Learn the History Behind Nice’s Promenade des Anglais
Iconic Promenade des Anglais
The celebrated 7 kilometre coastal boulevard between the sea and palm trees offers superb views of the Bay of Nice and gives the city its unique identity. The openness and long span of uninterrupted path gives a sense of freedom and space that is found nowhere else. Sadly become the scene of dreadful events in recent times, it remains an important historical symbol and a popular destination for the Niçois and visitors alike.
Many great artists remain fascinated by this unique panoramic footpath, from the great colorists Matisse and Dufy, to contemporary photographers and visual artists.
Historical Bay of Angels
The history of the Promenade des Anglais dates back to the 19th century. At that time, many European aristocrats had chosen Nice as their privileged sun spot of choice during the winter period. The arrival of the upper class, especially from England, greatly contributed to the economic development and to the improvement of the infrastructure and reputation of the city.
Following an economic downturn due to poor harvest in 1821, Reverend Lewis Way decided to raise funds with his compatriots to finance the construction of the famous stretch of seafront and to provide work for many jobless Niçois.
In 1824 the work was completed. Honoring the English initiative, the city of Nice named the new walkway “Camin des Inglés”. This appellation was retained until the annexation to France in 1860, when it changed to the current name”La Promenade des Anglais”.
This date also marks the beginning of what is called the “Belle Epoque”, a spectacular period of cultural, technological and economic development in Europe. This marked a climax in the economic prosperity of Nice, as it became a coveted resort for a large number of wealthy winter visitors. These wealthy foreigners would gather on the Promenade and spend their time between prestigious social events and gaming houses.
In order to satisfy the growing demand of these affluent guests, luxury hotels and sumptuous villas, together with casinos, theatres, concert halls and ballrooms sprouted everywhere, especially along the Promenade.
Today, while strolling on the sea path, visitors can stumble on some of the historical landmarks and architectural gems of Nice, such as Hotel Negresco (read the history here) and the Palais de la Mediterranée.
Built in 1912, Hotel Negresco takes its name from the Romanian self-made man Henri Negrescou, and is the most memorable Belle Epoque building in Nice. The hotel was recently classed as a historical monument. The same designation went to the striking art deco façade of the Palais de la Mediterranée. Opened in 1929, the hotel has attracted outstanding personalities to its casino and theatre.
Around 1880, an elegant Moorish-style casino, la Jetée Promenade, was built off-shore. It remained until the end of WWII when the Germans dismantled the structure and left only the pier which we can see today.
Following WWI, summer tourism plummeted under and the Promenade des Anglais became once again one of the most sought after places in the French Riviera. During this time several wooden chairs were scattered along the sea path so that walkers could sit and contemplate the stunning panoramas of the Bay of Angels.
To this day, the Promenade des Anglais remains the image of past and present Nice and it is the best place to soak up the local atmosphere. Along this famous path several events take place every year, including the Nice Marathon and the elegant ‘Battle of Flowers’ during the February Carnival (which has been moved for security reasons this year). In 2015 the Promenade was even submitted as a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status.