A weekend in the French Riviera: A 3 day trip to Nice- Monaco-Cannes on a budget.
We had three days to visit three of the top spots on the French Riviera namely,Nice-Monaco-Cannes. Our time and money were limited, but that didn’t stop us from making the most of this unique travel opportunity. Despite the limitations, we turned our disadvantages into an amazing experience.
Linking to Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox
A quick guide about the trip (Nice-Monaco-Cannes):
Although Monaco, is a different country , euro is still the official currency since 2002.
We traveled mostly by bus or train between our destinations. The French rail system brought us to all three destinations for only about €2-4 for each leg of the trip. Buses are also available between Nice -Monaco and from Nice to Cannes.
Our “home base” was Nice for this excursion, as both of the other destinations were easily accessible for day trips. Our primary mode of transportation within each locale was walking, but Nice, Monaco, and Cannes each have public transportation options.
In Nice and Monaco, visitors should be on the lookout for the classic regional street food Socca, which is like a thin chickpea pancake. In Cannes, the culinary options are nearly endless, but those looking for classic French pastries will be particularly delighted by savory and sweet macarons, as well as regional honey and other local artisan delights. And, of course, cheap baguettes are available everywhere in the market.
The best way to go around Nice is by walking. We suggest booking a hotel that’s central so that the main attractions are just a few steps a way. Nice isn’t quite expensive as many expected. Check out the best hotels in Nice in Booking.com.
Day One: Nice
The Cote D’Azur is the backdrop for some of the most beautiful cities in France. Nice is located on the southeast corner of the country and offers not only an abundance of world-class white sand beaches but also good food, tasty wines, and rich culture as well. Nice is known for its unique dishes such as Salad Niçoise – a classic salad base with eggs, anchovies, tuna, and olives – and Socca, which is a popular street food made of chickpeas.
We traveled to Nice around March of 2017. That was a smart choice because it was an off-peak season and we were able to enjoy the city with fewer crowds. After we arrived at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, we Googled our way to our hotel. We rode the 99 bus from the airport and for about 6 euros each we got to the Central train station, Gare de Nice- Ville (Central train station) in about 25-30 minutes. A 5-10-minute walk brought us to our hotel and we began exploring Nice right away.
Close to our hotel was Avenue Jean Médecin, a street full of all types of boutiques, like Zara, Bershka, H&M, Mango, and others. After walking about 10 minutes towards our first stop – the old town – we came upon a gelato shop and stopped for a taste.
Started the day right with coffee and gelato?!
After the mouthwatering gelato, we made our way to the old town and started exploring. First, we visited the CATHÉDRALE SAINTE-RÉPARATE.
Inside the CATHÉDRALE SAINTE-RÉPARATE
The cathedral was built in the 17th century and is the largest sanctuary in Old Nice. It was declared a national monument in 1906 .Thus, has grown with the population of the city from a small chapel to the beautiful cathedral that now stands. The church is constructed in the Baroque style and was rebuilt on the model of Santa Susanna in Rome .
We left the Old Town after exploring its narrow alleys and stunning architecture. As we headed out of the Old Town, we saw a huge gate surrounded by cars. We didn’t know what this place was, but we figured that anything that elaborate and apparently popular had to be worth checking out, so we headed for the gate. It turned out, we were at Castle Hill (Colline du Château) where our adventurous spirit was rewarded with the most spectacular view of the Riviera we had ever seen. The view didn’t stop there, either. Once we made it to the other side of Castle Hill, we were surprised to find an uninterrupted view of the port.
Trying to find our way our around town . . .
The port leading us towards the Castle Hill (Colline du Château)
On the way to the top of the hill, you can find Nice’s very own artificial waterfall.
Castle Hill (Colline du Château)
There are two ways to get to the hill. It’s either you climb lots of stairs or take the lift.
The view of the port from the hill.
Another quick walk brought us from Castle Hill to the Promenade des Anglais. The Promenade is one of the most famous destinations in Nice. It is an approximately 7 km long pedestrian walkway built in the early 1800’s by English workers who came to Nice to avoid the harsh northern winters. There is a cycling and skating path and you can rent bikes or even Segway scooters for your visit.
We stayed on the Promenade until it was time for us to view our first Nice sunset. Although we had great weather to start our trip, it was a little bit chilly at about 12-15 degrees Celsius. Be sure to bring a light jacket so you can enjoy the scenery without getting too cold!
