Nice is now a World Heritage Site! UNESCO awarded Nice its coveted status today 27 July 2021. It’s been a long process, begun in 2012 by Mayor Christian Estrosi. In January 2020 the French government formally submitted the candidacy of Nice for UNESCO consideration.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Why is Nice a World Heritage Site?

Nice has convinced UNESCO that a chunk of the city center is of Outstanding Universal Value. According to the World Heritage Committee, the objective of inscription on the World Heritage List is to “recognize and protect sites that are outstanding demonstrations of human coexistence with the land as well as human interactions, cultural coexistence, spirituality and creative expression”.

So what is so outstanding about Nice? Leisure and tourism. According to Franck Riester, formerly French Culture Minister “Nice’s nomination. . . underlines the heritage value of a previously unknown form of urban development: cosmopolitan and leisure-focused. From the late 18th century onwards, Nice was the scene of the invention of an important aspect of modern life.”

It sure was. As readers of Nice Uncovered: Walks Through the Secret Heart of a Historic City have learned, British tourists began drifting down to Nice in the late 18th century, shortly after Scotsman Tobias Smollett published his bestseller Travels Through France and Italy in 1766. 

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By the beginning of the 19th century the trickle of British visitors had turned into a steady stream. They holidayed in what is now the Carré d’Or and raised money to build a seaside walk that eventually became the Promenade des Anglais.

Nice’s 19th-century rulers, the Dukes of Savoy, quickly recognized the potential of their “distinguished foreign visitors” that grew to include Russians, Germans and Americans.  From the mid-19th century onwards, every urbanization decision they made was aimed at increasing the comfort and enjoyment of holiday-makers.  Foreign tourists liked exotic vegetation? Let’s plant the Prom with palm trees! Foreign tourists liked gardens? The Jardin Albert 1er became a 19th-century seaside park while the ruins of the old Chateau became a luscious hilltop park. 

Fontaine des Tritons, Jardin Albert 1er
Fontaine des Tritons, Jardin Albert 1er

Their urban planning commission, the Consiglio d’Ornato, launched a city urbanization project that included everywhere foreigners were likely to go:  the rue St François-de-Paule, the neighborhoods to the west and north of Vieux Nice, the Quartier des Musiciens, Port Lympia, the extension of the Promenade des Anglais to West Nice and the train station. The street layout, facades of buildings and installation of parks were regulated to insure beauty and harmony.

La Pergola: an Art Deco masterpiece in the Quartier des Musiciens
La Pergola: an Art Deco masterpiece in the Quartier des Musiciens

Later in the 19th-century, real estate developers were quick to see opportunities. The verdant hill of Cimiez already had a few Belle Epoque hotels even before Queen Victoria chose the Excelsior Regina Hotel as her preferred holiday spot in 1895. Within a decade the entire neighborhood was transformed from farmland to a playground for European nobility.

Cimiez Hospital
The Hotel de Cimiez (now Cimiez Hospital) where Queen Victoria first stayed.

Curiously, Nice’s most historic neighborhood was the last to develop. The Old Town was left to languish in neglect until the 1960s when a series of initiatives restored or replaced the crumbling buildings. Now, it’s elbow-to-elbow with tourists at the height of the summer season.

Restored part of the Old Town
Restored part of the Old Town

Nice’s designation is not just about buildings however. Nice’s candidacy pointed out the “cosmopolitan” nature of the city as reflected in the historical diversity of its population. The Russian community built a stunning Orthodox cathedral; an ancient Jewish community established a synagogue in the 18th century; there was both an Anglican and American church in the 19th century (now only the Anglican church survives); there’s a Greek Orthodox church, an Armenian church and even a Buddhist temple!

 

The American church
The American church in the Quartier des Musiciens

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Which Neighborhoods are Protected?Unesco-protected zone

  • Entire Promenade des Anglais
  • Quai des Etats-Unis and Rauba Capeu
  • Ponchette terraces
  • Castle Hill
  • Port Lympia
  • Mont Boron
  • Cimiez
  • Baumettes
  • Carré d’Or
  • Quartier des Musiciens
  • Russian Orthodox Cathedral
  • Avenue Jean Medecin east to boulevard Carabacel

In all, the protected area encompasses 500 hectares including a UNESCO-authorized buffer zone.

What is the Effect of  a World Heritage Site Designation?

Certainly it adds to the prestige of the city. International recognition of Nice’s unique heritage will increase public appreciation of the city and add to the tourism potential.

But with prestige comes responsibility. Mayor Christian Estrosi must set up a Local Committee to protect the site and then submit regular reports to UNESCO on the condition of the protected zone. It’s safe to say that any development project within the zone’s parameters would have to be justified to UNESCO. And too much tourism can also imperil Nice’s UNESCO designation! UNESCO has threatened Dubrovnik, Croatia and recently Venice with a loss of WHS status because of their tourist crowds. 

My hope is that this recognition of Nice’s unique culture will encourage more visitors to venture beyond Nice beaches to sample all the richness and variety of Nice’s fascinating history.

