- the thematic guide to France
guide for visitors
Eastern end of the beach at
Nice – the sea at Nice attracts swimmers and bathers
for about seven months of the year.
A bit of history
Way back in the 18th century, a fashion developed among the English
aristocracy and the new class of wealthy merchants and factory owners,
to vist Italy and see the great sites of the ancient classical world.
One of the easiest ways for travellers to get to Italy on
"Grand Tour", as it was called, was to cross France to Marseilles, then
boat along the coast.
Among the stopping places on this sea journey was the small port of
Nice; the coast here had an exceptionally
mild climate, and it was not long before some English visitors took to
idea of wintering in this idyllic spot between the Alps and the
Mediterranean. In an age when modern central heating had not been
invented, It was so much more pleasant to stay in Nice than return to a
cold damp English winter. Mediterranean tourism had begun.
By 1820 there was a sizeable British colony
Nice; and in 1822, during a bad winter, the Rev. Lewis Way decided to
employ local workmen to build a fine walkway along beside the beach.
Locals called it the "Promenade
des Anglais" the Promenade of the English, a seaside
esplande that was thus,
apart from hotels and inns, France's first custom-built piece of
tourism infrastructure. In 1864, the railway arrived, making Nice far
more accessible from Paris and northern Europe. And Nice has never
Since then, Nice, with its
wonderful climate, has continued to attract wealthy visitors, and more
recently mass tourism, from all over Europe and the world. Russians
were among the early visitors, and since the nineteenth century Nice
has been home or second home to many Russians. Nice's Russian Orthodox
cathedral, which is now the property of the Russian Federation, is one
of the city's fine buildings, and the largest Russian orthodox
cathedral in western Europe.
Russian orthodox cathedral.
In the days when
the early English tourists began visiting Nice, the city was not part
of France, but part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which covered
area that is now mostly in Italy. It was not until the signing of the
Treaty of Turin in 1860 that the Duchy of Savoy
and the County of Nice were ceded to France.
Consequently, Nice and its area have a culture and traditions
that have much in common with those of Italy. While the city's many
fine restaurants and hotels serve the best food in the French
tradition, local specialities in and around Nice have a distinctly
Italian and Mediterranean flavour; Pissaladière
of onion pizza with anchovies; and Nice ravioli, or ravioles, need
little introduction. Another local speciality, "les farcis",
"stuffed things", are vegetables, notably aubergines or courgettes
(zucchini), stuffed with a meat rice and herb mix. Socca,
Italy as Farinata, is a seasoned pancake made from chick-pea flour and
olive oil. As a seaport, Nice is also a town known for its seafood,
including dishes with the classic Mediterranean fish red mullet (rouget) and sea
attractions in and
The number one tourist attraction in
Nice is quite
clearly the sea.
With 7 kilometres of beach along the Promenade des
Anglais, Nice has one of the longest and most famous
beaches of the
French Riviera. It's worth noting however that the beach is made of
small pebbles, not sand – which does not seem to have
the millions of bathers who come here each year.
showing location of main sites. The area covered by this map
is just over 3 km (2 miles) across.
To the west of the old city is "Castle
La colline du château, whose former fortress was
demolished three hundred years ago. Today Castle Hill is a park filled
with luxuriant Mediterranean trees and shrubs, separating the beach to
the west from the old port, le
vieux port, to the east. The
old port is nowadays a yachting marina, where visitors can come and
luxury yachts of the super-rich. A warm evening wander round the old
port can be an unusual experience, with the underwater floodlights on
some yachts shining through the clear blue water.
to the old port.
The old city of Nice arcs round inland from
from the Promenade des Anglais to the old port. Most of the historic
quarter, including the famed flower market, is just behind the east end
of the beach. Entering the old
city, one moves from the open spaces of
the Promenade des Anglais into the narrow streets of a traditional
north Mediterranean city. As in Italy, the narrow streets are flanked
by tall houses, up to five stories high, and painted in warm colours,
reds, yellows and ochre. In many places restaurants spill out
the old buildings, their chairs and tables half covering the streets
where vehicles could not pass easily even if they were allowed to. In
warm weather, the aromas of Mediterranean cooking drifting out from the
kitchens can be a mouth-watering experience. Even if Nice had nothing
in the way of museums and monuments, it would be a place whose charms
would be enough to satisfy many of its visitors.
But Nice does have museums and monuments. Best of
Matisse (free admission): to get there take bus 15
from stop Deloye Dubouchage, near the hotel Crillon). Located in a
villa, the Matisse Museum has a great collection of works spanning the
Restaurants spill out into the narrow streets in the heart of old Nice.
Half way up to the Matisse Museum, the bus route takes you
another great museum, the Chagall
Museum, on the Boulevard de Cimiez.
The collection comprises some 400 works by Chagall, including the
series of 17 of Chagall's great biblical paintings.
Even closer to the old city is the MAMAC,
or Museum of
and contemporary art, a French and American modern art museum, with
works by Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle, Andy Warhol, Roy
Liechtenstein, and many others. This museum is located just
metres from the Place Garibaldi.
For those with
more classic tastes, the Nice Fine Arts Museum, the Musée
Beaux arts (free admission), has a collection of French
art from the 16th to the 20th century, with works by Van Loo,
Fragonard, Corot, Daubigny, Boudin, Monet, Sisley and Raoul Dufy, to
name a few.
Nice's other very popular site is
the Russian orthodox
cathedral, a classic Russian building that might
look more in place in Moscow or Saint Petersburg.
the area - the Cote d'Azur
Nice is well connected to the Riviera coast
and to the
hinterland by public transport. The train line runs along the coast,
and the Nice urban bus
network spreads well beyond the city limits. Tickets are
One easy trip that can be well recommended is to take
just four or five kilometres east along the coast to Villefranche
sur Mer. This is a delightful small old seaside town, hemmed
between mountains and sea, with narrow streets and small beaches. Then
continue to the next seaside village of Beaulieu
walking distance of Beaulieu is Saint
Jean Cap Ferrat, the most
exclusive of Nice's suburbs, on a rocky peninsula. There is a footpath
along the water's edge from Beaulieu to Saint Jean; and at Saint Jean,
garden lovers should climb the hill to visit the exquisite house and
famous gardens of the Villa
Ephrussi de Rothschild.
House and gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
the west of Nice, a popular place to visit is Cannes,
film festival. It is easily reached by train – which is also
best way to get to Monte
Carlo, fifteen kilometres east of Nice.
For a day-trip into the mountains, the narrow-gauge Chemin de Fer
de Provence will take you from Nice to Annot and back. The
railway leaves from a small station about 400 metres north of the main
train station, following up the valley of the river Var, through
dramatic scenery and into the foothills of the Alps. Trains continue
from Annot as far as Digne - but that is a two day trip.
Click here for more on visiting the French Riviera
selection of carefully chosen hotels in Nice.
These hotels are conveniently sited in or near the city centre, and
all have good write-ups. Click links for details
and to book at best rates .
Iconic hotel located on the Promenade des Anglais, facing the sea, a
home from home for the wealthy and glitterati of Europe and America for
more than a hunderd years.
More hotels coming
Hotel les Cigales
Between the station and the sea, 300 metres in from the Promenade des
Anglais. Small classic hotel, 19 rooms, with air con and wifi. No car
parking, but bicycles available for rent .
One of a small number of hotels in the old city; a 19th century
building 100 yards from the sea front and close to the market. Rooms
are on the 3rd floor, with access by lift / elevator.
more three-star hotels
for more three star hotels in Nice
for more two star hotels in Nice