Nice… the city of carnival, the beach and the sun. In an ideal location between the sea and mountains, visitors enjoy its famous pebble beaches and can discover the hinterland with ski pistes and the Park du Mercantour (Mercantour Park). The city also has interesting architecture and provides a wide range of activities. Nicknamed Nissa la bella, this town has always attracted many artists and tourists beyond number. Its main feature is undoubtedly the Promenade des Anglais (the Promenade of the English) which borders the Baie des Anges with its 5 kms of beaches. Apart from the English, tourists from various parts of the world flock here. The large majority are Russian, Italian and American... Today, as the capital of the department, Nice relies principally on tourism.
The City of Nice has had a history full of ups and downs. Constantly passing from one national sovereignty to another over the centuries, Nice only officially became part of France on the 14th of June, 1860. On the pretext of helping Italy in its reunification ventures, Napoleon the III managed to negotiate and obtain the county of Nice as well as the county of Savoy from his neighbour. The reasons ? These were mainly strategic. Even though Nice no longer had a military function, it was still nevertheless a strategic area.
Originally, «Nikaia» which means «the one through which victory is achieved», was a small naval port founded by the Greeks. Taken over by Julius Cæsar, Nice assumed a significant rôle in military strategy. With subsequent wars, this «border town» passed from one hand to another. It even became an independent republic in the Eleventh Century, but not for long. The fall of the château at the end of the Eighteenth Century brought a close to the town’s military chapter. From this long period of instability, we remember such names as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Catherine Ségurane, who is alleged, whilst defending the town during the siege by the Ottoman fleet in 1543, to have bared a breast to the enemy.
Subsequently, the era of tourism arrived with the British aristocracy who gave their name to the «Promenade des Anglais». Attracted by the mild coastal climate, they set up their winter quarters in Nice. Later on, they were imitated by the Italians, Russians and Americans.
Many events punctuate life in Nice. One of the most famous is obviously the Nice Carnival which contributes greatly to the fame of the city with its floats, large heads in papier mâché and the King of Mascarades. Another important part of life in the Azurean capital is the Festival du Jazz de Nice (Nice Jazz Festival). Every year, this event attracts musicians from all four corners of the globe.
Other events play a part in the city’s exposition of its culture, such as the Mars aux Musées (the Month of March in the Museums), the Foire de Nice (Nice Fair) and various classical music festivals.
Walk through the old part of town. This district is very pleasant and has a good atmosphere both by day and night. By strolling through the little lanes, walkers discover the city’s history and all sorts of small boutiques and restaurants. On the street corner, you can hear Nissart being spoken, a dialect derived from the Oc language, mixed with the sound of Italian. At nightfall, old Nice is bubbling with life. It’s party time !
For hiking, there is nothing better than the Parc du Mercantour. A protected national park, this fantastic place harbours a wide variety of plants and animal species. It is not unusual to see a chamois or a marmot on the mountainside, and if you are really lucky, or unlucky, depending on how you look at it, wolves and eagles.
As cars and other motor-driven vehicles are banned from this natural sanctuary, the area can be visited on foot or on horseback, taking the little signposted paths. There are refuges to shelter ramblers who are exploring the park over several days. At the entrance to the park on the Saint-Martin-Vésubie side, you can choose to visit Parc Alpha where you can find out about and admire the Mercantour wolves.
In addition to the Old Nice Quarter, a place where you absolutely must visit the small regional stores, Rue Jean Médecin also has a good many boutiques of all kinds. Halfway down the road, one comes across the large : «Nice Etoile» shopping centre.
Near Place Masséna, running at right angles to Rue Jean Médecin, there is a pedestrian precinct: Rue de France has several shops and some restaurants.
Other "musts" to visit are the "Marché aux Fleurs" (flower market) and the Cours Saleya fruit, vegetable and fish market.
Nice is a city rich in culture which derives from history and its illustrious inhabitants, such as Matisse. Guided visits through the old town help visitors to appreciate the city’s development and discover the historic buildings which have marked these moments, such as the Château ruins, the Cimiez Arenas, the Roman fortress to the North of the city, the Promenade des Anglais with the Hôtel Negresco, not forgetting place Masséna, the Acropolis, Cours Saleya and Cathédrale Sainte Réparate… Cathédrale Saint Nicolas is in the Russian district. The city has numerous museums dedicated to diverse subjects.
The Tera Amata Museum built on an archaeological site, goes back to prehistorical times and will take you on a journey down the ages. The Asian Arts Museum, the Masséna Museum, the Matisse Museum, the Musée national Marc Chagall, the Museum of Art and Furniture of the Late Middle Ages, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC), the Villa Arson and so on.
Nice, or the capital of Provencal haute cuisine, as it is known.
In addition to its little dishes based on olive oil, garlic, and vegetables of the sun, Nice is famed as the home of socca, a small pancake made with chick pea flour, this forming an integral part of the city’s identity — not forgetting the famous ratatouille, the little Farci Niçoise or stuffed vegetables, pissaladière (a savoury tart), tourte de blettes (sweet or savoury pies), courgette flower fritters, and the celebrated «salade niçoise». On the sandwich side of things, the Pan Bagna is king. As for dessert, apart from ice-cream from Old Nice, there are whole candied fruit, specialities from certain confectioneries, such as Florian and Auer, which can also be found at the Cours Saleya Market.
There are many restaurants in Old Nice. The little streets often conceal excellent cafés, including some specialising in Niçoise haute cuisine. Otherwise, Cour Saleya has a wide variety of restaurants for all tastes: sea food, pasta, pizza and little farcis...
As candidate for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, the City of Nice has demonstrated its dynamism regarding sport. Very close to the hinterland with its skiing resorts, such as Isola 2000, Auron and Valberg, winter sports can be accessed by everyone. Nice also has a large indoor skating rink. Regarding the seaside, in addition to lazing about on the beach in summer, there is a range of water sports on offer. You can also play golf, and tennis... and take part in whitewater sports up-country from Nice.
The City of Nice has several green spaces, such as the jardin Albert 1er, the Hanging Gardens of Paillon, the Cimiez Monastery Gardens and the gardens at the Cimiez Arenas… You can also walk in the park at the Château de Nice and the Mont-Boron forest park. At Castel des Deux Rois, there are play areas providing families with a pleasant setting in which to relax. Finally, you mustn’t miss Parc Phoenix. This area is home to one of the largest tropical greenhouses in the world. There are also botanical gardens and temporary exhibitions.