Οι παραλίες της Νίκαιας έχουν βότσαλα, είναι όμως πολλές, όλες δωρεάν, ζεστές και πεντακάθαρες. Η ίδια η πόλη είναι ορμητική και τολμηρή (δεν νοείται ότι μπορεί κάποια να είναι πολύ μεγάλη για να βάλει μπικίνι) και εξαιρετικά δημοφιλής, έτσι αν αναζητάτε ένα τόπο ηρεμίας και γαλήνης τύπου ζεν... συνεχίστε το ψάξιμο!
Η Νίκαια ήταν κάποτε τόπος κατοικίας πλουσίων αριστοκρατών, αλλά στις μέρες μας ο πληθυσμός της ποικίλει. Ως περιφερειακή πρωτεύουσα και πύλη για την Κυανή Ακτή, βρίσκεται πολύ κοντά σε θέρετρα διεθνούς αίγλης, όπως οι Κάννες και το Μονακό, και προσφέρει εύκολη πρόσβαση στα χωριά της Προβηγκίας.
Nice is in the southeast of France, perched on the Mediterranean coast halfway between Monaco (of Grand Prix fame) and Cannes (home to the international film festival). Paris is only 931km (580mi) away, and it's 30km(18mi) to the Italian border. The city stretches along the baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), where the Alps and the Paillon River meet the sea. The town is protected by wooded hills and the Estérel and Mercantour mountains to the north.
The port and the old town (perched on a hill known as Le Château) are in the city's southeast - a great quarter for sightseeing, restaurants and nightlife. In the northeast is the wealthy residential neighbourhood of Cimiez, which is also home to some outstanding museums. The modern city stretches north and west of the central square, place Masséna, behind the famous promenade des Anglais. The promenade follows the crescent-shaped shoreline westwards from the port.
Πότε να πάτε
Don't come to Nice in July or August if you dislike strong heat, crowds of holidaymakers and serious traffic jams. May and June are the most pleasant months, followed by September and October. Partygoers will enjoy the carnival in February.
With over 2500 hours of sunshine every year, Nice boasts an exceptionally mild climate. The average daily temperature hovers around 15°C/59°F, soaring up to 40°C/104°F in July-August and rarely dipping below 5°C/41°F in winter (November-February). In summer the water temperature is a languid 20-25°C (68-77°F).
If you had to pick only one of Nice's fêtes, it would have to be its internationally famous Carnival, which is held in the second half of February. Dating back to the 13th century, the celebration had many different shapes and purposes before turning into the one we know today. After having fallen into neglect for a number of years, it experienced a rebirth in 1873, which saw the first-ever parade of floats and giant carnival figures or 'grosses têtes'. Since then, the carnival has grown larger every year, with more street parties, more parades of giant figures with papier-maché heads, more battles of flowers and confetti. The celebrations come to an end on the evening of Mardi Gras with a parade to celebrate the cremation of the carnival king and a fireworks display. In March, the gardens of the monastery at Cimiez are host to Nice's Festin des Cougourdons, celebrating oddly shaped decorative dried squashes - some are even used as percussion instruments! The celebrations include a mass, dancing, performances of folk music and sales. In June, Nice celebrates its patron saints, Saint Peter (patron of fishermen) and Saint John, and in October its local Sainte Réparate... with more masses, processions, music and dancing. Since 1948, Nice has hosted a Jazz Festival in July, with performances by international artists. The summer is marked by a series of musical events: a music festival and a Festival of Sacred Music in June, the Festival Voucalia de Musique Méditerranéenne in July, and the Nuits Musicales de Nice in July and August.
Just north of the city centre is the wealthy residential suburb of Cimiez, crammed with reminders of its Roman past. The ruined remains of the ancient city of Cemenelum (Roman capital of the Alpes-Maritime province) are explored in the archaeological museum and site, which includes an amphitheatre and public baths. The olive grove behind the archaeological site is an evocative venue for July's jazz festival. Nearby there's a 16th-century monastery which affords superb views of the bay and displays some fabulous works of art. Painters Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy are buried in the graveyard. A neighbouring museum unravels the history of the Franciscan monks.
Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain
Nice's pride and joy in the architectural stakes specialises in French and American avant-garde works from the 1960s to the present. Glass walkways connect the four marble-coated towers, on top of which is a must-see rooftop garden. There's also an auditorium that regularly screens art-house films.
