The carnival is an age-old tradition that marks the end of the winter and the start of spring. It was originally a way for the French to indulge before Lent but the tradition lives on.
The Carnival de Nice shuts down the Promenade des Anglais and lines the French Riviera. Couples, families and solo travelers should come with open arms and give a chance to celebrate the change of season with the people of France.
At the Carnival de Nice you can experience:
The Flower Parades. As the opening event, the flower parade is one of the most popular experiences of the carnival. One hundred thousand locally sourced flowers are tossed from the exquisite float as it passes through the Promenade des Anglais.
The Parade of Lights. On Tuesday and Saturday nights the Nice sky lights up with a memorable light show at the Place Massena.
Dejeuner “Vira La Roda”. How about lunch with a view? Enjoy lunch on the Ferris wheel overlooking the French Riviera.
Burning of the King. The final event of the carnival is a long-standing tradition. Attendees watch the infamous King of Carnival catch on fire and light the night sky followed by a firework display over the Baie des Anges.
5 Local food and handmade souvenirs. The parade routes are lined with local vendor stalls selling classic Carnival treats, fabrics and memorabilia.
So Why Carnival de Nice?
The Nice Carnival offers a new experience every year by choosing a theme and inviting floats and guests to use their creativity to make it come to life.
Past themes include King of Media, King of Music and King of Energy. 2019 was the year of Charlie Chaplin.
There is potential for Carnival de Nice to be one of the most elaborate annual celebrations in the world and There is only one place where it rains flowers and fireworks can light up the French Riviera.
Luckily, the people of Nice are inviting everybody to come indulge, dance and celebrate with them.
Join the party and watch one hundred thousand flowers fall from the sky in Nice, France.
By burning the ‘King of Carnival’ and light the night sky followed by a firework display over the Baie des Anges.
Nice Carnival Tips
1# Getting the best view
Get the best view of the Flower Parade in the standing zone. Even though the top ticket seats are more expensive (€26), they aren’t the best seats in the house. Standing tickets are €12 (€5 for children six and under) and give you the freedom to catch the flowers as they shower down over the crowd.
2# Cheap Parking
To find cheap parking, go to one of the 5 ParcAzur parks and ride lots. Cars can park here all day for a small price. Another option is to park at the NiceEtoile shopping center which is five minutes away from the carnival. It costs €5 to park for 5 hours.
3# Free entry with costumes
Costumes can grant free entry into the B-Zone attendee areas. With that being said, a simple costume might not pass the test. Attendees hoping for free entry need to put substantial effort into their costume, with extra points for staying on theme.
What To Do
Attending the carnival checks off three must-see places in Nice: Promenade des Anglais, Baie des Anges and Place Massena. Although the carnival takes up most of the city, there are a few classic tourist spots close by worth visiting.
Parc de la Colline du Château
Is a short walk away from the heart of the carnival. The winding hill is a popular spot to overlook Baie des Anges, Old Nice and the Port. It’s particularly popular at night as the city lights highlight the beauty of Nice.
The Musée Marc Chagall
Is a testament to the famous French artist, designed by the painter himself. Choosing exactly where each piece would hang, Chagall was the mastermind behind the housing of his own biblical artwork.
The Nice Cathedral
Can be found in the oldest part of the city, Vielle Ville. The Cathedral was built in the seventeenth century and is surrounded by Italian esque buildings and alleys. Apart from experiencing the pristine detail of the cathedral, the streets of Vielle Ville are laced with classic French cafes and late night bars.
Who wouldn’t want to dance tango as the stars illuminate the French Riviera? Tango lessons are available almost nightly in Nice. They can be found at 9pm on Tuesdays and Fridays at the MAMAC Plaza
Where To Stay
The old city of Vielle Ville is one of the many places to stay while visiting Carnival de Nice. It provides accommodation for attendees that are interested in experiencing carnival and a normal day in Nice.
It is also the best place to stay while on a budget, with prices as low as €70 for a room at the Villa Rivoli Hotel.
Nice also offers private villas for larger groups like the Villa Californienne a Nice. Villas like this one have private pools, terraces and are pet-friendly.
One of the most luxurious options is Hotel Negresco, a hotel known for next level accommodations for guests. Hotel Negresco is located on the Promenade des Anglais making it a coveted place to stay during carnival.
Its balconies offer a unique view of the extravaganza happening below.
