Walking Tour of Old Nice Tours with a Lovely Guide
We only had a week in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, but we needed a lifetime. Born in Nice, Celine O’Donnell loves her city and has turned her passion into walking tours in Nissa la Belle. On a hot summer day, we joined Celine for a walking tour of Old Nice, a discovery for my husband and a refresher for me.
Perfectly bilingual, Celine O’Donnell combines her experience in art and design (fashion, jewellery, art) with her deep interest in Nice’s history. The walking tour began in the centre of Vieux Nice by the Hôtel de Ville (city hall). From there, we walked to the Opera, where Celine provided an overview of the architecture and some historical details about Nice’s construction.
A History Lesson
Celine recommended that we spend time at a local café so that she could provide additional background on how the City of Nice became today’s cultural and tourism centre. Once our drinks arrived, she pulled out a map and gave us a history lesson that stretched six (6) million years into the past. We had enough time for more than one coffee, as Celine explained how Nice came to be. A settlement grew roots in Ligurian times, thrived under the Phoenicians and expanded in the Roman era. As rulers changed from the Ligurians to the House of Savoie, Nikaïa, Niceae, and Nizza eventually became Nice. Today, Nice has France’s seventh-largest population and second-busiest airport.
Walking Tour of Old Nice
It was time to stretch our legs after the history lesson, which we did as Celine showed us some of the main streets and must-see places in the old town.
We poked our noses into Maison Auer, an institution that has fabricated bonbons, chocolate and fruit confits since 1820. Step into the store to discover confectionary traditions that continue under the guidance of the fifth generation of the Auer family.
Next, we wandered through the Cours Saleya marketplace. It was a Monday, so the flea market displaced the regular fruit, vegetable and flower market stands. The market provides lots of temptation in old linens, silver and crystal, artwork, photographs and prints. Celine shared several theories regarding the origins of the name Saleya; none are concrete but likely include salt, fish, and maritime trade.
Vieux Nice has several churches for a small geographical footprint. During our walk, Celine highlighted some of the most famous of these religious institutions. She also pointed out museums and galleries so we could make notes for a future visit.
As mentioned, it was a hot day, and my husband is a dedicated ice cream fan. Celine steered him through the seemingly endless gelateria choices to her recommended location.
During our time together, Celine pointed out secret passages, trompe l’oeil facades, changes in the streetscape over the centuries and quiet back streets. It’s abundantly clear that Celine’s Nice by Heart tours are her way of sharing the best of her city with visitors. We will return!