The beautiful city in the French Riviera is known for its atmosphere of luxury. However, Nice also has so much more to offer: neighborhoods with character, cultural experiences and interesting destinations for excursions. Mondo’s picks invite you to admire the splendor of the past in Cimiez and to take a day trip to the famous Cote d’Azur.
History and culture in Cimiez
The hills rising near the center of Nice host the prosperous district of Cimiez, which is easy to reach by local bus, for example. The area is known for its tree-lined roads and 19th-century manors and villas – once inhabited by both artists and noble families – connecting Cimiez with an air of elegance and luxury still today.
A good place to start a tour of the district is the lovely olive grove of Jardin des Arénes de Cimiez. The park is popular among locals, who often use it for picnics and playing boules.
The surrounding area also features several attractions, such as the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and baths, and an archaeological museum. In the first century AD, the area hosted the Roman city of Cemenelum, which later became part of Nice.
Monastère de Cimiez is a former Franciscan monastery with a beautiful garden that is still a great place to admire the scenery.
In the art museums of Cimiez, one can spend the day admiring paintings by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall.
The main attractions in the area include two art museums. The impressive Musée Matisse has an extensive collection of works by French artist Henri Matisse, one of the greatest painters of the early 1900s. Matisse lived and worked in Nice for a long time, and is buried in the Cimiez Cemetery.
Walking down Boulevard de Cimiez, you can admire Belle Époque buildings while heading toward Musée National Marc Chagall. The bright art museum features religious paintings and other works by Russian-French artist Marc Chagall. The collection is impressive, and the museum’s delightful garden is designed to counterbalance the art displayed inside. If you are planning to visit several cultural attractions in Nice, you can save on entrance fees by purchasing a French Riviera Pass (nicetourisme.com).
There are also some restaurants in Cimiez, and Resto Côté Sud on a quiet and steep side street is a good spot for lunch. The restaurant serves traditional French food, with main courses ranging from 17 to 22 euros. The restaurant has a terrace, as well as a patio garden in the summer.
Wonderful experiences right outside of Nice
If your visit to Nice lasts for more than a few days, there are many things to see in the neighboring Côte d’Azur, i.e., the French Riviera. Consider these two charming day-trip destinations that you can reach from Nice by local bus.
There is no need for a car in the French Riviera: you can reach many attractions by bus or train.
The view from the medieval village of Èze on the top of a hill is stunning. Èze offers beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea and the coast, and its narrow alleys are fun to stroll among centuries-old buildings. The best time to visit Èze is either early in the morning or in the afternoon, as the galleries and boutiques are often crowded by tourists around noon. If you're in the mood for a spectacular view, climb to the top of the village, near the castle ruins in the cactus garden of Le Jardin Exotique.
In Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, you can visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, an embodiment of 19th-century glamor. Although calling it a “villa” is quite an understatement – the building is actually a magnificent manor built for baroness and art collector Béatrice de Rothschild in the early 1900s. The objects and ornamentation in the manor give a sneak peek into the luxurious life of the past. The place has also served as a venue for an annual summertime opera festival.
To many visitors, the most charming feature of Villa Ephrussi is its spectacular garden. The lush garden is full of tropical plants, and it, too, offers wonderful spots for admiring the beautiful coast.
Text and photos: Andrew Taylor
This story was first published in Mondo's issue 03/22.