New realists figure highly, with many pieces by Romanian Caniel Spoerri and Arman. There's a gallery reserved for works by Nice-born Yves Klein (1928-62), and the ground and first floors are taken up with temporary exhibitions. For a breath of fresh air, the adjoining Jardin Maréchal Juin is worth a stroll.
Attracted by the weather, the scenery and the proximity of his friends (Picasso, Renoir and Bonnard lived in neighbouring towns), Henri Matisse wintered in Nice until his death in Cimiez in 1954. Well-known pieces in the permanent collection include Matisse's blue paper cutouts of Blue Nude IV and Woman with Amphora.
The Matisse Museum is Cimiez' biggest draw card. Attracted by the weather, the scenery and the proximity of his friends (Picasso, Renoir and Bonnard lived in neighbouring towns), Henri Matisse (1869-1954) wintered in Nice from 1916 until his death in Cimiez in 1954. The museum's collection spans the artist's long productive life, capturing all of his creative phases and including drawings, bronze sculptures, oil paintings and cut-out canvases. The permanent collection is housed in a red-ochre, 17th-century Genoese villa overlooking an ancient olive grove and the Parc des Arènes. Temporary exhibitions are held in the futuristic basement building.
Musée National Message Biblique Marc-Chagall
Housing the largest public collection of works by the Russian painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985), the museum was built in 1972 to hold the Biblical Message Cycle, a collection of 17 enormous canvases inspired by the Old Testament. Chagall's style is nothing short of magical; brightly coloured goats, violins and floating humans.
The Marc Chagall Biblical Message Museum houses the largest public collection of works by the Russian painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985), who lived in neighbouring Saint-Paul-de-Vence from 1950 until his death. The museum was built in 1972 to hold the Biblical Message Cycle, a collection of 17 enormous canvases inspired by the Old Testament. The building's severe lines set off the brightly coloured goats, violins and floating humans that are typical of Chagall's magical style. Preparatory sketches are also on display.
Promenade des Anglais
The pristine facades, palm trees and blue skies that feature on postcards of this famous promenade are not made of plastic - the seaside walkway really IS that sparkling-clean and exotic. The promenade des Anglais - or 'promenade of the English' - was built in 1820 by an Englishman, Lewis Way, for afternoon constitutionals. Today the pace has changed somewhat, and the promenade is popular with joggers, rollerbladers and walkers. Ignore the sporty types and take a leisurely stroll via the 19th-century Jardin Albert 1er, stopping to look at the crumbling beauty of the Art Deco Palais de la Méditerranée casino, derelict since it closed amid accusations of corruption in the 1970s. The grand Hôtel Negresco (built in 1906) is the most famous building on the promenade. Pop inside and check out the elegant Salon Louis XIV and Salon Royale, but make sure you're wearing your glad rags or you won't get far.
Nice's old town is a delightful mish-mash of winding streets, lively squares and Genoese, Provençal, medieval and baroque architecture. It has plenty of cafés and restaurants and comes alive in the evenings, with places to booze and boogie. Parc du Château, a 92m (300ft) hill, overlooks the old town.
If you want to see baroque churches, Saint-Martin-Saint-Augustin (the oldest church in Nice), Saint-François-de-Paule (baroque and classical), Saint-Giuame (also known as Saint-Jacques, l'Annonciation and Sainte-Rita) and the elegant Chapelle de la Miséricorde should keep you busy. The cathédrale Sainte Réparate (1650-80) in the area's central square, place Rossetti, was built in honour of the city's patron saint; the steeple dates from the 18th century.
Palais Lascaris is a beautiful example of Genoese baroque architecture, and it's also home to an 18th-century apothecary and a museum of local history. If you head past the palace towards the sea you hit the bustling cours Saleya, with its flower and vegetable market, and the Paillon gardens which separate the old and new towns. The belle époque Opéra is just off the cours Saleya.
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Cathédrale Orthodoxe Russe St-Nicolas
With its six onion domes and mix of grey marble, brightly coloured ceramic and red brick, the effect is definitely exotic. The cathedral is in a park setting, north of the train station, and is open to visitors as long as they dress appropriately: no shorts, sleeveless shirts or mini skirts, please.
