Nice or Lille – struggling to choose between these French cities? Will it be the beautiful beaches of Nice? With its stunning old town, great history and connections to the rest of the French Riviera? Or will it be the Northern city of Lille, with its interesting architecture and great proximity to Brussels and Paris? Keep on reading, we’ll help you decide.
Nice quite literally has it all – sun, sea, sand and history. It’s a great option for travellers that want the option to experience the culture of a city break and the relaxing vibes of a beach holiday.
Located in northern France, Lille has a great mix of French and Flemish cultures. Its unique character gives it real charm. It’s probably a bit underrated in comparison to other cities in France if we’re being honest.
Pros and Cons of Nice and Lille
- Beautiful beaches – Nice has some of the most stunning beaches in France, with crystal clear waters and soft sandy shores.
- Cultural attractions – Nice is home to a number of museums and cultural attractions, including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Chagall Museum.
- Picturesque Old Town – Nice’s Old Town is a charming and picturesque neighbourhood with colourful buildings, narrow streets, and plenty of restaurants and cafes.
- Proximity to the French Riviera – Nice is an ideal base for exploring the French Riviera, with easy access to other coastal towns like Antibes, Cannes, and Monaco.
- Great weather – Nice enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- Affordable public transportation – Nice offers a budget-friendly tram system that covers much of the city, making it easy to get around.
- Vibrant nightlife – Nice has a lively nightlife scene with plenty of bars, nightclubs, and live music venues to choose from.
- Crowded in peak season – During the summer months, Nice can get very crowded with tourists, making it difficult to find a quiet spot on the beach or in the Old Town.
- Hilly terrain – Nice is a hilly city, which can make it challenging for those with mobility issues.
- Limited parking – Finding parking in Nice can be a challenge, particularly in the Old Town and other popular areas.
- Some parts of the city are expensive – While Nice does offer budget-friendly options for dining and accommodation, some areas of the city can be quite expensive.
Best for: Nice is best for travellers looking for a beautiful beach destination with a mix of cultural attractions, nightlife, and a warm climate.
- Rich history and culture – Lille has a rich history and culture, with a number of museums and historical landmarks to explore, including the Palais des Beaux-Arts and the Citadel of Lille.
- Delicious cuisine – Lille is known for its delicious cuisine, particularly its hearty stews and meat dishes.
- Vibrant nightlife – Lille has a lively nightlife scene, with a variety of bars, clubs, and music venues to choose from.
- Easy to navigate – Lille is a compact city that is easy to navigate on foot or by bike, with a well-developed public transportation system.
- Beautiful architecture – Lille is home to some stunning architecture, including the Old Stock Exchange and the Hospice Comtesse Museum.
- Friendly locals – Lille is known for its friendly and welcoming locals, making it easy for travellers to feel at home.
- Affordable accommodation and dining options – Lille offers budget-friendly options for both accommodation and dining, making it a great choice for budget-conscious travellers.
- Limited outdoor attractions – While Lille has plenty of indoor attractions to explore, it lacks the natural beauty and outdoor activities of destinations like Nice.
- Cold weather – Lille can get quite cold in the winter months, which may not be ideal for travellers seeking warm weather.
- Limited English signage – While many locals in Lille speak English, the city’s signage and public transportation announcements are primarily in French, which may be challenging for non-French speakers.
- Limited access to coastal destinations – While Lille is well-connected to other parts of France and Europe by train, it is not as convenient as Nice for exploring the French Riviera or other coastal destinations.
Best for: Lille is best for travellers looking for a culturally rich destination with vibrant nightlife, delicious cuisine, and affordable accommodation and dining options. It’s a great choice for budget-conscious travellers who want to explore northern France and nearby European cities.
How long to stay in Nice
A trip to Nice needs to be at least three days. But you could easily spend a week or two here. There’s so much to do whether it be in Nice, or exploring the local area. Monaco and Cannes are a stone’s throw away. You could even get a ferry to Corsica for a few nights if you were feeling adventurous!
