Are you thinking of visiting Nice or Lille for your next French city break but can’t decide which to visit? It’s not an easy choice. Both cities are beautiful and have so much to do, but they’re very different. In this blog post, we’ll go over everything you need to know like cuisine, safety, budget, and suitability for different types of travellers to help you decide.
Nice, the jewel of the French Riviera! If you’re the kind of person who loves to bask in the sun while enjoying breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea, then Nice is your dream come true. It’s a vibrant, colourful city where the beach meets the streets, and there’s always something to see or do. Plus, the Old Town is just amazing – it’s like stepping back in time. And let’s not forget the food, which is a heavenly mix of French and Italian flavours.
Nestled near the border with Belgium, Lille has a unique charm that’s all its own. This vibrant city blends French and Flemish influences, creating an ambience that’s distinct yet welcoming. The old town, Vieux Lille, enchants visitors with its narrow cobbled streets and colourful old houses. But it’s not just about the past here. Lille is also a young city, thanks to its large student population, and this brings a dynamic, energetic feel to the place. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets, diving into the lively arts scene, or just relaxing in a cosy café, Lille has something for everyone. It’s a city that knows how to live well and invites you to share in that.
While we’re comparing Nice and Lille in this post, we’ve also looked at how Nice stacks up against other cities like Lyon and Nantes. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Nice and Lille
- 🏖 Stunning Beaches: Nice boasts beautiful Mediterranean beaches which are perfect for relaxation.
- ☀️ Weather: With its Mediterranean climate, Nice enjoys warm, sunny weather most of the year.
- 🥐 Food: Offers a rich and diverse food scene, with influences from Italian and traditional French cuisine.
- ✈️ Accessibility: Nice’s airport is one of the busiest in France, making it easily accessible.
- 👫 Crowded: As a popular tourist destination, Nice can become quite crowded, especially in peak tourist season.
- 💶 Cost: Being a popular Riviera town, the cost of living and tourism can be high.
- 🏛 Rich History: As a former European Capital of Culture, Lille is teeming with history and culture.
- 🥖 Food: Known for its hearty and delicious Northern French cuisine.
- 🚅 Accessibility: With the Eurostar, Lille is easily accessible from several European cities like London, Brussels, and Paris.
- 👩🎓 Student City: Lille’s large student population brings youthful energy and vibrancy to the city.
- 🌧 Weather: Compared to Nice, Lille’s weather can be quite rainy and chilly, especially in the winter months.
- 🧳 Less Touristy: While this could be a pro for some, those looking for the quintessential French tourist experience might find Lille a bit off the beaten path.
Which City Has Better Food? Nice or Lille?
Both cities bring a unique flavour palette to the table.
Positioned along the French Riviera, Nice takes full advantage of its Mediterranean location. The cuisine here is a vibrant mix of French and Italian influences with an emphasis on fresh seafood, ripe vegetables, and aromatic herbs – think salade niçoise, ratatouille, or socca.
On the other hand, Lille, being in the northern part of France, offers hearty, comfort food which is characteristic of the region. Its dishes tend to be rich and satisfying, often featuring ingredients like cheese, sausage, and beer. If you have a taste for dishes like carbonnade flamande (a slow-cooked beef and beer stew) or potjevleesch (a jelly meat terrine), Lille would feel like a culinary haven.
Really, it’s a tie – both cities present food lovers with an incredible range of foods to try. Your personal preference for Mediterranean freshness versus Northern heartiness might tip the scale.
Which City is Better For Couples? Nice or Lille?
Romance all comes down to personal preference, and what you and your partner like doing.
Nice is probably the more stereotypical romantic city. Sun-kissed beaches, a charming old town and amazing views of the Mediterranean from Castle Hill. There are loads of places to go for romantic walks and dinners overlooking the sea. If you want to explore the French Riviera, Nice is a great base, Cannes, Monaco and St Tropez are very close!
That being said, Lille shouldn’t be overlooked. The city’s Flemish architecture, enchanting cobblestone streets, and cosy bistros make for a uniquely charming atmosphere. The city’s slower pace might just be the perfect setting for couples looking for a quieter, but equally enchanting romantic getaway.
Both cities offer a romantic backdrop for couples, whether you’re after the sun and glamour of the Riviera, or the charming tranquillity of northern France.
Which City is Better For Families? Nice or Lille?
When it comes to a family-friendly holiday, both Nice and Lille are great options.
If you’re looking for a good mixture of sea and culture Nice is definitely your best bet. The beaches are beautiful and the water is a lovely shade of turquoise. The Promenade du Paillon and Parc Castel des Deux Rois are perfect for the kids to play and even have a picnic. The promenade is also great for bike rides and long walks.
