The South of France. The French Riviera. The Côte d’Azur. Call it what you will, this is a beautiful part of the world. Hugging the Mediterranean coastline on the Southern edge of France, you’ll find beautiful towns, sparkling seas and chi-chi glamour. This region of France has some of the best weather in the world. Nice gets 300 days of sunshine per year.
I wouldn’t call the South of France overly kid-friendly mind you. There are some attitude issues that come with the territory here. Kids are not always a welcome presence in restaurants, on trains or generally out and about. Then there’s the dog poo. The sidewalks in Nice are literally littered with excrement. You have to be very careful where you walk (or push a stroller) or you’ll be scrapping poop off your shoes.
That said, Nice is a very nice place to spend a few days. It’s walkable, if you can manage dodging dog bombs as you go. There is an abundance of affordable holiday accommodation. (We rented a two bedroom apartment for $125/night on Airbnb. Want to try out Airbnb? Click here to get a $25 off coupon.) The weather is sublime. And you couldn’t pick a better base for exploring the French Riviera. Nice has excellent rail connections to the other towns along the Côte d’Azur, Paris and even internationally on to Italy.
Here’s what we recommend doing in Nice & the French Riviera with kids:
1. Stroll the Promenade Anglais
The English loved Nice so much they named the French named main beachfront Promenade after them. The Promenade Anglais is a lovely wide pedestrian & biked pavement that stretches along the waterfront, running the length of Nice. Elevated from the beach below you can easily and safely stroll along with kids and admire the people, the water and the Belle Époque architecture.
2. Check Out the Beach
Nice’s beaches are naturally pebbly so you won’t be making any sandcastles. The stones are a little difficult to walk on so bring Crocs or sport sandals. There are lots beachfront eateries to enjoy. Outside of the summer months, the water temperature might be a little fresh for most but it’s fine for kids to splash around. Be warned, you’ll see lots of topless bathers sunning themselves on the beaches across the French Riviera. If that’s a problem for you, then skip the beaches. (But really don’t. Boobs are no big deal in Europe.)
3. Play at the Promenade du Paillon
There is an amazing playground in Nice. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. The Promenade du Paillon is actually a river that was paved over and turned into a lovely park. It runs perpendicular to the Promenade Anglais, for about four or five city blocks and is very easy to find. The playground is wonderful. Lots of different zones, all made from wood and with an aquatic theme. There’s a pirate ship, a giant whale, lots of swings and climbing structures. Towards the beach there’s also a great mist fountain for splashing in and a carousel.
4. Eat Ice Cream at Fennochio
Fennochio offers dozens upon dozens of delicious flavours. There must have been at least 70 or 80 on the day we visited. We sampled a few, for research purposes of course, and they were all amazing. The lavender and Riz au Lait (or rice pudding) flavours were exceptionally good. It’s conveniently located right next to the Promenade du Paillon. Look for the ice cream cone shaped seats.
5. Ride the Carousels
You’re in France! The home of the carousel. It would be rude not to ride one, right? One of the things I loved about France was that there are carousels everywhere. The always seem to pop up in the best possible places. Just when you’re kids are tired from a long walk or bored of waiting in line for a tourist attraction. We found carousels near the beachfront in both Cannes and Nice. Ride are a couple of Euros.
6. Spend a Day in Monaco
The Principality of Monaco is only a short train ride from Nice and is definitely worth a visit. We visited during the ePrix which was a great experience. It gave us a glimpse of what the Grand Prix was like without the crowds and expense. It’s a little bit harder to get around in Monaco because it’s so hilly so bring an Ergo baby carrier instead of a stroller.
7. Check Out Cannes
Cannes is another one of the French Riviera’s gems. It’s a beautiful town with a much nicer beach than the one in Nice. Spend some time at the beach, eat lunch and play in the area along the beachfront promenade. There are some amusement rides for little kids as well as another carousel. Cannes is easily reached by train from Nice and everything is a short stroll from the train station.
