you can absolutely kill your beach budget if you start ordering the 12€ cocktails…!
…Okay, that’s a lot, but you’d be having lunch, and probably drinks somewhere in town anyway… and it’s not everyday that you can pamper yourself for a day at a private French Riviera beach!
So without further ado, here are my recommendations for the best beaches in Nice, both private and public, going from east (old town) to west (airport), so that wherever you are, you have the scoop on the surrounding beaches.
I’ll say right now that Hotel Amour Beach is my favorite hands down, but since I’m rating them from east to west, you will have to scroll down to almost the bottom to find out why…
Hippest, Coolest, most Gay-friendly, and…
Best place for a Memorable Sunset Dinner
Castel Plage. It has the most picturesque location, at the foot of the Chateau cliffs, across from the old town, and at the top of the Promenade des Anglais with a stunning panorama of the whole bay. The décor is belle epoch/art deco, the food is creative and delicious, if pricy, and this beach has the most artsy and eclectic clientele. …And they are about to get even more chic, with the addition of an oyster bar carved right into the cliff face! Lounge chairs 20€+5€ parasol (grrr), 17€ for a half-day. The closest hotels are the luxurious La Perouse and the more affordable Hotel Suisse, both built into the cliff face.
Best Public Beach for the Young and the Restless
Opera Plage public beach. Just across from Vieux Nice and with a sandy beach volleyball court, this is the place for the hot hipsters, and the buzz goes on late into the night with groups of friends playing music, picnicking, and just generally hanging out until the wee hours. Lots of fast food is available just steps away in the old town, so a great place to sunset picnic with a pizza and a bottle of cold rosé. Closest hotel is the Mercure Marche aux Fleurs but if you are on a budget try the one-star Hotel au Picardy on the other side of the Old Town.
Most Reasonably-Priced Beach near the Old Town, and…
Best Beach for Drinks
Opera Plage. Located right across from the Nice Opera House, Opera Plage was first private beach in Nice back in the Golden Age, and after 120 years has a super loyal local clientele. Not as ritzy as some of the others, Opera Plage has a down-to-earth vibe, fun staff, good music, and the best prices on this end of the Prom. A lounge chair for the day (including parasol) is 22€, half-day 18€, Niçoise Salad 17.50€, draft beer, house wine, or Coca-cola only 4.50€, and the have the most reasonable coffee of any beach at 2.50€. Being right across from the Old Town, you have a good choice of hotels in close proximity, see my page on Best Hotels in Old Nice. This is my favorite beach on this end, but my absolute favorite, for both price, character and style is Plage Hotel Amour, farther down…
Most Saint-Tropez-like Vibe, Best Gourmet Lunch Deal, and…
Most Space Between Lounge Chairs
Beau Rivage Plage. This is the largest private beach in Nice, taking up the equivalent of an entire block, and with two entrances. It is very upscale in every way; for instance the lounge chairs are sturdy wood and not flimsy plastic, and they space out their lounge chairs so you are not in the lap of the person next to you. One entrance features a pulsing techno DJ bar, tapas platters, has a Taittinger Champagne theme going, and hosts lots of evening events… On the other end is the gourmet restaurant, fortified by the culinary staff of the Beau Rivage Hotel. For an excellent romantic high-end lunch in an amazing setting, try their weekday 3-course lunch special for 36€ (or 2 courses for 29.50… one of you orders the starter and the other the dessert, then share…) The loungers are 25€ plus 5€ to open your parasol (grrr again), and 17€ for a half-day. They also have deluxe double sunbeds for two for 65-75€. Closest hotel is the Hotel Beau Rivage, and if you stay here you can be extra cool and sign it all to your room!
Best Public Beach for Handicap Access and Non-Smoking Beach
Centenaire Plage. One of two Nice Handiplages, Centenaire has ramps, water wheelchairs, life-guards, and lots of specialized equipment, making this beach is a godsend for those that need a little extra support. There is another Handiplage on the other end of the Prom, Carros, which is more specialized for visual impairments (talking buoys for swimming!). Also these plages are non-smoking, which is kind of nice. Located at the end of the Promenade du Paillon, right next to La Galet private beach with an excellent Italian restaurant and bar, the closest hotel would be Le Meridian, right across the street, with it’s famous rooftop bar.
Best Italian Beach Day without leaving Nice
Le Galet Plage. One of a crop of new owners of old beaches, this one is named after the famous smooth stones… les galets. It is part of the Gusto family of renown local Italian eateries: La Voglia and La Favola in Old Nice, and Boccaccio on rue Massena, so their track record is good. Top Italian cuisine, Milan-chic ambiance. 21€ for a lounge chair plus 6€ for that pesky parasol. Closest hotel, Le Meridian, but if this is your chosen beach, I’d steer you one block farther, to the far more chic Palais de la Mediterranee.
Best Beach for Getting In and Out of the Water
Ruhl Plage. It might be one of the most expensive private beaches, but this beach has a secret weapon: it has a dock on wheels that they roll into the surf each morning, and you can just calmly walk out to the tip of the dock and jump in, and get back by climbing back up, and never have to interact with the beach rocks at all! Lounge chair 23€ plus 6€ for that pesky parasol. The menu is uninspired, and it is the most expensive for drinks. Closest hotel, Palais de la Mediterranee.
