On the Riviera (or the Côte d’Azur, as the Riviera is called en Français), Nice is a pastel showcase of Italianate Architecture. Once the playground of the English aristocracy – Queen Victoria chief among them – Nice remains the undisputed crown jewel of the sun-dappled Côte d’Azur.
It curves around the palm-fringed Bay of Angels, the Promenade des Anglais .
Nice is located in the legendary region of the French Riviera known as the Cote d’Azur. This evocative term was coined over a century ago by the poet Stephen Liegeard. Nice is the capital of the Cote d’Azur and is packed with spectacular Vino Con Vista things to do around the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).
I love Old Town, known as the Vieux Nice where you can find the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate.
Visit the Place Masséna, an Italian-style piazza. Many urban events take place at Place Massena, including the Nice Carnival.
In 1793, Nice was annexed to France and Napoleon began his Italian campaign from Nice in 1796. Between 1814 and 1860, Nice came under the House of Savoy until a popular referendum in 1860 made it a part of France forever. Use Nice as your hub to visit Monaco and Menton to the north and Cannes and Antibes to the south.
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, which so inspired impressionist Henri Matisse. Trace the career of one of France’s most famous artists, with paintings, drawings, sculptures and his famous paper cut-outs at Musée Matisse.
Matisse died in Nice in 1954 and you can also visit his grave in the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez cemetery, which is near the Matisse museum.
Enjoy a walking tour of Old Town, passing through Cours Saleya, the flower market immortalized in Matisse’s Festival of Flowers.
You can visit the impressive Opéra de Nice and the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate de Nice. Drive up Cimiez Hill to the Musée Matisse, a 17th-century villa not far from the Hotel Regina where the artist lived. Browse his beautiful paintings, many of which depict daily life in Nice. You may also walk the short distance to the Franciscan Monastery of Cimiez, where Matisse is buried.
Start Exploring Nice
1. Stroll along the palm trees on the Promenade des Anglais (Walk of the English) that stretches along the beach of the Bay of Angels. Watch the sunbathers that opt to sit on the rocky beach rather than rent a comfy lounge chair. Take some photos of the charming locals along the path. Cross the street and stop at one of the casinos on the main drag.
2. Pay a tribute to Miles Davis at the entrance of the glorious Art Nouveau Le Negresco Hotel. Stop in for lunch or a glass of wine. Better yet, consider staying at this swanky establishment.
3. Spend the day lounging on one of the lavish beach chairs while gazing at the magnificent vistas with a Nicoise flavored picnic lunch that you picked up from one of the local shops or the market in Old Nice. Try some La Socca that is made with chickpeas, olive oil and flour and is a local specialty. Buy some confectionery treats for your picnic at Confiserie Florian near the Old Harbor called Port Lympia. You can gaze at the antiques in Rue Segurane around the corner from Florian. It won’t be a “Vino con Vista” at the beach without a bottle of local wine!
4. Catch the “Little Train” on the Promenade or take the elevator to the Castle Hill which offers a breathtaking Vino con Vista “beaux panoramas du monde” view of Nice from this 300 foot hilltop park. The Castle (Le Chateau) was the Acropolis of the Greeks of Marseilles, a camp for the Romans and a citadel for the Counts of Provence and the Kings of Aragon in the Middle Ages.
Le Chateau is named after a 12th-century château that was razed by Louis XIV in 1706 and never rebuilt. The remaining 16th century tower is the Musée Naval. The cemetery where Garibaldi is buried covers the northwest of the park.
Witness the magnificent waterfall and admire the lovely monuments. Have a glass of wine, cafe creme or a Magnum ice cream treat at the cafe on the top of the hill.
5. Go to Old Nice (Vieux Nice) nestled at the foot of Castle Hill. Visit the Cours Saleya where the Flower Market is held during the day to find fresh fish, produce, cheese and beautiful flowers. You can find a fabulous flower market on the western side of the street and a spectacular food market on the eastern side with pastries and candied fruit.
