I had read that the views from atop Castle Hill, site of the original city of Nice and its virtually secure citadel and chateau, were magnificent, especially at sunset. Having seen the sunset the previous evening from our airplane upon landing at Nice Airport, I was hoping to get up there and see for myself.
Historically, the castle lasted until 1706 when King Louis XIV ordered his soldiers to demolish it when the French occupied the area during the War of Spanish Succession. The original city of Nice was a walled medieval city high on this hill dating back to the Celtic Ligurians. The ruins of the Cathedral of Saint Mary are located on the site. A cemetery dating back to at least the late 1700s is also on the hill. There is a beautiful waterfall as well on the Castle Hill. Along the way up, there are several signs that give historical details and maps and sketches of what the castle once looked like.
Looking at Castle Hill from sea level, it looks rather high up there and quite a climb. And, sure enough, it was! Our guide book told us to take the steps from the base near the Hotel Suisse, but after returning from Monaco and disembarking our bus at Place Garibaldi, we chose to climb the hill on the other side (the port side) of Castle Hill. This was a much better decision! The height to climb was still the same, but this was a much more gentle climb with winding roads and short bursts of steps, unlike the other side (the beach side) where one climbs up, up, up a seemingly never ending set of steps. (Okay, to be fair, there is an elevator on that side near the Hotel Suisse.) We came down via the steps and saw many people taking a break on their way up…we just smiled and continued downwards. . There are parking spots in various locations on Castle Hill so if you really do need to drive up, you can do it from the port side. Another option would be the little tourist train that heads up the hill as part of its route – we saw it go by with only one family on it – but it was the middle of winter.
As you make the climb from the port side, you are in the midst of a beautiful green space with stone steps, trees, birds, and a peacefulness that seems surreal given that a very busy civilization is not far below. The only downside would be the amount of dog excrement all over the place. It would seem this is a favorite place for locals to walk their dogs, but they seem to have no problem just leaving the mess. So please be sure to mind your step!
Near the top is a nice park with playgrounds and places to stroll. The public bathrooms that are at the top and advertised on the signs all the way up were closed (not closed for the day, but rather seemed closed permanently).
Near the playground are some archeological excavations of the cathedral ruin. The cathedral dates back to the 1200s where it was originally built as a Romanesque church with later 15th century renovations that included ribbed vaulting and a bell tower. Today, it is simply the footprint of its former self, although one of the nearby signs has a virtual reconstruction on it showing what it probably looked like.
Continuing upwards, we arrived at our destination, which is now a wonderful overlook to the beach side of Nice. As promised in our guide book, the view was spectacular. We weren’t there at sunset, but it was still beautiful! At the very top were some souvenir stalls and some places to sit and relax before heading back down the hill.
Castle Hill is a misleading name. In fact it's a park with a very spectacular fountain, or rather a waterfall easily seen from below. Get there on the first day of your visit to see spectacular vistas over the whole city, the bay and adore the colour of the sea. There is a lift to get to the top. The park is closed at 8 p.m.
Visiting "LE PARC DU CHÂTEAU"
. 'Le Château' isn't a château -- the castle on top of this high rock hill overlooking Nice old town and the port has been gone since 1706, but it's a great place to visit.
There are cool walks in the shade of the trees, great views out over Nice and the Mediterranean, a large grassy park, playground, Roman ruins and a waterfall. On every first Wednesday of the month, at midday, the sound of an air-raid siren can be heard miles away (coming from the Château). So don't be afraid if you hear it. ACCESS: stairs from the Quai des Etats Unis, and have a great view as you climb (213 steps) OR take the ELEVATOR (full one-way ticket: 0€90 cents). In the old town, go up the Rue Rossetti from the Cathedral Ste. Réparate to find steps and walkways that go up past the cemeteries to the top. There's also roads that you can drive, or walk, up: the Montée; Montfort goes up from the "point" between the Baie des Anges and the port, and from near the Place Garibaldi.
Everyone visiting Nice climbs the steps of the "Colline du Chateau" up to the summit, which offers fabulous vista over the Baie des Anges, Old Nice ,and the Port, some of the most photographed panoramic viewpoints in Europe. It is easily accessible from the foot of the Old town and the bay, but for those not able to make the climb there is a lift - an "ascenseur". If you are wondering where the chateau is, there isn't one, merely the unobtrusive ruins of the old Cathedral of Nice, a few simple cafes and a gift stall. The walk up takes in a waterfall, and varied pathways which allow you to explore nearby "Cimitieres de Nice" or return via the Old Town or the Port.
You can just catch sunset before the gates close for the evening but you have to be quick, as you do not want to be locked in. Pick a fine clear evening as the sun is sinking below the horizon, leaving its legacy of pink and darkening blue sky. The city lights begin to sparkle, with the magnificent sweep of the Baie des Anges, a necklace of light reaching out to the airport. On the distant skyline the shadow of Cap d'Antibes and behind, the undulations of The Esterel, the gateway to St Tropez. Below you, the Cours Saleya glows with life and all Nice is a glittering mosaic of street and apartment lights.
Gates open at 8am all year round, whilst closing times vary with the seasons:
1-30th September - 19:00
1st October - 31st March - 18:00
1st April - 31st May -19:00
1st June - 31st August - 20:00
(The hours are posted at the entrance as a reminder)
For a look at the steps to chateau, or indeed to view of any address in Nice, for example what your hotel looks like and where it is, go here GoogleMaps
The Colline du Château (Castle Hill) overlooks the magnificent Baie des Anges.
It offers some of the best viws of Nice (seafront and rooftops) as well as the harbour.
The seafront and bay must be one of the worlds classic views.
Although there is an elevator/lift to the top, it is worth walking up the path as you get to see the various pools, waterfalls and gardens.
Look for the mosaic paths at the very top.
The park is set on rocky hill overlooking the eastern part of the old town. It is well tendered with various lawns, children's playground, open spaces & a couple of cemeteries.
At the summit there is an artificial waterfall & a look out area that gives great views of Nice. There are stalls here to buy refreshments & souvenirs.
To get to the Chateau you can climb the winding paths & stairs the encircle the rock. If you don't fancy this, you can use the lift next to the Tour Bellanda or come up on the Petit Train de Nice.
Now a beautifully landscaped park with views over Nice and the Mediterranean, Colline du Château was the first spot to be settled in Nice. While there are no remains from the Graeco-Roman era, medieval ruins are plenty. The castle that gave the hill its name was destroyed in the 18th century, but ruins of older churches are still visible.
There is a man made waterfall on the way down from the hill (Le Chateau). I didn't see it well because it my first day in Nice and I rushed to the Promenade des Anglais and Vieux Nice to see it for the first time, but maybe you will take a better picture.
Go up the the castle hill (Colline du Château), where you can find no castle but some remains and a park, but there is the best place to see Nice general view, with the houses of the old city as well as the whole Promenade des Anglais and the sea.
When we started to climb the starirs leading to the castle, we thought we were going to see a real castle, even though it was not visible from behind the hill.
As we reached the top of the hill, we were so charmed by the wonderful view, that we forgot the reason why we were there... But after a while and a hundreds of pictures, a question came to our mind: where is the castle???
All that remains of the ancient castle are some ruins. You can still distinguish the shape of the buildings from the way stones are organised on the ground, but do not expect to find yourself in front of a real castle...
The way leading to the castle from Vieux Nice is very interesting: views are great, but you will also see a wonderful waterfall, and you can stop in the Jewish graveyard... impressive.
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