Historic Buildings Tour (Self Guided), Nice

Thanks to its history, the culture and architecture of Nice is diverse and very beautiful. The influences of Gothic, Italian, Latin and Genoese styles define the architecture of Nice. The beauty of this blend of styles is seen in the old buildings, churches and palaces. Take this tour to discover the masterpieces of art made by people centuries ago which are preserved to this day.
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Historic Buildings Tour Map

Guide Name: Historic Buildings Tour
Guide Location: France » Nice (See other walking tours in Nice)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.1 Km or 4.4 Miles
Author: jenny
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Monastère de Cimiez & Musée Franciscain
  • Cemelenum Amphitheatre
  • Musée Matisse
  • Basilique Notre-Dame
  • Gare Central Thiers
  • Musée Masséna
  • Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate
  • Palais Lascaris
  • Monument aux Morts
1
Monastère de Cimiez & Musée Franciscain

1) Monastère de Cimiez & Musée Franciscain (must see)

Cimiez Monastery 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. Additionally, you can find some important historical documents about the Franciscans on display. 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.

Why You Should Visit:
A good point at which to begin a tour of the Cimiez Hill area, which also offers a couple of art museums, Roman ruins, and lovely gardens.
The Cimiez area and Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill) probably are the two places that afford the most panoramic views of Nice and its environs.

Tip:
If you visit the Monastery & Museum, make sure to also visit the gardens and to take a picnic if the weather is nice.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm; Free entry
2
Cemelenum Amphitheatre

2) Cemelenum Amphitheatre (must see)

Cemelenum Amphitheatre contains the remains of the antique period of the city’s formation. These ruins themselves are very damaged, but still standing and impressive. Located nearby are other important buildings such as Cimiez Monastery, Matisse Museum and others.
3
Musée Matisse

3) Musée Matisse (must see)

This 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.

Why You Should Visit:
As long as you don't expect too many Matisse paintings, you will appreciate this museum that focuses on the artist's career development through many aspects of his work.
The ticket allows entry to other Nice museums within 24hrs of the visit, but for the Matisse fan, this alone is worth the entrance fee.

Tip:
Make sure you bring ID for under 18s, as they get in for free.

Operation Hours:
(Nov-Apr) Wed-Mon: 10am-5pm; (May-Oct) Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm
Closed on January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st and December 25th
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Basilique Notre-Dame

4) Basilique Notre-Dame (must see)

The Notre Dame Church of Nice is the largest of the churches located in the city. It is also one of the main Old Town attractions, representing 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, its very Gothic style represented something totally new. 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 building's actual age.

The Avenue Jean Medecin is a very busy street in old Nice; therefore, it shouldn't be too difficult for anyone to find things to do along its whole length, making a stop at the famous church a must-do for the day's travel.

Why You Should Visit:
The architecture is impressive, especially when the exterior is lit up at night and reflects in the glass windows next door and across the street.
Serene, with beautiful rose windows and stained glass on the inside, it offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Nice.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-12pm / 2:30-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Gare Central Thiers

5) Gare Central Thiers

This site is the central train station for the city of Nice. The architecture is wonderful, and you will find it to be one of the most beautifully decorated facilities of its kind in Europe You can see some amazing masonry work and vast open spaces that the location is known for. There is also a lot of ornate molding used to trim the brick structure. The whole facility is quite impressive, and the sheer size of the facility can take your breath away. You can get there by going to the intersection of Jean Medecin and Avenue Thiers.

