Nice is a city with a longstanding relationship with British visitors seeking sun and winter warmth. Some of Nice’s earliest tourists were wealthy and well-connected travellers from the UK and you’ll find many British connections as Keri Jones discovered.
And, if you’re interested in modern art Nice offers plenty to see, whether on display in streets, in specialist galleries or even inside your hotel! Nice also offers some very distinctive food. Keri samples the city’s iconic dish in an authentic local restaurant.
Listen to Keri’s report here.
I checked into the Hotel Windsor, in a pleasant area a few streets back from the seafront. It’s a really special hotel offering the elegance of the art deco era with its wood panelled bar and restaurant.
But there’s also contemporary colour because it’s a vibrant, modern art hotel. Each of the thirty rooms is artist-designed and unique.
There’s even a funky hotel lift!
The hotel pool and gardens are a very pleasant place to relax.
The hotel hosts an annual art event when an additional room is creatively transformed by chosen artists.
I climbed 220 feet above sea-level to district of Cimiez to visit a large villa set adjacent to olive groves. It’s a museum devoted to the artist Henri Matisse, who was both a friend and rival of Picasso.
Matisse is famous for his cutout paperworks, as well as colourful and sometimes abstract drawings and paintings, which he created during his 37 years of residency in Nice from 1917.
Seven Buddhas stare into the distance from their plinths on top of 20-foot chrome poles in Massenna Square.
There are many more art installations around town.
Apollo’s fountain is an older artwork.
The Square Head is another concrete sculpture. Incredibly, this artwork ‘disguises’ a seven-storey office building.
From the Buddhas, it’s a short stroll to the city’s modern art museum, which celebrates Nice’s creative movement. The 12 hectare city centre parkland site was landscaped 8 years ago at a cost of €40m.
The park’s centrepiece is a plaza with a shallow pool, which captures the adjacent apartments and sky above like a massive mirror. It’s dotted by 127 fountains that shoot water five metres high in a sequenced display, almost like wet fireworks.
At night the water is illuminated and it switches between the three colours of the French flag. The park links the old and new parts of Nice city centre.
The narrow and sun starved lanes of Nice’s Old Town give it an old fishing port feel.
Train connections allowed Parisians to flock to warmer climes so the city earned its nickname ‘The Little Winter Paris.’ Grand Belle Époque buildings, decorated with ornamental stucco and figureheads or with plants and garlands fashioned in their ironwork sprung up on or around the seafront.
Then in 1886, when trains started connecting Calais to the south coast, British tourism soared. The huge Hotel Regina in Cimiez is where Queen Victoria stayed three times.
Next door there’s a ruined Roman amphitheatre and a Franciscan monastery.
Olive groves can also be found at Climiez.
The British weren’t the only royals to visit. Russian aristocracy came so frequently, they built their impressive Orthodox cathedral.
And there’s a very English church near Hotel Windsor.
Nice’s popular seafront was named the Promenade des Anglais because it was designed for visiting British travellers and funded by them.
The Masenna Museum is a Belle Époque villa filled with opulently decorated rooms. It documents the city’s history and development in tourism.
There’s a portrait of Queen Victoria in the Massenna.
In the centre of the Place Garibaldi, a modern glass and steel lift shaft rises out of the pavement.
You could easily mistake it for the entrance to an underground car park. It’s actually the entrance to an underground tour, which you book at the Centre du Patrimoine.
The guide will show you 14th century Nice. Workmen uncovered the forgotten city when they were excavating the new tramway.
You can use a lift cut through the rock face to reach Parc du Chateau, which offers city and beach views.
The Port is a popular place to relax and view the super yachts!
If you look for retail therapy when you visit a resort, Nice doesn’t disappoint. Papeterie Rontani is an old-fashioned map and stationary shop.
The cooler, independent shops are found in Rua Bonaparte.
There’s even a wand shop! The nearby flower market in Cours Saleya is worth a browse too.
Soca, a chickpea dish, is on sale in the Cours Saleya market.
The place for genuine Niçoise cuisine.
An authentic Salad Niçoise.
Pissaladière – a Niçoise onion pizza.
Maison Auer has been creating exquisite chocolates since 1820.
Low cost carriers connect London Gatwick with Nice in around two hours for under £30. When you arrive, the efficient airport bus will take you straight into town in around 10 minutes for £6.