Sightseeings in the City Nice
The surely most attractive and most worthwhile seeing part of Nice is the promenade of a length of five kilometres of the Anglais with its noble hotels and its long beach. I dedicated a separate chapter to the gorgeous promenade of the city. But Nice offers much more than a beach and a promenade!
The Oldtown (Vieux Nice)
Underneath the castle hill there is the Vieux Nice from old times. The old city quarter is protected at the east by the castle hill while in the west, it is parted from the new city by the river Le Paillon. Due to this geopraphical situation it gets also clear why this city quarter founded by the Greeks prevailed for more than two milleniums contrary to the Cimiez that was favourised by the Romans.
The view of the old Nice is one of the absolute highlights of the city viewing. In this old city quarter, one really experiences the hectic hustle and bustle of a typical procencal city. Every day, there are flower-, vegetables-, and fish-markets in the oldtown where the local people get their food from. It is a pure pleasure to watch the merchants and the hagglers during their negotiations. One gets simply everything on these markets: from the most precious spices up to the most exotic fruits. The food is really tasty exposed; one feeld like buying meat and pasta even if one does not have any possibility to cook.
There is no model walk through the oldtown of Nice. One passes automatically the city hall (Hotel de Ville), the Palace of Justice Palace (Palais de Justice) and the Cathédrale Ste. Réparate by loafing a little through the alleyways.Also, one will only miss the main plaza Marché aux Fleurs by being very heavy-handed. But the oldtown does not get really interesting until one really takes the time needed and gets to the most out-lying alleayways, specially located in Norde and close to the bus station.
During the walk through the oldtown one enjoys the cool air from the shadows, as the houses are located very closely beside each other. One lso should not miss to look up some times, as otherwise one would miss the variety of colours of the oldtown houses. After some time of loafing, one feels as in an Italian small city. The pastel-coloured houses, the clothes that hand everywhere for drying in front of the windows, as also one or two lazy dogs guarding at the entrance door transmit a really cozy feeling.
Of course, during the walk throu the alleayways of the oldtown one does not miss that here, poor people live on a very small space under almost inhuman circumstances. Around noon time, many stands and bars sell Socca that is baken in the wood stove. A socca is made amongst others of chickpea wheat and since ever, it is considered as meal for poor people, but today it is rather a speciality. A pancake similar to a pizza of partly up to one metre diametre, are sold to a very cheap price, but one gets soon stuffed by them. Being some lucky, one will come across to the traditional driving socca-vehicles with a integrted oven.
Burgberg Le Château
The oldtown of Nice is limited at the east by the castle hill. On the hill of barely 100 m there was once a fortification and a cathedral. While Nice belonged to the county of Savoyen gehörte, Louis XIV.succeeded to occupy Nice for a short while. During this time, in the year 1706, he made blast the fortification.
This is the reason why today, if making the effort to climb up the castle hill, one does not see a medieval castle but in the best case some wall remianings. But getting up the city hill is worthwhile due to two reasons: on one hand, a breathtaking view over the oldtown to the whole city of Nice is waiting for one at the peak plateau. From here above,one has a view to the whole Promenade des Anglais. From the castle hill one can also see the starting and landing planes in the airport at the front.
On the other hand, the climb to the castle hill is wothwhile because one sees a piece of nature. The whole complex is bsically a huge garden with exotic plants, largely grown palms, cacti with spikes as big as a finger and a beautiful artificial waterfall in the middle that is also used by some tourists as refreshment in-between during the climbing. At the southern tip of the mountain there is the National Maritime Museum (Musée Narval), where one can look at some ship models and navigation instruments.
Those who spend some more time in Nice should climb up the castle hill at least twice. While during the day one enjoys the sight over the city and the sea, in the dark, one can look at a light sea like no other. The Promenade des Anglais is the most beautiful at night when it is illuminated. Numerous street lamps, illuminated hotels and the beach that is illuminated by floodlights transmit an incredible romatic and unique feeling.
The city harbour of today is located behind the castle hill, this is why it is not visible from the actual city centre. It almost sounds unbelievable but the original city harbour was not located behind the castle hill bu at the west of it. Thus, the Vieux Nice including its harbour was protected by the castle hill at the east and by the river La Paillon at the west.
The new harbour in its current appearance does exist since the 18th century. At that time, the old city harbour was buried. Even if at the end of the gorgeous promenade one can comfortably continue walking up to the harbour, one has the feeling to step into a different city, as behind the castle hill, simply something new begins.
The are numerous restaurants and cefés all around the harbour. But the harbour itself is far from having the image of the marina of Antibes or Cannes. It is simply much too outside in order to make it attractive to the ship owners to proudly present their possession. This is why during a visit of the harbour, one is rather impressed by some huge ferries that take the vacationers to Korsika than prestigious luxury yachts.
Alongside the River Le Paillon
At the west, the oldtown of Nice is limited by the river Le Paillon, that, coming from the northern mountains, flows through the city and into the sea. Up to some time ago, this physical border was really visible. But as the river repeatedely caused some floodwater and depredation, it was canalised in the city area. Today, there is a long extended grass strip above the river that offers a lot of spce for relaxing.
From the Promenade des Anglais, one starts at the Casino Ruhl to the Place Masséna and further to the northeast in order to walk on the river. On this grass stripe, there are a lot of possibilities to relax. There are numerous water games that delight the eye.
Not far behind the bus station there is the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, where one can see the artworks of French and American artists from the past century. A visit to the museum is also worthwhile due to the reason that from the roof of the building, one has a beautiful view over the roofs of the Vieux Nice.
