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Nice History

 

The Nice area is thought to be home to one of the earliest human settlements in Europe, given the evidence of prehistoric man found at the nearby archaeology site of Terra Amata. The city proper has its roots in a Greek city called Nikaia in the 4th century BC, before the Romans built a rival adjacent town called Cemenelum.

In the centuries following, Nice was subject to many different invaders, including Barbarians, Ligurians and Saracens, all of whom coveted the city’s strategic position on the Mediterranean. Seeking stability, the Nicoise placed themselves under the protection of the House of Savoy in 1388, which came to control most of the Italian Peninsula. Yet instead of stability, Nice spent the ensuing centuries buffeting between French and Italian hands.

 

In 1860, the city finally landed in French control, despite being the birthplace of the fabled Italian liberator, Giuseppe Garibaldi. In the years that followed, Nice became a trendy destination for the bourgeois, especially wealthy English visitors who built grand houses and developed the main seafront esplanade – hence why it’s called the Promenade des Anglais.

 

After centuries of turmoil, Nice became the ultimate tourist destination in the 19th century. The Regina Hotel in Cimiez was built especially for her majesty Queen Victoria, a regular visitor. These were the halcyon days of the Belle Epoque.

 

The city emerged relatively unscathed from both World Wars in the 20th century, but the splendour of the Belle Epoque had faded. Nice was no longer exclusive to royalty and nobles. Rather unfairly, the writer Somerset Maugham described the Cote d’Azure’s new visitors as ‘shady people’.

 

Since then, Nice has continued to grow in both size and popularity. Today, it is France’s fifth largest city and remains one of the biggest draws for foreign tourists visiting the country.

Did you know?
• The Nice area’s early human ancestors ventured here some 400,000 years ago.
• It’s popularly said that the great leader of Italian unification, Garibaldi, was so upset by Nice passing under French control in 1860 that his statue in the city’s Place Garibaldi points towards Italy. It actually points north, to both Italy and France.

• The city’s name comes from the Greek Nike, meaning victory, and was called such to celebrate the Greeks’ victory over the Ligurians.

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Hotel Negresco

The most exclusive address in town is an old but not fusty place that has elegantly idled by the Promenade des Anglais since 1913. Recent major refurbishments have kept this grande dame ahead of the game, but the antiques and furniture collectables angle the atmosphere towards a bygone era.

Westminster Hotel & Spa

This good-value 4-star is one of the more affordable grand old waterfront hotels. All the usual perks including a private beach and wonderful belle époque architecture are covered at the Westminster with minimum fuss. Be sure to book a sea-view room for breakfast on the Promenade des Anglais terrace.

Spity Hotel

On the site of the former Hi Hotel, this chic accommodation maintains the former’s emphasis on elegant and ultra-modern design. Within one of the 38 sleek, industrial bedrooms, you’ll find lava stone tubs and neon walk-in showers. Amenities include an organic breakfast buffet, private beach, day spa, lounge bar, and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of Nice.

 

Hôtel Nice Beau Rivage

At only a two-minute walk from the seafront and a three-minute walk from Opéra de Nice, its little wonder this chic hotel was once frequented by a number of famous writers and artists. Today, the refurbished building offers a private beach, a whiskey bar, and a classy outdoor lounge for reclining during the summer months.

 

Hotel Villa St Hubert

Although it’s not in the city centre, this homely hotel is close to a tram that leads directly to Place Masséna, making it a great value for your money. Some of the traditionally furnished rooms have balconies with views across the rooftops, and breakfast is served in a charming tree-shaded courtyard.

Palais de la Méditerranée

This beautiful art deco hotel has some of the best views in town, which are best enjoyed from the swimming pool on the terrace above the Promenade des Anglais. Elegant rooms boast smooth contemporary decor and views out over the sea. A sauna, gym, and Turkish bath add to the 5-star allure.