Nice (Fr. Nice) is the seventh most populous urban area in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department. Part of French Riviera.
Located between sea and mountains, economic and cultural capital of the Côte d’Azur, Nice benefits from important natural assets. Tourism, commerce and administrations (public or private) occupy an important place in the economic activity of the city. It has the second largest hotel capacity in the country, which allows it to accommodate around four million tourists each year. It also has the third airport in France (the first in the provinces) and two convention centres devoted to business tourism.
The city has a university and several business districts.
It has many museums, a national theatre, an opera, a regional library, a regional conservatory and concert halls.
The town is located at the end of the Baie des Anges, sheltered from the wind by an amphitheatre of hills, in a narrow mountainous basin backing onto the Mercantour massif, limited to the west by the Var valley and to the east by the mountain. The first site of Nice was the Castle Hill which was fully militarized before being destroyed by Louis XIV.
ice developed at the foot of this hill by limiting itself to the part between the Paillon and the sea, which today constitutes Old Nice with its narrow streets. It is especially after the attachment to France that the city extended beyond this watercourse which is today partially covered.
Tourism, attractions and what to see?
The districts of Nice are quite strongly differentiated. Overall, the city is quite clearly divided in two: the left bank of the Paillon, older, is characterized by an urbanism like that of Turin. The right bank, more recent and more “French,” presents a much more Haussmann style.
The hill of the castle corresponds to the old center of the town. The castle was destroyed in the eighteenth century by Louis XIV and demilitarized in the second half of the nineteenth century. Since then, it has mainly been a place for walking. Old Nice developed from the fourteenth century. Until the nineteenth century, most of the inhabitants, places of power and economic activities were located there. The district is notably the seat of the Sainte-Reparate cathedral, the Communal Palace (today the Labor Exchange, Place Saint-François), the Governor’s Palace (now the Prefecture Palace), the Senate (former court) and Cours Saleya, the town’s main square for a long time.
It also has many religious buildings. Old Nice is today the tourist heart of the city and is home to many cafes and restaurants. The port has long been a popular and working-class district. The port today accommodates mainly travel boats, private yachts and cruise ships.
The hill of Cimiez is a bourgeois district of the city. It is home to many hotels built during the Belle Époque and which have since been transformed into luxury private apartments. Avenue Jean-Médecin is the city’s main commercial artery. Most of the big brands are located there. The rue Massena, (better known locally as the pedestrian zone) was created in the 1970s. Very touristy, it hosts many restaurants and cafes. The République, Saint-Roch and Magnan districts are old working-class districts, built mainly in the second half of the 19th century or the first half of the 20th century. The districts of Pasteur, L’Ariane and Les Moulins are recent working-class districts, built in the years 1960-1970, on the outskirts of the city. The plain of Var, to the west of the city, has long hosted market gardeners. Today it mainly houses supermarkets, as well as administrations.
The architecture of the city underlines the particular evolution of its history. The old town is characteristic of the town planning of an Italian walled city in modern times. The streets are very narrow and winding, the buildings are covered with plaster in warm colours (ochre and Sardinian red). The many churches are baroque in style. The neighbourhoods built at the end of the modern era and at the beginning of the 19th century reflect the influence of Turin’s town planning of the time: the streets are wider and rectilinear, the buildings are coloured.
The neighbourhoods built after the annexation to France in 1860 are in a much more austere and Haussmann style: the streets are wide and rectilinear, but the exposed stone replaces the coloured facades. These neighbourhoods have a much more “French” aspect than the others, which remain aesthetically very “Italian.” The city also has many buildings built during the Belle Époque and in the 1930s with pastel-coloured facades sometimes decorated with friezes.
