Top Historic Sights in Nice, France

Explore the historic highlights of Nice

Nice Cathedral

Nice Cathedral was built between 1650 and 1699, the year of its consecration. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and Saint Reparata. On the site, the first cathedral was consecrated in 1049. In 1060, relics belonging to St. Reparate (For whom the current cathedral is named) arrived in the city of Nice. By the year 1075 there was construction of a chapel dedicated to St. Reparate. During the later h ...
Founded: 1650-1699 | Location: Nice, France

Palais Lascaris

The Palais Lascaris is currently a musical instrument museum. Located in the old town of Nice, it houses a collection of over 500 instruments, which makes it France’s second most important collection. Built in the first half of the 17th century and altered in the 18th century, the palace was owned by the Vintimille-Lascaris family until 1802. In 1942, it was bought by the city of Nice to create a museum. The restora ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Nice, France

Nice Castle Hill

The Castle of Nice was a citadel used for military purposes. Built at the top of a hill, it stood overlooking the bay of Nice from the 11th century to the 18th century. It was besieged several times, especially in 1543 and in 1691, before it was taken by French troops in 1705 and finally destroyed in 1706 by command of Louis XIV. Nowadays, Castle Hill is used as a park. It"s the most famous public garden in ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Nice, France

Musée Masséna

Originally built as a holiday home for Prince Victor d’Essling (the grandson of one of Napoleon’s favourite generals, Maréchal Massena), the lavish belle-époque Musée Masséna is another of the city’s iconic architectural landmarks. Built between 1898 and 1901 in grand neoclassical style with an Italianate twist, it’s now a fascinating museum dedicated to the history of the Riviera – taking in everything from ...
Founded: 1898-1901 | Location: Nice, France

Hotel Negresco

The Hotel Negresco is located on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France. It was named after Henri Negresco (1868–1920), who had the palatial hotel constructed in 1912. Today it is considered as the landmark of so-called Belle Époque era in French Riviera. Henri Negresco was the son of an innkeeper. He was educated and worked as a confectioner at the luxurious Casa Capșa in Bucharest, Romania, left ho ...
Founded: 1912 | Location: Nice, France

Cemenelum

The Roman city of Cemenelum was founded in the 1st century AD as a staging post for Roman troops in the Alpes Maritime region and it later became the regional capital. Favorably located, Cemenelum was chosen as the principal seat of the province of Alpes Maritimae by Augustus in 14 BC. Later, the Romans settled further inland, on the opposite side of the river Paillon. Remains of the town on the Hill of Cimiez date to the ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Nice, France

Musée Matisse

The Musée Matisse in Nice is a national museum devoted to the work of French painter Henri Matisse. It gathers one of the world"s largest collections of his works, tracing his artistic beginnings and his evolution through his last works. The museum, which opened in 1963, is located in the Villa des Arènes. The Villa des Arènes was constructed from 1670 to 1685. Upon its completion, it was named the Gubern ...
Founded: 1963 | Location: Nice, France

Notre-Dame de Nice

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice was built between 1864 and 1868. It was designed by Louis Lenormand and is the largest church in Nice, but is not the cathedral. Inspired by Angers Cathedral, it is built in the Neo-Gothic style. Its construction was motivated by a desire to frenchify the city after the County of Nice was annexed to France from Italy, and at the time Gothic buildings were supposed to be charac ...
Founded: 1864-1868 | Location: Nice, France

Cimetière du Château

The graveyard at Cimetière du Château, which was founded in 1783, has 2,800 graves, where some of Nice"s most famous people lie buried. The cemetery stands on the old citadel of Nice. Even today, some sections of the massive walls of the ancient fortress remain. The fortress, which was built in the 16th century, was once one of the most secure strongholds in France. The cemetery is as much popular for its function ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Nice, France

Cimiez Monastery

Cimiez Monastery and church that have been used by the Franciscan monks since the 1546. The church houses the Pietà, Crucifixion and Deposition, by the Italian medieval artist Ludovico Brea. On display are also more than 300 documents and works of art from the 15th to 18th centuries. Buried in the cemetery near the monastery are the painters Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy as well as the winner of the 1937 Nobel ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Nice, France

St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral

The St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral is the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. The cathedral was opened in 1912, thanks to the generosity of Russia"s Tsar Nicholas II. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Russian nobility visited Nice and the French Riviera, following the fashion established decades earlier by the English upper class and nobility. In 1864, immediately after the railway reached N ...
Founded: 1903-1912 | Location: Nice, France

Marc Chagall Museum

The Musée Marc Chagall is dedicated to the work of painter Marc Chagall - essentially his works inspired by religion - located in Nice in the Alpes-Maritimes. The museum was created during the lifetime of the artist and inaugurated in 1973. It houses the series of seventeen paintings illustrating the biblical message, painted by Chagall and offered to the French State in 1966. This series illustrates the books of ...
Founded: 1973 | Location: Nice, France

Fort Alban

Fort du Mont Alban was built by order of Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, between 1557 and 1560 and is one of the most exemplary French military architectural structures dating back to the 16th century. The purpose of its construction was to reinforce the defense line considerably debilitate as a result of the siege of Nice (in 1543). But what is striking about Fort du Mont Alban is it has survived, as said, in good c ...
Founded: 1557-1560 | Location: Nice, France

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice

The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice was built in the former private mansion built in 1878 by the Ukrainian Princess, Elisabeth Vassilievna Kotschoubey. Named for the artist Jules Chéret who lived and worked in Nice during his final years, the museum opened on 7 January 1928. The museum houses a collection of art spanning the past four centuries. There are paintings by Chéret and other artists who lived and worked on ...
Founded: 1878 | Location: Nice, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.