Read about the city
Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, and most people associate the city name with palm trees, a warm sun, nice beaches and tasty food. With its beautiful location on the bay Baie des Anges and with a mild climate, Nice is indeed a good starting point for many activities; in the city, along the coast or inland.
Nice has attracted tourists for centuries, and the Romans possibly already started tourism 2,000 years ago with the construction of the Roman baths, which still can be seen in the district of Cimiez. Especially since the 19th century, the city's fashionable status with elegant hotels and nice promenades has been developed to what you can enjoy on a visit today.
Nice is one of the major cities in France and there is much more to the city than a relaxing beach day or two. The old town is full of a good atmosphere and heritage buildlings from the past centuries, and both pedestrian streets, shopping malls and many fine museums abound with activities and opportunities for visitors.
Promenade des Anglais along the Mediterranean coast is good for a stroll and it is developed with splendid buildings and imposing hotels, and with its many flowers and palm trees, it forms a fantastic meeting with the city and France's hottest region. Many gardens and parks benefit from the climate as well.
- Saleya Square/Le Cours Saleya: Le Cours Selaya is the name of the long square where Nice's famous flower market, Le marché aux fleurs, is held daily. There is also a nice café atmosphere on the square, where you can enjoy the typical outdoor city life of southern France.
- Masséna Square/Place Masséna: Place Masséna is Nice's central square and probably the most magnificent in the city. It is located right where the old town meets the elegant Avenue Jean Médecin.
- St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral/Cathédrale Orthodox Russe Saint-Nicolas: This is a beautiful Russian Orthodox church, built between 1903 and 1912 in traditional Russian architecture with inspiration from Moscow.
- Church of the Gesù/Église du Gesù: Nice's Church of the Gesù is a fine example of a baroque church building. The church was built 1612-1642 by the Jesuits. The church's interior is beautiful with finely made decorations of i.a. Hercule Trachel.
- Garibaldi Square/Place Garibaldi: Place Garibaldi is one of Nice's beautiful city oases. The elegant square was laid out in the year 1700 as an extension of the old town and designed by Antonio Spinelli. A statue of the Italian national hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi, stands in the middle of the square.
- Matisse Museum/Musée Matisse: Near the place where the artist Henri Matisse lived and worked for many years, you can visit this museum. It gives a good impression of Matisse's life and works.
- Masséna Palace/Palais Masséna: The beautiful Masséna Palace was built in the period 1898-1901 with Italian inspiration. Today, the city of Nice owns the house, which is a museum of art and history.
- Basilica of Our Lady/Basilique Notre-Dame: This basilica was built in the traditional Gothic cathedral style in the years 1864-1868. Its size is a clear symbol that Nice was expanded with impressive buildings in the new part of the city.
- Chagall Museum/Musée Chagall: This art museum houses a large collection of works by Marc Chagall. Throughout the works, all of his various uses of art are represented. You can see mosaics and glass art, among other things.
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The Greek and Roman beginnings
The founding of historic Nice took place at the Colline du Château. From this time, only a few archaeological finds have been preserved.
From Marseille extended in the 500s BC. the influence of the Greeks along the coast to Nice. In the area of today's Old Town of Nice lay the Greek region of Nikaia, which means victory, and is believed to have been a Greek Acropolis on the Colline du Château.
In 154 BC the Romans helped the Greeks in Marseille defend Nikaia and nearby Antipolis (Antibes), and it became the starting point for the increasing dominance of the Romans in the area.
Year 14 BC founded the Romans Cemenelum in today's Cimiez area of Nice. From the beginning, Cemenelum was the regional center of Alpes Maritimae, which Nice remains in the French department of Alpes-Maritimes.
Cemenelum never became an important city in the Roman Empire. No city walls, forts or larger temples were built, but today, in Cimiez, you can see a Roman theater and Roman baths. Cemelenum was also the site where the Moureille aqueduct began. It was the absolute center of the Romans in the area.
Nice after the Romans
The Roman influence in Nice decreased with the fall of the Roman Empire. Barbarians attacked the Roman Empire more frequently, and in the 300s the area was attacked and partially destroyed. In the following many centuries, Cemenelum was attacked by German and Arab armies, and over time the population moved from the exposed Cemenelum down to the sea, to Nikaia, thus gaining influence and becoming the area's most important city.
In 974, the last Arab armies were driven out of the area by Duke William of Provence, and the region was united. In 1032, Provence and thus Nice joined the Holy Roman Empire. It was a time of flourishing of the city's economy and commerce. The reason was fishing, agriculture and trade via the good location on the Mediterranean, and Nice grew.
Catalonia and the Savoy
In the 1100s, there were again tensions in the area that ended up dividing the province into two. Toulouse gained the northern territories, while Nice and the southern parts came under Catalan rule. The Catalans increased their influence to the southern Alps, and Nice's status as a central city in the area again brought prosperity.
In 1388, the Spanish War of Succession started, and for Nice it meant incorporation into the new Savoy with Italian rule, with Nice becoming one of the main cities.
From the Middle Ages to Napoleon
Medieval Nice grew around the Colline du Château, and Nice's fortifications defended the city for other French and Turkish troops in the following centuries, before Louis XIV's France invaded Nice twice around the year 1700, destroying the city's military installations. Nice, however, was soon back in the Savoy.
Nice was invaded again in 1793 by troops from the New French Republic, and for the following 21 years, Nice was the capital of a French province. After Napoleon's fall, Nice and the Savoy belonged to the King of Sardinia.
Tourism is growing today
At the beginning of the 19th century, tourism was gaining momentum in the area, and there were many English visitors, which today is seen by the name Promenade des Anglais on Nice's promenade.
Nice officially became part of France in 1860 following an agreement between France and the House of Savoy to evict the Austrians from northern Italy. As part of France, Nice's tourism flourished further. In 1887 the area was named Côte d'Azur by the poet Stéphen Liégeard.
Nice's famous carnival was established in 1873 in a form reminiscent of today's celebration. Belle Epoque lasted from 1880 to 1914, when Queen Victoria visited Nice on numerous occasions. She lived in what is today the Hotel Victoria.
In the 1900s, the city was constantly developed and today's Nice offers tourists highly developed facilities in the city as well as in the coastal areas and in the area towards the nearby Alps.
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