Paris vs Nice

Solo Trip to France: 6 Ways to Choose Between Paris or Nice


So you decided you wanted to take the plunge and go to France on a solo trip. It’s another great and popular country in Europe that will help lead you to self-discovery, some spontaneity in your travel itinerary plans, and maybe connect with some locals and fellow travelers. There is no wrong answer.

But how do you decide which city is the best place for you to start your journey?

Paris and Nice are consistently ranked as one of the best cities in France. Yet they are vastly different in key aspects. The experiences you will have in each city will be unique.

Paris Sightseeing and Culture

Paris Arc de Triomphe
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

As a cultural hub, it’s no more apparent than in the iconic landmarks scattered throughout the city. You have the Eiffel Tower with views from the top or seeing it light up in the evenings, Notre-Dame Cathedral with its classic gothic architecture, Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe with their high-end stores and city views, and the Louvre with its masterpieces of art are just some of the main attractions in this city.

Paris is the cosmopolitan center of world-class experiences in fashion, cuisine, and art. In each neighborhood, you can find a hodgepodge mix of art galleries and museums, popular theaters for music concerts, operas, and other performances, fashion houses showing off the latest designs, and modern cuisine to just gorge on. You will need more than one day in Paris so plan for at least 3+ days to do a deep dive here.

Nice Sightseeing and Culture

Nice Panoramic View
Photo Credit: Oleg Vasilyev

Being in Nice, you are getting a more coastal experience. The focus here is a more relaxed atmosphere of enjoying the beaches and cobblestone streets. You can enjoy the older parts of the city while seeing the French and Italian influences in architecture. Replace panoramic views of the city with those of the Mediterranean coastline. A nice and relaxing 3-day itinerary will help you recharge before going off to explore more of the country.

You will want to spend a good part of your time on the Promenade des Anglais just walking or even choosing a bicycle ride along the seafront. Old Town is filled with boutique shops and colorfully bright buildings and streets to explore on your way up to Castle Hill for a view of the entire area. Take a walking tour to learn more about the history and everyday life of those living here.

Paris Food

Paris Breakfast
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Here in Paris, the food is as diverse as it is gourmet. It is filled with more formal Michelin-star restaurants and of course a pastry shop on almost every block. This is a paradise for those who travel just to enjoy the eating experiences. It’s the rich and diverse tastes that will bring you back here again

The Parisian culture of cafes is an integral part of the charm of Paris. The older places take pride in artisanal coffees with their quaint and cozy little hole-in-the-wall cafes, with an ambiance brought from the decor and vintage styles. The more minimalist and modern cafes are bringing in a younger crowd to enjoy. There is a whole etiquette to the way you have to order and enjoy your time in a cafe and just savor every moment of it.

Also, you can’t forget to visit the popular food markets and streets. There are always stalls of fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, and meats in these indoor and outdoor markets dotted across the city if you happen to be staying somewhere with a kitchen. Some of the most popular streets are fascinating to walk through and you can take a self-guided or group food tour to sample multiple delicacies that are both domestic and international.

Nice Food

The food in Nice is more influenced by its location along the Mediterranean. So they tend to focus on local produce and fresh seafood in their dishes. Popular dishes include Socca, Ratatouille, Bouillabaisse, and Pan Bagnat. The local wines come from vineyards in the hills of the Bellet region overlooking Nice.

Eating in Nice is more casual and laid back, with smaller family-operated restaurants and more opportunities for street food compared to Paris. Here you are taking your time to enjoy the traditional flavors.

Paris Unique Activities

Paris Catacombs – Book in advance a guided tour or self-guide the labyrinth of bones and skulls beneath the city. It’s eerie, spooky, macabre, and yet a fascinating story on the history of the people who lived and died here.

Street Art Tour – If you want something different from the typical art museums and galleries, take a tour of the Belleville neighborhood. The art scene in Paris is constantly changing and you can see that in the murals and graffiti that dot the streets.

French Cooking Class – Learning how to cook the local cuisine is a great way to experience Paris. With famous cooking schools offering 3-4 course menus to beginners in a professional kitchen or if you just want to try your hand at a bakery behind the scenes making baguettes and macaroons, bringing some culinary skills back home for a French-themed night seems like the right choice to make.

Nice Unique Activities

Wine tasting – This is the perfect place to help you discover French wine. The Provence region where Nice is located has some lesser-known vineyards that are still just delightful and you can sample the red, white, and sparkling with a classic wine-tasting tour.

Boat cruise – Instead of taking a ferry on the Seine River, you can explore around the coast on a private chartered boat or a group ferry. You can see sandy beaches, small villages on hillsides, luxury villas built on the edge staring down at the water below, and small caves and caverns in the bedrock. Choose to snorkel in the clear ocean waters and see it filled with marine life or enjoy a nice lunch right on the water and the ocean breeze.

