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Nice Travel Guide

flights to Nice

Stylish, cool, fun, cosmopolitan, flash, beautiful, up-market, decadent and hot. All words used to describe Nice, all of them true. Nice is the birthplace of modern tourism. It was here that 18th century Aristocrats travelled from England, Russia and the USA to enjoy the mild winter climate and create the bright fashionable way of life associated with the ‘capital of the Riviera’. Gradually international travel became more affordable and the lower classes also began to head for the sun during winter but it wasn’t until after WWII that things really started to boom. With the influx of new tourists wanting to enjoy some real sunshine the holiday high season switched from winter to summer. Nice has never looked back.

Despite its up-market reputation, Nice has as many class problems as any other big city with the poor as much in evidence as the well off. The City’s socio-economic imbalance has major part (or has been used as an excuse) in the flaring of racial tensions and like Marseille, Nice has a far from savoury political reputation – another victim of the creeping right wing fanaticism that seems to be gradually infecting France. However, it has to be said, Nice is by no means Marseille and its concessions to tourism take pride of place both culturally and economically. Nice is far more than just a sunshine holiday resort, it dates as far back as 350BC and it therefore has a rich historic and artistic lineage, which is afforded equal respect to the fast-cash leisure and entertainments industries.

Nice is an unquestionably beautiful city. Its architecture and general layout is easy both on the eye and on the feet. The diverse countryside beyond is lush and the Mediterranean that laps the shore is never less than appealing. In the town centre lies Place Massena with its magnificent Fountaine du Soleil, a masterpiece of decorative architecture and a great place to begin your exploration. Nearby Rue de France is a delightful and very trendy pedestrian shopping area where exclusive boutiques sell the latest fashions and chic restaurants spill onto pavement terraces. It is a wonderful place to while away a few hours people-watching and get a taste for the City’s notoriously extravagant air. Follow in the footsteps of the aristocrats along the famous Promenade des Anglais to Vieille Ville (Old Town) and you’re in entirely different territory. Traditional Riviera houses with red tiled roofs flank winding, narrow streets. People bustle amongst the plethora of shops, small restaurants and stores selling fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. You can buy freshly made pasta and fine wine by the bottle or keg.

Overlooking Vielle Ville on a high rocky hill is the Chateau. Although the castle is long gone it is still a magical place to spend a few hours with its relaxing shady walks, large grassy park, Roman ruins, waterfall and great views of the City and the Med beyond. Approximately a mile from the bustle of the town centre is Cimiez a pleasant residential area with a large park full of olive groves. Since 1948, during two weeks in August, this becomes the main venue for the Nice International Jazz Festival. Stars from the world of music congregate to play amongst the olive trees and in the wonderful Roman Amphitheatre. People in their thousands flock to listen to hip sounds and to meet old friends and maybe make new ones. The place is alive with music and the park become temporary home to scores of traders selling memorabilia, records, instruments, books and delicious hot and cold food.

For visitors wishing to learn a little about the history, art and culture of the City there is a wealth of fine museums to choose from. The Fine Arts Museum has a large collection of Italian and French works from the 17th to 19th centuries whilst native artist Mark Chagall has a museum entirely dedicated to his wide range of artistic works. Mattise lived in Nice from 1917 until his death in 1954 and is also well represented by his namesake Museum, which houses his own personal collection. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art covers avant-garde art from the 60s to the present day whilst the Massena Art & History Museum is equally divided between paintings and decorative arts, military exhibits and other artefacts. Cimiez Museum of archaeology at the site of the Roman Cemenelum has an impressive collection of tools, sculptures, pottery, engravings, jewellery and coins found there. Amongst the excavations outside you can see the ancient baths and other buildings.

Nice is also proud of its parklands and gardens, which are amongst the most beautiful in the Country. The Monastery Garden is a favourite with ramblers who enjoy strolling through the peaceful open spaces, resting under ancient pagodas and wandering along grassy paths amongst tangerine and orange trees. The Albert I Garden is one of the oldest in Nice; overlooking the sea it literally forms a green path between the Old and Modern sections of the City. At 7000m2 and 25m in height, Phoenix Park is amongst the largest plant houses in the world and hope to dozens of species of fish, birds and exotic butterflies. Inside the enormous glass structure you’ll discover the astronomical garden, the island of bygone days, the bamboo forest and the mysterious Maya temple.

Of course the majority of visitors come to Nice for days of sunshine and relaxation and nights of wild abandon. In Vieille Ville around Cours Saleya, Place Rossetti and Place Pierre Gautier the afternoon buzz continues well past midnight and is possibly the most authentic taste of Nice nightlife you’ll find. For hardcore tourists the City centre is the most popular hot spot. The area around Rue de Massena and Rue de France is teaming with bars and terrace cafes, restaurants of all nations, English speaking pubs serving a fantastic range of brews and a truly sensational clubbing scene where the bold, beautiful and barmy get their kicks well into the early hours.

You could fill a book with everything you need to know about Nice. It is a place that simply oozes good times, excitement and adventure. From the Opera with over 100 performances per season to the highly popular Carnival of Nice; the Mediterranean beaches and the lush pine filled countryside to the easily accessible nearby resorts of Monaco, Monte Carlo and Cannes; the world class entertainment and very best in sports and leisure activities. Nice is not only the gateway to the Cote D’Azur it is a life changing experience that should be savoured again and again.

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