Guide Location: France » Nice
Guide Type: Self-guided city tour
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 km
Image Courtesy of Flickr and TravelEden
Nice is a city in the south of France with a temperate climate that attracts many tourists. It is a very beautiful city, with large streets, old squares, museums, beautiful churches and green gardens. It is a wonderful place for shopping, with shops on the main streets and squares, markets with is a wide variety of products from perfumes, jewelry, clothes, fruits, vegetables and fish. Take the following tour to discover the beauty of the Mediterranean city of Nice.
Tour Stops and Attractions
1) Naval MuseumThe Naval Museum or the Galerie de la Marine is located on the Colline du Chateau in the Tour Bellanda. This beautiful round tower was built in the 16th century and has an incredible observation platform at the top of the building. The view from the museum is almost more impressive than the museum itself. From here there is a breathtakingly beautiful view of the port and the Mediterranean Sea, as well as that world famous beach on the French Riviera.
Inside the museum there are models of sailing vessels and relics of the maritime history around Nice. There are nautical instruments used to calculate a ship’s position in relation to the moon and stars, barometers, paintings, coats of arms, pennants and engravings. Even the parquet floors are interesting and add to the naval ambiance. This is a must see for anyone interested in the sea or sailing. Everyone will enjoy the views that the building affords.
The museum is open from 10am to 6 pm except for Mondays. Be prepared to walk up the 214 steps to the museum or take the elevator for a nominal fee. Entrance to the museum is free.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and IRIS' Travelogue
2) Cours SaleyaA trip to Nice absolutely must include a stroll around the Cours Saleya. This incredible area used to be the city square in the days gone by. It is now an open air market that has many different vendors available throughout the week. The sights, sounds, smells and the people are sure to be one of the highlights of any trip.
Every Monday morning is the antique market, where the perfect bit of Art Deco, or that one unique souvenir may be purchased. If you love antiques, do not miss coming on Mondays. Tuesday through Sunday, the market is devoted to fresh, colorful flowers and fruits of all kinds and descriptions. Of course, it really depends upon the time of year one visits as to what produce will be available. But whatever is being sold, it will be fresh.
Be sure to arrive early at the market, the stalls open at 6 am, so try to get there as soon as possible after that. For early birds, this place is a real treat. Reusable bags to carry home purchases are absolutely necessary, and have plenty of small bills and change. The vendors will have enough customers that they don’t need to worry about fussing with making huge amounts of change for one customer.
For those who have cooking facilities where they are staying, do not miss the fresh fish market. There is no comparison of taste in fish that went from the water to the table in just a few hours. What a delight, especially when accompanied by fresh herbs, bread, veggies and paired with an incredible wine.
During the summertime, the Cours Saleya turns in a craft market on the warm evenings. It is possible to go to the market in the morning to pick up fresh flowers, a bit of fruit, cheese, olives and bread for the day and then return in the evening to buy some delightful craft product to remember the trip by. The area is also home to several cafés and restaurants. What a way to spend a summer day in Nice.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and Alberto Perdomo
3) Old TownThe Vieux Nice is also known as the Old Town. It many respects, it is the most colorful area in the whole city. There are lots of small streets that can be wondered for a very long time, most of which end in a shop, or a great place to eat, or an art exhibit. There are lots of pastels that have been used in the paint. Just to make things even more romantic in design, the locals still hang their laundry out across the street on long clotheslines.
Part of the allure of the area comes from the fact that this once was a very poor part of town, so you really get to see a piece of the real city here. There are two main attractions you will also want to check out: the Cathedrale de Ste-Reparate. It is named after the saint of the town. There is also the famous
Fennicchio ice-cream palour.
You may also want to visit the Chapelle del’Annonciation. It is the home of a famous local museum that has been built inside an exquisite old 17th Century home. Along the whole way, you will find many good café and coffee shops, along with places to buy lots of souvenirs. The southern end of the Old Town is home to the Cours Saleya, which is a marketplace well known for its flowers.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and Mike_fleming
4) Place du Palais de JusticeThe Place du Palais de Justice or the Nice court of law has recently received a well deserved face lift. The whole area has been given a bit of polish and shine, making it a delightful and picturesque neighborhood. The fountain in front of the court building is absolutely gorgeous.