It was designed by an architect named Bouchot. The construction took place in 1865. It took a couple of years to complete the construction. It is very representative of the type of architectural styling that was expected of train stations during the 19th Century. (It was built during a time when travelers expected their railways to be very highly decorated and stunning to the eye.) It is definitely worth the visit. This is especially so if you have a traveler along that enjoys the nostalgia of old trains and railways stations.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Musée Masséna

6) Musée Masséna (must see)

The Masséna Museum has been undergoing a lot of renovation but still is one of the best places for visitors in the city of Nice. It is also nicknamed the Masséna Villa, as it is located inside the old home of Victor Masséna. It is notable for art and history exhibits. You can find this place along the Promenade des Anglais. There are some beautiful garden spots located around the place as well. They were the work of Edouard Andre, who is quite famous as a landscape designer. He was also the person behind the beautiful gardens at the Monte Carlo Casino. The location was built over a period from 1898 until 1901. It was designed for Masséna by Hans Tersling. The museum of art and history moved into this location in 1921. Inside you will find twenty exhibition rooms filled with the history and art of old Nice. Each room tries to depict an era in the history of the city, which includes its art, design, furniture, fashion, and the like. One of the more interesting artifacts on display is the death mask of Napoleon. They also exhibit his coronation robe. In total, there are over fifteen thousand items featured here.

Why You Should Visit:
The view from the outside of the house or looking at the beach across the street are amazing; the gardens (free to everyone) are a nice, tranquil spot away from the busy Promenade; the museum's ground floor is furnished in the style that the rooms were intended for; and you also get to see some nice exhibits on the other floors.

Tip:
Most of the descriptions are written in French, so if you don't speak the language at all, it may be frustrating to pay €10 for entrance.

Opening Hours:
(Oct 16 - Jun 22) Wed-Mon: 11am-6pm; Tue: CLOSED; (Jun 23 - Oct 15) Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm; Tue: CLOSED
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate

7) Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate (must see)

The Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate 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. Sainte-Réparate 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 facade 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.

Why You Should Visit:
Fabulous interior and the decor is a wonder to behold. You can spend a very happy hour roaming, sitting and contemplating in this most peaceful setting.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-12pm / 2-6pm; Sat: 9am-12pm / 2-7:30pm; Sun: 9am-1pm / 3-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Palais Lascaris

8) Palais Lascaris (must see)

Palais Lascaris was built in the 1600s for the Lascaris-Vintimille family. It is one of the best representations of how the truly wealthy lived during that time period. The palace was restored during the 1940s and then was open to the public as a museum. The spectacular Baroque building is well worth the visit for anyone, but an absolute must-see for those who love musical instruments.

Le Groupe AXA loaned an extensive collection of period instruments to the museum. In addition, there are also paintings that depict musical instruments, and it is not unusual to be able to hear some of the instruments being played. The palace also hosts several musical events throughout the year – check the schedule.

Be sure to see the 'étage noble', the noble story, where much of the original grandeur has been restored. This was used as a gathering place and is very fitting for a rich, noble family. The palace has the obligatory Baroque staircase as well as beautiful murals and tapestries. There is also an apothecary on the ground floor that houses many original pieces from the 18th century and some beautiful delft pieces.

Why You Should Visit:
Much to see – from the spectacular entrance of golden aura glory to the rooms that are very unique inside, with well carved magnificent details and infinite complex abstract designs.
The artifacts include musical instruments; a room dedicated to pop/rock music, (including well-known American artists); religious artifacts; paintings; and historic tapestries.

Tip:
Remember that you can get a combined city museum ticket for €10 valid 24 hours or a week-long ticket for €20 allowing access to all Nice museums.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm; Tue: CLOSED
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Monument aux Morts

9) Monument aux Morts

The Monument aux Morts is a very striking memorial to the people who passed away during World War I. It was erected in 1919, and was the brain child of the Mayor of Nice at that time. That was Goiran Francis. In terms of pure size, it is one of the largest tributes to the fallen to be found anywhere in the country.

The location of the memorial is set so that it faces out to the ocean. It is built into the beautiful Castle Hill in town. During the daytime, the light plays off the white stone that was used to build the structure, making the whole thing look a bit surrealistic. It is dome shaped, and has an urn in the middle. If you take time to go up to the display, you will be able to read the names of the three thousand six hundred and fifty five lost souls that are honored here. It is a great spot to stop for a moment of contemplation.

The design was done by Roger Seasal. Some of the additional work, namely the bas-reliefs was added closer to 1928 by Alfred Janniot.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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