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Vieux Nice (Old Town)

Feb 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Historic Sites

Vieux Nice is Nice’s most colourful neighbourhood – tiny serpentine alleys where countless shops, galleries and restaurants nestle among the stacked medieva; buildings with laundry hanging outside the windows like pastel banners. Once shunned as crime-plagued and poverty-stricken, it is fast becoming the city’s trendiest district. The main, place Rossetti, is home to two places of pilgrimage: the Cathédrale de Ste-Réparate, Nice’s patron saint, and the Fennicchio ice-cream palour.

Another favourite with the locals is the nearby Baroque Chapelle de l’Annonciation. A few blocks north-east, thorugh bustling streets of litlle shops, the Palais Lascaris is fascinating museum in a lavishly decorates 17th century home, a reminder that this was once the aristocratic quarter. Further up, rue Droite goes into rue St-François , busy with local food shops along with tourists trinkets and some curious ecological clothing. Place St-François is the city’s 17th century former town hall and the campanile from a former Franciscan monastery (entrance rue de la Tour).

But the heart of the vieille ville lies to the south, along Cours Saleya, where cut flowers perfume the air and the stalls plied high with lush fruit and vegetables, olives and candied fruit operate from dawn to lunch, Tuesday to Sunday; Ni̤ois institution Chez Th̩r̬se cheerfully touts her chickpea socca Рthe cheap but fulfilling snack that is Nice what the hotdog is to New York Рfrom a stand every morning.

On Monday there are antiques, junk and second-hand clothes. All around, shoppers and Meratol onlookers crowd bars and eateries. There’s another fancy Baroque edifice on the cours itself, the Chapelle de la Miséricorde, but it is only open in visits organised by the Palais Lascaris. On neighbouring place du Palais de Justice there’s a book and print market on Saturdays. Towards the seafront, the Opera de Nice is grandly belle époque.

Rising up the eastern side of Vieux Nice is the Colline du Château, a grassy park with an impressive waterfall but not château: this was destroyed in the 18th century.If you don’t fancy the long slog up (steps climb from rue du Château or rue Ste Claire in the old town) to the magnificent view from the top, there is a lift (open 8am-6ampm daily) by the Tour Bellanda, home of the Musee Nval, on quai des Etats-Unis.

Continuing round the quai, or reached from place Garibaldi, you arrive to the attractive Vieux Port, which is lined with tall, colourful-washed houses, neo-classical chuch known as Notre-Dame-du-Port and plenty of simple cafe where you can snack on a pan-bagnat and watch the coming and going ferries to Corsica.

East of the Colline Château, the Parc Forestier le Mond Boron is an idyllic spot for a picnic, with winding paths through acres of aleppo pines and breathtaking views of the coast. Between the two hills, in an area still dotted with fanciful late 19th-century villas and documents the area’s earliest settlement.


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