Finally, a particularity of Nice is the large number of buildings referred to as “palaces”: they are from all eras and of equally varied quality. Indeed, the term palace in Nice comes from the Italian Palazzo and means “building.” The best example is the Palais Donadei by the Nice architect Charles Dalmas (1863-1938). This building received the vermeil medal at the Municipal Competition of the City of Nice in 1903. It bears the name of its owner Alfred Donadei (1875-1933), businessman and politician of the Côte d´Azur. The architect, Charles Dalmas had planned a large dining room to accommodate Marie Quinton (1854-1933) alias “La Mère Quinton” and her restaurant “La Belle Meunière” as well as her “Grand Hôtel Nice Palace”. He was also the architect of the Carlton hotel on the Croisette in Cannes, from which he drew inspiration from the chest of “La Belle Otero” for the creation of the domes.
Some of these residences are on the hills surrounding Nice. The castle of Bellet is thus in the district of Saint-Roman-de-Bellet. It dates from the sixteenth century. It belongs to a family of Nice aristocrats from Savoy, the Roissard de Bellets. The castle was enlarged in the nineteenth century and restored twice in the twentieth century. Today it is in the middle of the vineyards that produce Bellet wine. The estate also houses a neo-Gothic chapel from the nineteenth century In the Bellet vineyard, there is also the Château de Crémat, built in 1906 and in medieval style. Low angle view of the facade of a palace lit up at night in a small street with a garland of light bulbs zigzagging between the walls.
The Matisse museum was originally a villa, built in the seventeenth century in Cimiez by Jean-Baptiste Gubernatis, consul of Nice. Its style is characteristic of the rich Genoese residences. The villa, called the Gubernatis Palace, was sold in 1823 to an aristocrat from Nice, Raymond Garin de Cocconato. It then belonged to a real estate company and was then bought by the city of Nice in 1950. The palace then became the Villa des Arènes and was fitted out to accommodate the Matisse museum, which opened in 1963, and the archaeology museum. The building had been renovated from 1987 to 1993.
Some palaces are in the Old Nice. The Lascaris Palace, located rue Droite, in the old town, was built between 1648 and the beginning of the eighteenth century for Marshal Jean-Baptiste Lascaris-Vintimille, nephew of the 55th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint-Jean of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta. His descendants, the Counts of Peille, completed the construction of the building. It is a baroque palace, whose architecture and decoration show the Genoese influence. The palace now houses a museum dedicated to decorative arts and popular arts and traditions.
Several buildings were built for wealthy Nice families. The Palais Marie-Christine, place de la Croix-de-Marbre, was built in the nineteenth century, from 1800 to 1887. It was built for the Saïssi of Châteauneuf and hosted many personalities including, in 1842, Queen Marie-Christine, widow of the King of Sardinia Charles-Félix. Its style is neo-classical.
The Palais Masséna, rue de France, dates from 1899. It was commissioned by Victor Masséna and built by Hans-Georg Tersling, architect of Empress Eugenie. The Villa Rothschild in Cannes inspired it. The style is neo-classical, Louis XVI and Empire. In 1920, the city bought the building to turn it into an art and local history museum.
Other famous palaces in the city include the Marble Palace, built in Fabron at the end of the nineteenth century and now housing the municipal archives of Nice, and the Maeterlinck Palace, a former palace in Cap de Nice.
Most of the nineteenth century châteaux were built for winter visitors, French or foreign.
The English Castle was built in 1857 by and for Robert Smith, a former English colonel. It is the first castle built in Nice by a winter visitor. It is a pastiche of the palaces of Jaipur.
The park and castle of Valrose were built in 1867 by architect David Grimm for a wealthy Russian winterist, Paul Von Derwies. It is neo-Gothic in style and today houses the presidency of the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.
The Château Sainte-Hélène was built in the nineteenth century for the manager of the Monte Carlo casino, François Blanc. It then belonged to the perfumer François Coty, before becoming the Anatole Jakovsky International Museum of Naive Art in 1982.
Gairaut Castle was built for Joseph Giordan. The Châteauneuf estate is also in the Gairaut district.