Where To Eat
Inside the luxury Hotel Negresco is a popular dining spot, Le Chantecler. Since the hotel is inside of the Promenade des Anglais, attendees can eat a great meal while still experiencing everything happening at the carnival. Le Chantecler is a two Michelin-star restaurant and the head chef, Jean-Denis Rieubland, is a Nice local.
A tier below and health-focused food option is Vegan Gorilla, a few minutes’ walk from the city center. Avocado toast, pasta and dessert are all on the menu.
Outside of the center in Vielle Ville is Oliviera, a restaurant focused on highlighting the varieties of olive oils. Dinner starts with an olive oil tasting and ends with the guest’s choice to purchase their favorite blend.
Caju Vegan Food
Vielle Ville is also home to another top-rated vegan restaurant, Caju who’s menu highlights the fruits and vegetables in season.
How To Get There
International flights arrive into Nice daily departing from the USA, Australia, China, Thailand, South Africa, Central and South America. In most cases though there will be a connection flight depending on the airline.
Transit from the airport
Since Carnival de Nice is located right in the heart of the city, transit from the airport is easy. There are a few transportation options:
Nice taxi drivers have a reputation for overcharging and most locals will take public transport or the airport shuttle to the city center. For visitors who choose to go via taxi, the ride will cost about €30-50 and should take about twenty minutes.
Ubers are available for €16-20. Nice airport (NCE) has free wifi so international visitors can login to order their Uber.
Private car services cost €35 and are known for having a very good reputation.
NCE has an airport shuttle that costs €6 and brings visitors directly to the Promenade des Arts (Bus #98).
Bus from airport
Public transportation, A bus from NCE to Promenade des Anglais, costs €1.50. Use these instructions to get the city center:
5. From NCE, walk 350 meters (approximately five minutes) to Les Sagnes station.
6. Take the N4 bus going towards St. Laurent du var Promenade des Arts. Get off at Vallon Barla/Promenade stop. The ride will take 18 minutes and the bus will make 13 stops.
7. Walk for one minute and arrive at Promenade des Anglais.
To get from NCE to Vielle Ville:
8. From NCE, take the same route as above and walk 350 meters to Les Sagnes station.
9. Take the N4 bus towards St. Laurent du var Promenade des Arts and get off at the Promenade des Arts stop. The ride will take 42 minutes and the bus will make 42 stops.
10. Walk 500 meters and arrive in Vielle Ville.
If you’ve booked a room in Nice center than you’re stop is at the Nice Ville train station. From the train station the walk to Promenade des Anglais is around 20 minutes or a short distance with an uber or taxi.
The cheapest option arriving to Nice with prices from 1.50 euros from Cannes and 30 euros from Paris. This is also the longest option with nearly 1.5-2 hours on the road from Cannes depending on traffic, compared to 27 minutes by train. If you’re truly on a budget, the bus could be your option, but also the longest on.
Parking in carnival time
Parking during the festival can be found at one of the ParcAzur parks and ride lots as well as at the Nice Etoile shopping center. It costs €5 to park for 5 hours and is a short walk away from the carnival.
If you’re arriving from Paris to Nice, the TGV runs about seven trains daily between the two cities. The trip is approximately seven hours and is cost €150, or less if booked ahead of time.
Flixbus, Ouibus, Isilines are also available for budget-friendly travelers. Buses cost a maximum of €65 but will be cheaper if booked prior. A bus ride from Paris to Nice is on average seventeen hours. EasyJet, Swiss and Iberia offer flights between the cities as well, ranging from €70-€200. A flight from Paris to Nice is an hour and a half.
Nice Carnival History
The Carnival de Nice has been an annual tradition since 1294. It originated as a street party with Counts, Kings and Princes present.
The official carnival was established when the city of Nice decided to impress their guests, the King and Queen of Sardinia in 1830. The street party turned into an organized event thrown in the honor of the royal family.
Carriages instead of Floats
Instead of floats, carriages drove through the streets to entertain the King and Queen. Officials and people of Nice enjoyed the carnival so much that the decision was made to throw an elaborate celebration even if the King was not able to present. Hence, the King float was established.
When the King wasn’t able to participate in the carnival, the people would create their own King. He would be the main event and soon came to symbolize the beginning and end of the carnival. The tradition began to push the king out to sea and lit him on fire as a way to officially end the celebrations.