Nice or St Tropez: Which French City to Visit?

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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Both Nice and St Tropez are beautiful, opulent and indulgent locations on the French coast, welcoming you with open arms to lounge on the fine sandy beaches, book in one hand and cocktail in the other. So if exquisite seafood, relaxing, carefree days, and vibrant nightlife sound appealing to you, it’s a tough decision to choose Nice or St Tropez for your holiday.

However, although they’re less than a two-hour drive from one another on the French Riviera, the city of Nice and the town of St Tropez, both have their unique character and appealing aspects.

In general, choose Nice if you’re looking for big-city vibes, more affordable options and ease of accessibility. On the other hand, choose St Tropez for a luxury escape and a small town to explore.

So if you prefer big city life, smaller countryside towns, easy transportation to visit further afield or staying put for your vacation, you should take a look at each place in detail before booking your holiday.


Nice is a magnificent and diverse city, with extravagant and historic buildings dotted around the winding streets from the old town to the famous palm tree-lined promenade.

It’s easy to get around so you can spend a great few days in the city, exploring every curious and cultural site it has to offer, or spend a week or more in Nice and making the most of the great transportation in the area to explore neighbouring towns and villages.

Rooftops of Nice
Rooftops of Nice


Nice is one of the most ideal French cities to spend a weekend when visiting from abroad, as it has an airport just outside of the city that’s connected to most major cities around Europe, like London, Amsterdam and Berlin.

The airport is just a few kilometres from Nice centre, and easily accessible by tram and bus, so it won’t take long to reach your accommodation so you can start exploring in no time. It’s also very easy to reach popular Cannes from Nice.

Within the city, you can also use the fantastic tram and bus network to move from hotspot to hotspot, or simply walk around as the streets are beautiful, clean and bustling with life.

Most of Nice’s top attractions are relatively close to the centre, but the public transport is cheap and can take you out to the harder-to-reach areas, or save you a long walk under the sun if you’re visiting in the height of summer.

Nice also has a train station in the city centre, which you can reach from Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. If you’re planning to reach Nice from other French cities, you can also use coaches from any of these cities and more, but it will add at least a couple of hours to your transit time. You can view schedules here.

If you’re lucky enough to spend a week or more in Nice, you can also make the most of the trains and local buses to reach other nearby locations in the Côte d’Azur, such as St Paul de Vence, Èze, Monaco, Antibes and other small fishing villages.

Antibes coastline
Antibes coastline


Generally speaking, cities are more expensive than rural locations, but Nice has a great variety of options for accommodation, restaurants and activities for all budgets.

Young travellers can find hostels and apartments for reasonable prices across the city, although those closer to the centre and on the beachfront tend to be more expensive than those further out. There are also plenty of hotel options, from luxurious suites to budget hotels dotted around the city.

When booking a holiday for more than a few days, accommodation will be one of the most important factors as the cost can easily add up. If your options are between Nice and St Tropez, staying in Nice is a much cheaper option.

Even if you plan on using public transport while you’re in Nice, or taking the train to more distant locations like Monaco, it won’t add much to the cost of your trip.

There is also a great diversity in restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Nice, with cheaper fast-food options, as well as more extravagant seafront restaurants to experience haute cuisine, and everything in between. So comparing Nice to St Tropez, Nice definitely has more options and more budget-friendly spots for food and drink.

In terms of activities, you don’t have to spend much in either place, St Tropez or Nice, if you just plan on exploring the centre on foot to see the wonderful architecture, walk up to the waterfall for views of the city, or lounge on the beaches soaking up the sun. You can bring your own towel for no cost, or rent a sun lounger for the day for €20-25 euros.

Each of the main museums in Nice cost around €10 to enter, however, if you plan on visiting more than one, such as the Matisse Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (which are highly recommended) you can buy a Museum Pass and save some money.

Promenade des Anglais
Promenade des Anglais

Things to do in Nice

Sunbathing is not an exclusive activity to Nice, but it can make for an enjoyable and much-needed relaxing day. However, here are a few things that make Nice well worth visiting compared to St Tropez.