Best Beach for Water Sports
Sporting Plage. Just across from the trippy Hotel Le Negresco, on the public beach Sporting Plage, you’ll find La Base Sport Riviera Nautique Sport Center. They offer the full panoply of water sports, with parasailing (solo, duo or triple, 60/80/100€), raft boarding, waterski, wake board, flyboard, and paddle kayak. Not cheap but definitely a thrill!
Trying to be the Trendiest Nice Beaches
This one is a 5-way tie. They are all in a row (with one exception) and even after visiting each one, there is nothing that really stood out to me and distinguished them, except that La Baieta (formerly Lido) has some plants (20€+5€), Le Temps d’un Ete (formerly Sporting) charged the most for lounge chairs + parasol in all of Nice at 33€, Blue Beach (20€+7€) had good spacing between lounge chairs and decent drink prices, and Bella Nissa and La Vela didn’t tack on and extra 5€ for parasols (23€ and 25€ for lounge chairs, respectively). Otherwise, all had rows and rows of lounges chairs, big restaurants, spacious bars, trendy decor, a bit of low-key attitude, and lots of techno-lounge music.
BEST BEACH in Nice for Style, Decor, Fun Staff and…
Hotel Amour a la Plage (formerly Hi Beach) is the WINNER!
Not only is this beach the best deal in Nice, it is also the most beautiful, quirky, romantic, stylish, and fun. Instead of being full of themselves, this beach is full of flowers… hundreds of flowers. They perfume the air and the ambience, which is romantic, fun, and quirky. This is a beach with lots of character and a real sense-of-place, with the quirky shabby-chic flea-market-find décor adding humor and color. This beach sits on the part of the bay with the smallest pebbles and gentlest slope, so the living is easy. Beach lounges are 20€ with parasol, the drinks are reasonable, the menu is basic but good with a daily special plat du jour for 14€. Located 5 minutes walk from the bottom of Boulevard Gambetta, you can easily get here with the Coeur de Nice free electric city shuttle that does the loop through downtown and drops off at Gambetta/Prom every 15 minutes. Obviously, you’d want to stay at the equally stylish Hotel Amour with its rooftop pool terrace, to get the full experience.
Best Beach in Nice for Kids
Li Rateta Kid’s Club This Kid’s Beach Club is a city-sponsored, super-affordable, well-supervised ‘club-Med’ for kids 6-12, with a focus on teaching watersport skills like swimming, surfing, and canoeing, and so much more. Drop the kids off between 9-10am for a morning (13€) or all day (21€), or between 1:30-2:30pm for an afternoon (16€), and let the kids have a blast while you go somewhere else to chill. There is a pool, the gentlest beach in Nice, lifeguards on either side, board games, sun beds, a wave machine for surfing, bouncy palaces, big trampolines, sand badminton courts, beach tennis… July and August only; credit cards only, tram stop Magnan.
Best Public Beach for Families
On both sides of Li Rateta, you will find really gentle beaches that are great for kids of all ages. Here it is the easiest to get in and out of the water due to a gradual slope and the tiniest pebbles, and there are life guards on both sides. Away from the hustle and bustle of the beaches closer to the center of town, this is a great beach to spread out for a picnic as there is lots of space and it’s not crowded.
Best Private Beach for Families
Cocoon Beach Nice. This is the spot for an affordable and uncrowded private beach with a decent restaurant and the best priced kids meals of any of the beaches. Beach lounge chairs with parasol are 20€ in peak season, 15€ otherwise, and they have large sun beds as well that you could fit the whole family on for 35/40€ and really get into that cocooning vibe. Besides the beach they also have a pool, and the menu looks quite delish, with a kids menu at just 9€. Tram stop Fabron or Lenval.
Best Beach for Posers
Canailles Lounge Beach. One of the last private beaches is Canailles Lounge Beach, which is going all out for a super-chic Saint-Tropez vibe: they’ve totally nailed the techno-trance music, snooty attitude, and pricy sun beds. Their lounge chairs are expensive and priced row-by-row, and go from 22€ (plus 5€ parasol) for the back rows, up to 100€ and even 150€ for a VIP sun bed, so once you are installed, your place in the lounge-chair pecking order is abundantly clear to all. The problem is that the Saint-Tropez vibe doesn’t really translate to the working class end of Nice; and bronzing and cocktailing in front of an enormous children’s hospital with sick kids looking down on you, is actually kind of a buzz kill. Tram stop Lenval
Best Private Beaches for Personal Space
Regence Plage. This is the last beach in Nice, and it is across from and belongs to the Radisson Blu Hotel. It’s a little on the pricy side, but normal for hotel prices. Their lounge chairs are well spaced out and start at 28€ (with parasol) and they also have VIP sun beds for 75€. The menu is standard hotel faire but backed by the culinary crew of the hotel, so a solid bet, and you can sign to your room. Tram stop Fabron. Other beaches with luxurious spacing between lounge chairs are Blue Beach and Beau Rivage, above.
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Photo credits: Best of Nice