More interesting sites include: the Cours Saleya (the open air market), the Baroque Chapelle de la Miséricorde from 1740.
Chapelle de l’Annonciation (Sainte-Rita)
Eglise Saint-Jacques that was built by the Jesuits in 1612
The Cathedral Sainte Réparate; named after Saint Reparate, the Patron Saint of Nice. It was designed in the 17th century by the architect Andre Guibera.
The Palais Lascaris
Don’t forget to buy some flowers.
Old Nice is loaded with charming shops that sell everything from soup to nuts.
When you finish touring the gorgeous Cathedral, have lunch and a bottle of Vin de Pays du Var at La Claire Fontaine under the red umbrellas directly in front of the church. Send my regards to the chef.
6. Have dinner in Old Nice (Le Vieux Nice) and witness the evening transformation when the flower stalls become the lively venue for seafood restaurants, nightclubs and cafes. Wander through the charming streets like the Rue de la Boucherie (Butcher’s Street) and the Rue de la Poissonnerie (Fish Street). After dinner stop at Fennochio for a vast array of Nice’s version of delightful gelato.
7. Visit the Place Messena and the Ciy Center on the Avenue de la Victoire, the main street of Nice. The street is also called Avenue Jean Medecin and was named after the former mayor of Nice. Shop or dine along the pedestrian precinct of rue Messena. I love that the statues of the seven seated Men on tall poles who represent the continents. They change colors at night and put on a colorful light show in the evening.
Visit the neo-Gothic Basilica of Notre-Dame with a facade that resembles the facade of the Parisian Cathedral with the same name and the famous rose window.
This area becomes the main stage for the annual Carnival Event http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx9DmP-ZEKM and opens up to the Place Messena with lovely statues and fountains.
8. Take the bus to the elegant Cimiez Quarter and admire the former Belle Epoque Regina Hotel where Matisse lived which has been converted to apartments. Admire the work of Matisse in a 17th century villa that has been converted into a Matisse Museum and admire the Blue Nude and the Woman with Amphora. Mattise spent the winters in Nice until he died in Cimiez in 1954.
Tours the ruins that surround the museum. The Roman arena hosts the famous annual Jazz Festival. Take time to admire the statues of the legendary Jazz musicians in front of the Museum. There’s a little outdoor cafe in front of the Matisse Museum.
Walk over to the Monestery of Cimiez that was founded in the 9th century by the Benedictine monks surrounded by magnificent gardens. Visit the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and then stroll through the cemetary. The church has significant paintings by 15th century local artists the Brea brothers.
The Monastery of Cimiez includes a church, a cemetery and a convent. A few Franciscan friars still live there. The convent houses the Musee Franciscain which is decorated with 17th century frescoes. The 17th century chapel has beautiful gardens and nice views of Nice.
The painter Henri Matisse is buried in the cemetery of the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez. His grave is signposted ‘sépulture Henri Matisse’ from the cemetery’s main entrance (next to the monastery church on av Bellanda).
9. Go to the Marc Chagall National Biblical Message Museum built in 1972 by architect A. Hermant. You will love the 17 canvases of the Biblical Message. One of my favorites is Noah and the Rainbow.
10. Travel to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas near the Boulevard Tzarewitch. It was built between 1903 and 1913 and is the largest church of this type outside of Russia. The exterior of the church has elaborate onion domes that resemble Moscow’s Church of St. Basil.
Take time to tour the Cathedral.
I suggest that you buy a French Riviera Pass in Nice at the Tourist Office. You can purchase a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass that will entitle you to the Hop-on Hop-off Bus in Nice, free entry to some attractions and the “Little Train.” It also includes some attractions in Antibes, Eze and the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. You can also purchase a one day train pass that will allow you to ride for 24 hours so you can visit Menton, Cannes, Antibes, Eze and Monaco which are all relatively close to Nice. Bon Voyage—
Join me in Nice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsPQvcVbFM0&feature=fvwrel
Dr. EveAnn Lovero is a travel junkie who writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com.