Nice Walking Tour

Whether you go it alone or join an organised walking tour of the city, discovering Nice on foot is one of the best ways to spend time on the French Riviera and get a feel for the slow pace of southern city life.

Walk along the Promenade des Anglais, the 7 km long coastal promenade lined with extravagant buildings, holding some of the most opulent hotels of the city like the Negresco, as well as the most popular bars and restaurants for decades, as the architecture and decor brings you back to the heydays of some of the biggest stars of the 1950s.

Continuing along the coast you reach the Old Town of Nice (Vieux Nice) with charming winding streets and colourful buildings that host many a boutique where you can find all the latest southern French fashion. Around Cours Saleya you’ll find bustling markets selling flowers, handmade jewellery, soaps and, of course, cheeses and fresh produce from the local area.

Around the corner, following the road past the hilltop castle, you reach the port of Nice. Here you can peruse the luxury yachts of the rich and famous or stop for a cocktail at sunset. There are also plenty of trendy and luxury restaurants in the area, with fresh seafood on offer and incredible views, making it a great place to finish a day out in Nice.

Flea Market of Cours Saleya
Flea Market of Cours Saleya

Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice

Another stand-out feature of Nice is its Russian Orthodox Cathedral, one of three built in the 1860s by Russian aristocrats making their mark on the country, and the largest in Europe.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Nicholas is a short walk or tram journey out of the city centre and well worth the journey, with its orange-painted walls, green tiled domes and stunning gold orthodox crosses on top.

Visitors are asked to dress conservatively, covering their skin and respect people who may be praying inside, but you can enter the cathedral to admire the incredibly ornate interior, as well as walk around the exterior for some wonderful geometric photos.

Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Nice
Russian Orthodox Cathedral


While you may be in Nice for the sunshine, it can be a bit too much to have the sun’s rays beating down on you, especially in the middle of the day. So what better way to avoid the heat than to take refuge in some incredible art museums and galleries?

The Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain is located by the old town, not far from the city centre and features some incredible artwork by amazing artists such as Andy Warhol and Yves Klein.

If modern art isn’t your preference, or you prefer to see some French pieces while you’re in the country, you shouldn’t miss out on visiting the house of Henri Matisse, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to the artist.

The Musée Matisse holds a small collection of the modernist’s artworks as well as many of his original sketches, much to art lovers’ delight. The villa is in the north of Nice but is easily reachable by tram in less than 20 minutes from the centre.

You can also use the Nice Museum Pass for both the MAMAC and Matisse Museum, as well as the Jules Chéret Fines Arts Museum, Charles Nègres Photography Museum and Nice’s Natural History Museum, plus several other arts and history museums.

The Renoir Museum is not included in the pass, however, makes for a great trip whilst in Nice. Just a train ride to Cros De Cagnes and a 20-minute walk north, this stunning villa where the impressionist lived for the last 12 years of his life hosts a number of his paintings and sculptures and has his workshop laid out in its original state ready for visitors to explore.

The small fishing village of Cros De Cagnes is also a delightful area to spend a day when staying in Nice.

Matisse Museum
Matisse Museum

Colline du Château

Getting a panoramic view of your holiday destination is always a bonus, and there’s no better place than the hilltop castle ruins at Colline du Château.

After a short walk up the hill from the old town, you can explore the ruins of the old château as well as Nice’s famous waterfall which you can see from the beach as it’s lit up, often in different colours after dark.

Where to Stay in Nice

Nice Garden Hotel – Mid-range travellers who’ve chosen to visit Nice will love this 3-star hotel in the centre of the city. Located within easy reach of the city’s top sites, they have a range of lovely rooms to choose from and plenty of other amenities. Click here to check availability

Palais Saleya Boutique hôtel – If you’re looking for a luxury hotel while visiting Nice, then this boutique option is a fantastic choice. They have a great location, a range of gorgeous rooms to choose from and countless amenities on offer to guests. Click here to check availability

Aparthotel AMMI Vieux Nice – This aparthotel in Vieux Nice is perfect for those looking for a self-catering apartment while visiting this city. They have a number of different, furnished flats to choose from along with breakfast and a great location. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Nice hotels!

