Nice Tourist Attractions
Nice, capital of the département of Alpes-Maritimes and diocesan city, lies on the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), surrounded by the foothills of the Maritime Alps, in the eastern part of the Côte d'Azur, about 30km/19mi from the Franco-Italian border. Its sheltered location and mild climate made Nice one of the classic winter resorts of the Côte d'Azur and right up to the present time it has remained one of the most popular places of all for holidays.
Proof of prehistoric settlement has been found in the caves of the castle hill and in those of Mont Boron further to the east. Phocaeans from Marseilles in 4 BC founded the strongpoint Nikaia Polis (town of Victory) on the castle hill, in what is now the Old Town. Later the Romans settled on the Hill of Cimiez on the far side of the River Paillon farther inland in order to protect the Via Julia.
Incursions by Saxons and Saracens wreaked havoc in the town, the former in the sixth century and the latter in the ninth century. In the Middle Ages Nice formed part of the lands of the Count of Provence and from 1388 - after it had failed to recognize Louis of Anjou as heir to Provence - belonged to the dukedom of Savoy. In 1543 Nice, a Savoyard-Hapsburg city, was besieged by French and Turkish ships. In 1720 Savoy gained possession of Sardinia and it was at this period that the harbor and fortress were built (providing the only access to the sea for Piedmont). In 1792 Nice became part of France, in 1814 it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia, but in 1860 as a result of a referendum it was returned to France.
Nice is the birthplace of the Italian freedom fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882). The painters Dufy and Matisse are buried here and Paganini died in a house in the rue de la Préfecture.
Max Gallo, writer and first government spokesman of President Mitterand, comes from Nice. Since 1966 Nice has also been a university city.
Its mild climate (average winter temperature 9°C/48°F) enabled Nice to become a popular winter health resort in the second half of the 19th century and one of the earliest centers of tourism - the initial British "invasion" having been triggered off as far back as 1776 by the travel diaries of the Scottish doctor, Tobias Smollett. Until the 1920s Nice was merely a winter resort for rich elderly English gentry and Russian aristocrats. After World War I, in the wake of visits by American soldiers, artists and writers, the Riviera became well-known as an area for holidays and when in 1926 over 8,000 American visitors spent July here, it could be said that modern mass tourism as we know it today had arrived. Yet for many years after that the income from the winter months far exceeded that of the summer season; this situation did not change until 1936, when French workers started to be given holidays with pay for the first time.
Today tourism to a large extent lives on the myth of previous times: the "wedding-cake" style architecture of the luxury hotels is now juxtaposed with concrete apartment blocks; the magnificent promenade round the bay is now a six-lane highway; corruption, property speculation, organized crime, - these are the labels used to describe Nice these days. Since 1928, under the "rule" of the mayors Jean and Jacques Médecin, father and son, a "Mediterranean Chicago" has evolved over the years (Jacques Médecin fled to Uruguay in September, 1990) - "La Côte, c'est fini", was the cry... However, with the impact of "conference tourism" and the establishment of high-tech industry (especially in Sophia-Antipolis, a European "Silicon Valley") new fields of activity are being opened up for capital to be invested in. It should be noted that the Nice-Côte d'Azur airport, which was opened in 1962, is the second most important in France, even ahead of Marseilles.
In spite of all this Nice has remained a city with its own individual dynamism: a walk through the Old Town is sufficient to make that clear.