Vieux Nice - Old Town, Nice
A trip to Nice isn't complete without trying some of the weird and wonderful flavours of ice cream from Fenocchios. The 94 flavours (59 ices-cream and 35 sorbets) to choose from are sure to give your taste buds a treat! There is such a vast range to choose from such as Lavender, Rose, Honey & Pine Nuts, Tiramisu, Chocolate Orange, Chilli chocolate, Chocolate Ginger, Poppy, Jasmine and advocado ice-cream, alongside numerous flavours of sorbets including Fresh Mint, Pina Colada, Cactus, Lychee, Beer, Tomato and Basil to name just a few.
Place Rosetti, one of old Nice's many charming squares, is home to the baroque cathedral Saint Réparate, built in honour of an early martyr who was made the patron saint of Nice.
In 250 AD Saint Réparate, at the age of only 15, was martyred by Roman Emperor Gaius Decius, whose specialty was persecuting Christians. This helped fill in otherwise tedious afternoons when there was not much on at the Colosseum. Decius promulgated a decree requiring sacrifices be made to the Gods - note the plural. Christians who refused - "Sorry Decius, I'm into this new one-God thing", were promptly given the chop.
According to Catholic legend, they first tried to burn Reparate alive, but fortuitously he was saved by torrential rain which put out the flames. They then made him drink scalding pitch. Once again, miraculously, he survived, though no doubt with heartburn. In desperation, Decius ordered him decapitated. (That's a sure-fire result Decius. "Ha! Get out of this one Christian!" Chop). His headless torso was put in a small boat and set to drift in the Mediterranean currents, in the manner of fellow martyr Torpes, who ended up in what became called after him Saint-Tropez.
Reparate's boat drifted to the niçois coast, was brought to the shore by angels, and his remains buried in a chapel of the old town. Centuries later these were moved into the new cathedral Sainte-Réparate in 1690.
In summer the square is filled with happy visitors on the alfresco tables of La Claire Fontaine, and the very wonderful Fennochio, maker of hundreds of flavours of ice cream. Few if any know of the dark deeds of Emperor Gaius Decius and the story of Sainte-Reparate, the patron saint of Nice.
But now you do.
Based around the Cours Saleya, the maze-like streets of the Vieux Nice (old town) are fun to explore, whether you are shopping, eating or simply just enjoying the 'buzz'.
Small, mainly independent shops fill the streets, selling food, clothing, jewellery, cds and local arts. In the mornings there is a colourful food & flower market in the Cours Saleya. There are plenty of outside cafes, great for people-watching or not doing much at all except being there. At every turn there is something new to see, sometimes you can forget quite where exactly you are!
At night, these little streets really come alive. Bars and restaurants are plentiful and people swarm there to soak up the atmosphere. (It was pleasantly busy at the beginning of Sept).
The vibe is very French yet also very Italian, with quite a few Italian restaurants. Go for menu of the day, it is by far the most economic option and just as good.
We noticed that many of Nice' waiting staff, tend to hum a little tune when serving, which was ever amusing.
'Le joie de vivre' is alive and kicking here!
Wow! One of the best memories of Nice is the old town market called Cours Saleya. Old town, Vieille Ville, is another wow, but this is just about the market. Wake up early, walk from your hotel to the old town plaza and viola! Covered cart after cart of flowers, all kinds, make a rainbow right before your eyes. You can purchase just about any type of flower here and it does make your stay in a hotel much nicer with fresh flowers in the room.
Beyond the flower carts, row after row of displays of fruits, vegetables, foods, and the fresh fish from the sea are being sold by colorful, barking vendors. What a treat of sight and sound! You simply must purchase those special olives to have with your cheese and bread with a good bottle of wine. The vendors are friendly, happy, and helpful. Please, visit this great location in Nice. It is more than nice, its wonderful. remember to walk the cobblestone streets for the many restaurants and shops.
At the eastern end of Cours Saleya is the townhouse where the artist Matisse spent the 2nd half of the 1920s & the early 1930s. He lived & worked on the third & fourth floors. The building isn't open to the public & the museum isn't found there.
It does look very impressive though, especially when it's bathed in sunshine.
Old Nice is downright dripping with atmosphere. Its narrow streets are a one-stop shop for take-home finds, such as Provençal wares, household items, wine, gourmet gifts, hip clothing and more. There are numerous restaurants in the area, as well as several fun bars and nightclubs. Be sure to stop off for a delicious ice cream in this neighborhood.
Old Nice is a lively and bustling mass of winding lanes choc with little boutiques, patisieres, restaurants and snack bars, touristy nicknacks, everything within one compact area bounded by the Cours Saleya on one side and the Albert 1st Gardens on the other.
