Driving Adventures And Car Rental Tips In Nice, France
A road trip through the South of France is at the top of many traveler’s bucket lists. Nice, the second-largest French city along the Mediterranean coast, offers stunning views of the ocean, as well as vibrant historic architecture downtown. Nice lies along the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera), beside the Baie des Anges (Bay of the Angels). Its warm weather and cool ocean breezes contribute to its relaxed atmosphere, attracting travelers and tourists from all over the world.
Sightseeing in Nice
The following is a list of some of the most popular sights in Nice, many of which can be seen by car:
- Castle of Nice (Hilltop ruins with amazing views of the ocean and city)
- Promenade des Anglais (public walkway along the bay)
- Old Town (historic buildings with winding streets)
- Musée Matisse (features work by Henri Matisse)
- Marc Chagall National Museum (religious works)
- MAMAC (Modern and Contemporary Art Museum)
Road Trips and Scenic Views
Aside from its vibrant downtown scenery, Nice offers stunning pictorial views of the French countryside just outside its borders. Despite the winding roads, almost any inland road trip is well worth the effort. One exciting drive is the Route Napoléon, which goes from the French Riviera to the southern tip of the Alps. The drive takes you on an adventure through the mountains of Provence and is marked by historic statues such as the French Imperial Eagle. A drive from Nice to Grenoble takes just over five hours.
Other popular drives include the Corniches: Haute (top), Moyenne (middle), and Basse (base). All three roads are carved into the mountainside from Nice to Menton and offer breathtaking views of the Alps as well as the ocean below. The top road (D2564) is the most rustic and difficult to drive and is sometimes cloaked in mist. The middle road (N7) is more developed and has heavier traffic. The base (N98) is a coastal road offering views of gardens, seaside resorts, and 19th-century villas.
Looking for a more relaxed excursion? Hop on the A8 southwest from Nice to the nearby cities of Cannes and Antibes, known for their beautiful sandy beaches. Or take a 45-minute ride from Nice to Grasse and check out the exquisite lavender fields of the perfume region.
Renting a Car in Nice
Whether you’re into luxury cars, convertibles, SUVs, or long-term rentals, here are some of the companies that provide rental cars in Nice:
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Most of these can be found at the airport (Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur), as well as the Nice train station. European rental cars are normally stick shift, so you will need to request an automatic transmission if preferred.
Another option is the premium car rental company rentluxecar.com which provides luxury vehicle rental and is well-known throughout Europe.
Driving and Parking Tips
When it comes to driving in France, smaller cars are often better as they fit more easily into parking spots and make it easier to drive down narrow roads. There are very few gas stations in Nice; Most lie outside the city or on the way to the airport. Downtown Nice is full of one-way streets and the stoplights can be hard to see as they are low on the sidewalk.
Some helpful French words to know while driving are sortie (“exit”), aire (“rest stop”) and péage (“toll booth”). Speed limits are 50 km/h on city streets and 90 km/h on country roads. The speed limit is 110-130 km/h on expressways. Right turns on red lights are forbidden, as well as passing other vehicles from the right.
As for parking, it can be a bit difficult to find in Nice. Free street parking is only available outside of downtown. However, there are some parking lots in Old Town and the downtown area that offer discounted rates for rental car parking. Otherwise, downtown Nice has coin-operated metered parking that normally has a maximum of two hours. Downtown parking is free after 8 pm and on Sundays. There are also parking spots along the Promenade des Anglais.