8. Rent an Apartment & Self Cater
One of the downsides to the South of France is the expense. On the upside, the weak Euro means that renting an apartment is quite good value but dining out wasn’t cheap. Restaurants certainly didn’t feel as child-friendly as in neighbouring Spain or Italy and, frankly, it wasn’t worth the cost. We found it much easier to self cater here. We picked a great apartment on Airbnb with a lovely terrace, perfect for eating out. The cost of groceries in France isn’t expensive and we enjoyed many meals out on our balcony. It’s a much more relaxed way to travel when you have small kids. Want to try out Airbnb? Click here to get a $25 off coupon.
Read our other posts on Europe with kids:
40 Tips for Travelling in Europe with Your Kids
10 Tech Tips for Travelling in Europe
10 Tough Things About Travelling in Europe with Kids (And How to Make It Easier)
Wow what a cool playground! We love finding new places to play! Will bookmark this one for sure!
Completely agree with you on the needing to navigate carefully with kids. We had some not so nice encounters and plenty of stares with our 4 kids. And, I thought they were on their very best behavior- honestly! Also, the dog doodie- YUCK! But, looks like you found some excellent places. Thanks for sharing!! And, great pics too!
Wow! You found some really fun places! I’m adding these to the list. I have been to Nice but that was a long time before kids and my favorite spot was the market. What a pretty place!
Natalie, The Educational Tourist
Lovely photos! I think I’d likely save a trip to Nice when my children are a bit older.
I love your honesty about the doggy-do. So true! That playground looks amazing, have to ask if that grass was fake. I especially love how you showed what 25 Euros gets you for groceries.
It sounds like the dogs get away with more than the kids!!
It looks like a nice place especially the Airbnb apartment! We are currently in Paris and also finding the restaurants not at all worth the money. Picnics work well though (when we find somewhere where we are allowed to sit on the grass lol)
Great post Bethaney! I’ve been to Nice and loved it – but it’s really interesting to read how it is to travel there with kids. Looks like you sought out some cracking things to do. That ice cream looks delicious also (love the fizzy haribo ears!) Great post.
This is a great list for travel with or without kids!! We’ll be looking to cross these off our list when we get there (including climbing that turtle statue)! I happen to love carousels as well so that’s pretty perfect – if they let me on! 🙂
That rocky beach reminds me a lot of Positano — but they are definitely kid friendly there if you can handle the hills and steps with kids or strollers.
We spent a week in Nice this summer and love it. Definitely a nice place to go with kids, the beaches are stunning and we spotted many family on holiday there.
On one of the days there, we saw a charity race going on the Promenade Anglais, many kids running and having fun for a good cause.
All the best,
Fun photos! The playgrounds and carousels look so fun. Thanks too for the warnings about topless beaches, attitudes towards families and dog droppings. They wouldn’t necessarily keep me from visiting with kids, but its easier to have a good trip when you are prepared for the downsides.
Looks like you managed to find tons to do despite the attitude toward kids. Having visited Nice for a short time, I wouldn’t have guessed that there was so many kid-friendly activities to do. That playground is amazing!
Oh my God….That playground looks amazing, that could bring the kid out in anyone…so could the ice cream and the beach fun. Noted, I do really love that you took a picture of your groceries to show us what 25 Euros will buy at a common grocery store!
The ‘cheap’ Euro is all a matter o perspective!
Our Australian dollar has lost over 20c in value since we left home 13 months ago, so it all still looks pricey almost everywhere to us! 😉
Funny that you used Airbnb, a reader was asking about accommodation for a new born and we discussed Airbnb. It’s just great to have your own space and kitchen eh? Ice creams and a beach, looks as if your family were spoilt for choice!
That photo of your son on the race-car carousel is priceless! Love that you are out there having such great adventures with your kids–very inspiring. We don’t have kids yet and it seems daunting as digital nomads but blogs like this remind us it’s possible!
Planning our upcoming family trip to Nice this summer. Thanks for the tips. I didn’t even know that the carousel originated in France. Putting that on our list of things to do while there!
Enjoy! Nice is a lovely spot. Don’t miss the ice cream. 🙂