The steps leading into the building lend themselves to getting an elevated picture of the surrounding area. They also are a great place to gather a large travel group to get a picture with a nice backdrop of the Neo-classical Palais.
While the building itself is very impressive, it is really the whole area that makes this attraction a must see. The colorful pavement around the square, the impressive fountain, the cafés in the area all make for a lovely ambiance. The street vendors are also a nice touch, and they may have exactly what is needed to fill out that little spot in the suitcase for a souvenir.
The Place du Palais de Justice is also a favorite hangout of the local youth at night. It is a spot to bring a brew and gather with friends in the lovely Nice evenings. This area also hosts movies and concerts fairly frequently, so be sure and check the schedule of events.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and i_am_neuron
5) Cathedrale Sainte ReparateThe Cathedrale Sainte Reparate is one of the most interesting and beautiful cathedrals in Nice. It is built on the site of a small church that dates back circa 1200. Built in the middle 17th century, and dedicated in 1699, the building is magnificent. It contains 10 chapels, that were maintained by private families, and three organs.
The name comes from a young Palestinian boy who was martyred for his Christian faith. Saint Reparate was 15 when he was beheaded and his body set adrift in a small vessel. According to legend the boat floated up to the shores of Nice and he is now buried at the cathedral.
There have been additions over the years; the Baroque façade was added in the early 1800s. This hides the original cupola which is still there, but a bit hard to see. However, the cupola is covered in colored tiles and is beautiful standing guard over the transept.
The inside also carries on the Baroque theme with plentiful use of marble and gold. The barrel ceilings only add to the huge splendor of the cathedral which is built in the style of the Latin cross. This is definitely a must see when in Nice.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and RudolfSimon
6) Place Sainte FrancoisThe Place St. François used to be the home of the town hall which was built in the 16th century in Baroque style. The square is smaller than some in Nice, but it is still a beautiful place to visit. There is a wonderful fountain in the middle of the square that was built in the 1930s a gift from François Aragon that depicts dolphins.
There is a bell tower on the square that was built by the Franciscan monks who gave the name to the square- St. Francis. This area used to house a large Franciscan convent, but only the bell tower and some of the cloister remain today. Still, it is easy to imagine how busy this little spot was in its heyday when the town hall was here.
The square hosts a fish market every morning with the exception of Monday. Some of the finest and freshest catch from the Mediterranean may be purchased here, so it can still be a busy bundle of activity. It is a nice spot to check out the architecture and people watch.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and Petteri Sulonen
7) Place GaribaldiThis is another of the lovely squares to be found in the city of Nice. It used to be called the Piazza Vittorio, and was designed to be a tribute to King Victor Amedee III. It was built in the late 1700s. When first constructed, it was meant to be a place for the Sardinian rulers to have public functions in Nice, while visiting from Turin. Much later, the square was renamed after Giuseppe Garibaldi, who tried to get Nice included in the governmental rule of Italy during the so-called Italian Reunification Movement. (At one point, Nice was part of Italy.)
The square was designed by Antoine Spinelli. This is the same designer who worked on the Chapelle du St. Sepulcre building in town. You will also be able to see the statue of Garibaldi which was constructed here.
While in the area, you may also want to visit the Place Massena. Place St. Francois is also very close. If you go there, you will want to see the famous Dolphin Fountain located in the center of the square. The Bell Tower Palais Communal is also within walking distance from the Place Garibaldi.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and wit
8) The Museum of Natural History of NiceWhen you visit the Museum of Natural History, you will get a chance to see one of the oldest museums in Nice. It is also one of the best institutions of its kind to be found in France. So, if you have any interest in natural history at all, you need to plan on paying a visit.
The museum was made possible through the generosity of Jean Baptiste Barla and Jean Baptiste Verany. It was organized and opened to the public in 1846. It has been in continuous operation throughout that time period.