Some famous estates have disappeared. The Villa les Tropiques, an acclimatization park, was directed by a naturalist, Axel Robertson-Proschowsky (1857-1944) whose botanical contributions were present in all the specialized periodicals. This space, expropriated by the city of Nice in 1966, is now granted to an amusement park called “Parc Des Miniatures”. The Count of Pierlas, lover of exotic plants and the first propagator of palm trees in Nice, had planted in his property in Le Ray, the Villa Pierlas, as early as 1837, Chamaedorea elegans, C. sartorii, Phoenix sylvestris and Trachycarpus martianus.
Several establishments linked to the city’s tourist past have existed since the nineteenth century and are still in use, more or less transformed.
The Café de Turin, located on Place Garibaldi, is one of the city’s most famous cafes. Founded in the nineteenth century, it was originally a meeting place for Piedmontese immigrants. The Auer pastry shop, rue Saint-François-de-Paule, opened in 1860, bears witness to the Rococo style, which was very fashionable at that time. La Trappa, rue Malonat, founded in 1886, was originally a restaurant for fishermen.
The hotel heritage, due to the boom in tourist activity in the second half of the nineteenth century, is considerable, with many establishments having notably been built during the Belle Époque. Palaces have disappeared (usually converted into residential condominiums), but several large hotels were restored and modernized in the second half of the twentieth century.
The old Hotel Regina was built on the hill of Cimiez in 1896 by the Nice architect Sébastien Marcel Biasini. The wrought iron crown of its left wing was made according to the plans of François-Félix Gordolon. The gigantic Regina, which had 400 rooms and suites, housed Queen Victoria, her small court and her overflowing staff (the sovereign, enamoured of Nice since 1895, attended its inauguration in 1897). Converted into private apartments in the 1930s, it was lived in by Henri Matisse.
The old Alhambra hotel, on Boulevard de Cimiez, was built in 1900 by Jules-Joseph Sioly. This architect, also known for the Palais Lamartine with its second Empire splendour (rue Lamartine), delivered here one of the rare examples in Nice of the Moorish Art style. It has also been transformed into a residential residence.
Several large hotel establishments have been built along the Promenade des Anglais.
The West-End Hotel, originally Hotel de Rome, was built in 1842 by English aristocrats. Expanded and embellished later, it is the oldest of the large hotels on the Promenade des Anglais. Nearby, since 1878 has been the Westminster Hotel and its pale pink facade.
Near to there, the Negresco was built in 1912 by Édouard-Jean Niermans, by the ex-Romanian cook and butler Henri Negresco, financed by extremely wealthy gastronomes, his clients, when he worked at the Grand Cercle de Nice. The exterior style is neo-Louis XVI. The interior is largely in the “Late Second Empire” style. Its noble part, renovated by Paul and Jeanne Augier, has been listed (facades) in the inventory of historical monuments since 1975.
Jeanne Augier (“the Lady of the Negresco”) has succeeded, for nearly 60 years, in making her hotel a museum where works by Largillierre, François Boucher, Raymond Moretti, René Gruau, Cyril de La Patellière, and so on, come together.
The Palais de la Méditerranée, also on the Promenade des Anglais, was built in 1927-1928 by Charles and Marcel Dalmas. Its facade is decorated with female figures and sea horses sculpted by Antoine Sartorio. The complex, which housed a casino and a theatre, was inaugurated in 1929. Victim of financial difficulties, it closed in 1978. The Art Deco facade was saved in extremis from demolition in 1990. A decade later, the building was entirely rebuilt. It was inaugurated in January 2004 and today comprises a luxury hotel, a casino and an auditorium, the original facade preserved.
