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What to see and do
- the connoisseur's guide to France
Discover Nice - a
guide for visitors
showing location of main sites. The area covered by this map
is just over 3 km (2 miles) across.
A bit of history
Way back in the 18th century, a fashion developed among the
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 their
"Grand Tour", as it was called, was to cross France to Marseilles, then
take a 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
the 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 in 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 looked
Eastern end of the beach at
Nice – the sea at Nice attracts swimmers and bathers for about
seven months of the year.
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.
In the days when the early English
tourists began visiting Nice,
the city was not part of France, but part of the Kingdom of
which covered an 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
is a kind of onion pizza with anchovies; and Nice ravioli, or ravioles
little introduction. Another local speciality, "les farcis
litterally "stuffed things", are vegetables, notably aubergines or
courgettes (zucchini), stuffed with a meat rice and herb mix. Socca
known in 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
and sea bream (dorade
Tourist attractions in and around Nice
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 deterred the millions
of bathers who come here each year.
to the old port.
To the west of the old city is "Castle Hill" -
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
the east. The old port is nowadays a yachting marina, where visitors
can come and admirethe 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.
The old city of Nice arcs round inland
from "Castle Hill", 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
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
restaurants spill out of 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.
Restaurants spill out into the narrow streets in the heart of old Nice.
But Nice does have museums and monuments. Until
many of them were free; sadly charges have now been introduced.
these is the Musée
: to get there take bus 15 from stop Deloye
near the hotel Crillon). Located in a villa, the Matisse Museum has a
great collection of works spanning the artist's lifetime.
Half way up to the Matisse Museum, the bus route
takes you past 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
Even closer to the old city is the MAMAC
or Museum of modern art 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
just 100 metres from the Place Garibaldi.
Russian orthodox cathedral.
For those with more classic tastes, the Nice Fine
Arts Museum, the Musée des Beaux arts
has a collection of French and European 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
a classic Russian building that might
look more in place in Moscow or Saint Petersburg.
In the area - the Cote d'Azur
The French Riviera
is well connected to the Riviera coast and to the Alpine 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 cheap.
One easy trip that can be well recommended is to
take bus line 81
just four or five
kilometres east along the coast to Villefranche
sur Mer.This is a delightful small old seaside town, hemmed in
mountains and sea, with narrow streets and small beaches. Then continue
to the next seaside village of Beaulieu
Within walking distance of Beaulieu is Saint Jean Cap Ferrat
the most exclusive of Nice's suburbs, on a rocky peninsula.
House and gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
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
To the west of Nice, a popular place to visit is Cannes
famous for its film festival. It is easily reached by train – which is
also the best way to get to Monte Carlo
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 metre-gauge 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
Access - getting
to Nice :
With its well-served airport, Nice is an excellent choice for a long weekend break
or a short visit at any time of the year
plane - Nice airport:
the busiest international airport in France outside Paris. Served by
many carriers from all over France and Europe and even by Air
from the USA.
direct TGV service from Paris (over 6
hours), Lille, Lyon and Marseille. For
timetables and online tickets (France and Europe), see Trainline.com
Nice is over 12 hours drive from Calais, and over 9
hours from Paris.
Text and photos copyright © About-France.com 2003 - 2021
Except - Plan of Nice, developed from an open-source original
St. Nicholas Cathedral: creative commons photo by Unacerilla