Barcelona and Nice may be two of the prettiest cities on the Mediterranean, so if you want to see how Spain and France compare in their beach towns, these two cities are a great place to start. Barcelona is just south of the famous Costa Brava in Spain, one of the country's premier beach destinations for locals and foreigners. Nice, on the other hand, is in the heart of the French Riviera and attracts millions of visitors a year.
Taking a plane is the fastest and most convenient way to travel to Nice, and flights are usually relatively cheap. There are no direct trains and it's generally more expensive, but if you want to add another city to your itinerary you can stop in Marseille and then head on to Nice. The bus takes just as long as the train but gets you there at a much more affordable price. And if you have your own vehicle, driving is the only method that lets you fully explore Southern France.
How to Get from Barcelona to Nice
|Train||9 hours (with transfers)||from $58||Making a pitstop in Marseille|
|Bus||10 hours, 30 minutes||from $25||Last-minute travel plans|
|Flight||1 hour, 20 minutes||from $17||Arriving quickly and saving money|
|Car||6 hours||411 miles (662 kilometers)||Exploring the area|
You can't take a direct train from Barcelona to Nice, but you do have a couple of options depending on how quickly you need to arrive. Using the faster option, you can leave Barcelona in the morning and arrive in Nice the same evening, but you have to change trains twice. If you don't mind breaking up the trip, the more comfortable option is to take a train to Marseille, spend the night, and leave for Nice the next day.
Whichever option you choose, you'll want to reserve your seats as soon as you finalize your plans. Train tickets are priced like flights, getting more expensive as the travel date approaches and demand goes up. For the best deals, book your tickets as early as possible.
- Faster Option: Using the French railway site, SNCF, look for trains from Barcelona to Nice. The fastest options include two transfers: one in Nimes and another in Marseille. The journey takes roughly nine hours and prices start at about $110. If you want to get to Nice by train without making an overnight stop, this is your only option. Although if you're traveling in a rush, flights will get you to Nice much faster and likely much cheaper.
- Comfortable Option: The second option is to use SNCF to reserve a seat on a high-speed train from Barcelona that arrives in Marseille in the late evening. There are no trains to Nice until morning, so you'll have to spend at least one night in Marseille before continuing on. Or you can really take advantage of your pitstop and spend a couple of days in Marseille before moving on to Nice. The price for both trains starts at roughly $58.
All trains depart from Barcelona at the central Barcelona Sants station and arrive at Gare de Nice Ville, conveniently located just a 15-minute walk from the beach.
The most convenient way to travel from Barcelona to Nice is by plane. The flight is only one hour and 20 minutes, and it's usually the least expensive way to travel as well. Low-cost airlines Easyjet and Vueling both fly direct to Nice every day and the competition between them keeps prices down. It takes about 30–35 minutes to travel from each city's center to the airport, but even factoring in that extra travel time, traveling by air is still by far the fastest way to get to Nice.
You can take a direct bus from Barcelona to Nice that takes just as long as the same-day train option. The bus isn't as comfortable as being on the train, but you don't have to worry about transfers and it will be a fraction of the price. Tickets start around $28, and you can compare prices and look at the schedule using Omio.
Buses leave Barcelona from either Sants station or Nord station, both of which are located in easy-to-reach spots in the city center. However, in Nice they only arrive at the airport, so you'll need to take the tram into the city center.
Travelers who want to take their time exploring the Mediterranean coast will enjoy the freedom of having their own vehicle. It's a stunning drive with frequent views of the sea, gorgeous landscapes, and countless little towns to stop in and break up the trip. You could easily do the entire six-hour drive in one day, but part of the fun of a road trip is all the pitstops along the way. Some stand-out cities you'll pass through that are worth checking out include Girona in Spain and Nimes and Montpellier in France, but you should stop anywhere that catches your eye.
Before renting a car, don't forget to factor in all of the extra costs besides the rental charge and gas. Spain and France both extensively use tolls on their highways and you should expect to pay over $70 driving from Barcelona to Nice. Tollbooths do accept credit cards but foreign cards aren't always accepted, so you should carry euros with you just in case. Also, if you don't plan to return to Barcelona, rental companies often charge hefty fees for dropping off a car in a different country from where you picked it up.
Even though you are technically crossing an international border, Spain and France are both parts of an agreement called the Schengen Zone which allows for borderless travel between countries in Europe. So when you get to the border, you won't have to worry about long lines or passport control. The only way you'll even know you changed countries is by the bright blue sign that simply reads, "France."
What to See in Nice
Nice looks like a postcard picture, especially the Belle Époque architecture that defines the Promenade des Anglais along the city's coastline. The Old Town, or Vieux Nice, is made up of squares and streets dating back to the 17th-century, and today is filled with charming cafes, bars, and bistros for enjoying your morning coffee or an afternoon cocktail. The Cours Saleya is a daily outdoor market that transitions from fresh local fruits and vegetables in the morning to aperitifs and cocktails in the afternoon and evening. It's a perfect place to sit out, enjoy the sunlight, and sip on a drink while enjoying a socca crêpe, a Niçois specialty.