Outside the Promenade des Anglais, among the luxury hotels, we find the Boscolo Exedra Nice, previously named “Atlantic”, located on Boulevard Victor-Hugo. Built in 1913 by Charles Dalmas on the order of a Swiss hotelier, its facade is in the Belle Époque style. Taken over in 2000 by the Italian hotel chain Boscolo, it was completely renovated from 2005 to 2008.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts, avenue des Baumettes, opened in 1878, has collections ranging from the end of the sixteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. In particular, it houses works by the painter Jules Chéret, who died in Nice in 1932 and the symbolist Gustav-Adolf Mossa. There are also works by Louis Bréa, Bronzino, Van Loo, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Joseph Vernet, Hubert Robert of the Impressionists (Sisley, Monet) and Post-Impressionists (Vuillard, Bonnard) as well as Kees Van Dongen and Raoul Dufy.
The Matisse museum, in Cimiez, was opened in 1963 in a former villa in the Cimiez arena park. It houses a permanent collection of 218 prints, 57 sculptures, 187 objects, 68 paintings, 95 photos, 236 drawings and 14 illustrated books. Henri Matisse made the first donations in 1953.
The national museum of Marc Chagall, in Cimiez was inaugurated in 1973. It brings together the works of Marc Chagall devoted to the Bible. These are seventeen paintings dedicated to Genesis, the Exodus and the Song of Songs, which Marc Chagall and his wife, Valentina, gave to the State in 1966. In 1972, a second donation concerning the sketches of the Biblical Message was made. One of the paintings in this museum is Abraham and the three angels.
The museum also has sculptures, a mosaic, a tapestry and three stained glass windows designed for the museum.
The Anatole Jakovsky International Museum of Naive Art, avenue de Fabron, opened in 1982, houses more than a thousand works from donations by Renée and Anatole Jakovsky.
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Mamac), inaugurated in 1990, houses creations by the new realists (César, Arman, Raysse, Niki de Saint Phalle, Tinguely), pop art artists (Andy Warhol, Wesselmann, Indiana, Dine), representatives of American abstraction (Maurice Louis, Franck Stella, Sol Lewitt, Kully), the Supports / Surfaces group (Pagès, Dolla, Dezeuze, Viallat), the group 70 and the Fluxus group (Ben). It also owns works by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Gilli, and Yves Klein.
The Asian Arts Museum, in L’Arénas, was built in 1998 by Kenzo Tange. It has collections of Buddhist art and organizes exhibitions devoted to the arts of Asia.
The city has several history museums:
- The Terra-Amata Museum of Human Paleontology, restored in 1999, is dedicated to the results of the excavations carried out on this site.
- The archaeological museum of Cimiez is devoted to Roman antiquity.
- The Museum of the Resistance on the Riviera is a history museum dedicated to the Resistance in the Alpes-Maritimes during the Second World War.
- The Masséna museum, inaugurated in 1921 and recently renovated, is a museum of art and regional history.
- The Lascaris Palace, rue Droite, is also a regional history museum.
- The National Sports Museum opened in 2014.
- The Nice Natural History Museum, opened in 1846, is historically the city’s first museum. It has nineteenth century collections made up by local naturalists including Antoine Risso.
- The Marine Museum, located in the Bellanda Tower, preserves paintings, engravings, ship models and navigation objects evoking the local maritime history and boating.
Festivals and cultural events
Most festivities and cultural events take place in the summer, from May to the end of October. The Nice Carnival has existed, in its current form, since 1873. From that date, the Festival Committee organized it to entertain winter visitors. It takes place in February.
The Nice Jazz Festival has existed since 1948. It takes place in July, in the gardens and arenas of Cimiez, on three different stages at the same time.
Since 1935, the Nice Fair has been held every March, which welcomes traders and artisans from the region for ten days at the Palais des Expositions.
