Nissa la Bella – Paul Shawcross writes about his favourite places in beautiful Nice
Fabulous Nice lies along the shores of Baie des Anges at the eastern end of Provence, on what English speakers call the French Riviera but which the French know as the Côte d’Azur. The English aristocracy discovered its delights during the early Victorian era but the secret eventually got out and the Riviera soon established itself as an international playground for everyone.
Nice can be divided into two parts, the old town, or Vieux Nice, and the Modern Town. Vieux Nice occupies a relatively small area at the foot of Château Hill near the eastern end of the Promenade des Anglais and can be explored easily in half a day.
Italian in character, and the birthplace of Guiseppe Garibadi, it was in fact part of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont up till 1860 and known as Nizza, or Nissa in the old Provençal language. Even today the unofficial anthem of Nice is ‘Nissa la Bella’ sung in the local Niçard dialect.
A good place to start your exploration is the colourful daily market on the Cours Saleya. Next, stroll along the old streets where you’ll find Baroque churches including Cathédrale Ste-Réparate and Gésu, renaissance Palaces and attractive squares before relaxing in the colourful Place Rossetti.
Look out for Adam and Eve high up on the wall in rue de la Poissonerie and if you’ve time visit the fascinating Renaissance Palais Lascaris on rue Droite with its Museum of musical instruments.
Modern Nice comprises the urban area which forms a semi-circle around the old town and Château Hill. Famously the Promenade des Anglais lines the shore of the Baie des Anges with its mix of public and private beaches and safe bathing with lifeguards. There are 25 altogether, but my favourites are Opéra and Ponchettes right outside the old town.
Stroll along ‘le Prom’ and enjoy the Art Deco features of the Hotel Negresco and the architectural gem of the Musée Masséna where you can learn about the City’s history.
Further afield, the incongruous features of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicolas on Avenue Nicolas II are well worth a visit as is the fascinating Roman Amphitheatre at Cimiez adjacent to the Palace Hotel where Queen Victoria used to stay.
Back in centre, the most impressive square in Nice is the grandiose red ochre Place Masséna with its controversial Apollo Fountain and its amazing Conversation of Nice, a series of sculptures by the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. Go after sunset to watch the ‘conversation’ take place but keep your wits about you as the Ligne d’Azur trams glide silently through the Square!
Leave time for at least one trip out of town – you can be in Nice’s Beyond, the amazing mountainous area to the north of the City, in an hour or so. Or, if you prefer to see more of the Riviera, there are plenty of easily accessible attractions to visit along the coast in either direction!
Want to know more? Check out Paul’s latest app, ‘Nice’s Best’, which is available as a free download from either: