What to see
Colline du Chateau
You know you’re in Nice when you stand at the top of Colline du Chateau (literally Castle Hill). You’ll get some of the best panoramic views of the city up here, and so it’s popular with tourists and locals alike. The 92-meter-tall Colline du Chateau overlooks the Baie des Anges as well as Nice itself, and there’s a fountain surrounded by picnic areas and playgrounds. It’s a fantastic place to go with the whole family, and while you might prefer to walk, there’s an elevator that will take you to the top of the hill.
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain-MAMAC), has been exhibiting pieces since the 1950s. Its collection is made up of a huge number of pieces, including some by world famous artists, so it’s a major draw for tourists in the city. Art in a range of styles is included in the collection – César, Arman and Niki de Saint-Phalle represent the New Realism movement, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann take care of Pop Art, and Ben Vautier gives an insight into the Fluxus movement, while many other artists and styles are displayed alongside.
Archeology Museum of Nice-Cimiez
During the Roman era, Cemenelum was the capital of the state of Alpes Maritimae, and the ancient city’s ruins can be seen here at the Archeology Museum of Nice-Cimiez (Musee Archeologique de Nice Cemenelum). Remains of the amphitheater, baths, cobbled streets and buildings from the Early Christian era can be seen here. The museum also exhibits pieces from the Bronze and Middle Ages, making it all the more fascinating. The collection includes glass works, pottery, and pieces created from minerals as well as coins, jewelry, sculptures and figurines. The Archeology Museum of Nice-Cimiez isn’t just a great place to see an excellently curated collection, it’s the opportunity to see Nice’s history and wander around the ruins of an ancient city.
Henri Matisse was one of the 20th century’s greatest artists and a flag bearer of modern art. It’s really worth visiting the Musée Matisse, not just for its collection but to see the grand 17th-century mansion it’s set in. As soon as you enter the museum, you feel the impact of Matisse’s use of color, because on the wall of the entrance hall you’ll see the piece Flowers and Fruit, which the artist created using the paper-cutting technique. Many other of Matisse’s pieces are in the collection, including Blue Nude IV and Woman with Amphora.
Musée Marc Chagall
Musée Marc Chagall holds a collection full of the French-Russian artist’s pieces. Living between 1887 and 1985, Chagall’s work is known for its use of color and symbolic figures, and the collection contains pieces inspired by religion and daily life. However, the most famous of his works at the museum are a series of 17 paintings depicting the message of the Bible. With over 400 pieces at the museum, there’s plenty more to discover, so be sure you leave enough time to make the most of another one of Nice’s artistic riches.
With the main structure being built in the 17th century and its bell tower being added in the first half of the 18th century, Nice Cathedral (Basilique-Cathédrale Sainte-Marie et Sainte-Réparate de Nice) shows elements of Romanesque architecture, with the Latin inscriptions and the style of the eastern dome being just some of those characteristics. The interior, entranceway and general architecture of the cathedral make it one of the most popular places to visit in Nice, as does the beautifully decorated square it stands in.
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice (Basilique Notre Dame de l’Assomption) was built between 1864 and 1868 and is one of the most popular attractions in the city. The building was constructed after a referendum in 1860 which saw Nice ceded to France from Italy. Without doubt the most eye-catching feature of this Gothic masterpiece designed by Louise Lenormand is its two 31-meter-tall towers, and it’s clear that Lenormand drew inspiration from the cathedral in the north-west French city of Angers. The interior is just as exceptional, with beautiful stained glass decorating the large rose window depicting the assumption of Mary.
Place Masséna, between Nice’s most famous street, Avenue Jean Médecin, and the pedestrianized Rue Massena is the city’s most colorful, lively square. It’s full of visitors and and locals at all hours of the day and is a fantastic place do to some people watching. It was constructed in 1832 and is surrounded by gardens and buildings painted in pink. Fountains and sculptures decorate the square, and the cafés and restaurants surrounding it are a perfect place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a coffee. Throughout the year, the square plays host to different festivals and events. Remember that the Nice Carnival takes place between February 13th and March 1st every year, so be sure to visit the squre if you trip happens to fall on these dates.
Promenade des Anglais
Nice and the Cote d’Azur was all the rage with the British aristocracy and even the Royal Family during the 19th century, and they would often come to the area for a winter holiday. Pronomade des Anglais has retained its name since then and today it’s one of the major tourist spots in Nice. You’ll find both locals and visitors taking leisurely strolls along the promenade, or people just sitting and watching the world go by. While the promenade extends all the way to the airport, the part in the city center has some impressive buildings standing behind it, including the magnificent Negresco Hotel, which was designed by Gustav Eiffel, whose company was responsible for the Eiffel Tower in Paris. If you get the chance to visit the hotel, or even stay there, you’ll see that every floor has been decorated to reflect a different period in French history.
St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral
St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral (Cathedrale Saint Nicolas) was built in 1912 and is the largest orthodox cathedral in western Europe. With the traditional domes of Russian architecture, it’s as if there’s a little piece of Russia in the warm climes of the Cote d’Azur. The interior is lavishly decorated as you might well expect, and within the cathedral’s collection are many pieces brought here by those who came to Nice to escape the Russian Civil War. Today it’s one of the city’s most important tourist destinations, with its architecture and its grandeur representing one of the most important places of Orthodox worship outside the boundaries of Russia.
What to eat
You’ll find salade niçoise in pretty much all the restaurants and cafés in Nice, and it’s usually made using tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies, and is dressed with a vinaigrette. The salad can also include red peppers, shallots, artichoke hearts and other seasonal raw vegetables, and you’ll find that authentic salade niçoise doesn’t use the cooked vegetable you see in other varieties served around the world. The tuna used in the salad can either be canned or fresh, and you find salade niçoise fillings for sandwiches available in the bakeries around the city.
Pissaladiére certainly resembles pizza, but there’s enough difference to make it a great dish in its own right. Using a dough thicker than that of Italian pizza, the topping is made from caramelized onion, olives, garlic and anchovies. All of these are blended to create a paste which is spread generously over the base. You see this local delicacy being served all over Nice, and it makes a great breakfast or a snack to keep you going as you explore the city.
Ratatouille is fairly simple to prepare, and is made using fresh tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, egg plant, bell peppers, as well as basil and bay leaves, or oregano and mint, which are all slow cooked for an hour or two in a pot with a healthy glug of olive oil. While there might be some variation in the vegetables used in different recipes, it’s always a great choice if you’re looking for a delicious vegetarian dish.