Lille is a bit different, there’s no beach on offer and with it being northern France the weather probably won’t be as good! But it’s still got lots to offer. Lille’s Zoo and Natural History Museum are bound to be hit with the kids. The zoo is located on a little island just next to the centre of Lille. The island is famous for being the location of Citadelle de Lille, a 17th-century five-sided fortress that the kids will be fascinated with. There’s also the Cita-Park on the island which is a mini amusement park with plenty of rides to keep the kids entertained.
If your family loves the outdoors and sunshine, Nice might be the perfect destination. But if you’re looking for something a bit different that kids will enjoy Lille could be a great choice!
Which City is Better For Partying? Nice or Lille?
For those who enjoy nightlife, both Nice and Lille have something to offer, but they present quite different experiences.
Nice might not be the party capital of the Riviera (a title that arguably goes to Cannes or Saint-Tropez), but it offers a diverse mix of venues and late-night beach parties, especially during the summer months. There are more than enough bars and clubs to keep even a seasoned party animal entertained.
Lille, however, has a youthful vibrancy thanks to its student population. It is renowned for its lively bar scene, particularly in the areas around the Rue Solferino and Rue Massena, which come alive at night.
So, if you’re after sophisticated, seaside nightlife, Nice could be your best bet. But for a lively, youthful atmosphere with a great variety of bars, Lille might just take the cake.
Which City is Safer? Nice or Lille?
Nice, being a popular tourist destination, it has its share of petty crimes like pickpocketing, especially in crowded tourist areas and public transportation. But with some basic precautions, like keeping an eye on your belongings and avoiding poorly lit areas at night, Nice is generally a safe place to visit.
Lille, on the other hand, generally has a lower rate of petty crimes targeting tourists compared to Nice. But it does have some areas that are better avoided at night. However, it’s worth noting that the city center where most tourists stay and visit is considered safe.
Ultimately, both cities are generally safe for visitors, and any safety differences are unlikely to significantly impact your trip.
How long to stay in Nice
Deciding on the perfect duration for a trip to Nice can be a bit difficult, given the city’s stunning beaches, rich history, and flourishing art scene. Ultimately, the length of your stay will hinge on your personal preferences and how leisurely you plan to explore.
If you’re all about soaking up the sunshine, meandering through the charming Old Town, and indulging in the Riviera’s culinary delights, a stay of 2 to 3 days should suffice. This provides enough time to bask on the beautiful beaches, get lost in the winding alleyways of Vieux Nice, and savour mouth-watering local dishes like ‘Socca’ or ‘Salade Niçoise’.
However, if you’re intent on immersing yourself in Nice’s rich cultural tapestry and history, think about extending your visit to 4 to 5 days. This way, you can explore the exquisite art at the Musée Matisse and Musée Marc Chagall, soak in the views from the Colline du Château, and visit the iconic Cours Saleya market, all without feeling rushed.
For those desiring a deeper dive into the Côte d’Azur lifestyle, spending a week in Nice can be a fantastic choice. This period will not only provide time to thoroughly explore the city’s attractions but also offer opportunities for leisurely strolls along the Promenade des Anglais, indulging in the café culture, and embarking on day trips to nearby gems like the glamorous Cannes or the independent microstate of Monaco. A week in Nice allows you to truly immerse yourself in the relaxed yet vibrant Riviera lifestyle.
How long to stay in Lille
For a short trip, 2-3 days in Lille should give you enough time to see the main sights. You can explore the charming old town, visit a museum or two, and enjoy some local food. This is a good option if you’re on a tight schedule or if you’re visiting Lille as part of a larger trip.
If you have a bit more time, a week in Lille allows you to experience the city more fully. You can take your time exploring the city’s different neighbourhoods, visit more museums, and even take day trips to nearby cities like Bruges or Ghent.
So, whether you’re planning a quick visit or a longer stay, Lille has plenty to offer. But remember, the best trip length for you will depend on your personal interests and how much time you have available.
Which City is More Budget-Friendly? Nice or Lille?
If we’re talking about being easy on the wallet, Lille tends to be more budget-friendly than Nice. Being a smaller and less touristy city, things in Lille – from accommodation to food to entertainment – typically come with a smaller price tag.
Nice is the second most visited city in France. So as you’d expect from any tourist destination, it’s not going to be cheap.
Especially during the summer! Restaurants and hotels, especially with views of the sea can really do some damage to your budget.
