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Nice

United with France only since 1860, Nice has its own history and atmosphere, which dates back 230,000 years. It was on Colline du Château (now château-less) and at the Plage des Ponchettes, in front of the Old Town, that the Greeks established a market-port in 350 BC and named it Nikaia, which would become Marseilles' chief coastal rival. The Romans established themselves a little later on the hills of Cimiez (Cemenelum), already previously occupied by Ligurians and Celts, and quickly overshadowed the waterfront port. After falling to the Saracen invasions, Nice regained power as an independent state, becoming an important port in the early Middle Ages.

So cocksure did it become that in 1388, Nice, along with the hill towns behind, effectively seceded from the county of Provence, under Louis d'Anjou, and allied itself with Savoie. Thus began its liaison with the House of Savoy, and through it with Piedmont and Sardinia, it was the Comté de Nice (Nice County). This relationship lasted some 500 years, tinting the culture, architecture, and dialect in rich Italian hues.

By the 19th century Nice was flourishing commercially, locked in rivalry with the neighboring shipping port of Genoa. Another source of income: the dawning of tourism, as first the English, then the Russian nobility, discovered its extraordinary climate and superb waterfront position. A parade of fine stone mansions and hotels closed into a nearly solid wall of masonry, separated from the smooth-round rocks of the beach by what was originally named Camin deis Anglés (the English Way), which of course is now the famous Promenade des Anglais. This magnificent crescent, which is seeking UNESCO recognition, is one of the noblest in France. Many of Nice's most delightful attractions—the Cours Saleya market, the Old Town streets, the Hotel Negresco, and the Palais Masséna—are on or close to this 10-km (6-mile) waterfront, making it the first stop for most visitors, while the redevelopment of Nice's port, around the other side of the Colline du Château, makes it easier for amblers who want to take in the Genoese architecture or peruse the antiques at the Puces de Nice, now part of the Promenade des 100 Antiquaires, along Quai Papacino. Nice also has the distinction of the "Family Plus" label, with free strollers, play areas, and restaurants with child-friendly activities.

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