The “Nuits musicales de Nice” take place in July and August, under the direction of Jacques Taddei. They take place in the cloister of the Cimiez monastery. This is a chamber music festival, which has existed since 1958. The “Vieux-Nice Baroque en Musique” festival is a series of baroque music concerts, which takes place from October to May, in churches and the baroque chapels of Vieux-Nice. The Nice Sacred Music Festival was created in 1974 by Pierre Cochereau and Paul Jamin. Today Marco Guidarini directs the festival, which takes place in June. The MANCA festival (Current Music Nice Côte d’Azur) was created in 1978 by Jean-Étienne Mari. It is organized by the CIRM.
The “September of the Photo” has existed since 1987243. Photos linked by a common theme are exhibited in different places of the city (municipal galleries, museums, Theater of Photography and Image).
The Italian film festival has taken place every year at Espace Magnan since an unknown date. In the absence of publicity, it is rather confidential. Since 1999 the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis has organized the Portuguese-speaking cinema week. It takes place at the Rialto cinema. Like the Italian film festival, it is not supported by the municipality and therefore remains very little known. The Nice short film festival, entitled “Un Festival c’est trop court”, has taken place every year in April since 2000. It is organized by the Héliotrope association. Since 2010, Nice has also hosted the Nice Samain of Fantastic Cinema at the Mercury cinema, an annual international film festival that welcomes genre films.
Since 1946 the Communist Party of the Alpes-Maritimes has organized the Château festival. It takes place at the beginning of July, lasts two days and features concerts, plays, debates, bookstores and a few cultural events for young people.
There are more than 20 public beaches in Nice (the whole Promenade des Anglais). In addition, there are 15 private beaches in Nice interspersed among the public beaches. On the private beaches you pay for a lounge chair, umbrella and towel. The price starts from €35a day. Each private beach has a restaurant and private facilities for rent.
Full list of beaches:
Blue Beach, Plage publique de l’opera, Plage des Ponchettes, Cocoon Beach Nice, Plage de Carras, Neptune Plage, Plage du Centenaire, Lido Plage, HI Beach, Florida Beach, Plage de la Darse, Plage Publique de la Lanterne, Plage Publique de Castel, Sporting Plage, Voilier Plage, Plage Beau Rivage Beach, Plage de Ste Hélène, Plage Poincaré
Gastronomy and restaurants
Nicoise cuisine is essentially Mediterranean. It is strongly influenced by the proximity of Provence, Liguria and Piedmont. The main dishes that characterize it are courgette flower fritters, bagna cauda, gnocchi, daube niçoise, estocafic or estocaficada (stockfish from Nice), stuffed from Nice, olives from Nice (AOC), pissaladière, pan bagnat, panisses, pissalat, polenta, poutine (sardine fry), ratatouille, Niçoise salad, mesclun salad, socca, pesto soup, tapenade, ganses, apple fritters -dried grapes, chard pie and broad bean pie. Bellet wine (AOC since 1941) is produced on the territory of the town.
Nicoise cuisine is a cuisine that uses local resources (olive oil, fry, fruits and vegetables, etc.) but also from more distant countries, especially from Northern Europe.
The meat comes from the neighboring valleys such as the sheep of Sisteron or the high and middle country. Rock fish such as red mullet and anchovy fingerlings (for poutine) are often from local fisheries. Seafood such as mullets, bream, sea urchins, and anchovies (alevins) are also popular.
Three best restaurants according to Michelin:
Le Chantecler at Le Negresco – Chef Jean-Denis Rieubland is the only chef in Nice with two Michelin stars.
The latest new star awarded to a restaurant in Nice (2016 Michelin) is to chef Jan Hendrik’s little jewel Jan in the Port.
Flaveur – The brother-chef team Michaël and Gaël Tourteaux won the only new Nice Michelin star in 2011.
L’Aromate – Chef Mickael Gracieux, one Michelin star.
The pedestrian zone and the city centre (Avenue Jean-Médecin and perpendicular streets) are for shopping daily.
From the end of May, most of the shops along the avenue Jean Médecin are open on Sundays from 11am to 7pm.