But don’t forget, if you do your research there are deals to be found wherever you go! Choosing to eat and stay in less touristy areas is always a great way to look after your money!
How much is food and drink in Nice and Lille?
|€5 – €7
|€5 – €7
|Glass of Wine
|€3 – €10
|€3 – €10
|€1.50 – €3
|€1.50 – €3
|Meal at Midrange Restaurant
|€20 – €40
|€20 – €40
This table provides the estimated average price ranges for each food and drink item in both Nice and Lille. Please keep in mind that these prices are approximate and can vary based on the establishment, location, and other factors.
How much is it to stay in Nice or Lille?
|€150 – €500
|€150 – €500
|€70 – €150
|€70 – €150
|€40 – €70
|€40 – €70
|€20 – €40
|€20 – €40
Please note that the prices mentioned are estimated averages and may vary based on factors such as location, amenities, and seasonal fluctuations.
When is the best time to visit Nice?
Spring: From April to June, Nice enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate with temperatures ranging from 15-20°C (59-68°F). The city sparkles with the vibrant colours of blooming flowers, making it an ideal time to visit parks like the Colline du Château. Outdoor events and festivals also start popping up, creating an energetic atmosphere.
Summer: July to August in Nice is truly summertime. The temperatures can go up to 30°C (86°F), offering perfect weather for beach activities and enjoying the stunning coastline. However, be prepared for the crowd as these are the peak tourist months, and prices for accommodation and other services may also be higher.
Autumn: In the months of September and October, the temperature stays around 20-25°C (68-77°F). The city is less crowded during this period, and the changing colours of foliage give the city a beautiful look, ideal for walks and bike rides along the Promenade des Anglais.
Winter: From November to March, temperatures in Nice can drop to around 10-15°C (50-59°F). While it’s not the ideal time for beach activities, it’s a good opportunity to explore Nice’s museums, like the Matisse Museum, and enjoy indoor events without the tourist rush.
When is the best time to visit Lille?
In Lille, Spring (March to May) is a time when the city begins to revive after winter. The temperatures are mild, and the city’s parks and gardens are blossoming. This is a great time to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer crowds.
Summers (June to August) in Lille are warm and lively, perfect for exploring the city’s charming old town and its vibrant markets. The city is bustling with festivals like the Lille Braderie, a huge flea market event and a unique cultural experience.
Autumn (September to November) in Lille brings mild weather and changing colours, turning the city into a vibrant palette. The falling leaves in the city parks create a beautiful spectacle, making it an ideal time for photographers.
Winter (December to February) in Lille is fairly chilly, but it’s also when the city turns into a festive wonderland. The Christmas market lights up the city, and while it might be cold, the magical atmosphere more than makes up for it.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|Nice High / Low (°C)
|Nice Rainy Days
|Lille High / Low (°C)
|Lille Rainy Days
|13° / 5°
|6° / 1°
|13° / 6°
|7° / 1°
|15° / 8°
|11° / 3°
|17° / 10°
|14° / 5°
|21° / 14°
|18° / 9°
|24° / 17°
|21° / 11°
|27° / 20°
|23° / 14°
|28° / 20°
|23° / 13°
|25° / 17°
|20° / 11°
|21° / 13°
|15° / 8°
|17° / 9°
|10° / 4°
|14° / 6°
|7° / 2°
Please note that these values are approximate and can vary from year to year.
Getting around Nice:
Nice has a well-connected public transportation system, with trams and buses covering the city comprehensively. Tickets are interchangeable between buses and trams, making transfers easy. For those preferring a more active exploration, the city offers a bike-sharing scheme, Vélo Bleu, and plenty of bike lanes.
Walking is another great way to explore, especially in the Old Town and along the Promenade des Anglais. Taxis and Uber are also available, but keep an eye on fares during peak tourist seasons.
Getting around Lille:
Getting around Lille is a breeze thanks to its efficient public transport system, which includes buses, trams, and a metro. The Lille Metro is particularly notable as it was the world’s first fully automated light rail network. For shorter distances, walking or cycling is quite feasible as Lille is a compact city with many pedestrianized areas.
There’s also a bike-sharing program known as V’Lille. If you plan on exploring the wider region, trains from Lille’s stations offer quick connections to other major cities in France and Belgium.
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: Stroll along this famous seafront walkway, taking in the stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and Nice’s elegant architecture. Don’t miss the iconic Hotel Negresco, an architectural marvel.
- Vieux Nice (Old Town): Lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets of Nice’s old town, filled with vibrant markets, charming shops, and delightful eateries. Check out the Cours Saleya Market for fresh produce and local specialities.
