Top 10 things to do in the hinterland of Nice

Visiter Saint-Paul-de-Vence et l'arrière-pays-niçois

Visiting Nice? Take the time to visit the hinterland of Nice, with its medieval villages and breathtaking scenery!

Between sea and mountains, far from the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur, the hinterland of Nice is well worth a day or two.

Explore hilltop villages, walk in the footsteps of Henri Matisse or Marc Chagall, hike the steep trails of the Mercantour National Park to discover crystal-clear lakes or discover the bright colors of the « Nice Colorado ».

Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, contemplative or art lover, you won’t regret your stay in the hinterland of Nice. Here are our top 10 places to visit in the hinterland of Nice.

1. Vence

Visiter arrière-pays niçois : Vence

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Myrabella

If you’re coming to the hinterland of Nice, Vence is a must-see. Along the picturesque cobbled streets, you’ll come across medieval houses, arcades, fountains and little squares. Don’t hesitate to push open the doors of the galleries to meet Vence artists and their creations: painters, sculptors, ceramists…

This village has inspired many painters, including Henri Matisse, who designed the famous Chapelle du Rosaire, also known as the « Matisse Chapel ». The Notre-Dame de la Nativité cathedral features a mosaic by Marc Chagall depicting Moses saved from the waters.

For fans of modern and contemporary art, a visit to the museum within the Château de Villeneuve is a must. Don’t miss the chance to admire one of the oldest ash trees in the world, planted in 1538 by François Ier.

Last but not least, Vence is ideally located. By opting for a vacation rental in Vence, you not only benefit from a central location in the hinterland of Nice, but also from an authentic setting.

2. Grasse

Grasse

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Filip Fuxa

Considered the world’s perfume capital since the 17th century, Grasse is the birthplace of mythical fragrances. To discover this pretty, colorful city, named a « Ville d’Art et d’Histoire » (City of Art and History), stroll through its typical alleyways and take time to admire the pastel facades, the Place aux Aires with its fountain and arcades.

Climb the 30-meter-high square Sarrasin stone tower, Grasse’s former watchtower, for a panoramic view of the old town. Become a perfume expert by visiting one of the historic perfume factories, Fragonard, Molinard or Galimard, and taking part in an olfactory workshop where you can create your own fragrance.

Finally, round off your visit to Grasse with a must-see: the Musée International de la Parfumerie. This museum traces 4,000 years of history.

3. Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Visiter arrière-pays niçois : Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Photo credit: Shutterstock – trabantos

Perched atop a verdant hill, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is an ideal destination if you love art and history. Numerous artists, painters, poets and writers have drawn their inspiration from this picturesque town: Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Matisse, Miro, Chagall, as well as Prévert and Giono.

The village also owes its fame to the actors who have stayed here. Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, for example, met at La Colombe d’Or in 1949, and married in the village a year and a half later.

Let yourself be charmed by its cobbled streets, arcades, fountains and numerous art galleries. Art lovers won’t want to miss the Chapelle Folon or Chapelle des pénitents blancs, as well as the Fondation Maeght, which houses one of Europe’s most important collections of 20th-century art.

Please note: if you plan to visit Saint-Paul-de-Vence at the height of the tourist season, you won’t be alone. The village attracts some two million visitors every year!

4. Tourrettes-sur-Loup

Visiter arrière-pays niçois : Tourrettes-sur-Loup

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Fishman64

This medieval town, built on a rocky spur, deserves its place among the most beautiful places to visit in the hinterland of Nice. Nicknamed the « City of Violets », Tourrettes-sur-Loup has been cultivating this delicate flower for over a century and a half.

The village comes alive every March for the Fête de la Violette. Until the next edition in 2022, let yourself be surprised by the scent of violet ice cream. Then stroll through the flower-lined streets, cornet in hand, to admire the vaulted passageways, old facades and old houses housing workshops and art galleries.

And don’t leave without visiting the 16th-century Saint-Grégoire church and the Château des Villeneuve with its belfry. From the village, a 5.5 km hike from Domaine des Courmettes takes you to a 360° viewpoint between the Mediterranean Sea and the Mercantour mountains.

5. Gourdon

Gourdon

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Christian Mueller

Located 1 hour from Nice, Gourdon is a charming stopover during a stay in the Côte d’Azur town. Clinging to the top of a 760-metre-high cliff, it offers exceptional panoramic views over the verdant Loup valley and the Mediterranean coastline.

After strolling through its narrow streets lined with medieval white stone houses, visit the imposing feudal château surrounded by gardens designed by Le Nôtre, and the 12th-century Romanesque church.

Please note: this village, classified as one of the most beautiful in France, should not be confused with Gourdon in the Lot department, which has been awarded the « Plus Beaux Détours de France » label.