Commissioned by Nicolas II and his mother, and completed in 1912, this church was designed to resemble Saint-Basile in Moscow. With its six onion domes and the mix of grey marble, brightly coloured ceramic and red brick, the effect is definitely exotic. Inside, the frescoes, icons and panelling smack of Imperial Russia. The cathedral is in a park setting, north of the train station, and is open to visitors as long as they dress appropriately: no shorts, sleeveless shirts or mini skirts, please.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
This former residence of a Ukrainian princess is today home to Nice's Museum of Fine Art. The works on display date from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and include canvases by Van Loo, Fragonard, Monet, Renoir and Bonnard. The building itself is a suitably grand showcase for the fabulous artworks.
This former residence of a Ukrainian princess is today home to Nice's Museum of Fine Art. The works on display date from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and include canvases by Van Loo and Fragonard. If you prefer Impressionists there are paintings by Boudin, Sisley, Monet, Renoir and Bonnard. The building itself, with its high ceilings, columned facade and sweeping marble staircase, is a suitably grand showcase for the fabulous artworks. The museum is on the west side of town, at the top of winding Ave des Baumettes.
Musée International d'Art Naif Anatole-Jakovsky
This museum displays an international collection of naif art dating from the 18th century to the present day. Donated by Romanian art critic Anatole Jakovsky, the collection is housed in the Château Ste-Hélène built by Monte Carlo casino founder, François Blanc. The building is very pink - you can't miss it.
This museum displays an international collection of naive art dating from the 18th century to the present day. Donated by Romanian art critic Anatole Jakovsky, the collection is housed in the Château Ste-Hélène, which was built in the 19th century by François Blanc (founder of the Monte Carlo casino). The building is very pink - you can't miss it. To get there catch a bus to the suburb of Fabron, 1.5km (1mi) from the city centre.
Nice's hinterland is a maze of remote hill-top villages connected by hairpin mountain passes: fasten your seatbelts! The Paillon River cuts through these rural communities, where the land provides the villagers' livelihoods. You may well see olives, olive oil, goats' cheese or vegetables from this area sold in Nice's markets. The views are spectacular, and there are some particularly attractive sights to take in: the chapel with 15th-century frescoes in the medieval village of Peillon; the Romanesque church and main square in Peille; and the views from L'Escarène and its beautiful place de l'Église.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence is more than just a fashionable address. Since the art collector Aimé Maeght set up her eponymous Foundation in the 1950s, the town has become a centre for modern art. The Foundation displays works by Chagall, Miró, Bonnard, Kandinsky, Léger and Matisse (among others) in a building designed by Spanish architect José Luis Sert. The project was conceived to meld museum and exhibits into a free-flowing artistic space, and the multi-levelled result is light and airy. The garden is also an exhibition space, filled with contemporary mosaics, sculptures and other works of art.
In the town itself there are numerous arts & crafts galleries. If you've overdosed on art, the Renaissance fortifications are fascinating and there's a medieval church (12th/13th century) to visit. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a one-hour inland bus ride west of Nice.
The landscape of the Alpes-Maritime area is perfect for a variety of activities, including hiking, mountain biking and horse riding in the nearby Parc National du Mercantour. For downhill skiing, the closest resort is Gréolières (1400-1800m/4600-5900ft), which is 60km(37mi) away. There's a leisure park at Castel Des Deux Rois to keep the kids amused, and parts of Nice's 7.5km(4.5mi) of pebbly beach have areas reserved for children. Water sports facilities are widely available throughout the area, including water-skiing, jet-skiing, sailboarding and diving. Boat excursions head off to the Îles de Lérins, Monaco and San Remo. And of course the promenade des Anglais is the place for rollerblading; blades can be hired on the promenade itself or near the train station.
People have been taking advantage of Nice's prime real estate for around 400,000 years. Prehistoric settlements have been unearthed at Terra Amata in present-day Nice. Between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, Greeks from Phocaea in Asia Minor founded a trading post called Nikaia (meaning victory) at the foot of the hill that's today known as Le Château. The Romans followed towards the end of the 1st century BC, building Cemenelum (Cimiez) nearby and making it the provincial capital. Between the 3rd and 10th centuries AD, invasions by Germanic tribes and Muslim warriors (Saracens) pushed much of the population down the Le Château hill, towards the sea, and Cemenelum's importance dwindled in favour of Nikaia.
