A Walk through Old Nice

A Walk through Old Nice

Unlike most of the other destinations we visited in France, our stay in Nice was very short. But despite our short time there, Jave, my parents, and I were instantly taken by Nice. As we strolled and drove along Promenade des Anglais, the city’s popular walkway along the Mediterranean waterfront, we kept marveling at how much Nice reminded us of some of L.A.’s beach cities – only better.

While Nice is France’s fifth most populous city and the second largest French city on the Mediterranean after Marseille, we certainly didn’t get any big city vibes while there. That’s probably because the city only has a population of about 1 million. So we didn’t have to deal with crowds, heavy traffic, or noise. Instead, we felt like we were in a mid-sized seaside town.

Nice was founded around 350 BC by the Greeks of Marseille and the city was originally named Nikaia after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Today, the city is known as “Nice la Belle” or “Nice the Beautiful.” From our pictures, it’s easy to see why.

To make the most of the little time we had there, we met up with a guide for a private walking tour of Old Nice. As we oriented ourselves in Old Nice, we noticed that vendors were starting to set up their market stalls on Cours Saleya.

The red roofs indicate buildings that comprise Old Nice
The red roofs indicate buildings that comprise Old Nice

Our guided walk included a visit to Colline du Château (Castle Hill). Although you can climb nearly 300 steps to the top of the hill, our guide showed us the easy way up on the elevator. Once stepping out of the elevator, we were immediately greeted by panoramic views of Nice below.

While there’s not a castle at the top of Castle Hill, there is a park where parents take their kids to burn off some energy. There’s also an area where you’ll find beautiful mosaic steps from which you’ll witness amazing views of the harbor below.

Given its geography, Nice was one of the busiest trading ports although it competed with the Cemenelum, a Roman town that’s now known as Cimiez which is a present day neighborhood in Nice.

While at the top of Castle Hill, we came across the ruins of Cimiez Cathedral, a former Roman Catholic cathedral that was destroyed when Nice was seized in 1691.

The waterfall can be seen on the hill above, and notice the pretty chandelier hanging above the middle of the street
The waterfall can be seen on the hill above, and notice the pretty chandelier hanging above the middle of the street

Before descending Castle Hill, we stopped for some pictures of a waterfall found at the top of the hill. Later in the afternoon, from the street-level restaurant where we ate lunch back in Old Nice, we had a unique view of the waterfall above, especially since there was a chandelier strung above the street.

As we walked down the stairs from Castle Hill, I couldn’t help but picture us living a quieter life in one of the colorful, old apartment buildings at the foot of the hill. I was reminded of our walk through Le Panier in Marseille. There’s something so captivating about old French neighborhoods.

On one of Nice’s many picturesque streets, we came across Palais Lascaris, an aristocratic building dating back to the 17th century that was formerly owned by the Vintimille-Lascaris family.

In 1942, the city bought the building and it’s currently used as a museum of historical musical instruments. While we merely peeked inside of the museum, the next time we’re in Nice, I’d definitely like to explore it in more depth.

Soon enough, the city’s winding streets opened up to a fish market where vendors were selling the surplus from fishermen who’d overfished for the day.

If we were staying in town longer and if we’d rented an apartment, I definitely would’ve bought some fish for dinner because everything looked so amazingly fresh!

View of the Nice Cathedral from the top of Castle Hill
View of the Nice Cathedral from the top of Castle Hill

As we came to the stunning plaza where the Nice Cathedral is located, we couldn’t help but stop for a gelato break at Fenocchio where we had some of the freshest gelato ever.

While my strawberry gelato was good, I wish that I’d followed Jave’s lead and ordered a scoop of lavender; the flavor was so subtle and refreshing!

During our walk, we came across a vendor selling socca, a thin pancake-like specialty made of chickpea flour. While socca originated in Genoa, it’s become a popular food along the Ligurian coast from Pisa to Nice.

As we made our way back to the market stalls of Cours Saleya, our guide stopped to pick up some freshly made ravioli for his lunch from Maison Barale and some greens for a simple salad from one of the produce vendors.

He said that when he left us, he was going to go home, prepare his lunch, and pour himself a few glasses of wine and enjoy his lunch on his apartment’s balcony overlooking the harbor. Mind you, this was on a weekday. Man, the French really know how to live!

PINNABLE

castle-hill-nice-france

Have you been to Nice? If so, what were your thoughts of the city?

  • I have only been to Nice once, your photos definitely make me want to return one day.

  • Ah… I never went to Nice. On my bucket list! How beautiful is this city. It reminds me a bit of Cinque Terre in Italy. Have you been there? And, yes French people do know how to live. I have travelled to Paris, Lyon and a little town where my uncle lives called Chalon sur Saone. There, the shops are close every day from 12 to 2 pm!

    • Dana Carmel

      I have yet to visit Cinque Terre, but I’m always mesmerized by pics I see of the place. We Americans have a lot to learn from the French in terms of learning to live to work and not working to live!

  • I love Nice and your post made me realize that it’s been 4 years since our visit there and it’s time to go back.

    Great post and your photos are great!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Monique! Like you, I’d definitely love to return to Nice. Hopefully you’ll make it back soon!

  • Looks good! Pictures and stories like these make me appreciate France. I often take it for granted as it’s just next door, but seriously the French… they do know how to live! Getting me a glass of wine right now!

    • Dana Carmel

      Aah… to live next door to France! I really love the mentality there. Hope you enjoyed your wine. 😉

  • Wow, what a beautiful trip this was! I went to Nice once when I was in high school, and my most vivid memory was the EXTREMELY strong tide in the ocean there…I got pulled under and had to be “rescued” by 2 Frenchmen! Haha, at least it’s a funny story to tell now!;-)

    • Dana Carmel

      Oh wow – glad that the story ended well and that you can laugh about it now. Sounds kinda scary – the ocean is so powerful. I think you should definitely return to Nice to make some more memories there!

  • Wow, it’s so historical and charming, I absolutely love it! I love the narrow street and food vendors. Hope to make it there soon!

    • Dana Carmel

      Now that you’re back in Europe it’ll definitely be easier for you to get there!

  • Absolutely gorgeous photos, Dana! I need to get myself over to Nice… like…NOW!

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Lauren! 😉

  • Honestly, France has never been on my radar, but pictures of Nice and Marseilles may eventually change my mind!

    • Dana Carmel

      Interesting that France hasn’t been on your radar. You should definitely go – I think you’d love it!

  • I didn’t realize that the town of Nice and the Nike shoe company were named after the same thing. How interesting. The town really does look lovely. Shopping in those little stalls seems much more fresh and quaint than an American mega-grocery store. The views from the hill are great, and I really like those mosaic tiles.

    • Dana Carmel

      Totally agree about the fresh market stalls. I wish that we Americans could get back to our daily farmers market roots. I know that every big city in America has one, but I wish that they were more the norm. I really miss Europe’s market culture!

  • I love Nice, especially the old part – such beautiful architecture! You’ve captured the atmosphere there very well 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Becky!

  • Promenade des Anglais – such a beautiful avenue by the sea, the views from the castle hill are spectacular,
    love the picturesque streets, the relaxed nature of the city, fresh farm produce … everything about Nice
    looks marvelous.

    • Dana Carmel

      It really is an ideal destination. It’s just so expensive!

  • This looks like such a great place to visit – love all the photos!

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Catherine. Hope you get to visit soon!

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