Exploring Nice’s History

    Within the French Riviera lies the ancient and historical city of Nice. Not only is Nice the region’s largest city and unofficial capital, it is also the second most visited place in all of France (the first, of course, being Paris).

    Nice has a rich and unique history that cannot be found in just any European city. Around 350 BC, Greek warriors founded a permanent settlement here. In honor of their success, they called the new city Nikaia after the goddess of victory Nike.

    Explorer l'histoire de Nice - Nice guide de voyage Côte d'Azur 1
    Place Masséna

    If you visit Nice, you’ll notice many Greek landmarks still littered around the city. The main Massena Square for example is home to a glorious marble statue of the Greek God Apollo. Similarly, climb the stairs of the castle hill and you’ll find yourself walking upon 13 mosaic decorated steps summarizing Homer’s Odyssey.

    After the Greeks came the Romans, who settled in Nice’s historic neighborhood of Cimiez, which is calm and secluded, wafted by gentle sea breezes and blessed with incredible views. Head up to the gorgeous Jardins de Cimiez and you’ll discover the ruins of a what was once an ancient Roman Colosseum, a still-operating monastery, a cemetery, and a gorgeous 500-year-old olive garden. You can freely walk through the entire complex and immerse yourself in the city’s enriching ancestry.

    Exploring Nice's History - nice travel guide cimiez monastery
    Jardins de Cimiez

    Au IXe siècle, les Frères duAbbaye de Saint-Pons (Franciscan monks) built the Monastery of Cimiez. In 1543, the convent of the Franciscan brothers was destroyed during the siege of Nice. Three years later, they bought the Monastery from the brotherhood of the Benedictines.

    Après la Révolution, l'armée le transforma en caserne puis en hôpital militaire. Elle reprendra par la suite sa vocation originelle sous la Restauration sarde, et deviendra église paroissiale sous la direction des moines. Au XIXème siècle, l'ajout de façades et de porches néo-gothiques, lui confère son style actuel.

    Dans cette église du XVe siècle, vous pourrez admirer trois tableaux majeurs du peintre niçois primitifLouis Bréa: a Pietà, the Crucifixion, and the Deposition. Also worth seeing is the imposing carved wood baroque altarpiece. The museum traces Franciscan life in Nice from the 13th century onwards and houses fascinating frescoes and works of art.

    Le jardin du Monastère, avec sa roseraie et ses plantes méditerranéennes, est magnifique avec une vue qui embrasse une grande partie de la ville, jusqu'à la mer.Henri Matisse,Roger Martin du GardetRaoul Dufysont enterrés dans le cimetière adjacent.

    Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Nice still remained a part of Italy. That changed however in 1860. As a gift of sorts, the Italian Provence offered France the city of Nice for their help in the Second Italian War of Independence.

    Having changed hands from Italian to French rule, the city of Nice developed its own language. A mixture of both the French and Italian languages, Niçan was born. While Niçan is no longer commonly spoken in Nice today, you will notice that all street signs in the Old Town are in both French and Niçan.

    Consultez notre list of Nice’s main historic sights et notre guide des meilleurs musées d'art de Nice et le long de la Côte d'Azur, pour explorer les sites historiques les plus impressionnants de la ville.

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