In 974 William, Count of Provence, chased the Saracens out of eastern Provence and united the region. Provence joined the Holy Roman Empire in 1032, and its forestry, fishing, viniculture and maritime commerce flourished. The 12th century saw the region split in two: the north fell into the hands of the counts of Toulouse, while the Catalan counts of Barcelona gained control of the southern part. In 1229 Nice was incorporated into the Catalan Comté de Provence (County of Provence) by Count Raymond Bérenger V (1209-45), who thus gained better control of eastern Provence and the southern Alps. Following Raymond's death the county passed to the House of Anjou and enjoyed great prosperity. The death in 1388 of Countess Jean de Provence prompted a war of succession, which was settled by the incorporation of the Comté de Nice (essentially today's Alpes-Maritime department) into the lands of Italy's House of Savoy.
During the next 400 years there were only two brief periods of French rule: 1706-13, when Louis XIV occupied the city, and 1792-1814, when the new French Republic took control. Following the fall of Napoleon, the Comté de Nice was ceded to Victor Emmanuel I, king of Sardinia. It remained under Sardinian protectorship until 1860, when an agreement between Napoleon III and the House of Savoy assisted in the removal of the Austrians from northern Italy, prompting France to repossess Savoy and the Nice area.
During the 19th century Nice took off as a beach resort, and was one of the first cities in Europe to develop a purely tourist-based economy. The seaside destination was particularly popular with the English aristocracy, who followed Queen Victoria's example of wintering in the mild climate. Between 1860 and 1911 Nice was the fastest-growing city in Europe, and new rail links and roads opened it up to the rest of the continent. The city received an exotic facelift, with luxuriant palms, wattles and eucalypts imported from Australia, and fantastical belle époque buildings like the Nice Opera House and neoclassical Justice Palace. Artists such as Cézanne, Van Gogh and Matisse flocked to the area, attracted by the beautiful scenery and luminous light. The first guidebook to the region was published in 1887 by a lawyer-cum-aspiring poet who gave it its name: the Côte d'Azur (literally, 'Azure Coast').
Although southern France saw no action in WWI, soldiers were conscripted from the region and many lives were lost. In the 1920s the region became a mecca for artists and writers once again (including Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Aldous Huxley and Thomas Mann). The luxurious Train Bleu made its first run from Calais, via Paris, to the Côte d'Azur in 1922, and in 1927 the coast's first casino was opened in the Palais de la Méditerranée on Nice's promenade des Anglais. Jazz came to town and Nice's nightlife gained a reputation for being cutting-edge. Nice was included in the 'free' Vichy France zone during the first part of WWII, and became a safe haven from war-torn occupied France. Vichy France was invaded by Nazi Germany in November 1942, and Nice was occupied by the Italians. Allied forces landed on the Côte d'Azur in August 1944, and the region was liberated. It didn't take Nice long to bounce back, and the bohemian jet set soon returned. When Algeria negotiated its independence from France in 1962, Nice's population was further boosted by an influx of refugees from North Africa.
In the 1980s and early '90s politics in Nice was marred by corruption. The right-wing mayor Jacques Médécin was twice found guilty of income tax evasion during his 24-year mayorship (1955-90). In neighbouring Hyères, Yann Piat of the French National Assembly was assassinated by local Mafia.
Municipal shenanigans, coupled with economic recession and rising unemployment, fuelled the popularity of the Front National (FN) in the Côte d'Azur. The FN has never enjoyed the same degree of popular support in the rest of France. The current mayor of Nice, Jacques Peyrat, was formerly a member of the FN but is now aligned with the Socialist party (RPR). He was initially elected in 1995 and was re-elected in 2001.
Πως θα φτάσετε εκεί
Nice-Côte d'Azur international airport is 6km (3.5mi) west of Nice. Over 40 national and international airlines fly in and out of Nice, and services to Paris are very frequent. Several bus companies link Nice with French and international destinations. If you'd rather travel by rail, there are fast trains running all along the coast and an infrequent TGV (high-speed train) to Paris - you may find it quicker to catch a train to Marseille and change there. Regular ferries sail from Nice to Corsica.
A half-hourly bus service runs from the airport to Nice train station, where you can catch another bus to promenade des Anglais or the beach. For other destinations in the city check out the central bus station on square Général Leclerc. If you'd rather drive, there are plenty of car rental companies to choose from. Exploring the centre of town is best done on foot, but having your own wheels can be helpful for discovering the rest of the Côte d'Azur. If you'd rather travel by sea, rent a yacht and live the high life - if only for a day.