The capital of the French Riviera may enjoy continuous fame as “the playground for the rich”, but it is in essence a big city with big-city attractions. Certainly, there are plenty of visual highlights to be found in town, and yet its cultural offerings – museums, theaters, varied cuisine – far outstrip the visual effect.
We spent a few days in and around Nice over twenty years ago, exploring it to some degree. Since then, we largely skirted the city in favor of other destinations on the Azure Coast. On this last trip, with our base literally next door in Villefranche-sur-Mer, we set aside a day to reacquaint ourselves with Nice just a bit. A selection of pictures from that not-very-extensive walk is below.
Starting with Place Massena, the main public space in town, highlighted by the Fontaine du Soleil.
The seven seated-men statues on high poles are a reasonably recent addition to the square, erected in 2014. They seemingly have no official name (at least, not that I could find anywhere) and are meant to represent the continents and the communication between societies.
After dark, the statues are reputedly lit up in different colors, a spectacle for which we did not manage to be around.
The Old Town of Nice is mostly pedestrian-only, with tight confines and occasional picturesque corners.
I want to dwell on the last perspective a bit. I am pretty sure that this distinctive building by Place Rossetti featured as a repeated backdrop in old French comedy flicks set in Nice. I can almost describe the scene, but I cannot put my finger on a specific movie, even with a bit of research.
Here is Place Rossetti, the heart of Vieux Nice.
The 17th-century cathedral towers over the compact square.
It was closed during lunchtime. I have seen that too many times to be surprised and still it is always a bit of a mystery to me why a place of worship would ever have limited opening hours during the day.
In the southwest corner of the Old Town, the streets are slightly wider and the architecture is slightly more palatial.
On the right in the last perspective is the building of the Opera house of Nice, built in 1885. Here is an attempt at a close-up.
And further in the distance is Castle Hill park, headlined by the artificial waterfall, which was also built at the end of the 19th century.
We have been to Colline du Château on our first visit to Nice in 2002. This time, it fell off the itinerary. To compensate for the absence of sweeping views over Nice, I will make an exception to my usual rules of engagement and include a pre-digital grainy picture of myself, twenty years younger, posing at one of the elevated viewpoints.
Far below in that perspective is the Promenade des Anglais, the glamorous seaside boulevard running almost the entire width of the bay on which the city is situated. Somehow I did not end up with a single passable picture of the boulevard itself on this visit, but I did snap a bunch of sculptural ornamentation.
We stepped inside a few buildings on our walkabout. One is the church of Annunciation, known locally as Sainte-Rita. A fairly unassuming building at a corner in the Old Town.
… with very impressive interior decorations.
There is also a small archaeological artifact selection in a closed loggia on the side.
This is the hemmed-in façade of St-Jacques-le-Majeur, aka the Church of Jesus.
The interior is also quite impressive.
Next are the fragments of the interior of Palais Lascaris, which houses a nice collection of vintage musical instruments in a late-Baroque palace setting. The photography in the museum is technically not allowed – and I am never the one to break such rules – but I figured that general shots of the interior would be ok to take.
The churches and the palace above are all very close to each other and to Place Rossetti in the Old Town. Villa Massena, in the next shot, stands in a choice location on Promenade des Anglais.
This is also part palace, part museum. A few shots of the decorated palatial spaces.
The exposition at Villa Massena is a multi-angle view into the history of Nice as a major trend-setting resort. The city has become a World Heritage site in 2021 explicitly on the strength of its exemplary development as a winter tourism destination. I am certainly not complaining about being able to add another location to my list of visited WH sites, but any discerning traveler would find it hard to pinpoint where the Outstanding Universal Value comes from in order to justify the designation. Villa Massena helps fill that gap to a reasonable degree, charting the evolution of the town and the pioneering aspects of the tourism industry associated with Nice.
A few other random shots from around the market of Cours Saleya.
And that’s all I have. There are at least four or five other museums in Nice that did not fit into the structure of this trip that I would have liked to visit, and half a dozen other public places worth lingering at and photographing. Until next time, I suppose.