Enjoying the view at the Promenade
The Promenade is home to restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine. Possibly because of the time of year, we would have been able to sit right down at any of the many restaurants. You can see photos below of the delicious steak dinner we chose. Along with the cuisines, prices varied as well from about 12 to 20 euros per dish. Drinks, as always, will add to the cost of dinner, but if you are on a tight budget you can always get tap water at no cost.
Our day in Nice was purely breathtaking. However, I can truly say that traveling to Monaco was the highlight of our trip.
There are several options for traveling from Nice to Monaco. A bus is probably the cheapest for just €1 and the French Rail System train is only €2-4. Taxis are available but will be much more expensive. Within Monaco, the CAM (Monaco bus company) can take you to all of the museums, the casino, and all of the other tourist destinations.
Just arrived Monaco. . .
Monaco is a sovereign city-state that is the second-smallest country in the world at less than one square mile, behind the Vatican. The country is divided into four regions. One of which is fabulous Monte Carlo, the playground of the rich and famous. It is estimated that approximately 30% of the country’s approximately 30,645 citizens are millionaires and those millionaires are well protected by reportedly the highest policeman-to-citizen ratio of any country, as well as security cameras throughout its small borders.
The plethora of yachts at the iconic Monaco Harbour.
We arrived in Monte Carlo and went straight to the Monte Carlo Casino. This is famous for a featured locale in the James Bond movies Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye. Guests, 18 and older can enter for €10 and the game rooms are open year-round.However, don’t expect to see any Monaco citizens there. We didn’t visit the casino area but we were able to study the architectural masterpiece of the building. In addition, there were also plenty of non-gambling attractions, like Salon Europe, Salle Renaissance, and Salle des Amériques. If you are ever lucky enough to visit, remember that proper attire is required. Shorts and sandals are not permitted.
Inside this famous casino:
On the “red carpet” inside Monte Carlo Casino . . .
We were getting tired from walking around Monte Carlo, in that case, we decided to take the bus. For only 1 euro we rode from the train station to the old town section of Monaco, known as The Rocher or Monaco Ville. The name “Rocher” literally means “the Rock”. Since the rocky promontory on which this area sits is overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It is the only area in Monaco that has not been developed and still boasts structures that have survived since the middle ages.
In Monaco Ville, we found a kebab restaurant that serves pizzas as well. We spent around 15 to 20 euros for our meal, including drinks.
Rich in history and beauty, one of the highlights of the old town district is the view of the prince’s palace – Palais Princier – where you can watch the changing of the guard every morning just before noon. Other noteworthy attractions in this area of Monaco include the St. Nicholas Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum.
The other side of the Palais Princier boasts its own sweeping view of the rest of Monaco.
Day 3: Cannes
For about 7 Euros, we took a 45-minute ride on the French rail system from Nice to Cannes for day 3 of our adventure. We walked around for most of our sightseeing, even though Cannes does have a bus system, taxis, bicycles, mopeds, and even a small toy-like train for touring!
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
Our first stop in Cannes was, of course, the Promenade de la Croisette. This area is known for the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. A convention center where the famous Cannes Film Festival is held. Many luxurious shops, restaurants, and hotels line the road.This includes also the elegant Carlton Cannes, the Majestic, the JW Marriott Cannes, and the Martinez. The main thoroughfare through the convention center neighborhood runs right along the Cannes coastline, making it not only popular yet picturesque as well.
The Boulevard in Cannes
If you’re looking for a classic French shopping destination, the Rue Meynadier is a must-see. This pedestrian venue is lined with 18th Century houses that now hold small shops, cafés, and restaurants. We were lucky enough to find a small Chinese restaurant. As a result, it satisfied a craving I had been having. There are all kinds of options for dining. This includes grocery stores, quintessential French wine, cheese shops, and even street food, vendors. Classic French foods are showcased here, including pastries at Multari, and most noteworthy sweet and savory macarons by Jean Luc Pele. The Provence area is also known for local honey of many varieties as well as ratatouille and Menton lemons.
Sadly, our quick visit to Cannes was the final part of our express vacation. After our day here, we returned to Nice and flew back home. It was sad that we had to leave so soon. However, we did what we would have thought was impossible. We turned a mini-break into a memorable adventure.