The biggest attractions here are the vegetable displays, as well as the geological collection. Both are quite impressive. There is also a wonderful photo gallery inside also. The major theme of the institution centers on showing life in all its frailest elements. There are some great dry habitat displays here, as a result of the main theme.
The museum is open every day of the week except Monday, from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. They are also closed on major holidays. One other nice tidbit is that the museum is free of charge.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and lizardking_cda
9) Avenue Jean-MedecinIf you want to get in a leisurely stroll through one of the most popular streets of Nice, you will want to take a walk along the famous Avenue Jean Medicin. This famous part of town was named for one of the former city mayors. He was the head of the town for over 50 years. There has been a lot of care in the overall design, and the tour of the famous promenade is simply marvelous.
The best shopping in town can be found here, but be prepared to spend a little money in these shops. The streets are great for pedestrians, and have a lot of room for walking. The stores are also designed for people to be able to just pop in and out for a visit.
The Basilique Notre Dame is not very far away, so you will want to go while there. The whole trip down the famous avenue will take you around 30 minutes from the furthest end (which is by the train station or the Place Massena, depending on which end you start at.) If you need a rest along the way, stop in the famous Nice Etoile Mall. It has some of the best shopping along the way also.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and MPD01605
10) Basilique Notre-DameThe Notre Dame Church of Nice is the largest of the churches that are located in the city. It is also one of the main attractions located in Old Town. It also represents the first of the churches built in the area in a more modern architectural style. You can find the building on Avenue Jean Medecin, in the very heart of that part of Nice.
By far, most of the religious buildings in Nice have been designed in an Italian Baroque manner. So, in 1848, when the Eglise Notre-Dame was built, it represented something totally new in design by being built in a very Gothic style of architecture. The design was created by the famous C. Lenormand. The style lends an old and majestic kind of look to this house of worship that transcends the actual age of the building.
The Avenue Jean Medecin is a very busy street in old Nice. So, it should not be too hard for anyone to find plenty of things to do along the whole length of the Avenue, making a stop at the famous church a must do for the days travel.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and Diane S Murphy
11) Matisse MuseumThis is a wonderfully eclectic little museum that sits atop the hill of Cimiez. It is devoted to the life and work of Henri Matisse. The building is a grand old 17th Century villa that sports a beautiful red paint job, as is adorned with trompe-l’oeil. It used to be the home of the old museum of archeology. It is surrounded by a lovely park that is a wonderful place to take a walk. The olive and pine trees are quite beautiful.
The ground floor of this building is completely dedicated to the early works of the grand painter. This covers his creative period from 1890 to 1905. Among the works on the first floor is his first painting, the Nature Mortem aux Livers.
As you move through the building, you will find more and more of the later works of the master. Besides the permanent collection of Matisse, the new modern wing that was added on houses many wonderful temporary collections that change periodically.
The museum is open every day but Tuesday each week, from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. The location is closed on major holidays and all bank related holidays. One nice perk here is that children 18 years of age and under get in for free.
Image Courtesy of Flickr and debs-eye
12) Cimiez Monastery and Franciscan MuseumThe monastery itself is located in the hills that surround the city of Nice. It was built by the Franciscan Order, and includes several parts. The Notre Dame Church is attached to this, as well as the museum owned by the brotherhood. The exhibitions inside show a history of the Order from the 1200s until the present day.
There are some wonderful sacred works of art on display here, some of which are paintings by none other than Louis Brea. You can also find some important historical documents about the Fransiscans on display also. You may also want to check out the flower garden that surrounds the complex, as it presents a beautiful view of the surrounding area. The ancient cemetery of Cimiez is also attached to the gardens. There are many famous people buried there, such as Matisse and Dufy.
This old monastery and museum is a great place to visit, especially to get away from the classic beaches and beach life of the French Riviera. The Order has been here for hundreds of years, and provides a unique perspective to the history of Nice. It is open to the public Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. until noon, and 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. They are closed on Sundays and holidays.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Eric Coffinet
Out of the Ordinary Trips in France