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Close to the border with Italy, Nice is one of the largest and most important cities in the French Riviera. The city and its surrounding territory have changed hands frequently: founded as a ancient Greek colony, Nice became part of Rome and has historically been an Italian city, and some of these unique Italian cultural and architectural flares still exist. By 1860, Nice was permanently ceded to the French after Italian unification.
A city of over 300000 people, Nice is certainly a contrast to the other towns and villages in the Riviera. The city receives 4 million tourists every year, and it can get crowded in peak months. The Franco-Italian culture sets it apart from further west sections of the Riviera, and the city boasts a number of impressive monuments, museums, promenades, local cuisine and the usual Riviera charm.
Promenade des Anglais
There are seaside walks, and then there’s the Promenade des Anglais, which is more than just a grand walkway next to the Mediterranean: It’s been an integral part of Nice city life since this embankment was built in the 1820s. The name comes from the 19th-century English aristocracy that spent the winter months in Nice and other French Riviera cities, and originally proposed the promenade.
Parades for the ebullient Nice Carnival come by in February, while the rest of the year joggers, couples skateboarders and families pass all day long. The promenade bends around the shoreline for seven kilometres, and on the eastern side is skirted by regal 19th-century palaces. You can take a seat on the benches and find shade beneath pergolas and palm trees.
The oldest part of the city is a change from Nice’s broad boulevards and expansive squares like Place Masséna. It’s a mesh of alleys with local shops and restaurants, darkened by tall ochre-painted apartment buildings and dominated by the Colline du Château to the east. It’s here that you’ll find the old-fashioned charm of cramped Mediterranean streets, long before the beginning of urban planning.
Glaciers, crêperies and cafes all flow onto the squares, which are often lively until the early hours of the morning. There’s a strong Italian feel about the architecture and setting, which is no coincidence as Nice wasn’t French until the Treaty of Turin in 1860.
Parc de la Colline du Château
In the park at the top of this steep hill on the east side of the city, you’ll be presented with some of the French Riviera’s great panoramic views. You can look back over Nice and the azure sea in the Baie des Anges, and it’s a sight you’ll want to contemplate for a long time.
You can pick out all the landmarks, like Hotel Negresco and the port to the east. If you’re feeling fit you might reach the top on foot from the Vieille Ville, but there’s also a free elevator, which is recommended in the summer.
Musée Marc Chagall
Chagall was so involved in the design of this museum that he decided where each of his works would be placed, configured the layout of the gardens and designed the stained-glass windows in the concert hall. In many ways, the museum itself is a complete and interweaving work of art.
The reason it was created was to house Chagall’s series of 17 paintings with biblical themes, divided in to the New and Old Testament. Among these is the famous Resistance, Resurrection, Liberation triptych, painted before, during and after the Second World War.
Located in the Vieille Ville, the exterior of this landmark is rather unassuming, apart from its patterned dome. It has a noticeably Orthodox Christian look to it, reminiscent of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow with its multiple spires. A casual visitor to the square in front might not even realise that this is the city’s cathedral.
Inside it’s a different story, and the building takes on new dimensions once you step through its doors. It was built in the 17th century with a lavish baroque design, composed of ten highly ornate chapels with sculptures, paintings and gilding.
Cours Saleya Market
Also in Nice’s old quarter is this lovely flower and fresh produce market, which sets up every day except Monday when it’s replaced by a flea market. If you’re holidaying in an apartment in Nice then this market is a godsend: selling fresh produce, regional delicacies like socca made on-site and flowers sourced from the Provence and Alpes-Maritimes countryside.
Many sellers will tempt you with free samples, which is certainly an effective way of getting business! The flower stalls stay open the longest, remaining until 5:30PM, long after the food sellers have packed up. Beat the tourist rush and get there as early as possible.
These locales, and many others in Nice, are responsible for the huge numbers of tourists that flock to this small city. Any yacht trip should make a stop in Nice and sample its unique culture for themselves. If you’re looking for a super yacht charter based in The Mediterranean, with access to ports around the French Riviera, You Charter Direct provides several cruising locations in the area so you can see some of the natural culture and history of this region for yourself.