6. Mercantour National Park

Visiter arrière-pays niçois : Mercantour

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Anthony Caretto

The Mercantour National Park is a must for hikers and lovers of wide open spaces. There are 600 km of well-maintained, signposted hiking trails and 11,000 plant and animal species. Along the way, you may be lucky enough to spot ibex, chamois, marmots or mouflons.

Sports enthusiasts will enjoy more extreme sports such as mountain biking, canyoning, water trekking and via ferrata. The Vallée des Merveilles takes you back to prehistoric times, with its 40,000 rock engravings discovered in the 19th century.

Finally, in the village of Saint-Martin-Vésubie, nicknamed the « Switzerland of Nice », the Alpha park tells the story of man and wolf, who returned naturally in 1992. An unforgettable encounter with this mythical predator!

7. Daluis gorges

Visiter arrière-pays niçois : Gorges de Daluis

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Elena Dijour

Looking for a change of scenery and thrills? Discover the Gorges du Daluis! Nicknamed the « Colorado of Nice », this site is a must-see in the hinterland of Nice.

These vertiginous, canyon-like gorges will delight white-water sports enthusiasts. Waters in which they can practice canyoning and rafting.

The winding road between Guillaumes and Daluis also offers breathtaking views, such as the Pont de la Mariée, a bungee jumper’s paradise, or the Clue d’Amen. – On foot, a path from the Pont de Berthéou to the Belvédère du Pont Sublime offers a breathtaking view of the cliffs.

After your hike, stop off at the fortified village of Entrevaux, topped by an imposing citadel.

8. Train des Pignes

Train des pignes

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Pliny

It’s impossible to visit Nice’s hinterland without taking the magnificent Train des Pignes. The railroad line links Dignes les Bains and Nice (3h20 journey time), passing through exceptional landscapes of palm trees, olive groves and mountain scenery.

If you’re in the mood for something even more unusual, hop aboard the steam-powered Train des Pignes, for a trip back in time. It will take you to the town of Entrevaux and Annot, the land of sandstone.

Another tourist train departing from Nice is the Train des Merveilles. It runs along the Nice-Tende railway line through magnificent scenery.

9. Saint-Cézaire cave

Grotte de Saint-Cézaire

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Les Grottes de Saint Cézaire

Have you had your fill of breathtaking landscapes and ancient stones? Dare to embark on an underground journey by visiting the Grotte de Saint-Cézaire, one of the Côte d’Azur’s most fabulous underground treasures.

Just 15 minutes from Grasse, the site offers a guided tour almost 40 meters underground. You’ll also find several acrobatic tree courses, a discovery trail and an orienteering course. An original family outing!

10. Seillans

Seillans

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Photix

Classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Seillans is a small perched village overlooking the plain between the Southern Alps and the Esterel Massif. Its ochre-colored houses, steep streets, rustic pockets and small squares make it a picturesque stopover.

The village attracted the painter-sculptor Max Ernst, who ended his life here and whose works can be admired at the Waldberg House. Today, the site is home to the Max Ernst Museum and the Stan Appenzeller Donation.

But Seillans is also a visit to the hinterland of medieval Nice. The feudal castle, the Porte Sarrasine, the 12th-century chapel and the 11th-century church are excellent examples of this period.

How do I get to the hinterland of Nice?

By plane

To visit Nice’s hinterland, you can opt to fly into Nice-Côte d’Azur airport, France’s 3rd largest.

So you’ll find many airlines serving the destination. To find the best flight deal, use a flight comparator such as Skyscanner. You can also rent a car to explore the region.

You can also use public transport. However, if the price is affordable, comfort and travel time will be a disadvantage.

By train

The region is well served by the rail network. From Nice, Grasse and Cagnes sur Mer stations, as well as St Laurent du Var, there are bus connections to the hilltop villages.

By car

If you want to follow our guide to things to do and places to visit in the hinterland of Nice, the car is the ideal means of transport for criss-crossing the region. TheA8 freeway, known as the Provençale, serves Nice. The journey takes almost 9 hours 30 minutes from Paris via the A6, 7 hours 50 minutes from Bordeaux via theA62 and 8 hours from Strasbourg via theA2. For an eco-responsible trip, don’t hesitate to carpool!

Where to stay in the hinterland of Nice?

If you’re visiting the hinterland of Nice, there’s no shortage of accommodation options. Hotels, self-catering cottages, vacation rentals or unusual accommodation (perched cabins, yurts or « bubbles »…)… You’ll be spoilt for choice!

For lovers of old stones and holiday resorts, it’s best to opt for one of the perched villages. The best option is to opt for an Evancy vacation rental in Vence. The village is not only well located, it’s also a great place to spend a holiday. Tourrettes-sur-Loup or Gourdon, the Côte d’Azur’s eagle’s nest, are also good options.

To visit the Mercantour National Park, you can find accommodation in Ascros, Ilonse or Moulinet.

Now you know what to do in the hinterland of Nice. Enjoy your visit!

Map of hotels and accommodations – Vence, France