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The “beloved land,” which Nice is often known by, was home to primitive settlers, who established themselves at the base of Mont-Boron, in a cave known as the Grotte du Lazaret , in which remains were found dating back an estimated 160,000 years. Here they lived in company with various animals and carved weapons out of the limestone rocks.
The city first gained its name many thousand years later, when in the 4th century BC the Massaliotes won a victory against barbarian tribes on the site. The victories Greeks, hailing from nearby Marseilles, named the colony “Nikaia,” meaning “giver of victory.” It became a Massaliote port of call from the island of Cyrnos (modern day Corsica), and was soon established as a commercial trading post. The town was established this time, not on the foot of Mont-Boron, but on the slopes of the Château Hill.
Nice almost faded into history during the Roman Empire, when the Romans built a second town, Cemenelum on Cimiez Hill. The original and lower part of the town, close to the port, lived in the shadow of Cimiez for several centuries until the 6th century. This is when Nikaia became part a center of the power for Franks by asserting her importance through maritime commerce.
The town was sacked in 813, and conquered by the Sarrasins. It was liberated in 972, and with an increase in commercial activity in 1176 AD the first town charter was drawn up. In 1388 the city became a strategic stronghold for the Savoy Counts, and the town was instrumental in the defense against the French and their allies. In 1543 a Turkish fleet tried, and failed to conquer Nice, but in 1691 and 1705 the city was twice destroyed by the French. This included the destruction of Nice’s city walls and castle, which were razed to the ground. In 1713 the town once again came under the protection of the Duke of Savoy, who had also become King of Sardinia.
During the French Revolution and later Empire under Napoleon (1792-1814), Nice was returned to the French, but this time with the assent of the people. This union with France was brief however, and after Napoleon’s downfall Nice soon came under the sway of Sardinia. The difference in language and culture distanced her further and further from the Italians.
On March 24th, 1860, the French Emperor Napoleon III and Victor-Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia, finally agreed that Nice would be handed over to France once and for all. This was a decision that met with universal approval from the city’s inhabitants. Following this final union with France, the city underwent a boom with new roads, the arrival of the French railway and a population explosion.
This is also around this time that the city first became a tourist destination for upper class Europeans. They flocked to the city for its warm but gentle climate. Until the Second World War, Nice was the exclusive playground of the rich and famous. During World War II, Nice became a haven for Jewish refugees from all over Europe as, for many years it was in the Italian-occupied zone and the Italians refused to accept the Germans' :final solution" policy. After September 1943 when Italy signed an armistice with the other Allies, Germany pushed back the Italian army and proceeded to implement their policy of Jewish extermination on any Jews remaining in the area.Only after the war did mass tourism come to the city. Today this tourism, with visitors from around the world, is a vital part of the local economy. So popular is Nice with tourists that the city has the second largest airport in France, and an array of hotels to greet them. In the past the many visitors came to conquer or plunder Nice, but today they come for the wonderful hospitality, excellent accommodations and fantastic weather.