This region in the Alpes Maritime is a must for any cycling enthusiast. The Côte d'Azur – also known as the French Riviera – is surrounded by many challenging climbs which have featured in the Tour de France as well as Paris – Nice. Due to its location the area also benefits from very favourable weather year round. Hence, it has also become a popular base for pro cyclists who choose to escape the harsh winters in other areas around Europe. The region is amass with cyclists looking to take on the various alpine passes which the area has in abundance. We have put together this guide to Cycling in Nice to help you plan out your holiday.
The riding available to you from the city of Nice is sensational to say the least. Whether you are after a long climb to test the legs on, or a flatter spin along the picturesque coastline, there is something on offer for everyone. If it is mountains you are after you simply need to head inland away from the coast. Climbs such as the Col de Turini, Col du Vence and the Col d'Eze are popular amongst road cyclists in the area. If you are after some longer rides than the Col de Turini is a must and then of course there is the Col de la Madone. This is the climb the popular Trek Madone bike is named after, a climb which was also made famous as a testing ground for Lance Armstrong many years ago.
All the climbs listed above are easily accessible from Nice. Of course the actual riding itself will be anything but easy! If you plan on cycling in this region then you will be well served with compact gearing as you head out to ride up the numerous hors categorie climbs.
We have mapped out a series of routes and linked to them below. All the routes listed have been mapped out of either Nice or Menton. Each route includes the ability to download files to a range of devices and includes other helpful information. Some of the routes are a loop so can be ridden in either direction. One thing is certain – each route ends with a long downhill return – a great reward for reaching those alpine summits. Click below to see the riding options in greater detail.
Nice is the largest city and the natural gateway to the region. It is well connected by air as well as regular rail services with onwards connections to to the area. Rome2rio.com is an excellent site to help plan your trip to the Côte d'Azur. Simply enter your start and end points and it will tell you the different options available, cost range and timetable.
Air – Nice is serviced by its own international airport which is conveniently located just a short trip from the city centre. Depending on the airline you fly, you may have to fly to Paris and then make your way down by car, train or air.
Rail – Nice is easily accessible by rail. Nice-Ville station is the central station where all services are connected. The TGV network has regular connections to Nice from both Paris,Marseille and Lyon. The French TER service also operates numerous services connecting to other smaller towns all along the Côte d'Azur and Provence. There are also rail connections to other European cities including Milan and Genoa in neighbouring Italy. Our page about the French rail network has more information the French train network and booking tickets.
Road – The main Autoroute to the area is the A8 which connects Aix en Provence with the Côte d'Azur servicing the main towns and cities along the coast from Cannes, Nice, Monaco and Menton all the way to Italy. Be aware this road is heavily congested in the popular summer months of July and August as everybody looks to spend their holidays by the coast.
We recommend reviewing the route planning tool on the ViaMichelin website which will also indicate any tolls along the route as well as fuel stations.
Bus -There are regular bus services operating from Nice to the many other main towns and sites along the Côte d'Azur. These connect up with towns such as Menton, Monaco and Cannes. The bus is also the best option to visit other popular tourist spots such as Saint Paul de Vence. Bus No 12 will take you from Nice Airport to the Old Town centre.
Cycling friendly accommodation in the French Riviera
The Côte d'Azur is a very popular cycling destination and as such you will find most accommodation providers are welcoming to cyclists. Below we have listed establishments which specifically have facilities catering for cyclists. In the main this includes secure bike storage facilities as well as tailored meal options.
There are plenty of other options available to you if this style of accommodation is not what you are after. To help you plan we have provided links to a number of booking sites so you can see what is available. Have a look at our page on French accommodation types if you are not sure what is available.
There are no shortage of places to eat and drink in the area and we generally turn to tripadvisor.com to look at options for restaurants and cafés or just take a punt on a place that looks nice and busy and is open and serving food. We have yet to be disappointed.
There are a number of Farmers markets in the region that are worth checking out if you have the time. Here you will find lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as local cheeses, small goods, seafood and meats. Be aware the majority of the markets listed below are open only in the mornings and many are closed on Mondays.
Times for the markets are:
Nice– Daily from 06:00 – 12:00. Closed on Mondays.
Cannes – Daily morning markets. Closed on Mondays.
Cagnes Sur Mur – Daily morning markets. Closed on Mondays.
Eze– Thursday mornings.
Menton – Daily morning markets.
Vence – Daily morning markets. Closed on Mondays
Every region in France has is culinary specialities and the Côte d'Azur region in the Alpes Martimes is no different. It's no surprise that beautiful Mediterranean Vegetables and Seafood are the highlight of the regional dishes. The Nice Tourism board has put together a listing of local eating establishments which have been awarded the Cuisine Nissard label, meaning they cook regional dishes. In order to qualify to display this label a restaurant must use locally sourced produce.meat and seafood, and cook them to a traditional recipe. You can check the full list of these venues out here.
Listed below are just of the famous regional dishes to look out for.
Socca (sometimes also called Faranita)– a type of flatbread made with ground chickpea flour. Often traditionally cooked over a flame.