- Colline du Château (Castle Hill): While the castle itself no longer stands, this hill offers panoramic views of Nice and the surrounding coastline. It’s also home to a beautiful park, ideal for a picnic.
- Matisse Museum: Art enthusiasts must visit this museum, housing an extensive collection of works by the French painter Henri Matisse, who lived and worked in Nice for many years.
- Take a day trip to Monaco: Only a short train ride away, this glamorous city-state offers a slice of luxury with its casinos, yacht-filled harbour, and the Royal Prince’s Palace.
Top things to do in Lille
- Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: As the second-largest general interest museum in France, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the likes of Rubens, Van Dyck, and Delacroix.
- Stroll around the Vieux Lille: The old town of Lille, with its cobblestone streets, beautiful old houses, and chic boutiques, is perfect for leisurely walks. Take time to enjoy the area’s charm, and don’t forget to try a Merveilleux, a local pastry.
- Explore the LaM: Standing for Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, the LaM holds over 4,000 works including pieces by Picasso, Modigliani, and Miro. Its beautiful park is also a must-see.
- Take a walk through the Citadel: Designed by Louis XIV’s engineer Vauban, the Citadel is a star-shaped fortress. The surrounding park, Bois de Boulogne, is a great place for a picnic or a jog.
- Visit the Wazemmes Market: This is one of the largest markets in France and a must-visit spot in Lille. From fresh produce to clothing, you’ll find almost everything here. Try to catch it on Sunday when it’s at its liveliest.
How to spend three days in Nice
Day 1: Discovering the Charms of Nice
Start your day with a stroll along the famous Promenade des Anglais, enjoying the stunning views of the Mediterranean. Follow this with a visit to the iconic Hotel Negresco, an architectural gem with a fascinating history.
Head to the Old Town, Vieux Nice, for lunch. Lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets filled with vibrant markets and charming shops. Don’t miss the Cours Saleya Market for some local produce.
In the afternoon, visit the stunning Nice Cathedral with its richly decorated Baroque interior. Then, make your way up to Colline du Château, or Castle Hill. Even though the castle is no longer there, the hill offers breathtaking panoramic views of Nice and the coastline.
Day 2: Artistic Endeavors and a Monaco Adventure
Kick off your second day with a visit to the Matisse Museum, showcasing a vast collection of works by the famous artist Henri Matisse who lived in Nice.
In the afternoon, take a short train ride for a day trip to glamorous Monaco. Explore the Royal Prince’s Palace, the luxurious casinos, and the yacht-filled harbour. Back in Nice, enjoy dinner at a chic restaurant on the beach.
Day 3: Riviera Relaxation
Your last day in Nice is all about leisure. Spend the day on one of Nice’s beautiful pebble beaches, soaking up the sun and swimming in the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. For lunch, try a beachside café for some fresh seafood.
In the evening, enjoy some shopping in the city’s chic boutiques and souvenir shops. End your Nice adventure with a delicious farewell dinner in one of the city’s gourmet restaurants, reminiscing about the highlights of your visit.
How to spend three days in Lille
Day 1: Get Acquainted with Lille and Its Historic Heart
Begin your Lille adventure by meandering through the streets of Vieux Lille, the city’s old quarter. Marvel at the charming Flemish architecture, visit the imposing Lille Cathedral and indulge in some retail therapy at upscale boutiques. After lunch, head over to the Grand Place, the city’s main square, where you can admire historic buildings like the Vieille Bourse. Cap off your day with a delicious meal at one of the local French or Flemish restaurants in the area.
Day 2: Dive into Lille’s Cultural Treasures and Parks
Start your second day by visiting some of Lille’s renowned museums. Explore the Palais des Beaux-Arts to see masterpieces from Goya, Rubens, and other great artists. Post-lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at the Citadel Park, home to the impressive 17th-century Citadel. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lille for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro for its delightful atmosphere.
Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal
On your final day, immerse yourself in the local vibe at Wazemmes Market in the morning. Here you can sample local delicacies and pick up fresh produce. Consider a picnic lunch at the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, one of the city’s lovely green spaces. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle, the birthplace of the former French president. To wrap up your Lille trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Northern French cuisine.
Gareth is an avid city adventurer with a particular passion for finding amazing food! There’s quite literally nothing he doesn’t like. He spends most of his travelling time trying to find great restaurants and cafes to eat at. Alongside trying local street food which he loves! He’s done most of his travelling in Europe so far but would love to visit Japan and Mexico
When not travelling you can find Gareth boxing, running, or in the gym. He’s got a passion for exercise and loves physical challenges.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org