This is Nice – facts, areas and landmarks
The city of Nice is a mandatory stop for any traveller in the French Riviera.
See a tour of Nice city centre:
Nicknamed Nice La Belle, Nice benefits from a scenic location on the Coast of the Mediterranean Sea and at the foot of the Alps. The largest city and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department, with a population of about 340 000 permanent residents, Nice is considered one of the most sophisticated locations of Côte d’Azur.
Apart from the natural beauty of Nice’s settings, a rich historic heritage, an elegant architecture and a vibrant cosmopolitan atmosphere of a modern metropolis add up to the city’s many charms.
Find below a few facts about Nice:
▪ Nice is an ancient city. It’s origins date back to 350 BC, when as it is believed, Greeks founded a settlement on the hill above what is today Nice’s Old Town. The settlement was named Nikaia, in honour of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. During the time of the Italian influence, the name developed into Nizza and later on, when the city became a French territory, into Nice.
▪ The people of Nice are called Niçoise and so is the popular French salad of boiled vegetables, eggs and tuna. Although the ingredients of the salade niçoise may vary depending on the region, it always shares the same characteristic – the typical Provençal seasoning.
▪ Socca, a thin pancake made of chickpea flour is a local delicacy worth trying. This simultaneously crispy and chewy bake is also found in the neighbouring region of Liguria, in Italy.
▪ Nice became a part of France only in 1860, having before belonged to the Italian kingdoms of Savoy and later, of Piedmont-Sardinia. The local dialect, Niçard, shares many similarities with the Italian language which was spoken in Nice for many centuries.
▪ The name of the Nice bay, Le Baie des Anges, meaning the Bay of Angels, refers to a legend of a Christian martyr, tortured for her faith in Palestine, whose battered body was set adrift on a raft on the Mediterranean Sea. According to the legend, angels protected the body and guided the raft to the bay of Nice, where it arrived in pristine condition, being later declared a miracle.
▪ The promenade running along the bay, known as Promenade des Anglais, on the other hand, owns its name to a historical fact: in the 19th century the mild climate of Southern France would attract to Nice aristocrats and wealth, as much as homeless and beggars who would find it easier to endure winters here. The problem of a growing population of the homeless in Nice got the attention of the British aristocracy, which drew and financed a project of a waterfront walkway build by the homeless to the mutual benefits of both the city and its poorest residents.
▪ Although nowadays Nice is associated mostly with the summer tourism, when first discovered as a leisure destination by the aforementioned British, at the turn of the 18 and 19th centuries, Nice became a winter retreat of the rich. Vacationing in the oppressing heat of the southern French summer was at that time an activity reserved to commoners.
▪ Whoever had a chance to spend a day in Nice, must have noticed the sound of cannons fired every day at noon. This tradition was first introduced in 1860, when an Englishman, Sir Thomas Coventry moved proposed to the city’s Mayor a midday cannon shot, offering to pay for the cannon. The story has it that his generosity was triggered by a distracted wife who notoriously forgot to prepare the husband’s noon meal.
▪ Nice is known for its exceptionally good sun exposure. Many artists sought inspiration in the city’s perfect light: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Chagall and Renoir, just to mention some. Also writers and philosopher enjoyed spending time in Nice, amongst them F. Scott Fitzgerald and Friedrich Nietzsche.
▪ Amongst contemporary famous people/celebrities often seen in Nice are Keith Richard, Bono and Elton John.
Nice – main areas and landmarks
Nice is a fairly large city, spreading over an area of approximately 27.8 square miles.
See detailed Nice city map.
In general, Nice can be divided in the following areas:
The historic quarters of Nice an absolute must-see, be it for the impressive monuments or the characteristic pastel and sun-bleached façades of the townhouses. Old Nice is a perfect place for a stroll along charming, windy streets when the oppressive heat of the French Riviera summer chases you off the beach. Stop at the monumental Sainte Reparate Cathedral, visit the Palais Lascaris villa and stop for coffee and shopping at the Cours Saleya market.
Related article: What to see in Nice – a guide to the capital of the French Riviera.
Promenade des Anglais and beaches
The nearly 5 mile long promenade stretching along the Baie de Anges is the most iconic landmark of the city. Perfect for a stroll at sunset or a morning jog, Promenade des Anglais is lined with palm trees and some of the most elegant buildings of Nice. From the promenade there is access to the most popular Nice city beaches, amongst them Plage Sporting, Plage Lido, Plage de Ruhl and Plage Neptune.
See a guide to Nice beaches:
Château and Nice Port
In the western part of Nice do visit Colline du Château. The ruins of a medieval castle itself may not be that interesting, but the panoramic views of the bay and the harbour are well worth a climb or, alternatively, a short elevator ride.
The port and dock area of Nice is a great place for a dinner out offering a wide choice of alternatives, from simple eateries to elegant, upmarket restaurants.
Cimiez – a cultural stop in Nice
The residential neighbourhood of Cimiez, situated north of the Old Town is a part of many tourist routes in Nice because to the many renowned museums here located. Musée Matisse and Musée National Marc Chagall are just some of the staples of a cultural trip to Nice.