A prehistoric city
Archaeological research attests to the presence of man as early as 400,000 years before our era. Other traces show the existence of a camp on the current Castle Hill and near Le Paillon, located close to where the Nice walking tour starts, in the Bronze Age (1800 to 600 BC).
The creation of Nice
We can only speak of the city of Nice from the 4th century BC, when the Greeks came to settle there. The origin of its name is much debated: some see it as a tribute to the Greek goddess Nikaïa or Niké, “the victorious one”, but no battles took place here. It seems that the name is rather taken from the indigenous term Nisse (pronounced “nitche”), which refers to a source of fresh water. The fountain on the Castle Hill was indeed known to the Greeks, who had settled in Marseille and made Nice one of their trading posts.
The Roman Empire developed from the 1st century A.D., particularly in Cemenelum, now better known as the Cimiez district. Nice was then incorporated into Italy.
The hill of Cimiez, now part of Nice, was the capital of the province between the middle of the 1st century and the 4th century; the remains of the Roman baths and the arena can still be seen there. Don’t hesitate to visit them and take the opportunity to visit the archaeological museum, the Matisse museum and to stroll in the gardens of Cimiez. To enjoy a breathtaking view of the city of Nice, we advise you to walk to the gardens of Cimiez Abbey: the panorama is worth the trip!
Middle Ages & Renaissance
Nice became an important trading post at this time.
The city of Nice has an eventful history throughout the Middle Ages, notably because of its location, on the border of several kingdoms: it passed from the authority of the Counts of Provence to that of Genoa in 1215, then to that of Anjou in 1265. It accepts the attachment to the House of Savoy in 1388, when the county of Nice is created, and finally passes into the Kingdom of France in the 19th century.
The construction of the famous castle of Nice, of which only ruins remain to this day, began in 1159 on the hill.
The castle of Nice was the witness of the various sieges suffered by the city by the kingdom of France at war against the Habsburgs, in 1543, 1691 and 1705. It is this last siege which will cause the total destruction of the castle. The castle hill is today a privileged place to walk, and is also a part of the Nice walking tour that we run and bookable on this website.
The Middle Ages are also known to have been the time of the construction of cathedrals, and Nice is no exception.
The original cathedral of Nice was built in the 5th century, on the hill of the Castle, and underwent several reconstructions. In 1531, the cathedral was transferred to the church of Sainte-Réparate, place Rossetti, and the cathedral of the castle became the church of the castle. However, it underwent major changes to give it its present appearance between 1649 and 1699.
Take a tour of this magnificent Cathedral of St. Reparnate and follow your visit with a refreshment on one of the terraces in the square or an ice cream at the Fenocchio glacier, one of the most renowned in the city. Relaxation guaranteed!
Finally, this is when the Nice Carnival is born, an event celebrated every year in February and which today attracts tourists from all over the world.
Nice became a tourist town with the arrival of the first English tourists in the 18th century. They are the ones who will build the beautiful Promenade des Anglais, a few steps from the start of the Nice walking tour and along the Baie des Anges.
Nice changed nationality several times during this period: it was French from 1792 to 1814, then Italian until the final annexation of Nice to France in 1860.
It was during the Belle Epoque that Nice really took on the identity it had become known for: English tourists made the city an unmistakable seaside resort on the Côte d’Azur. Palaces and villas developed both on the heights of Cimiez and along the Promenade des Anglais.
Between the two wars, it was the great names of American literature that made Nice their favourite holiday resort.
The post-war period will finally see the city become more democratic and attract more and more tourists, from France and all over the world, up to the present day.
Come and discover more about the historic city of Nice by booking a the Nice walking tour with us.
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