How long to stay in Lille
Lille is the fourth largest city in France so there’s plenty to do. Three days are probably enough to see everything it has to offer. But, if you wanted to extend your break and do some city hopping, Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Dunkirk aren’t far at all!
How much is food and drink in Nice and Lille?
Both cities are is known for their amazing food. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Nice and Lille:
|Beer (0.5-liter draught)||€5-7||€4-6|
|Glass of wine||€4-6||€4-6|
|Cup of coffee||€2-4||€2-4|
|Meal (mid-range restaurant)||€30-50||€25-40|
How much is it to stay in Nice or Lille?
The cost of accommodation in Nice or Lille can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in both cities.
|Accommodation Type||Lille (€/night)||Nice (€/night)|
|Luxury Hotel||150 – 300||200 – 400|
|Mid-range Hotel||80 – 150||100 – 200|
|Budget Hotel||40 – 80||60 – 100|
|Hostel Bed||20 – 35||25 – 45|
When is the best time to visit Nice?
Nice is a very popular tourist destination all year round. When to visit depends on personal preference. Here are a few things to consider before booking your trip:
Weather: Nice has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers. Plan your trip between June and September if you want to make the most of the hot weather. Winters are mild compared to a lot of places, you’ll rarely see it freezing here. Spring is probably the best all-around time to visit.
Crowds: Nice can get extremely busy during the summer months so visit during the off-season if you can be irritated by crowded places.
Events: There are several world-famous events held very close to Nice every year, like the Cannes Film Festival in May and the Monaco Grand Prix. If you want to experience something a bit different the Nice Carnival is a spectacular event. There are huge parades day and night, with floats, dancers and all sorts of fun!
When is the best time to visit Lille?
Lille’s location means the weather is never too extreme, so it’s definitely a year-round destination. Here are a few things to consider before booking.
Weather: Lille’s climate can be pretty unpredictable, it’s prone to rain all year round. Summers are warm and sunny. Winters can get very cold with temperatures as low as -5°C. If you want to avoid rain and crowds, visiting in April would be a good happy medium.
Festivals: Lille has plenty of festivals to attend throughout the year. But its biggest festival is the Braderie de Lille, a huge festival held every September. For the first week in November, the city turns into the biggest flea market in Europe. If you like shopping for antiques and other random things, this may be for you! Lille’s Christmas Markets are also worth a visit in the lead-up to Christmas.
Crowds: Lille can get busy during the summer and during Braderie de Lille. But it probably won’t get as filled with tourists are Nice does. If you do want to avoid the crowds don’t travel in the summer months or the first week in September.
Average Monthly Temperatures for Nice and Lille
|Month||Nice (°C / °F)||Lille (°C / °F)||Nice Rainfall (mm)||Lille Rainfall (mm)|
|January||9 (48)||3 (37)||69||50|
|February||9 (48)||4 (39)||44||39|
|March||11 (52)||6 (43)||39||47|
|April||13 (55)||8 (46)||69||45|
|May||16 (61)||11 (52)||47||54|
|June||20 (68)||14 (57)||37||58|
|July||23 (73)||16 (61)||12||63|
|August||23 (73)||16 (61)||44||59|
|September||20 (68)||13 (55)||73||53|
|October||16 (61)||10 (50)||132||58|
|November||12 (54)||6 (43)||106||52|
|December||10 (50)||4 (39)||92||50|
Getting around Nice:
Nice has plenty of public transport options like buses, trams and trains. The trams and buses cover most of the city and are both reliable.
But, on a nice day, you’d be better off walking everywhere. Just make sure you take some comfortable shoes. There really isn’t a better way to see a city as beautiful as Nice other than on foot.
Getting around Lille:
Lille is easy to get around due to its buses, trams and metro system. City passes are a good way to save money if you plan on making the most of public transport. Lille’s city centre is quite compact so it’s very walkable. You could hire a bike too if you wanted.