Salade Niçoise– There is every chance you have eaten a Salade Niçoise in your home country. This dish is now universally famous. Featuring tuna, olives, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans and a hard boiled egg this dish is a hearty meal in itself and a must to try.
Farces – This dish features the beautiful mediterranean vegetables grown in the area which are served stuffed with a ground meat and breadcrumbs
Ratatouille – This traditional dish with it's origins from Nice combines slices of tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes with herbs and garlic to make a sensational vegetarian dish. You will often find ratatouille offered as a side dish on many restaurant menus.
La Daube Niçoise – A hearty dish of beef which has been stewed for hours with red wine, carrots and onions. Often served with pasta.
There are many options for cycle hire in and around the Côte d'Azure, France. Largely this is owing to the popularity of cycle tourism. In the table below you will find an outline of cycling stores as well as places which offer rental bikes.
If you are looking to hire a bike for your cycling holiday we would recommend getting in touch directly with the hire shop and arranging this in advance of your holiday. This will avoid the disappointment of missing out on a rental due to popular demand.
Another tip is to make sure the bike you hire is equipped with gearing which will allow you to climb the mountains with a greater level of comfort. Most road bikes for hire will now come with compact gearing to allow for this, but it is best to be certain!
The Côte d'Azur offers up a few options of places to use as a cycling base. We have listed each city/town below. When compiling this list we have taken into account ease of access to each of the rides, accommodation available as well as other services such as bike hire and eating establishments. There are of course smaller villages dotted all along the Côte d'Azur which would still make a sensational base for your cycling holiday. We have not listed them below purely as we want to highlight those areas which cater for a broad range of budgets and boast a large number of services by way of accommodation as well as dining options.
The city of Nice is top of the list of places to stay when holidaying in this area. It is the fifth largest city in France and as such has quite a lot to offer. There is no shortage of accommodation to suit any budget and it is well connected as a transport hub, having its own international airport and train station. The city is also bike friendly and easily navigable by bike with separated cycling infrastructure in place. You will also have a great selection of restaurants, cafes, bistros and brasseries to choose from whilst in Nice – perfect for sampling the local cuisine regardless of your budget. Discover more about Nice by clicking here.
Image courtesy of villlamania / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
If you want to escape the larger crowds of the city of Nice, than Cagnes-sur-Mer is a great option. Located 14km / 8.5mi south west from Nice, Cagnes Sur Mer has all the conveniences of a larger city without the same hustle and bustle of Nice. It also boasts a beautiful sandy beach which runs for 4km / 2.5miles. Again there are many options here for both accommodation as well as eating out no matter your budget. Discover more about Cagnes-sur-Mer by clicking here.
Image courtesy of Tobi 87 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Located a further 30km/18.5mi south east from Nice is the beautiful town of Menton. On the shoreline of the French Riviera and very close to the Italian border, it also provides you with a good option to base yourself, away from the larger crowds of Nice. Renowned for its famous gardens, multicoloured building facades and stunning beaches, Menton has a lot to offer. For a cyclist it is also the starting point for the famous Col de la Madone climb.
You can discover more about Menton by clicking here.
Whether you want to spend some time off the bikes or have family members that are not keen cyclists there are plenty of things to do around this area. Included below are just some of our suggestions.
A trip to this part of the French Riviera would not be complete with some time spent along the beach. Depending on where you are staying you may find yourself bathing in he shaded umbrellas lining he pebbled beaches of Nice, or perhaps walking with the sand between your toes at Cagnes-sur-Mer. Both are stunning locations and will of course have a different type of experience.
If you are keen to replicate the dishes from the local cuisine once you return back home, why not try out a cookery class. There are a number to choose from, each highlighting different local dishes. Learn more here.
If you like activities of a vertical nature than perhaps you'd like to book on a tour to experience the local Via Ferrata and Canyoning close to Nice. Find out more here.
Often the best way to discover your surroundings can be on foot. There are numerous walking tours available for Nice which covers off on all the main attractions. The Old Town in Nice is a must and there is so much history and to discover. Tours can range up to anything from a few hours to all day and many even come at no cost. For some greater insights to the region we would highly recommend taking a tour with a local guide as they can often provide you with more information than you can find in a brochure. Examples of tours available can be found here.
5. Day trips easily accessible from Nice
For something a bit different there is also the possibility of some day trips. From Nice you can easily take a trip to Monaco. This sovereign city state is right on the Mediterranean. Famous for the Monaco Grand Prix as well as being a place of opulence and wealth it is well worth seeing for yourself. There are regular train services operating between Nice and Monaco making this an easy destination to explore.
The village of St Paul de Vence is located inland in the mountains behind Nice. A charming small french village it is a popular spot to visit. Many local Artists have galleries and shops here in the charmed old buildings lining the cobbled streets. Due to its location there is also a breathtaking view over the surrounding areas back towards the coast. Regular bus services from Nice to St Paul de Vence operate numerous times a day.
If some retail therapy is what you are after than an excursion to the city of Cannes is a must. A trip down the main boulevard is an experience in itself, with high end fashion stores all around. Think of the Champs-Élysées by the sea! Speaking of sea, the sandy beach at Cannes is also highly recommended.