Not far from the museum for modern arts there is the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle. Here, one can refresh or deepen one's knowledge about the history and the vegetation of the earth. By walking further up to the Acropolis (Confress Building), the relaxation on the green strip ends and a typical big city life begins.
Of course, there are in Nice a lot of worthwhile seeing churches that most of the times, one comes across to by chance. A church at which one surely will not just walk by is the Russian Church at the west of the boulevard Gambetta and at the north of the city motorway.
This wonderful church was not built until the year 1912 and accommodates some precious treasures in its interior. Wonderfull woodcraft and frescos make one amazed. But one is already amazed by looking at the church from outside: with its six onion domes it almost has a majectic appearance. The church is made of pink bricks and light grey marble.
Those who have enough time should not miss to see this piece of jewellery of the city. It is really worthwhile.
In the year 1990, a huge botanical garden was opened in front of the international airport, the Parc Phoenix. Therewith, Nice got one more attraction. In the botanical garden, there are numerous large dimensioned green houses with the most exotic plants. Those who are in Nice on a rainy day will be in the right plce in the Parc Phoenix.
In the Parc Phoenix, high modern technique was added to an impressive fauna world. In the Naturoscope, several climate zones can be simulated per computer. But the butterflies of a size never seen before and numerous exotic fishes of unbelievable beauty are much more impressive.
Of course, the Parc Phoenix is also worhwhile to visit when the weather is fine, as the fauna world in the big garden complexes is a pleasant delight for the mind. From the oldtown, one gets in approximately 1,5 hours by foot to the Parc Phoenix; but there are numerous buses driving alongside the Promenade des Anglais entlang and stopping right at the botanical garden.
Chagall-Museum and Matisse-Museum
In no other city except Paris there are more museums than in Nice. I found the two museums of Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse the most impressive, but one can only get there by bus or by car.
The Chagall-Museum was founded in the year 1972 in the city district Cimiez. In no other museum of the world there are more artworks of Marc Chagall (1887-1985) than in this one. Therewith, the Chagall-Museum of this city is the biggest collection of this famous painter.
The Matisse-Museum can be also proud to accommodate the biggest collection of pintings and sculptures of the artist. Henri Mantisse himself, he lived not far from the museum. During a visit of the museum, one gets some deep impressions of the creative phases of the artist based on numerous valuable paintings.
View Points of the surroundigs of Nice
As fascinating as the view of Nice might be, one wish remains unfulfilled in the city centre: the overview over the whole city from above. By walking up the castle hill, one gets a first impression about how fascinating the view over the metropolis of the Côte d'Azur can be. Of course, there is the wish to get higher and therefore, Nice has a lot to offer:
At the very east of the city there are the mountains Mont Alban and Mont Baron. Both mountains heighted some good 200 metres can be already seen from the city rising behind the castle hill. Of course, one then gets the wish to drive up to the Alban. It is not possible to get until the peak by car, but after a walking piece of half an hour one is rewarded with a great view over the Promenade des Anglais and the whole of the city.
But there is a better and higher possibility: in the northeast of the city there is an observatory that one obligatorily passes by if driving on the Grande Corniche. The is barely a better view to Nice and to the sea; but this is nothing compared to what expects one by continuing driving the Corniche in direction to Monaco.
Is therewith the end achieved? Far from that! One gets even higher, 854 metres by driving up to the Mont Chauve in the north of the city. The drive takes approximately a good half an hour; the road is very curvaceous. The ascend to the peak takes a further half an hour. But what one expects when the weather is clear is overwhelming: the view to Nice and the sea at a height of 854 m is like being in a fairy tale. But what is much more imposing is the view to the back for the case the air is clear: one sees the Alpine peaks covered with snowthe rise more than 3000 m up to the sky. What a contrast, the deep view from the mountain on one side and the sea at the other side! Those who are very lucky can even wave to the bathing vacationers in Korsika...
Shopping in Nice
Of course, in a city like Nice, one does not only want to see museums, walk alongside the promenade and to climb one mountain after the next in order to enjoy the view. Somehow, one has to empty the wallet filled with the budget for the holiday. And there must be a lot of oppurtunities for this in a Franch big city, isn't it so?
Right, in Nice it is possible to have a good shopping provided one is a little patient. I already mentioned the numerous markets, specially the ones in the oldtown. On these markets there is mainly food, spices, fruit, fish and small parts; it is fun to watch the market life, but normally, here are not those items that one would like to tke home as a vacationer.
The rue de France with the adjacent pedestrian area Masséna is a shopping paradise. Here, exquisit shops mix together with tourist shops and restaurants. Those who want a valuable bag, a well smelling perfume or an expensive pair of shoes are on the right street. I cannot recommend the restaurants of this pedestrian area, but I can for having a coffee, as it is already a big spectacle to watch the tourists loafing in their shower sandals.
By walking through the rue de Masséna up to the end coming from the west, one gets to the Place Masséna. Here is really something going on. The big department store Galeries Lafayette immediately catches one's eye; on the big plaza there are numerous small stands where t-shirts, jewelry and other small items are offered. One finds further big department stores and good shops by walking from the Place Masséna up the Avenue Jean Medécin in northern direction. On this avenue there are shops that are famous in France as Fnac, C&A or Sephora.
What one gets in those streets could be equally obtained at home. But those who want something unusual should take some time and loaf for example in the small alleayways of the oldtown. There, one will find one or two small private galleries, small boutiques with original clothes, ceramics and pottery shops with wonderful handmade pieces or shops of spices and oils with products that are surely not available at home.
Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz