An intriguing building in itself, the Musée Matisse houses hundreds of works by the famous artist Henri Matisse. Situated in the striking eighteenth-century Villa des Arènes, this is a wonderful museum both for those already acquainted with Matisse’s work and those wishing to enrich their cultural understanding of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. There are also a number of temporary exhibitions that shed interesting new perspectives on the life and works of the incredible painter.
Promenade des Anglais
For the best experience of the gorgeous azure blue of the Mediterranean sea, take a walk along the famous Promenade des Anglais, so-called because it was created by the English, who in the late 18th century would often spend their holidays along this lovely stretch of coast. The walkway, a pretty division between the sea and the palm trees, was built in 1820 and today can be enjoyed as a place for a leisurely stroll or some relaxing sunbathing on the deckchairs dotted along its edges.
Russian Orthodox Catherdral of Nice
Donated by Tsar Nicholas II in 1912, in memory of the son of Alexander II who died in Nice, this stunning cathedral is a truly beautiful structure, with its evidently Russian turrets standing out against the French skyline. It is a fascinating insight into the Russian association with this beautiful city – Russian nobility often frequented Nice during the 19th century. As well as the cathedral itself, the intriguing chapel of the tsarevitch and the idyllic Byzantine gardens next door are also worth a visit.
To the east of the wonderful Promenade des Anglais is located the gorgeous Parc Phoenix. Covering seven hectares, this enormous park includes one of the largest greenhouses in Europe, containing a spectacular range of exotic plants and flowers, including a particularly notable collection of orchids. The lake is lovely too, featuring some fascinating species of birds from across the world. With its waterfalls, variety of gardens, and interesting wildlife, this one transports visitors to a tropical paradise.
Notre Dame de Nice
Built in the 19th century, this impressive neo-gothic structure towers over the buildings surrounding it, being the largest church in Nice. Unlike the Notre Dame of Paris, this basilica is made of a stunning white stone and sports sparkling golden features on its exterior, while its interior is no less impressive. It is especially worth seeing at night, when the tasteful use of lights illuminates its iconic towers and stained glass windows in a beautiful and artistic way.
Situated in the heart of the Old Town, the Cours Saleya is the main pedestrian street of this historic area – a great place to browse through the quaint little shops that line the streets or to go for a leisurely coffee. It is especially famous for its enormous annual flower market that immerses visitors in a celebration of vibrant colours and wonderful smells. Of course, there are pungent French cheeses and foodstuffs aplenty here too!
For a great historical experience, explore the fascinating ruins left by the Romans two millennia ago. At Cimiez, visitors can imagine what it was like to live in the Roman city of Cemenelum, the capital of the Riviera for over 400 years. Here, visitors will find the impressive amphitheatre, home to the annual Nice jazz festival. There is also an impressive complex of Roman baths, as well as an intriguing archaeological museum that boasts an extensive collection of ancient artefacts.
Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain
In the heart of Nice, along the lovely Promenade des Arts, is situated the MAMAC (or Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) of Nice. Built in 1990, its artistic, modern architecture is a work in itself and suits its large collection of intriguing modern art. The museum is a great exploration of some of the key movements within the past century, including a good variety of works from American pop art, American minimalism and European New Realism.
The Nice Carnival
Dating all the way back to 1294, the Nice Carnival is one of the largest carnivals in the world. Taking place every February over the course of two weeks, it consists of around 850 different cultural, sport, and festival events. Each year, a different theme is chosen by the “Carnival King”, making for an eclectic range of shows. A particularly lovely part of the carnival is the “Bataille de Fleurs” (Flower Battle) that takes place along the Promenade des Anglais. Originating in 1876, this tradition involves tossing beautiful and fragrant flowers from the spectacular carnival floats at spectators.
Jardin Albert 1er
One of the oldest public gardens in Nice, having been created in 1828, the Jardin Albert 1er is an oasis of greenery just off the Promenade des Anglais. It features palm trees, plants from across the globe, carefully trimmed lawns, a traditional carousel, and even an open-air concert venue, the Théâtre de Verdure (open during the summer). The latter has welcomed a wide variety of acts over the years, including Edith Piaf, Sting, and Iron Maiden. This park is popular with locals and is a great way to pass a sunny, leisurely afternoon.
By Colette Lewis