Nice is the primary city on the French Riviera, locally known as the Côte d'Azur, celebrated for its warm climate and renowned beaches. After spending time in the grayness of London, an escape to the Mediterranean coast may be just what you're looking for.
Nice is in the far southeastern corner of France, just a few miles away from the Italian border, so you'll have to traverse the entire country if you're coming from the U.K. For that reason, taking a plane is by far the simplest method for travel and there are several daily direct flights. Taking the train is much longer and more expensive, but if you have the time and the budget, it's a beautiful ride through all of France with unbeatable views. If you want the freedom to explore along the way, you could also rent a car and make a road trip out of your journey.
How to Get from London to Nice
|Train||10 hours||from $80||Leisurely travel|
|Plane||2 hours, 5 minutes||from $22||Getting there quick and cheap|
|Bus||26 hours, 45 minutes||from $38|
|Car||13 hours||871 miles (1,400 kilometers)||Exploring France|
The train isn't the fastest or cheapest option for getting from London to Nice, but many travelers find it to be the most enjoyable. It's the best way to experience the landscape of the French countryside as it whizzes by you at 186 miles per hour. You also don't need to worry about any of the hassles that come with airports, and it's one of the most environmentally-friendly ways to travel.
You can't take a direct train from London to Nice, unfortunately, but you have a few options depending on where you want to transfer.
- Easiest Transfers: For travelers with lots of luggage, kids, or mobility limitations, the route with the easiest transfers starts with a train from London to Lille, followed by a train from Lille to Marseille, and finally onto Nice. Both transfers only require a change of platform and the entire journey takes about 11 hours total, leaving London's St. Pancras station around 11 a.m. and arriving in Nice after 10 p.m. the same day. You can look at schedules and ticket prices through Eurostar for the first leg and SNCF for the rest of the trip, or use RailEurope to book everything together for a small convenience fee.
- Fastest Journey: The fastest journey takes a Eurostar train from London to Paris, from where you can then catch a direct high-speed train to Nice. However, trains from London arrive in Paris at Gare du Nord station and you'll have to cross the city to Gare de Lyon station for the train to Nice. You can take a local commuter train or a taxi, but it's an extra hassle that you should be aware of. Of course, the ideal option may be to spend a few days in Paris and then continue on to Nice. You can look at schedules and ticket prices through Eurostar for the first leg and SNCF for the rest of the trip, or use RailEurope to book everything together for a small convenience fee.
- Cheapest Journey: The most affordable option is almost the same as the fastest option, and starts with the Eurostar train from London to Paris. However, instead of booking the second leg through France's standard rail service, you reserve a seat on the low-cost train Ouigo. It's still a high-speed train, but also a no-frills journey where you can't choose your seat and need to pay extra for luggage. You can look at schedules and ticket prices through Eurostar for the first leg and Ouigo for the second leg of the trip.
As enjoyable as the train ride is, taking a plane is without a doubt the most convenient option for direct travel from London to Nice. If you aren't interested in visiting the many cities between them, especially Paris, then a flight is both fast and affordable. Several airlines fly direct, such as RyanAir, Easyjet, and British Airways, so competition between them keeps prices down. Travel to Nice is highly seasonal, so expect to see a jump in prices in the warm summer months and during the holidays when many Brits want to escape to the beach.
London has six international airports, some of which are quite far from the city center—especially Stansted (STN) and Southend (SEN). Make sure you research how long it takes to arrive at the airport before hastily booking the cheapest flight because an early morning departure time may be complicated by limited late-night transportation options.
Taking the bus on this long journey takes over 26 hours with a transfer in Paris. Tickets are pretty cheap through BlaBlaBus, but with how affordable plane tickets are, there aren't many realistic scenarios where you would want to take the bus. Even if you're making last-minute plans in the middle of the high season and flights and trains are prohibitively expensive, you're better off taking the bus to a closer destination, like Paris or Brussels.
It's a long drive to Nice and you'll have to cross all of France from north to south to get there, but if you have the time to leisurely explore and spend a couple of nights in cities along the way, it's a beautiful drive and an experience you'll never forget.
If you want to see Paris, you can pass right through it and spend some time there before continuing south. However, Paris traffic can add a significant amount of time to your journey. Plus, while driving around France is easy, having a vehicle in the city of Paris is likely to be more of a headache than it's worth.
If you've already been to Paris and don't mind skipping it, you'll save time by driving farther east and passing through Reims in the Champagne region of France, a necessary stop for lovers of the world's most famous sparkling wine. Continue on and you'll eventually come to Lyon, another charming city worth a visit for at least a night.
Driving your own car brings with it all kinds of unique advantages, but don't embark on this route unless you know exactly what you're getting into. Apart from the car rental and gas, there are all types of other costs to factor in, including tolls. French highways use tolls based on the distance you drive, and since you'll literally be driving across the country, they will add up quickly. To cross from the U.K. to France, you'll also need to pay for your car to be shuttled across on the Chunnel train. If you're renting a car and not traveling back to London, be aware that most rental companies charge a hefty fee for dropping a car off in a different country from where you picked it up.
What to See in Nice
Nice is the heart of the French Riviera, and visitors keep coming back to enjoy its beautiful beaches and warm Mediterranean waters. The Belle Époque architecture along the Promenade des Anglais is one of the city's most defining features and makes for some Instagram-worthy photography. The streets and plazas inside Vieux Nice—or Old Nice—date back to the 17th century, but today it's a popular area for enjoying one of the many local cafes, bars, or bistros. Farmers, butchers, and fishmongers appear every morning at Cours Saleya, a huge outdoor market that is an attraction in itself. In the evening, the market transitions into a space for enjoying an aperitif or pre-dinner cocktail, and there couldn't be a more romantic setting to sip on a glass of French wine while savoring a socca crêpe, a Niçois specialty.