The southern part of the city is home to the picturesque Nice Old Town district. It’s surrounded by the harbor on one side and Castle Hill and the end of the Promenade des Anglais on the other, forming a triangle. The Mediterranean Sea, with its shimmering blue waters, borders its southern side.
The Promenade du Paillon may be found to the north. There was a river here at one time, but after several devastating floods, the municipal council decided to fill it up. The area is now a scenic park.
Narrow streets are lined with overcrowded tenements. The first-floor houses offices, while the bottom floor houses restaurants, pubs, and museums. Apartments with wrought-iron balconies and painted wooden shutters may be seen above.
It may be argued that residents in Nice’s Old Town, or Vieille Ville, have the city’s nicest address. It’s easy to see why Nice is sometimes called “Nice the Beautiful” (Nissa La Bella by native Niçois) when you visit its picturesque neighborhoods like these.
Castle Hill (Colline du Château) is one of the city’s most unusual landmarks. This hilltop overlooking Old Nice and the port is no longer home to a castle, despite the name. In 1706, a cannonball destroyed the fortress. Because of the difficulty in capturing it, King Louis XIV of France had his forces destroy what was left. Germans, during World War II, built a network of tunnels through the mountainside.
There are now two cemeteries on its wooded slopes, one Jewish and one Catholic. The only time a cannon is fired here is at noon, and in June, a two-day celebration turns this otherwise quiet square into the hottest site in town.
One of the best parts of visiting Nice’s historic district is getting lost in the maze of tiny, twisting streets. The layout hasn’t altered much since the 1700s; nonetheless, the cours Saleya, a vast market square that is often bustling in the summer, is still the area’s focal point. The flower market’s lively colors and fragrant blooms are reason enough to make the trip even if you have no plans to buy anything.
5 Best things to do in Nice’s Old Town
There are a lot of places to visit and recreation to do in the old town of Nice. Here’s a bucket list of the best things you can do in Nice Old Town.
- Visit The Cathedral of St. Reparata
- Visit Nice Opera House
- Visit Lascaris Palace
- Explore Cours Saleya
- Stroll down Promenade des Anglais
1. Visit The Cathedral of St. Reparata
People from all over the world go to Old Nice to take in the beauty of the city’s many churches. The Cathedral of Saint Reparata is one such building; it may be found in the lovely Place Rossetti.
This famous place of worship was first built in 1650, but it has undergone several renovations and additions since then. The most recent of them was in 1949. For instance, the bell tower next to it is a 17th-century addition. The city’s church has remains of Saint Reparata, a martyr who died in the third century.
2. Visit Nice Opera House
Opera, ballet, and other classical music performances may be seen at the Nice Opera House. It was constructed after the first wooden theater burned down in the 1820s. Famous musicians like Johann Strauss drew guests of honor like Napoleon III and Tsar Alexander II of Russia.
However, the structure was destroyed by fire in 1881 due to a gas leak. From the ashes sprang a brand new theater, and its first performance was Aida, the four-act opera by Giuseppe Verdi. It is now identified as a historical landmark in the Old Town of Nice.
3. Lascaris Palace
Also built in the 17th century, Lascaris Palace was formerly the residence of the aristocracy. The building now serves as a museum available to visitors. Vintage guitars, violins, harps, and saxophones are just a few of the instruments that can be found in this building’s large collection.
A man named Antoine Gautier from Nicosia collected a lot of them. During the 19th century, he was a city dweller. He left all of his wealth to the municipality when he passed away.
4. Explore Cours Saleya
The bustling market along the vibrant Cours Saleya is one of the main draws of Old Nice. Its unique status in France is granted by the National Council of the Culinary Arts.
This major thoroughfare has a weekly flea market every Monday, but that’s not its main draw. Florists and gardeners offer bright blooms during the week, protected from the elements by striped awnings.
Fruits and vegetables are also sold by vendors in booths next to the flower market. There are as many residents stocking up on supper supplies as there are visitors people-watching.
5. Stroll down Promenade des Anglais
The wide, palm tree-lined Promenade des Anglais is the most iconic part of Nice’s beachfront. It was named for the English immigrant benefactors who made it possible in 1822, and it offers unobstructed views of the Baie des Anges for a distance of 7 kilometers (4.3 miles).
From the western airport to the eastern castle headland, it stretches for a long distance. The locals refer to it as “La Prom,” and it has a dedicated lane for cyclists and skateboarders. At Roller Station, you may rent skates, scooters, and bikes if you’re interested in joining in the fun.
Keep an eye out for landmarks like the art deco Palais de la Méditerranée (1929) and the pink-domed Hôtel Negresco (1913) along the seafront.
Long, narrow lanes are framed by lofty apartment buildings in Nice’s old town. The lower levels house a variety of restaurants, stores, and art galleries run by regional creatives.
From authentic Provencal seasonings to one-of-a-kind jewelry and beauty products, you can find it all here. Just go inside and let yourself be carried away by the nostalgia of times past.
Just below Castle Hill is the historic district of Nice known as the Old Town (Vieille Ville) or Old Nice (Vieux Nice). Since the Paillon River was diverted underground in 1972, it now has two coastlines: the Promenade des Anglais to the south and the Promenade of Paillon to the north.