World Facts Index > France > Nice

This is the newest district of Nice and, as a result the furthest from the centre. Situated near the airport, Arénas comprises many offices and hotels; and that is about all! Everything is very modern and functional. Essentially it is Nice's business centre. Luckily if you want to get some fresh air and leave the business world for a while without going too far you can visit the Phoenix glasshouse, Parc Phoenix, or otherwise the new musée des Arts Asiatiques Musée des Arts asiatiques.

Bord de mer
This is one of the fabled districts of the town of Nice. For more than a century tourists have been going there to walk along the Promenade des Anglais; in the nineteenth century they used to go there during the winter, at the dawn of the twenty-first it tends to be during the summer months. As for the inhabitants, whatever the season or the weather, they never get tired of the walk. Some go jogging, others roller skate, many walk, enjoying the view of the sea. Make sure you don't miss that view, perhaps sitting on one of the little blue chairs for which the Promenade is famous. The Promenade is lined by a great selection of luxury hotels, the most famous of which is the Negresco.

Cimiez hill remains the chic residential district of Nice. As well as the pleasant villas and well manicured gardens two aspects of Nice's past can be found there. The most ancient remains are Roman. In antiquity Cimiez was called Semenelum; back then it was a small town distinct from Nice. Some remarkable amphitheatres remain, where the Festival de Jazz is held each year and some very well preserved roman baths (cf. Musée d'archéologie). The other thing that remains from the past in Cimiez is from the Belle Epoque. Le Régina, a former hotel now divided into apartments, looks like a huge liner that has been shipwrecked on the hillside, and communicates some of the mood of the time. Matisse also spent the last years of his life there, and there is a museum dedicated to him not far from there a little further up the hill. Those who wish to visit the Matisse Museum might enjoy a visit to the Chagall museum.

Masséna - Centre-Ville
The Place Masséna is the beating heart of Nice, almost literally so given the red buildings which border it. This centre is edged by two green lungs: the Jardin Albert Ier, with its immense arc made of black metal, the Arc de Venet (an artist from Nice), and the Jardin Masséna, where one can be refreshed under the rare shade offered by the trees. Outside these parks there is a lot of hustle and bustle. The traffic is always very heavy. Throughout the day the crowd walks up the Avenue Jean-Médecin and through the pedestrian zone, window shopping. It is in these two places that the greatest number of shops can be found; fashion shops, ornaments, department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Marks et Spencer, the Nice Etoile shopping centre and shops of all kinds!)

Mont Boron
To get to Mont Boron, even though it is still part of Nice, you will have to take a car or use public transport, unless you want to go for a long walk (it is a pleasant one, through Mediterranean landscape and pretty maisonettes from the Belle Epoque). If you walk you will go past the Terra Amata Museum, which explores the prehistoric activity in this area. But whatever your mode of transport, it is worth going there. The view of Nice that one gets from there is fantastic. The town seems to extend from there like a body with the wall and hill of the Chateau as its head. Most of the postcards which show a panorama of Nice are photographed from this point. Elton John had the right idea when he bought his huge yellow villa at the top of Mont Boron.

The atmosphere of this district is unique. It doesn't feel at all like one of France's major cities. The Port is pervaded by a calmness and a certain authenticity. There are a few good places which serve traditional food from Nice, and there are places where the people of Nice themselves go (restaurants, meat delicatessens, patisseries...: both Pipo Socca, and Fjord are discreet places). In this district, particularly in rue Segurane you will find antique dealers like Ginac. This cluster of shops, each filled to the brim with treasures, is a real feast. But it is also important to go to the port itself. Youn should visit the Ile de Beaute which has wonderful galleried arcades, sadly in disrepair these days. On the quay you'll enjoy the sight of the small, brightly coloured, old-fashioned fishing boats resting next door to millionaires yachts, ferry boats and cruisers, vessels to dream about and travel in.

Promenade du Paillon
The Paillon Promenade district has increased in importance over the years. The Palais des Expositions and the Palais des Congrès, can be found here, as well as the Acropolis, a huge futuristic building which houses various exhibitions and gatherings. The largest room, the Apollon, is given over to dramatic shows.There are singers, comedians, and the very popular Cinémathèque and ten-pin bowling alley, Bowling, can be found there too. A little further away, you can see the twin towers of the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain (MAMAC) and of the Théâtre de Nice (TDN), whose architecture is no less modern. Moreover it is in this zone that the Mediatheque will be built.