Monaco at night – The principality of Monaco is glamorous in the evenings. And it’s only a short distance away. Stop at the famous Monte Carlo casino for some gambling James Bond style and enjoy the views seeing the route of the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Paris Nightlife

Eiffel Tower Night
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Nightlife in Paris is just as renowned and famous. The vibes you will discover at night are chic, artistic, bohemian, historic, and eclectic. For those looking to grab a drink, you have upscale lounges, rooftop bars for panoramic night views of the city, loud jazz clubs, and crowded clubs with the latest music.

Some of the museums will open their doors at night on certain dates so check the calendar. You can take a stroll along the Seine River or the other charming neighborhoods. Stop by and see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. The illumination is fantastic and a worthwhile experience while enjoying dinner or sitting in the surrounding gardens.

The iconic attraction you should be looking to see is a cabaret experience. Enjoy a multiple-course dinner before the show at the world-famous Moulin Rouge. The choreographed dance routines and updated music and themes will keep you engaged for the entire performance.

Nice Nightlife

The nightlife in Nice is equal in comparison. The energy and atmosphere are electric with many bars to start your night in or go on a guided pub crawl. After you can head to one of the nightclubs with multiple floors of different music styles so you can find your jam. You can even find spontaneous dance parties and performers on the streets during the summer months.

Also as an alternative, spend your night at the beachfront venues, where you can listen to the quiet splashes of the waves and some nice beach bonfires to keep you warm besides your drink. Or spend your time indoors at the local Casino Ruhl for some table games instead of the Monte Carlo.

Paris Hotels

Paris has a wide range of accommodations that will fit every budget, whether you want the standard hotel chain or something more unique and attractive to showcase your time in Paris. It would help if you chose a stay that not only matches your budget but is in an area close to your interests or attractions you are planning to see. Hotels in central Paris though tend to be more expensive, so if you don’t mind taking the bus or a car service you can focus on finding an area more on the outer edges of the city which is just as good.

The hotel prices can vary with:

Budget hotels – €80 – €200 per night

Mid and boutique hotels – €200 – €1,000 per night

Luxury hotels – €1,000 – €5,000+ per night

This makes them more expensive in comparison to Nice, but in exchange, you get more stylish rooms and historical decoration and ambiance in the common areas. You have basic amenities for your room but extras include access to rooftop bars and terraces, spa treatments, indoor high-end restaurants, and of course premium service.

Nice Hotels

The hotels in Nice like to focus more on views of the water and open spaces in the common areas. They want to make sure you are basking in relaxation and have easy access to the beaches, which is why those near or along the Promenade des Anglais can be more expensive. The smaller hotels are more intimate but still have modern comforts. You can even Airbnb some of the smaller houses in town that were previously used by sailors and their families when they were in port. These are cozy

Prices in Nice are cheaper though, especially if you want to go for a luxury hotel.

Budget hotels – €80 – €200 per night

Mid and boutique hotels – €120 – €300 per night

Luxury hotels – €250 – €1,500+ per night

Day Trips from Paris

You can find a variety of worthwhile day trips from the city that will let you delve more into the culture and history with some unique experiences.

The Palace of Versailles is a great first choice and will be a highlight of your time here. It’s easy to get to by car, bus, or train in under an hour by yourself, or choose a guided tour here that will provide transportation to and from Paris. The grandeur you will see here explains why it is one of the most popular attractions in all of France.

Smaller cities like Reims, Provins, Giverny, and Rouen will let you gain a better understanding of the history and culture outside of Paris. There seems to be more medieval architecture in their cathedrals, fine art museums, old town squares, marketplaces, gardens, and even some small castles. You can easily reach all of these destinations by train in a little more than an hour. Make it a point to stop at one of these just to get a change in perspective and out of the city for a bit.

Day Trips from Nice

Eze Village
Photo Credit: Oleg Vasilyev

A fantastic stop for a leisurely day is Èze Village. Above the French Riviera on a hill, it’s a medieval village that still has many stone buildings and cobblestone roads through the streets. Its main attraction is the Fragonard Perfume Factory, where you can take a guided tour to learn the history of perfume making and watch the process of some of the best-selling fragrances in the world.

As we mentioned above, you should also stop in Monaco during the day if you already have plans in the evening. You can visit the Prince’s Palace and see the changing of the guard. From there you can stop and view the Monaco Cathedral or relax in the gardens or beaches. Finish by going to the Monte Carlo casino during the day for a few hands before heading back over to Nice. This is just a few ideas as there are plenty of easy day trips from Nice that you can take.

Conclusion

Choose Paris: You want a city with rich historical significance in art and culture, with a food scene giving you endless choices, high-end shopping of the latest fashions, and a bustling city with world-famous landmarks and attractions.

Choose Nice: You want a more relaxed vacation with panoramic landscapes, outdoor activities with lazy beach afternoons, warmer temperatures, and slower-paced traveling.

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