Like all main cities of France, the centre of Nice boasts about 40 of the most prestigious brands: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès, Cartier, Armani, Kenzo, Max Mara, Sonia Rykiel… and many others. Main streets for luxury shopping: Rue Paradis, Rue Alphonse Karr, Avenue de Suède and Avenue de Verdun. Most of the luxury boutiques open from 10am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday.
Best markets in Nice:
Marché Aux Fleurs (flowers, food and antiques). Opening hours: Food market Tuesday to Saturday, 6am-5.30pm. Sunday, 6am-1.30pm. Antiques market Monday, 7.30am to late afternoon.
Place du Palais de Justice (second-hand books and antiques/arts and crafts)
Quai de la Douane (antiques). Opening hours: 7am to 1pm, first Sunday of every month.
Marché de la Liberation (food).
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 7am to 1pm. Closed Mondays. Avenue Malausséna, Place du Général de Gaulle, Nice.
Transport and how to get to?
Around 310,000 people enter and leave the city every day (average). However, urban transport is not satisfactory.
The road network is saturated and the topography makes cross-links difficult.
The Lignes d’Azur public transport network made up of 3 tram lines and several bus lines.
Paradoxically, the city is better connected to Paris (an hour and a half by plane) than to Marseille and Genoa (two hours by train).
On the municipal territory of Nice, there is only one airport, Nice-Côte d’Azur. The airport was administered until 2008 by the Nice-Côte d’Azur Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The company also administers Cannes-Mandelieu airport. Nice airport brings the city closer to the whole world, since most of Europe, the Maghreb, America and the Middle East are connected to the capital of the Côte d’Azur by daily connections.
With 14.5 million passengers in 2019, the Nice airport platform ranks third among French airports in terms of number of travelers. In France, it is second after the two Paris airports. Maximum theoretical capacity of 13 million passengers. NCE is the IATA code for Nice Côte d’Azur airport. LFMN is the ICAO code of this same airport. There is also a helicopter service on the Côte d’Azur between the two airports on the Côte d’Azur and the Monaco heliport.
The main expressways are the north urban highway “AUN” (A8), serving the northern districts of the city thanks to its six exits and the southern urban highway “AUS”, known as the Pierre Mathis or “expressway” route, which serves the southern districts, with a dozen outings.
Today the Côte d’Azur is saturated: the A8 traffic between Antibes and Nice is one of the densest in France.
The Promenade des Anglais absorbs around 100,000 vehicles per day.
Distance with main French cities:
Paris (tolls) – 9 h 14 min (933 km), via A6 and A7
Marseille (tolls) – 2 h 8 min (199 km), via A8
Toulouse (tolls) – 5 h 31 min (561 km), via A8
Perpignan (tolls) – 4 h 33 min (475 km), via A9 and A8
The public transport network of the Nice Côte d’Azur metropolis is called Lignes d’Azur. It is mainly operated by the Régie Ligne d’Azur, founded on September 1, 2013.
Since 2007, the city has the tramway:
Line 1, inaugurated in 2007, connects the north-west to the north-east of the city by serving the city center, following a “U” shape.
Line 2, inaugurated in 2018 in several stages, connects the port of Nice from east to west with the airport (two separate branches) and the Arénas district (crossing the city center underground).
Line 3, inaugurated in 2019, connects the airport to Saint-Isidore along the plain of the Var.
In 2026, line 4 will link the multimodal hub from Nice-Saint-Augustin to Cagnes-sur-Mer.
The Nice-Ville station mainly provides connections with Paris (up to 10 direct TGVs per direction) as well as with other French metropolises and major European capitals via the TGV or trains of the Intercités network. Since September 2010, the Riviera Express has directly linked Nice to Moscow via Monaco, Ventimiglia, Genoa, Milan, Innsbruck, Vienna, Warsaw and Minsk.
Area: 71.9 sq. km
Population: 340 100
Time: Central European UTC +1
Coordinates: 43°42′12″N 7°15′59″E