The random nature of placing things in alphabetic order means that this district of Nice comes last, whereas in fact it should be in pole position. Vieux-Nice really should not be missed. There is a fantastic atmosphere here, at any hour of the day or night, at the heart of this knot of small, narrow and twisted, and picturesque streets. The houses are so close to each other that it sometimes seems as if they are trying to kiss each other. Religious people meet up in front of the many churches packed into this end of town (which can be clearly seen from the top of the Château). The most majestic must be the Basilique Sainte Réparate. It is a wonderful example of Nice's Baroque style which is present down to the smallest details of Vieux-Nice. The most beautiful example of this style must surely be the Palais Lascaris. People who enjoy the good life will find themselves in their element. In Vieux-Nice one can eat, have fun, all accompanied by music. The best ice cream parlours are clustered in this area of town, in particular around place Rossetti (one is reminded in particular of Glacier Fenocchio ...). You should take the time to taste all the ice cream flavours, even the most bizarre ones such as canelle, violet, fig, chewing gum, tomato, lavander and rose! The restaurants are excellent as well; there are many different kinds, local food, Lebanese, Italian, and all at relatively reasonable prices. People who like their beer should make a tour of the pubs (De Klomp, Mac Mahon...), which all have the good atmosphere characteristic of Vieux-Nice; they often have bands playing which guarantees a great ambience! For those who are into it the Opera can also be found in Opéra de Nice whose auditorium is truly magnificent. Vieux-Nice also has an unusually large number and variety of artists working figuratively or in the abstract. It is a real pleasure to wander through these small streets, shaded from the sun during the summer, and discover, purely by chance, such a selection of small galleries. Finally, make sure you don't miss the Cours Saleya where there is always something happening; for example a fruit and vegetable market, Marché Saleya (fruits et légumes), a flower market Marché aux fleurs, a flea market Marché aux Puces, and an arts and crafts market Marché d'Art et d'Artisanat. The terraces of cafes and restaurants are very popular both in summer and winter, in particular La Civette and L'F'. A little paradise for those who enjoy the good life!

History of Nice

Nice is an ancient place. 400 000 years ago man had already settled in this place. Today the prehistoric site of Terra Amata marks this place - see the Musée Terra Amata (Paléonthologie). Primitive settlers, the first inhabitants of Nice, established themselves at the base of Mont Boron, in a cave known as Grotte du Lazaret. They lived there surrounded by ibex, stags, oxen and elephants, and made weapons from limestone. Several thousand years passed, a peaceful evolution, until Nice finally received her name. In the 4th Century BC the Massaliotes won a memorable victory over the Barbarians. These Greeks from Marseille gave the place the name 'Nikaia' which means 'that which gives victory to the colony they founded on the coastline'. Being the closest port of call from Cyrnos, the place became a Massaliote bridgehead, an important commercial trading post. The town which grew up became established not at the foot of Mont Boron, as had happened during the prehistoric period, - but on the slopes of the hill which lead up to to the Chateau.

At this time Nice was a small stronghold which protected her port through her natural defences - the Colline du Château. Only a few hundred people lived there, mainly merchants. They were under the authority of magistrates choseb by Marseille.

The Roman occupation can be traced to 14 BC and the start of the Roman Empire. At this time the Romans built a second town, called Cemenelum, on Cimiez hill. Once it had become the main town for the Alpes-Maritimes Military government, Cimiez quickly became a strategic centre.

While almost no traces of the Massaliotes remain, the Romans left many. The Trophée d'Auguste is just one, at Turbie from the Via Julia Augusta which linked Nice to Ventimiglia. It symbolises the submission of the Alpine peoples to Roman rule and marks the first step towards the opening up of the valleys. Augustus can also be credited with the first real administrative organisation of the region. Finally the most obvious signs of the Roman period in Nice are the ruined amphitheatres and the Roman Baths which one can visit at the Musée archéologique de Cimiez, on Cimiez hill, which are still well preserved today.

In the 6th Century Nikaia took over from Cemenelum. The fall of the Roman Empire included Cemenelum which disappeared. Nikaia, the low town became part of the French empire, affirming her importance through her port and the commerce which it made possible.

In 813 the town was sacked by the Sarrasins, who came to take over the whole of eastern Provence : the Côte des Maures. It was only in 972 that Guillaume, the Compte de Provence, managed to rout them. The commercial activity of the lower town intensified. In 1176 the first town charter was drawn up.

With the death of Queen Jeanne de Provence in 1382 civil war broke out. At that time Nice was Provence's third major centre after Arles and Marseille. Six years later, the people of Nice chose to go under the protection of the Compte de Savoie, Amédée VII; called the 'recantation' of 1388. Nice became a strategic stronghold for the Counts of Savoie, the town was instrumental in aiding them to defend themselves from the French and their allies.

In 1543 the Turkish hordes tried in vain to conquer Nice. Catherine Ségurane is the inhabitant of Nice whose contribution towards defeating the enemy is most memorable. This washerwoman stirred up a particularly unusual form of defence. Legend has it that she made them flee from carpet beaters while showing them her behind!

The 17th Century saw an explosion of Baroque Art in Nice, the facades were painted with red and yellow oxides, with ochres or Sienese earthy reds; the doorways contrased strongly and the woodwork was painted in cold colours, greens or blues. The restoration of the facades over the last few decades have returned Nice to her former Baroque glory. Other striking examples of this artistic tradition are the churches of the old town such as the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate.

At the end of the 17th Century, in 1691 and 1705, the French Army destroyed Nice's defences. In 1713, she was handed over to the Duke of Savoie, who had become King of Sardinia.

Between the French Revolution and the Empire, between 1792 and 1814 to be precise, the Alpes-Maritimes region was created and returned to France; as a result Nice returned to French control, except this time it was with the assent of the towns' inhabitants.

With the fall of Napoleon, Nice became Sardinian again; but her language and culture distanced her further and further from Italy. On the 24th March 1860, Napoleon III and Victor-Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia, agreed that Nice would be handed over to France once and for all. It was universally approved by the inhabitants of Nice. A remarkable economic boom ensued; roads were built, the railway arrived, the population exploded and tourism began.


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