Top things to do in Nice
Promenade des Anglais: This beautiful promenade stretches for 7km along the Mediterranean coast and is probably the most famous attraction in the city. The views are spectacular, you could literally spend a full day just wandering around and enjoying the view.
Vieille Ville: There is plenty to see and do in Nice’s Old Town. Full of colourful buildings, cute streets and cafes. You could spend a full day just ambling around doing very little other than eating and drinking.
Musée Matisse: Devoted to the works of Henri Matisse, this museum is located in a beautiful 17th-century villa. The gardens are very impressive, its location on a hill also offers great views over the city. The art isn’t too bad either.
Castle Hill: A must-see when in Nice, Castle Hill offers panoramic views over Nice and the Mediterranean. You can walk to the top via the stairs. It’s a bit of a walk, so probably not a great idea with kids. There is also an elevator for those that don’t fancy the stairs.
Musée Marc Chagall: This museum houses the largest collection of works by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall. Located in a beautiful garden, it also features works by other contemporary artists.
Place Masséna: This stunning central square is the perfect place to sit with a coffee or a cold glass of white wine and watch the world go by. The architecture is very impressive and looks especially good at night when it’s all lit up.
Jardin Albert 1er: The perfect place to relax and enjoy the sun, this beautiful park is located right in the heart of Nice next to the beach. Go in the evening and catch an amazing sunset, you won’t regret it!
Palais Lascaris: This beautiful 17th-century baroque palace is now a museum that showcases the history of Nice and its culture. It features stunning architecture and artwork.
Parc Phoenix: This stunning botanical garden holds over 2,500 plant species and a large lake. There are even different types of exotic animals like flamingos and alligators!
Cimiez Monastery: Located very close to the Musée Matisse, this monastery is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Make sure your phone is charged, you’ll want to take plenty of photos of its beautiful gardens and views over Nice.
Top things to do in Lille
Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: One of the largest art museums in France, there’s an impressive collection from artists like Rubens, Delacroix and Monet. It’s definitely worth going if you’re an art lover.
Stroll through Vieux-Lille: Lille’s old town, Vieux-Lille is filled with colourful buildings and cobbled streets. There are lots of boutique shops, great restaurants and nice cafes if you fancy a coffee whilst people watching.
Explore La Citadelle de Lille: The shape of this 17th-century pentagonal fortress is fascinating. It’s still a working military base so you can’t enter but you can walk around its walls and the surrounding grounds.
Visit the Lille Cathedral: In comparison to most European cathedrals Lille’s feels very different. It was built between 1856 and 1975, so there are parts of it that don’t have the same old-weathered look you expect with cathedrals. It’s still impressive though.
Check out the Wazemmes Market: Open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday there’s loads of fresh produce like cheese, vegetables and sausages sold. It’s a must-visit for foodies. There are even little food stalls so you can get a pizza or some oysters if you’re hungry!
Take a Chocolate Tour: Lille has a reputation for its chocolate. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, a chocolate tour might be a good idea. The tours take you around some of the city’s best chocolatiers, learning about the history of chocolate along the way.
Explore the Hospice Comtesse Museum: Housed in a 17th-century hospital, this museum is only small but has exhibits of art and artefacts from the 16th to the 20th century. Entry is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Check out the Saint Maurice Church: This 14th-century Gothic church is definitely worth a visit. It’s quite an unusual shape and is seriously impressive from all angles. The stained glass windows are really beautiful too.
Take a Beer Tasting Tour: Beer-tasting tours are a fantastic way to sample some local beers and learn more about the city. The tours last about 3 hours and make a fun afternoon!
Visit Lille Zoo: Home to over 450 animals, this zoo is relatively compact but it’s worth a visit. It’s quite cheap so it’s good if you’re wanting a low-cost activity.
