On our first (and only) full day in Nice we set out to explore. Our previous day we had spent at the beach, but today we wanted to explore the city a bit more. So after the traditional croissant and jus d’orange for breakfast, we set out to Cimiez, one of the less touristic places of the city.
The sun was already shining fiercely and the area looked like the Mediterranean should look like: colorful houses, palm trees everywhere, as well as cicada’s and tiny lizards.
We came across some interesting buildings on our way to Cimiez hill, such as Eglise Saint Jean d’arc. This art nouveau church was built between 1926 and 1933 and though it got a lot of critique when it first opened, nowadays people call it meringue. It’s a unique building and unlike any church I’ve seen before. I was kinda curious as to what it would look like on the inside, but there was a funeral starting as we came by, so we’ll save it for a later visit.
We also saw the Régina Palace which was built to accommodate Queen Victoria and her staff as she visited the city each winter. Queen Victoria wasn’t the only royalty that came to the south of France for a little bit of sun in the winter. There are a lot of luxury apartments on Cimiez hill that used to be the winter palaces of other European kings and queens.
Cimiez Hill has a couple of highlights and the first one we came across, was Les Arènes: the ruins of a roman amphitheater. It wasn’t as impressive as the ruins we had seen in Rome last year, but it was a bit unexpected to see them in this Mediterranean setting.
Another highlight of Cimiez hill is Musée Matisse. The museum opened in 1963 and though it doesn’t have Matisse’ most famous artwork (like Red Studio and Dance, which you can find in New York’s Museum of Modern Art), it does depict his life and you can learn a lot about his life and his progress as an artist. Matisse lived in the city for a part of his life, staying in the Régina Palace. We didn’t have time to visit the museum, but one of the books I read about the area has a lot of insightful information about it, so it feels like I did visit it.
After being in the sun for quite a bit, we got some ice cream and walked further until we ran into the Cimiez Monastery. It looked truly impressive, but we were even more impressed by the monastery gardens.
Nice can be a very crowded city, especially in summer when tourists seem to flock here. Even now, just before the summer vacation, the beach was filled with people sunbathing. The monastery gardens, however, were quiet. There were only a couple of other people in there. It’s not one of the main attractions, so it keeps its peace and quiet.
You can easily spend an afternoon here, basking in the sun. Don’t forget to bring some water and sunscreen, and your camera, as you’ll have a magnificent view over the city from the hill.