Nice, on the Côte d’Azur in France, is one of our all-time favourite cycling destinations.
The climate might not match the Canaries and it’s not as well-known as Mallorca, but cycling Nice is an excellent choice.
Routes are varied, and the scenery is mind-blowing: think shimmering azure blue coastline and Alpine foothills that rise quickly from the coast. There are more than enough long hard climbs to test your form and, just like Mallorca, there are some crazy feats of road engineering.
Col de Vence, Col de La Madone, Col de Braus and Col de Turini are some of the region's big names, but there are any number of fantastic lesser-known climbs and roads. Many have cycling pedigree thanks to the Tour de France, the Paris to Nice “Race to the Sun” and Nice Ironman.
The mild, sunny climate and rain shadow of the Alps, mean the weather is generally good, and most roads are open year-around. Even in winter, you can ride up to around the 1,000 m mark, which means Col de Vence, Col de la Madone and Col de Braus should be do-able even then.
The area was home to one infamous Texan and Trek still name their flagship aero bike after the Col de la Madone. We ran into pro cyclists both on and off the bike during our Easter-time visit to Nice.
Ian Bosworth estimated that there are 40 World Tour riders in Monaco and another 25 in Nice. Chris Froome bases himself in Monaco and Team Sky established a performance centre here as early as 2014. It just goes to show how many boxes Nice ticks for road cyclists.
Easy to get to
One of the things we most love about Nice is how easy it is to get there and how quickly you can get out on your bike. Nice is well served by regular flights from most destinations, and it’s a noticeably shorter flight from northern Europe than the Balearics or Canaries.
With the airport just 9 km from the centre of Nice, it’s a very short bus, train, Uber or taxi ride into the city centre. There are even bike stands in the baggage reclaim hall so you could build your bike and ride into town! This all makes Nice a dream to get to and even realistic if you live elsewhere in Northern Europe and have only got a long weekend.
More than just cycling (shock!)
If you’re looking for a cycling destination with culture and soul, Nice is perfect. This is no tourist shell that only comes alive in season or when the cyclists arrive. Nice is a bona fide, thriving city with superb food, culture and nightlife. The old town is an authentic maze of tiny streets, dotted with butchers, bars, restaurants, art shops, spice sellers and every other local artisan you could imagine. There is a thriving market of local produce and the Promenade des Anglais brings together all walks of life, as well as offering an excellent bike path that is a good option even for serious cyclists (more on that, here).
In Nice port, you’ll find the Café du Cycliste, a mecca for local and visiting cyclists. You can hire a bike, drink excellent coffee or go on a weekend guided shop ride. Their website gives great inspiration, and we found it excellent for planning our itinerary.
If you haven’t cycled Nice, you really should try it. If you have, you’ll undoubtedly be keen to get back!
Have we convinced you?! Want to plan a cycling trip to Nice?
You’re in the right place! In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan unforgettable Nice cycling holidays: detailed information on the best cycling routes around Nice plus where to stay, when to visit and bike rental in Nice.
Read on and plan your next cycling adventure.
Cycling routes: Nice and Côte d'Azur
The cycling around Nice is brilliant, particularly if you like hills.
For us, it’s all about discovering the tiny, quiet, winding roads that rise out of busy seaside towns straight into rocky hairpins, flanked by ancient perched villages in pastel colours.
When you're planning your rides, the geography is relatively simple. Here are some pointers:
The Mediterranean - obviously!
A bike path and busy roads until Cannes, after which you get into the Esterel national park.
The famous three Corniche roads take you to Monaco, Menton and on into Italy. They're all sheer rock faces, impressive villas and sparkling sea.
If you’re after an easier ride on the Côte d'Azur, choosing to cycle one of the Corniche roads is a good option since there's less climbing but you still get amazing views.
The mountains. Access them via the two river valleys out of town: the Var and the Paillon, with busy arterial roads (and cycle paths).
Our routes tend to head out east or west and then return from the North. We avoid the cycle paths heading north in favour of quieter roads further away from the arterial roads, but see what you think: Col de Vence and Col de Madone route.
The map below overlays our route suggestions. Below the map are links to a guide about each route.