View of Nice at dusk
View of Nice at dusk

St Tropez

The St Tropez lifestyle is all about indulgence. Relax on the beaches, eat in some fantastic restaurants and watch the sunset with a pastis. But none of this comes cheap, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for before you head down to one of the most picturesque spots on the French Riviera.


St Tropez is a coastal town located in an area similar to a small peninsula or cape, which makes it quite difficult to reach with public transportation.

The easiest way to get there is by flying into Toulon Hyères Airport and renting a car for the hour-long journey to St Tropez, or Nice Airport and driving for one and a half to two hours along the Mediterranean coast.

Depending on the time of year and the time of day, however, you can still get stuck in traffic on the D98A from Port Grimaud which can easily add another hour to your journey time.

If you don’t fancy the drive, you can take a bus from Toulon Airport to the centre instead which takes around 2 hours. There is no train station in St Tropez so if you’re coming from further afield in France you’re usually better off taking the train to Toulon or Port Grimaud and continuing the journey on the bus. You can also book ferry tickets to get here from Nice.

Once in St Tropez, you’ll find there’s hardly any public transport, but you won’t miss it either. The town is a small area and best discovered on foot to take in the warm summer air and pastel shades of the landscape.

If you fancy a day trip out to nearby Port Grimaud, there are plenty of buses each day so you can travel at your convenience. You can also take the ferry with Les Bateaux Verts for a better view of the coastline and a more exciting entrance.

Port Grimaud
Port Grimaud


You can expect most aspects of your trip to be more expensive in St Tropez than in Nice as it’s a smaller town with a reputation for being the holiday destination of the rich and famous, with wealth and luxury oozing out of every corner. That’s not to say you have to break the bank for a week’s break in St Tropez, but it’s hard to visit on a tight budget.

Most activities in St Tropez are very reasonably priced, with public beaches available for free, and day-long sun lounger rental with a parasol for less than €20. You can also spend an afternoon taking a pleasant stroll around the town or the surrounding countryside if you want to be more active and keep your costs low.

The museums of St Tropez also have low entrance prices, so you don’t need to worry about spending too much money on these activities.

Where visiting St Tropez vs Nice becomes a hard battle is food, as the quality of restaurants in both places is very high, with stunning views of the coastline, which come with higher prices.

There are bars and restaurants all around the town, from the central port to the winding streets and further into the countryside, so you can find a variety of places, and some cheaper options. The further away from the port, the cheaper you’ll find food and drink, with Kirs and Martinis available for well under €10.

Staying in St Tropez is where the highest costs lie. You’ll be hard pushed to find a hotel, gîte or apartment for two people for under €200 per night, with many properties landing well over that. If you are looking for a luxury romantic trip for two, however, St Tropez is a perfect place to go.

Port of Saint-Tropez
Port of Saint-Tropez

Things to do in St Tropez

Stunning beaches and luxury restaurants abound, but there are some hidden and some not-so-hidden gems to be found in St Tropez that make it worth spending at least a few days in.

Port de St Tropez

The Port of St Tropez is the highlight of the town, with fantastic restaurants and bars lining the street where you can sit and admire the yachts and old fishing boats that fill the harbour.

Walking around the port, you can discover the quaint streets of the town centre with a bustling market in Place des Lices twice a week, as well as the scenic rocky shore of the Quai de la Pesquière.

The port is the perfect place for people watching, as the local fishing communities, the tourists and the wealthy international communities that have made St Tropez their home mix to enjoy the wonderful food, weather and atmosphere of this wonderful town.


Up a winding road for amazing views down over the town, with the iconic pastel yellow and pink clock tower in the fore, you’ll find the centuries-old citadel of St Tropez.

Now housing a maritime museum, you can discover the fortress as well as peruse the exhibits dedicated to the town’s history of whaling and expeditions to the Middle East and Zanzibar.

It’s St Tropez’s seafaring history that made it a prominent port in the 16th and 17th centuries as well as brought the fresh fish to the town, making it an even more appealing spot for wealthy French families to settle in.

Citadel of Saint Tropez
Citadel of Saint Tropez

Gendarmerie and Cinema Museum

Military police and cinema don’t seem like natural bedfellows for a museum in one of the most luxurious holiday destinations in France, however, the Gendarmerie and Cinema Museum is worth a visit when staying in the town.

