France’s fifth city Nice, the capital of the Côte d’Azur is curved round the Bay of Angels.
Nice is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département and the second biggest city of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region after Marseille.
The area of today’s Nice is believed to be one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. The spectacular natural beauty of the Nice area and its mild Mediterranean climate came to the attention of the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winter there. The city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (Walkway of the English) owes its name to the earliest visitors to the resort.
The Promenade des Anglais (Promenade of the English) is a promenade along the Baie des Anges (Bay of the Angels), which is a bay of the Mediterranean, in Nice. Before Nice was urbanized, the coastline at Nice was just bordered by a deserted stretch of beach covered with large pebbles. The first houses were located on higher ground well away from the sea, as wealthy tourists visiting Nice in the 18th century did not come for the beach, but for the gentle winter weather. The areas close to the water were home to Nice’s dockworkers and fishermen.
In the second half of the 18th century, many wealthy English people took to spending the winter in Nice, enjoying the panorama along the coast. When a particularly harsh winter up north brought an influx of beggars to Nice, some of the rich Englishmen proposed a useful project for them: the construction of a walkway (chemin de promenade) along the sea.
The city of Nice, intrigued by the prospect of a pleasant promenade, greatly increased the scope of the work. The Promenade was first called the Camin dei Anglès (the English Way) by the Niçois in their native dialect, Nissart. After the annexation of Nice by France in 1860 it was rechristened La Promenade des Anglais, replacing the former Nissart name with its French translation.
The Hotel Negresco on the Promenade des Anglais was named after Henri Negresco (1868–1920) who had the palatial hotel constructed in 1912. In keeping with the conventions of the time, when the Negresco first opened in 1913 its front opened on the side opposite the Mediterranean.
Another place worth mentioning is the small street parallel to the Promenade des Anglais, leading from Nice’s downtown, beginning at Place Masséna and running parallel to the promenade in the direction of the airport for a short distance of about 4 blocks. This section of the city is referred to as the “Zone Pietonne”, or “Pedestrian Zone”. Cars are not allowed (with exception to delivery trucks), making this avenue a popular walkway. Here, tourists can find a fine selection of restaurants, specializing in various types of cuisine, including Niçoise, Italian, and Spanish. There is also a large selection of cafés where one can sit and enjoy an apéritif, as well as several bakeries with coffee, cake, and a terrace. There are also plenty of small shops selling clothing, shoes, and souvenirs.
The Place Masséna is the main square of the city. Before the Paillon River was covered over, the Pont-Neuf was the only practicable way between the old town and the modern one. The square was thus divided into two parts (North and South) in 1824. With the demolition of the Masséna Casino in 1979, the Place Masséna became more spacious and less dense and is now bordered by red ochre buildings of Italian architecture. The recent rebuilding of the tramline gave the square back to the pedestrians, restoring its status as a real Mediterranean square. It is lined with palm trees and stone pines, instead of being the rectangular roundabout of sorts it had become over the years. Since its construction, the Place Masséna has always been the spot for great public events. It is used for concerts, and particularly during the summer festivals, the Corso carnavalesque (carnival parade) in February, the military procession of 14 July (Bastille Day) or other traditional celebrations and banquets.