Nice Beaches, Côte d’Azur, France

Nice beaches seen from Castle Hill viewpoint, France

A view of Nice beaches along the curve of the 7km Promenade des Anglais, seen from Castle Hill in late August.

What are the best Nice beaches?

Plage Opera, Nice, France

Nice beaches are very similar so it’s tricky to point to the best. The Promenade des Anglais is lined with 25 beaches – public and private – along the 7 pebbly kms (4. 3 miles) of the shore of Baie des Anges, but they vary only in how much they cost to use (mostly nothing) and proximity to other facilities or tourist accommodation, not in view, nor in beach base which is something between large pebbles, small pebbles and grey gravel, apart from a splash of occasional imported sand for volleyball courts.

However, there are two water sports sectors offering Parasailing, tubing, paddle boarding, kayaking and more. One is beside Beau Rivage beach (across from the giant Rusty Chopsticks); the other is beside Blue Beach (across from the Negresco hotel). So if water sports are your interest then choose whichever is nearest to your accommodation.

private versus public Nice beaches, France

A typical public beach/private beach junction. The average cost in 2019 is around 20 euros for a private beach lounger for the day (15e for a half day) plus 5e for parasol,  3-5 euros for a beer, 5e minimum for a glass of wine.

Best Nice beaches – Public

Public beaches get crowded in July and August, naturally, but there’s always space towards the back of the beach and the water is cool and shark-free. Usually jellyfish-free too.
Lack of sand does have its benefits as cameras, phones and body orifices prefer a non-intrusive environment!

Best beach for you, you should choose! You have bought beach shoes and don’t mind pebbles, you like to be near lifeguards, you like to have a clean toilet nearby, your kids  like to watch the parasailing bodies hit the water, you’re affluent and can afford to pay for loungers and parasols et. etc. so choose the NEAREST beach that provides your needs! There’s plenty of choice!

Plage Opera, Nice, France

Opera beach, looking a bit rough but actually the grey powder and small pebbles are easier to walk on and to enter the sea than larger pebbles. Nice Opera House is visible top left.

Our choice of best public beach is Opera Plage because a) it’s near the Old Town which is characterful. b) it’s the nearest beach to public transport: Tram 1 Opera. c) It’s NOT located under/near Castle Hill (such as Plage du Castel) which can get overheated in summer and see more jellyfish action than all other beaches. d) it has both showers and toilets.

Best Nice beaches – Private

Blue Beach, private pier, Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Blue Beach, a mid-range private beach with foot-happy boards and pier.

Our choice of best private beach is Blue Beach because a) it’s equipped with that brilliant old-fashioned water-entry system. b) it’s near   water sports that you can either watch or participate in. c) it’s elegant, spacious and well designed.

Best Nice beach for some…

Opera Plage, one of public Nice beaches, Cote d'Azur, France

These are Plage Ponchette and Plage Castel beaches dominated by Castle Hill at the end of Nice’s Promenade des Anglais/Quai des Etats Unis.

The last, most easterly section of  Baie des Anges – Plage des Ponchettes and Plage du Castel  – has good points, and bad.
Good: they are the most protected beaches in the bay –  thanks to the rock promontory and Castle Hill – so warmer in the off season. Castel is popular with LGBT folk and topless sunbathers.
Bad: they’re hotter than other beaches  in mid summer due to that same protection.  They also enjoy Nice’s worst jellyfish situation (which is actually not bad), due to currents forced into circulation by the rock promontory, thus  trapping the mauve stingers into going round and round. Until they meet you.

Looking for spacious, interesting, convenient winter accommodation?

Want a sandy beach near Nice? Head for Villefranche, Antibes or Cannes!

Villefranche beach, Côte d'Azur, France

Plage des Marinières, Villefranche, central section looking east in peak season. To get there hop on one of many trains from Nice Ville station heading east; it’s two stops and 10 minutes to Villefrance-sur-Mer.

Any train going to Monaco, Menton, Beaulieu-sur-Mer or even Ventimiglia++ will stop at Villefranche-sur-Mer. Take the train from Nice Ville station (aka Gare Thiers), close to Gare Thiers Tram 1 stop. It will cost less than 2 euros one way and take about 10 minutes depending on how many people are trying to get on board! There are so many trains we don’t bother with looking for a specific train, just wander down when we’re ready.

Buying return tickets online beforehand is worthwhile – loaded onto your phone – as machines at Nice Ville get stuffed with tourists. If that’s not possible head down the corridor on the right (east) side where there are some less visible, newer machines without hapless tourists fiddling around.

When you get off at Villefranche go down the steps, under the rail line, then down another flight of steps. At the bottom you’ll find beach paraphernalia shops, bars and restaurants in the old town to the right. To the left are the beaches and parking spots. The beach section we like (in the photo) is beyond the jumble of large rocks, where the sand is finer and there is anti-jellyfish netting installed.

In high season both the trains and beach will be packed. Don’t worry about squeezing into a sandy space so long as there is room for someone to walk by on either side of your towels/mats, Niçoises are quite used to packed conditions!

Antibes beaches

Villefranche beach, Côte d'Azur, France

Plage de la Gravette public beach, Antibes.

Alternatively  head for Antibes’ beaches, by train from Nice Ville station but heading west, not east. It’s further than Villefranche and will take about 20 minutes to get there and then a 20 minute walk to reach the first of three main beaches – La Gravette.

Antibes is an attractive place so well worth a wander. La Gravette is reached by heading around the port then turning through a gateway in the massive defensive walls, a very scenic way to approach a decent – if small – sandy beach. It has masses of character and is embraced by two curved rock arms that keep the beach water quiet and safe for young kids.

The other three beaches, starting with small, private and pricey Royal Beach, stretch out towards the Cap d’Antibes on the far south side of Antibes town. The two remaining beaches are public, large, sandy and washed by generally calm waters. See Antibes Beaches.

Parking: the trip from Nice to Antibes is pleasant by car and the city has a couple of sizeable parking spots, one beside the station, another large newish one underground beside the port/town walls.

Cannes beaches

Villefranche beach, Côte d'Azur, France

Macé free and pay beaches, near the Festival Hall.

Alternatively  head for Cannes’ beaches, again by car or train from Nice Ville station. The ride will take something between 30-40 minutes.

The disadvantage  with Cannes is that the best stretches of sand  are dominated by private beaches, restaurants or parasol rentals leaving a couple of sizeable chunks at each end of La Croisette. Macé beach near the Festival hall is excellent but inevitably crowded in mid summer. Jellyfish netting is usually installed. At the other end of La Croisette there are several beaches including one for disabled people.

In addition at the far west end of Cannes there is a narrow strip of beaches that are also scattered with restaurants occupying the sand but some space available. Those restaurants, by the way, are the best value beach places in Cannes, especially for lunch.

Parking: Cannes’ La Croisette is very difficult to park on unless you’re driving a Lamborghini or better, though there are underground car parks near the port/casino, road parking near west side beaches and surface car parks at the east end of La Croisette.

Parking near Nice beaches

Don’t bother hunting for street parking, underground parks are conveniently located and not ridiculously priced. We like Palais Massena near Hotel Negresco, tho’ it’s quite small; under Palais de la Méditerrannée is lots of space but is quite claustrophobic; whatever the one near McDonalds is called is convenient; there’s also  large but cramped parking under Cours Saleya.