Main city on the Riviera, the second biggest in the PACA region and fifth in France, with so many great natural, cultural and tourist attractions, not to mention the third biggest airport, the second largest hotel capacity and two convention centers, Nice is undoubtedly the Ultimate!
Situated along the Baie des Anges on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is surrounded and protected from the wind by the hills and mountains. It enjoys exceptionally clement and sunny weather year-round.
The city developed at the foot of the Castle Hill on which Nice had been founded in the 4th century BC. At first limited to an area that corresponds to todays Old Nice, it was only after its integration into France in 1860 that the city started to spread towards the east and the port, towards the west and the Var Valley and to the north.
So it's not surprising that its neighbourhoods differ one from the other: Italian or French influences, popular or bourgeois, colourful façades or Haussmannian buildings, narrow streets or wide avenues.
Massena Place in Nice
Old Nice comprises the Cours Saleya, parallel to the États Unis Quay, where the very colourful flower market takes place from Tuesday to Sunday and the antique market on Mondays. To the east of it lie the Senate and the Saint-Suaire Chapel. From this big square you can spend hours strolling the maze of streets that make up the old quarter. There are shops and small restaurants everywhere, without forgetting the splendid Saint-Marie Sainte-Réparate basilica, seat of the diocese of Nice. Built between 1650 and 1699 in a baroque style and with a cupola of brightly glazed tiles, it has been altered several times since.
You can also go up the castle hill – on foot or take the elevator on the Rue des Ponchettes. Only a few bits of wall remain from the ancient city but strollers can enjoy the park and botanic garden all while discovering the man-made cascade, very refreshing in summer, the mosaics and the magnificent views over the sea, the city and the surrounding area.
The hill is adjacent to the port of Nice, a marina where cruise boats also dock. It's a popular and lively quarter with old and colourful building façades. A coffee and a croissant in the morning or a cocktail in the evening make for a very pleasant moment.
The city's main street, Avenue Jean-Médecin, with a tramway since 2007, divides the city centre between the old quarter and later developments such as the Place Masséna and the Albert I gardens. And, of course, the famous Promenade des Anglais!
Today the emblem of Nice, at the start of the 19th century the Promenade des Anglais was just a dirt and stone path, 2 metres wide, built by the English who had chosen Nice as their winter vacation spot, hence the name (Anglais = English). Over the decades, the road grew larger and extended to the Magnan quarter and finally the Var River in 1903. Palms and other trees were planted and luxury villas and Belle Époque buildings sprang up.
Even if the street lanes are overrun with cars, a stroll on the Prom' is a Must. A meeting place for the people of Nice, on skates, bike or on foot, you can enjoy its 8 kilometres right on the sea, admiring the beaches, the legendary 5-star hotels, such as the Negresco Hotel with its neoclassical façades and baroque ornamentation, the luxury apartment buildings and the Palais de la Méditerranée.
Another area to visit is Cimiez, a hill in the city with a bourgeois neighbourhood where you will find the Matisse Museum and the remains of the Roman arena where now the Nice Jazz Festival is held every July. The Cimiez monastery hosts concerts in its magnificent cloister during the Nuits Musicales de Nice.
Near Nice, don't miss out on visiting the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and, 800 metres from there, the Villa Kerylos.