How to spend three days in Nice
Morning: Grab a coffee and a pastry from a nearby coffee shop and head to Promenade des Anglais. Find a bench to sit on and relax whilst the city wakes up. There’s something really special about the sea breeze in the morning. Either spend the morning on the beach or have a chilled walk along the seafront.
Afternoon: Head over to the Vielle Ville, Nice’s Old Town. Make sure you start off at Cours Saleya, this market has an abundance of local produce for sale like fruit, flowers and spices. There are lots of little streets food stalls too which are great for lunch. Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around Vielle Velle’s cute little streets.
Evening: Have a relaxing evening at Place Masséna. Get some good Niçoise food and a few drinks and watch the world go by.
Morning: Get an early start and head to the Musée Matisse. A great museum dedicated to Henri Matisse, perfect for art lovers. The views from the museum are beautiful. All of his work isn’t housed here so don’t be disappointed if you don’t see everything you wanted.
Afternoon: Visit the Cimiez Monastery, it’s a stone’s throw from Musée Matisse. The interior of this monastery is incredible and the gardens are even better! Before you head back to the centre of Nice, have a nosy at the Ancien Hôtel Régina. This is a very famous hotel from the 19th century and was built to meet the requirements of Queen Victoria who loved to visit the Côte d’Azur.
Evening: Make your way to the seafront to ascend Castle Hill. You can go up via the stairs or the lift. Maybe take a little picnic and some wine. The views over Nice and the Mediterranean are amazing!
Morning: Begin your day with a visit to the Palais Lascaris. A 17th-century palace that’s been turned into a museum. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful museums in Nice. Its collection is mostly focused on musical instruments but its baroque interior will have you in awe.
Afternoon: Spend your afternoon at the Musée National Marc Chagall. Dedicated to the artist Marc Chagall, it’s got an expensive collection of his works. Most of the collection is focused on his religious works, there are also some of his stained glass windows that are very beautiful.
Evening: Finish your trip to Nice with a visit to the Nice Observatory. It’s a little outside of the city centre, so you’d be better off getting the bus. It’s a working observatory so you can’t just wander in. There are regular tours, but they are only in French. The sunset from here is amazing, there are a couple of restaurants nearby so you can get a nice dinner and watch the sun go down.
How to spend three days in Lille
Morning: Begin your trip with a visit to Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Allocate about three hours for this huge art gallery, there are over 72,430 sculptures, paintings and ceramics!
Afternoon: Have a wander around Lille’s beautiful old town. It’s a great place to just get lost and explore all the little shops and cafes. Make sure you try some good local food like Carbonnade Flamande or la tarte au Maroilles.
Evening: Go and see a show at Opéra de Lille. This building is spectacular inside and out. Plus tickets to the shows are very reasonable!
Morning: Get an early start and head to the Citadel of Lille. This impressive fortress looks amazing in the early morning light. It’s lovely to stroll around its grounds too.
Afternoon: Head over to La Piscine, a museum housed in a former art deco swimming pool! It’s a very cool building, I can imagine it would have been really cool to swim here when it was still a pool. There’s a great art collection of paintings, sculptures and textiles.
Evening: Spend your evening at the Rue de Gand. This famous street is filled with bars and restaurants so make sure you take an appetite and make the most of the amazing local foods.
Morning: Start your day with a visit to Wazemmes Market, there is loads of regional produce to try and buy. You could even get lunch at one of the stalls.
Afternoon: Make a choice between visiting Lille Cathedral or Saint Maurice Church. Saint Maurice Church is a little bit further out of the centre but is really beautiful. Lille Cathedral is very centrally located, it’s not quite as pretty as Saint Maurice but its size is very impressive.
Evening: Find a beer tour to go on before dinner then spend the evening sampling local foods.
Ratings for Nice and Lille
|Category||Nice Rating||Lille Rating|
|Food and drink||9||9|
|Culture and history||9||9|