Col de Braus loop
- Distance: 111km
- Elevation: 2,930m
- Epic rating:
Col de Turini loop
- Distance: 133km
- Elevation: 3,480m
- Epic rating:
Col de la Madone loop
- Distance: 101km
- Elevation: 2,570m
- Epic rating:
Col de Vence loop
- Distance: 128km
- Elevation: 2,710m
- Epic rating:
Cannes and the Corniche de l’Esterel
- Distance: 75km
- Elevation: 1,770m
- Epic rating:
Nice to Cannes
- Distance: 88km
- Elevation: 640m
- Epic rating:
Family cycle routes around Nice
Nice is not ideal for a family cycling holiday with young children, since most of the rides involve climbing and/or perilous drop-offs.
However, the cycle path along the Promenade des Anglais is a good option for a one-off ride.
You can hire kids bikes, leisure bikes with kids seats, skateboards and scooters from Roller Station at the eastern end of the Promenade des Anglais, close to the Castle (49 Quai des États-Unis). Our 2 and 5-year-old had a fantastic time pootling up and down the bike path for a couple of hours.
tips for cycling Nice
We love to stay in central Nice, for its ambience and restaurants, but as with any city-based holiday, you'll have to accept a bit of slogging through traffic to get out to the amazing riding. Also be aware of the slightly freestyle driving habits of the locals... short-notice turns, no indicators and crazy car parking are standard. As ever, we recommend getting up early to avoid the worst of the traffic.
Once you're out of the city centre, the riding is incredible.
Make sure you read our 15 cycling tips for Nice before you go.
This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.
While many other cycling destinations are focused on resorts areas or small towns, Nice is a bustling city. This means there is a wide range of accommodation options: from hotels to self-catering apartments.
Some people decide to stay in the small towns surrounding Nice (think Villefranche-sur-Mer, Menton, Vence, Contes or Carros). However, we love the ease of getting an apartment in the centre of the city and riding straight from there. There’s no hassle with airport transfers and you’ve got hundreds of bars and restaurants right on your doorstep (if you’re feeling really lazy, there’s even Deliveroo)! Plus it’s great for culture and for keeping kids entertained if you’re with the family.
One word of warning if you decide to go for a city centre apartment: lots of the buildings in Nice are five or six storeys with no elevator. Make sure that you don’t end up on the top floor with just a narrow staircase for access – not nice after a long day in the saddle!
Our choice: 2 bedroom apartment on Place Garibaldi
This airy, spacious two bedroom apartment has a brilliant location, on the Place Garibaldi in central Nice. The 18th Century building has lofty ceilings and huge shuttered windows. You’re in the thick of it, with the port five minutes walk in one direction and the Promenade du Paillon (aka La Coulée Verte) five minutes walk in the other.
What we loved
things to be aware of
This is a charming old apartment on the memorable Place Garibaldi. It’s very well placed for cycling out from Nice as well as Nice’s other many great attractions.
The hotels listed below allow guests to either store their bikes in their room or keep them in bike storage facilities (though you should check that these policies haven’t changed when you book).
The boutique Palais Saleya is a stylish four-star hotel which guests rave about. If we’re looking for a hotel on our next trip to Nice, this is where we’ll stay.
The hotel is housed in a beautiful 18th Century building and was re-fitted around 2017. Its 26 suites and apartments are sparkling and gorgeous in a contemporary chic style.
The Hyatt Regency is a traditional, iconic, 5-star hotel on the Promenade des Anglais. 187 rooms with views over the terrace and pool or the sea.
Malmaison Nice is a four-star, 1920s Art Deco-inspired hotel, a few blocks back from the Promenade des Anglais and west of the old town.
Villa Victoria is a four-star hotel in a pretty, shuttered building. It’s lovely garden to the rear of the property is a real feature.
There are lots of bike shops and options for bike rental in Nice, ranging from the public Vélo Blue scheme, to top end Pinarello hire.
We used Café du Cycliste for our bike hire in Nice - and had the added bonus of Team Dimension Data rider Scott Davies doing the set up (a fluke - he’s not an employee!). They seemed relaxed about hire terms, allowing us to take the bike the night before to maximise ride time. All in all, a good experience that we’d recommend to friends.
This information is offered as an indicative guide only: we periodically update it, but prices, services and bike brands may change. Please let us know if you find anything that is incorrect.
