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Situated along the French Riviera in the region of Provence, Nice is a city surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged peaks of the Maritime Alps. The city's natural beauty and warm climate caught the attention of sun-seeking English aristocrats during the second half of the 18th century, and has also inspired the paintings of French artists such as Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse. Beyond its pebbled beaches and picturesque, pastel-colored buildings, however, Nice has evolved into one of the largest metropolitan areas in France, sprinkled with museums, history-filled landmarks, fine restaurants, and bustling shopping centers to explore. As you discover the seaside glamor of this French Riviera destination, take advantage of a wealth of things to see and do.
As a port city that predates the Roman Empire, Nice grew over centuries, spreading out from its bustling waterfront and into the surrounding hills. In the city center, a walk around areas like the medieval-era Vieille Ville, the 19th-century Promenade des Anglais, and the commercial hub of Avenue Jean-Médecin trace the city's evolution as a modest settlement, a vacation retreat, and today, a cosmopolitan metropolis.
Once surrounded by medieval city walls, the Vieille Ville—French for Old Town—carries a strong Italian feel and remains essentially unchanged since the 17th century. Narrow alleyways and cobblestone lanes wind among ochre-painted buildings, and sidewalk cafes mingle with tantalizing market stalls selling everything from fresh produce to Mediterranean spices. Find your way to stunning Baroque buildings, which include the 17th-century Nice Cathedral and the sumptuous Palais Lascaris.
The expansive walkway known as the Promenade des Anglais sprawls along 4 miles (7 km) of the cerulean Bay of Angels, and was named for the English elites who suggested and then funded its construction in the 1820s. Lined with palm trees and landmarks like the historic Hotel Negresco, the promenade is still the place to find sun lovers strolling, cycling, and lounging on the beach.
Starting in the expansive Place Masséna square, Avenue Jean-Médecin runs north through the biggest shopping hub in Nice. In addition to its array of shops, boutiques, and department stores, you can also spot more beautiful examples of the city's distinct ochre buildings.
Whether you're interested in architecture or the arts, Nice offers many opportunities for sightseeing. See the genius of French artists on display at Musée Marc Chagall, which focuses on the renowned painter's religiously inspired works, or the Musée Matisse, which houses one of the world's largest collections of Henri Matisse's paintings, drawings, and prints. Between these two museums lies the history-filled neighborhood of Cimiez, home to the ancient ruins of the Roman city of Cemenelum and the 9th-century Cimiez Monastery. If you're up for a challenging stair climb, the ascent to Castle Hill, or La Colline du Château, rewards you with spectacular panoramic views over the red-tiled rooftops of the city and the Bay of Angels. As you stroll the picturesque Parc de La Colline, discover the remnants of the formidable citadel that once stood on the hill.
Immerse yourself in the charms of the French Riviera with a wide variety of activities in Nice. Foodies can take a bite out of the city's unique Provençal cuisine on a gourmet tasting extravaganza in the city's most tempting markets and specialty food shops. To maximize your sightseeing potential, consider a hop-on hop-off tour, which makes the rounds to the city's most prominent museums, neighborhoods, and landmarks. If you're eager to explore beyond the city, Nice is a convenient starting point for day trips to enchanting destinations along the coast. On a full-day tour, get a sampling of nearby towns with beautiful beaches and hilltop villas, including Cannes, Antibes, the medieval village of Èze, and the tiny independent city-state of Monaco. Provence also represents one of France's major wine regions, so a winetasting tour from Nice to the countryside offers a delicious excursion for vin lovers.