Top 5 Free Things to Do in Nice, France

As one of France's largest cities, Nice has plenty to offer in terms of restaurants, museums and interesting things to see and do. Being on the French Riviera, some may think Nice is a little too expensive, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Nice offers a number of things to do that are not just affordable, but actually free.

1. Stroll along the Promenade
Any visit to Nice requires a long, leisurely walk along the world famous Promenade. With its unparalleled view of the Mediterranean Sea, the Promenade is perfect for place to get a feel for this city. Plus, the wide walkway is a hub of activity, particularly in the summer. Street performers, open-air art museums, daredevil rollerbladers and more offer visitors and locals alike a visual feast.

2. Bathe in the Mediterranean sun
Between the Mediterranean Sea and the Promenade lies a long stretch of beach that lures sunbathers year-round. That's right. The Nice beach might be packed in the summer, but mild temperatures attract visitors even throughout the winter. One note about the beach, however: Don't expect silky white sand. The beach is made up of stones averaging about an inch and a half to two inches in diameter.

3. Enjoy the open-air markets
Indulging in any of the magnificent fruits, vegetables, tapenades and other delectable treats offered in the open-air markets found throughout the city will require coughing up some euros. However, you're free to wander around, photograph and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of these colorful markets. The two biggest markets are found in Old Town on the Cour Saleya and just north of the train station at Liberation, otherwise known as Place du General de Gualle.

4. Get lost in Old Town
Nice's Old Town is a maze for adults to try to master. Warning: The maze changes throughout the day. No, the streets don't change, but the look and feel of the tiny passageways do. In the early morning, one will find few businesses open and the street cleaners busy at work. By late morning, the cafes are bustling, boutiques have opened and the Vieille Ville starts to feel alive. In the afternoon, the numerous ice cream stands will be busy serving up an astounding array of flavors (tomato basil, anyone?), the shops are in full swing and tourists start making their way to the outdoor tables at various pubs. The evening is all about restaurants and bars, giving the whole area a completely different look and feel.

5. Hike to the Chateau
The Castle of Nice, known locally as "the Chateau", is a bit of a misnomer at this point. Ruins are all that remain of the castle, but the park at the top of the hill and the view once one gets there are worth the hike. And, if you aren't up for the many, many steps it takes to get to the top, there is an elevator.

Nice, with a population of around 340,000, is a fairly large city, but it is also pedestrian friendly. Wear your walking shoes and enjoy the sun, sea and ambiance of this magnificent destination.

Bridget Lux is a journalist who has been enjoying all Nice has to offer for more than a decade.