Wander the lanes and soak up the atmosphere, stop for a coffee or sample the traditional Nicois dishes at one of the many snackbars. The air is perfumed with the smell of provencal lavender sachets and scented soaps. Massed ceramic cicadas pump out their distintive mating call. Olive oil in traditional yellow and green pouring bottles. Postcards, posters, fridge magnets, souvenirs of Nice and the Riviera. Or try some of the two hundred flavours of Fennochio's icecream.
Most importantly, unlike some urban centres, (provided you are sensible) Vieux Nice by day or night is entirely safe. You can wander out at night, relaxed and secure, until the nightspots close at 02:00am.
Amost hidden in the narrow lanes of Vieux Nice is the Palais Lascaris, home to the municipal museum of Nice. The beautiful facade of the Palais is to be noticed only if you look straight up, and is easy to miss.
The Palais dates back to the 1700's and houses a fascinating collection of antiquities including a recreation of 19th century French pharmacy. The vaulted ceilings and baroque stairwells are set off in rich pinks, gold and alabaster.
The gift shop has an excellent selection of books about Nice many of which are not found elsewhere, along with a selection of posters from THE photographer of Nice, Jean-Louis Martinetti.
Remarkably for France, entrance to the Palais is free.
Although located in the centre of Nice, Vieux Nice or Old Nice is quite secluded from the larger city and its buzz. This is because of its natural location, bordered by a hill (Colline du Château) on one side and the Mediterranean on other. The neighbourhood has not changed in at least two centuries and has the feel of a small Mediterranean town than one of France's largest cities. The narrow streets meander between Mediterranean architecture, Baroque churches, and lively squares. There are numerous shops, cafés and restaurants, along with some of the city's oldest churches. This is the most charming part of Nice.
This was the view from a park at the end of the Promenade de Anglais. You climb up a series of steps at the end of the prom which are cut into the hillside, when you get to the top of the hill you are in a recreational park packed with locals and tourists.
The views including this one over the harbour are well worth the steep climb to the top.
Old Town is much more than a must-see activity. It is the very essence of Nice, and one could spend their entire time here without ever crossing over Boulevard Jean Jaures.
The old, crooked streets with brightly painted buildings hark back to a simpler time, and can still be seen and felt in the laundry hanging from the windows, and the smell of something cooking. Around every turn is a pleasant square surrounded by cafes, and beautiful churches to duck into along the way.
It is as bustling and active as it is tranquil and nostalgic.
Walking through Old Nice was a great way to see and experience the charm of the city. Narrow streets with lots of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs were a delight for all your senses. If you're a shopper, you can find everything from household items and Provencal items to wine, clothing and jewelry.
This is also the area for some of the best nightlife, but take note, there are lots of dark alleys and streets so wandering through alone at night might not be the best idea.
Do make some time to walk through the old town, you won't be sorry.
Inside the winding streets of the old town of Nice, there are several sanctuaries hidden in silence. these churches and chapels can be sometimes a total contrast towards the outside world that is hectic and chaotic. Inside the silence is almost overwhelming and the candlelight shimmers gently, reflecting in the gold and silver of chandeliers, icons, statues and other decorations within the church. Sometimes beautiful wall and ceiling paintings carress the eyes of many visitor. There are several chapels and churches within the old town and sometimes you really have to search well to find them. Others appear from an unexpected angel, while marching through the narrow streets of the old town labyrinth. Some of the churches I describe in my "off the beaten path" tips, but here I want to mention them as being a must see in general (visit at least a few).
This building in the neo-classical style was built in the 1880's to house the city's law courts. It's not open to visit, but does provide a backdrop to the Place Du Palais. This was a lively square containing many book stalls.
The back streets of Vieux Nice are home to a number of 250 year old Churches like this, located off the Rue Rossetti. Chapelle de la Sainte-Croix was Corporate HQ to Les Penitents Blanc. Penitents came in a variety of "team colours" -Penitents Gris, Penitents Blanc, Penitents Noir, Penitents Rouge, and probably a few other shades. You have to question the significance of the colours - "Come on you's Gris!"?.
"Leo, love the cowl. Brown is so you"
"You really think so?
"Myself I was thinking of joining the Penitents Rouge."
"Darling, Rouge is so last season. Brown is the new black. Its so, so.. humble.
Those Penitents Rouge - I know I shouldn't say this, but if there's one thing I really can't abide, it's that smug "sorrier than thou" expression.
"Sackcloth and ashes? There's nothing so unforgiving as itchy underwear! Banish chaffing . Add a little fabric conditioner to your next wash. It's a Godsend"
" I'm done with doing penance for today. Fancy unwinding with a drop of Benedictine after evening prayers?"
"Don't mind if I do. Verrily"