Road bike hire Nice
21 Rue de Rivoli
0033 493 81 09 41
There are three other branches: Cannes, Menton and Monaco
A bike shop in Nice that rents a large range of bikes and motorbikes. Scott and BMC road bikes available. Rates are between 26 euros and 75 euros for a day (day rate is cheaper if you have the bike longer).
Helmet and lock included in the price. Pedals charged extra. Deposit payable (varies depending on bike).
Café du Cycliste, Nice
16, Quai des Docks
0033 967 02 04 17
True to their retro branding, Café du Cycliste bike hire offers the choice of an Officine Mattio Lemma (95 euros per day) or a steel Victoire Veloce HSS bike (60 euros per day).
The Officine Mattio bikes come with wireless shifting via the SRAM RED eTap groupset. There are Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels and Fizik saddles.
The Victoire Veloce comes with ChrisKing headset and campag shifting.
Bike is supplied with saddle bag with puncture kit (spare tube, patch kit, tire levers, frame pump) and two water bottle cages. Pedals were also included when we hired our bike, but this appears to be at the manager’s discretion. Bike computers can be rented separately.
France bike rentals, Côte d'Azur
0033 678 845 687
0033 490 244 586
A wide range of Trek road bikes from bikes like the Emonda SL6 Ultegra Compact (60 euros per day) to the Madone 9.5 Dura-Ace Compact (105 euros per day). Discounts for multiple days.
Bikes come with pedals, pump, bike computer, two bottle cages, one water bottle, saddle bag with extra innertube, tyre levers, multi-tool. Helmets are also available on request.
Nice city and Nice airport: Complimentary.
West of Nice: Antibes / Cannes / Grasse / Mandelieu etc. €70,00
East of Nice: Menton / Monaco etc. €80,00
Holiday Bikes Nice
6, rue Massenet(Close to the Office de Tourism and the Hard Rock Café)
0033 493 04 15 36
There are four other branches: Nice Gare, Antibes, Villeneuve-Loubet and Cannes.
Holiday Bike Nice rent all sorts of bikes (including kids bikes and motorbikes). They have aluminium and carbon road bikes with Shimano 105/Ultegra. Prices for the Aluminium KTM Strada 1000 are below (prices in brackets are for the carbon KTM Strada 3500).
1 day: 26 euros (35)
1 week: 115 euros (220)
Deposit 450 euros (800)
Rates include insurance, helmets, lock and maintenance.
La Roue Libre
11 rue Auguste Gal
0033 493 89 62 26
Three Giant road bikes available for hire: the Giant Contend SL 1, Giant TCR Advanced 1 and Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1.
Prices start at:
25 € 1 day
45 € 2 days
65 € 3 days
85 € 4 days
105 € 5 days
125 € 6 days
145 € 7 days
+ 15 € per day following-following day
Rentals must be booked 48 hours in advance. The shop is shut on Sunday so for hire on a Sunday you have to collect on Saturday and return on Monday.
Road bike hire Beaulieu-Sur-Mer
Camellini Bicycles (aka Riviera Bike Hire)
36 Boulevard du Maréchal Leclerc
0033 493 01 04 51
Top end bike rental with Trek Domane and a range of Pinarello bikes.
Prices range from 55 euros per day to 120 euros per day with discounts for multiple days. Deposit payable.
Other options for bicycle rental in Nice
For children’s bikes for use on the Promenade des Anglais, we found Roller Station (49, Quai des Etats-Unis) very convenient. They have everything from small kids bikes to rollerblades and skateboards and are directly on the Promenade des Anglais, near the Castle.
If you’re after adult city bikes, consider using the Velo Blue scheme. Alternatively, there’s Holland Bikes or My Urban Motion if electric scooters and skateboards are your thing.
When to go
The weather in Nice and the Côte d’Azur is normally temperate all year around. The roads described in our cycling routes section are generally open all year around: even the Col de Turini (though we don’t suggest doing it before May - when we rode it in early April, it was cold with considerable snow towards the top, and not as fun as it should have been!).
Between mid-March and mid-October, it’s likely to be warm and settled, though we would recommend avoiding July and August if possible due to it being the height of the Mediterranean holiday season and the quantity of traffic along the coast roads is unlikely to make cycling much fun.
