The number one tourist attraction in Nice is quite clearly the sea. With 7 kilometres of beach along the Promenade des Anglais, Nice has one of the longest and most famous beaches of the French Riviera. It’s worth noting however that the beach is made of small pebbles, not sand – which does not seem to have deterred the millions of bathers who come here each year.
To the west of the old city is “Castle Hill” – La colline du château, whose former fortress was demolished three hundred years ago. Today Castle Hill is a park filled with luxuriant Mediterranean trees and shrubs, separating the beach to the west from the old port, le vieux port, to the east. The old port is nowadays a yachting marina, where visitors can come and admire Entrance to the old port. the luxury yachts of the super-rich. A warm evening wander round the old port can be an unusual experience, with the underwater floodlights on some yachts shining through the clear blue water.
The old city of Nice arcs round inland from “Castle Hill”, from the Promenade des Anglais to the old port. Most of the historic quarter, including the famed flower market, is just behind the east end of the beach. Entering the old city, one moves from the open spaces of the Promenade des Anglais into the narrow streets of a traditional north Mediterranean city. As in Italy, the narrow streets are flanked by tall houses, up to five stories high, and painted in warm colours, reds, yellows and ochre. In many places restaurants spill out of the old buildings, their chairs and tables half covering the streets where vehicles could not pass easily even if they were allowed to. In warm weather, the aromas of Mediterranean cooking drifting out from the kitchens can be a mouth-watering experience. Even if Nice had nothing in the way of museums and monuments, it would be a place whose charms would be enough to satisfy many of its visitors.
Restaurants spill out into the narrow streets in the heart of old Nice. But Nice does have museums and monuments. Best of these is the Musée Matisse (free admission): to get there take bus 15 from stop Deloye Dubouchage, near the hotel Crillon). Located in a villa, the Matisse Museum has a great collection of works spanning the artist’s lifetime.
Half way up to the Matisse Museum, the bus route takes you past another great museum, the Chagall Museum, on the Boulevard de Cimiez. The collection comprises some 400 works by Chagall, including the series of 17 of Chagall’s great biblical paintings.
Even closer to the old city is the MAMAC, or Museum of modern art and contemporary art, a French and American modern art museum, with works by Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle, Andy Warhol, Roy Liechtenstein, and many others. This museum is located just 100 metres from the Place Garibaldi.
For those with more classic tastes, the Nice Fine Arts Museum, the Musée des Beaux arts (free admission), has a collection of French and European art from the 16th to the 20th century, with works by Van Loo, Fragonard, Corot, Daubigny, Boudin, Monet, Sisley and Raoul Dufy, to name a few.
Nice’s other very popular site is the Russian orthodox cathedral, a classic Russian building that might look more in place in Moscow or Saint Petersburg.