Part 3 in Nice – French Riviera Winter Walks

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 Winter Walks in the South of France

Nice is the French Riviera’s largest town – and also has the largest parks

Everybody who travels to the French Riviera will get to Nice sooner or later.

This is not always something that happens by design. Many people only come here to catch a connecting train or a plane, finding themselves with half a day or more to kill. So what is there to do?

The Old Town of Nice, the largest, most lively and most interesting in the region, is certainly worth a visit, and so is the Promenade des Anglais, the Champs Elysees of the Cote d’Azur. (Conversely, the Avenue Jacques Medecin, the town’s largest shopping street, offers little more than the same set of mid-market chain stores with which you will be depressingly familiar from your own hometown.)

But let me suggest an alternative way of passing your time.

"French Riviera Winter Walks - in Nice"

After all, one thing which distinguishes Nice from all the other towns along the coast – one of its outstanding “unique selling points”, if you so wish – is that it offers you the opportunity of walking through a genuine piece of Mediterranean landscape in the middle of town. Whereas public gardens in most other Riviera towns are just big enough to accommodate a few trees and a few benches (for old men to congregate and agree how much better everything was under de Gaulle), Nice boasts some proper green spaces with real Mediterranean flora and fauna.

Most famous among these is Mont Boron park in the east of town, but that’s a little far out, perhaps, particularly if you only have a couple of hours. (Anyway, we will come back to that in a different post some other time.) So for a brief walk in winter – or indeed any other time of the year – I recommend the gardens around the Chateau de Nice, conveniently located just off Place Garibaldi in the middle of town.

"French Riviera Walks - Chateau de Nice"

You will have to do a bit of climbing, however, because the Castle was built in the 11th century on top of a rock, eventually becoming one of the mightiest medieval fortresses of the Mediterranean world. Almost immediately, houses sprang up to benefit from its protection – remember: these were uncertain times, and not for nothing were all towns in the area built on the top of rocks or high up in the mountains.

Almost inevitably, the castle came under attack repeatedly, most famously in 1543 when it was besieged by the Ottoman Army. According to local legend, the battle was decided by a washerwoman called Catarina Segurana who chased the Turks away by an “act of bravery and provocation”, as the official tourism board’s website puts it rather sweetly.

Actually (or not, in all probability), Ms. Segurana was baring her behind on top of the castle wall, thus offending the Muslim besiegers’ sense of decency so profoundly that they immediately packed up and left. The City of Nice still remembers this heroic deed every year on 25 November, the patron’s day of St Catherine.

The castle and its surroundings were destroyed in 1705, and the area was turned into a park soon after, although some of its most prominent features, such as the waterfall …

"Water fall in the grounds of the Chateau de Nice"

… were added in the 19th century, while some others …

"Roman ruins on the grounds of Chateau de Nice"

… appear to have been around for a great deal longer.

At any rate, there is enough to explore on different levels of the hill to keep you busy for an hour or two …

"Church tower in the grounds of the Chateau de Nice"

… and, of course, the views over the Baie des Anges and downtown Nice are always splendid …

"View of the Baie des Anges of Nice from the Chateau de Nice"

… as is the panorama in the opposite direction.

"The other side of Nice seen from the Chateau de Nice"

If you come here in June, by the way, don’t be alarmed if you see quite a lot of red flags around: the gardens of the castle are where the local branch of the French Communist Party celebrates its annual Fete du Chateau – with speeches, but also with pop music concerts and excellent food. The Fete is actually more of a joyous get together than a political rally – after all, they may be Communists, but don’t forget that first and foremost, they are French.

Read part 1 in Menton and part 2 in Monaco of our French Riviera Winter Walks series.

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16 comments to Part 3 in Nice – French Riviera Winter Walks

  • I’ve been to many different places in Provence several times, but I’ve never visited Nice yet. This park sounds like a perfect excuse for righting that particular wrong.

  • Looks very beautiful. I have been to Nice once but it looks like I missed the most interesting spots and especially the fabulous view points. I definitely need to return one day.

  • Looks like a beautiful and unique little detour! Thanks for the information!

  • I was never in Provence. But I was in Nice many years ago. I was a teenager. Thanks for your post and photos.

  • I am loving this series. They’re all so scenic! This looks like a beautiful walk especially with such a breathtaking panorama. I haven’t been to the French Riviera yet but you’re certainly inspiring me to visit soon.

  • Michael, I thoroughly enjoy the historical narrative you add into your treks. Love the photos as well.

  • Sorry, hit the Post Comment button before I finished.
    It seems incongruous that the communists have anything to do with this Chateau but you’re right: these are French communists after all.

  • I find it strange that the French Communist Party celebrates its annual fete here.

  • All these winter walks you’re doing in southern France look divine. And the views are amazing. I’ve only had a day in Nice and that was so many years ago that I don’t remember much.

  • Make sure to tell us when you’re in Provence, Jeff.

  • Hi, I am one of those who “passed through Nice” most of the time, and once or twice did a little side tour to Monaco. I had a refuge in Cavalière, about 45 minutes west. Quiet,nudged against the mountain ridge, with small private beaches. But I have a Dutch ex who lives in Nice, mostly by herself. After having watched your beautiful pics, I should look her up from the USA, and do the walks you recommend. Thanks for the inspiration.
    John

  • It looks like a lovely walk! We flew in and out of Nice when we stayed in Eze on our honeymoon many years ago. Spent a week exploring the area but didn’t spend any time in Nice at all so will have to make a point of checking out the city the next time we are in the south of France.

  • Wonderful walking tour! I had to laugh out loud at reading about Catarina Segurana baring her behind at the Muslim besiegers who left abruptly upon seeing the site. Too funny. I sure hope to see a bit of Provence when I am there next month! Would love to see the coast and the glorious scenery!! Sublime!

  • Same with us. Didn’t like it on first visit, but now discovering more and more in and around it. And yes, we did go there after lunch.

  • First time I was in Nice was about 20 years ago and I didn’t really take to it. But I’ve been back several times the last two years and what a transformation. Still haven’t seen Chateau de Nice up close, though. The gates always seem to be locked by the time we get there. (Note to self: next time, see the castle before dinner).

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