You may want to time your trip to coincide with one of the most famous stage races in the world: Paris-Nice. It arrives in March and is a great opportunity to see some early season World Tour racing. While you're there, how about pitting yourself against the Paris-Nice Challenge Sportive?
Snow on the Côte d’Azur is very, very unusual - but 2018 was one of those years! Temperatures generally average 9-12℃ with statistically lower rainfall than the last months of the year.
Spring weather can be variable in April, but you’re unlikely to get too unlucky with the weather from mid-March onwards. Average high temperatures are 16 in April and hit the 20s from May, all the way through to October. Meanwhile, rain steadily reduces from 11 days (70mm) in April all the way down to 4 days (10mm) in July.
The weather in July and August is likely to be superb. The reason for the orange colour code is the traffic: this is the height of holiday season, and the Côte d’Azur will be heaving.
The peak summer tourist throngs disappear as people return to work in September. It’s a good time to squeeze in a trip since temperatures in September and October remain high with averages of 25℃ and 21℃ respectively. But be aware that the likelihood of rain increases, particularly in October.
Temperatures in November and December are cooler (16℃ and 14℃ respectively) and on average November is the second most rainy month (110mm over 10 days).
Tips and articles
This section includes details of products we have either used and liked or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy (which includes our Amazon Associates disclosure) for further information.
We used the Insights Guide to Nice and the French Riviera, which was informative.
The Wallpaper guide to Nice had not been published at the time we visited Nice, but when we next visit, we’ll definitely get a copy.
While in Nice, we bought two books
- Alpes Maritimes: 35 parcours velo de route it has route directions and a map extract for each route, with a short description of the route. It’s in French and English, and this means there’s little room for detail. We’re clearly biased, but our guides are better (and free)!
- Nice - Carnet d’addresses précieux/A precious city guide. It’s not available for sale on Amazon, but it’s a lovely little book and worth buying if you see it while you’re in the city (we got ours at Café du Cycliste). It’s a subjective guide to 74 different places in the city. It’s printed on gorgeous textured paper, and each page has a hand-drawn colour sketch of the place, with a short description in French and English and the essential details. In a big city it’s difficult to know the best places to eat, drink and visit and what you need is personal recommendation. That’s exactly the tone this guide takes, and it helped us out a lot.
If you’re looking for a cycling map of the Cote d’Azure and Alpes-Maritimes, this is a good bet: 1:150,000 and it shows cycle paths too: Alpes-Maritimes Michelin map
Good to know
Don’t miss the coffee in Café du Cycliste. It’s excellent.
One of Nice’s speciality foods is socca, a thin pancake made of chickpea flour. It’s crispy on the outside and soft inside. You can perch at small tables at Chez Pipo and munch it with your fingers while drinking a cold beer.
Another speciality of Nice is pissaladière. It’s a thin bread topped with onion, anchovies and olives. You can find it in most boulangeries, and it’s delicious!
If you’re with kids, there are two particularly good playgrounds in central Nice:
1. The first is in the glorious Promenade du Paillon (known by locals as La Coulée Verte). Town planners took the bold step of concreting over the river that used to flow through Nice and turning it into this amazing open space that leads down to the Promenade des Anglais. It’s bisected by a few roads, and in each section, you find different structures, including some wonderful play equipment at the theatre end of the park. Further south, towards the sea there are also fantastic automated water fountains that our children loved running through.
2. The second park that everyone will love is at the top of the Colline de Château (aka the Castle) - the hill that sits high above the Promenade des Anglais, separating the port from the old town. The views down to the port and the sea are spectacular, and the kids will love the playground. There’s a café near the playground, but you may prefer to take a picnic.
If you’re into culture, you’re in for a treat in Nice: Musee National Marc Chagall, the Musee Matisse and Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild to name but a few!
The railways in France are generally excellent but, if you’re going to be relying on the trains, watch out for train strikes. Download the SNCF app or Trainline EU and check it, before you turn up at the station.
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Want more? Don’t miss our guides to the best cycling routes in Nice and the Côte d’Azur and other articles, below.
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(via the Basse Corniche, Ventimiglia and Sospel)
(aka Corniche d’Or) loop