This former headquarters of the St Tropez gendarmes invites you to learn about their over 120-year history in the town, as well as how police are represented across French cinema.

Part of the exhibition is also dedicated to St Tropez’s depiction through Cinema, with explorations into the several films that were set in the town, showing the history and evolution of St Tropez as much as its relevance on the film scene, not just because of famous resident Brigitte Bardot.

Brigitte Bardot Tour

You can’t set foot in St Tropez without coming across a dozen images of the famous star of the silver screen, the stunning Brigitte Bardot.

Supposedly having made the town famous, particularly among the rich and famous of France and Hollywood, Brigitte Bardot lived most of her life in St Tropez after leaving Paris and continues to live, albeit more reclusively, in the countryside further out of the town centre.

Having shot to fame as a young woman, the actress and model made the bikini famous as well as the luxurious beaches of St Tropez in the 1950s and her image is now extrinsically linked with the town.

After lounging on Pampelonne Beach where Bardot filmed one of her first films and fell in love with St Tropez, head to the stunning golden statue of the actress sitting in a scallop shell outside the Cinema Museum.

Then take a boat trip out to the second statue of her on a small island near Les Salins, and finishing your day in Gaio, a restaurant and cocktail bar with performers that Bardot frequented as a young woman, you can make a great day out, living in the footsteps of the star.

Pampelonne Beach in Saint Tropez
Pampelonne Beach in Saint Tropez

Annonciade Museum

This pretty 16th-century chapel located just behind the port of St Tropez was converted into an art gallery and is now one of the best exhibitions in the whole town.

Thanks to pointillist painter Paul Signac arriving in St Tropez in the last 19th century and falling in love with the area so much that he invited fellow artists such as Matisse to stay with him, St Tropez became a hotspot for the neo-impressionist and modernist art scene.

Today you can see a large collection of wonderful paintings from this period by famed and lesser-known French artists who lived and worked largely in the area around St Tropez. This is well worth a visit on a hot day to cool off out of the sunshine.

Where to Stay in St Tropez

Hotel La Romarine – This 3-star hotel in the centre of St Tropex is a fantastic choice for those after a mid-range option in this town on the French Riviera. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms to choose from along with a swimming pool, tennis courts and other amenities. Click here to check availability

Le Pre de la Mer – This luxury hotel is the perfect option for those after a plush stay while in bougie St Tropez. They have a range of gorgeous, luxe rooms to choose from, a delightful swimming pool and an on-site spa and wellness centre available to guests. Click here to check availability

Appartement centre St Tropez – If you’re after your own apartment while in St Tropex, then this flat is a good option. It’s well located for exploring the highlights of this town and others on the Cote d’Azur and is full equipped with all you might need during your time here. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more St Tropez hotels!

Town of Saint Tropez
Town of Saint Tropez

Nice vs St Tropez: Which is Better to Visit

Although with similar reputations as homes of the rich and famous on the beloved French Riviera, Nice and St Tropez couldn’t be more different in their character and activities, so choosing which one to visit for your holiday shouldn’t be too difficult.

City lovers and fans of museums, exhibitions and vibrant, bustling streets should travel to Nice for the best holiday in the South of France, while those looking for a more secluded break, lounging on the beach and enjoying short walks in the charming paths of the town centre would prefer St Tropez.

However, if you have a tight budget or don’t drive, Nice is the much better option as it’s significantly easier to access and there is a broader range of options for different budgets.

If money is no object and you have your own vehicle, St Tropez oozes opulence and will be the perfect setting for any romantic getaway, with private apartments and villas tucked away behind the town, with incredible views, while still having access to the luxury restaurants, lively bars and exclusive clubs of the town centre.

But St Tropez doesn’t have to be all about richesse. If you want to see how the other half live while still getting a taste of the local culture from historic sites, unusual exhibitions and small museums, there’s plenty to interest you in St Tropez too.

Regardless if you decide to visit Nice or St Tropez, there is something to love about both of these areas on the iconic French Riviera.

Are you planning a trip to the Cote d’Azur? Have any questions about either town? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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