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One of  the aspects of researching Nice Uncovered was delving into the archaeological heritage of our city. There’s a lot of history buried under the ground and even underwater! This weekend for the Journées d’Archaeologie the city is offering free tours and workshops to better acquaint us Nice’s ancient history. Of course the tours are in French but here is a translation of the activities on offer:

On the program in Nice on June 18, 19 and 20

  • Discovery of Prehistory and Archeology in a fun and interactive way  : prehistoric adornments, fire-lighting workshop, discovery of Roman games …
  • Numerous workshops and activities on all disciplines of Archeology  : ceramics, burial excavation, underwater excavation …
  • The site visits , the guided tours …
  • Presentation of archaeological professions, activities for young audiences …

FREE ENTRANCE

Good to know

The cultural platform cultivez-vous.nice.fr offers you original digital content on the theme of archeology . A Théma not to be missed from June 18th .

The village of archeology

Practical information
Nice Archaeological Museum / Cimiez *

  • Workshops by reservation on 04 92 00 41 90
  • Duration: 45mm per group of 4 people
  • Young audience – All audiences
  • PMR access

Saturday June 19 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Workshop space “excavations and studies”

Hours: 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

  • Workshop “Excavation of a burial”
  • Workshop “In the guise of a ceramologist”
  • Workshop “In the guise of an archaeozoologist”

 

 

“Analyzes and studies” area

Hours: 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

  • Workshop “From biochemistry and traceology in the service of archeology, investigation of our past”
  • Workshop “Back to human evolution”
  • Workshop “Food remains and their analyzes through charcoal and burnt seeds”

“Experiments” area

  • Workshop “In the skin of an ancient craftsman: I create my ceramics” [10 am, 11 am, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm]
  • Workshop “In the shoes of an archaeoanthropologist: I excavate a cremation” [10h, 11h]
  • Workshop “Lighting and heating in Roman times” [1 pm, 2 pm]
  • Workshop “Shell and digitized decoration as in the Neolithic” [1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

 

Sunday June 20 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Space “excavations and studies”
hours: 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm

  • Workshop “Excavation of a burial”
  • Workshop “In the guise of a ceramologist”
  • Workshop “What is sieving in archeology? “

“Analysis and studies” area
Hours: 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm

  • Workshop “From biochemistry and traceology in the service of archeology, investigation of our past”
  • Workshop “Back to human evolution”
  • Workshop “Paleo environmental study, or how to restore the landscape of past centuries”

 

 

E space experiments

  • Workshop “In the skin of an ancient craftsman: I create my ceramics” [10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm]
  • Workshop “In the shoes of an archaeoanthropologist: I excavate a cremation” [3:30 pm, 4:30 pm]
  • Workshop “Lighting and heating in Roman times” [1 pm, 2 pm]
  • Workshop “Shell and digitized decoration as in the Neolithic” [10h, 11h]

 

Temporary exhibitions at museums

Now the origin

Exhibition from June 19 to September 21, 2021

Practical information
Museum of Prehistory of Terra Amata *
Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 June
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Free admission – All public

Since then, Martin Miguel has been developing work on the origin of Art and its very nature for several years. From Lascaux to Chauvet, he questions the masterpieces of prehistoric art by producing works in concrete and paper that take the forms of figures from Paleolithic cave art.

Zoom
The Museum of Prehistory of Terra Amata is installed on the site of the excavation of the site of the same name which yielded the oldest hearths in the history of Humanity, dating back 400,000 years. The museography presents the latest discoveries and offers visitors an interactive and fun route. It also exposes the life of the first Nice people in their environment, as well as the first great revolution of humanity: the domestication of fire.

Save the date
Inaugural afternoon Friday June 18, 2021 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. , with visit of the exhibition in the presence of the artist, exclusively by reservation and in limited numbers (by email  musee.terra.amata@ville-nice.fr ).

 

Sosno squats the Ancient

Temporary exhibition until January 23, 2022

Practical information
Musée d’Archéologie de Nice / Cimiez *
Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 June
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Free admission – All public

Recognized artist, painter, photographer, sculptor and theorist of his own artistic journey, Sacha Sosno is the subject of this major exhibition on the ancient site of the ancient city of Cemenelum. More than 70 works are thus presented in situ, exhibited among the Roman remains and in the rooms of the museum.

Zoom
The collections of the Archaeological Museum of Nice / Cimiez deal with the ages of metals, antiquity and develop until the early Middle Ages. The life of Cemenelum and the province of the Alpes Maritimae is presented there through the many official or private objects and documents discovered during archaeological excavations from 1950 to 1969 on the site, but also beyond. Indeed, objects from all over the region as well as those discovered in the wreck of the Fourmigue C off Golfe-Juan are presented.

Visits to archaeological sites

The Archaeological Crypt *

nice cryptMeeting Place Toja

  • Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 June
  • Departure every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • 5 people maximum. PMR access.
  • By reservation on 04 92 00 92 41

Discovered during archaeological excavations as part of the development of line 1 of the tram, the crypt provides an understanding of the history of the city and its fortifications.
By the tour guides of the City of Art and History Department – Heritage Center – The Senate

The depths of the Prom ‘*

Meet at Quai Rauba Capeu, in front of # I love Nice

  • Friday 6 to 6 p.m.
  • By reservation on 04 92 00 92 41

The Promenade des Anglais in the light of underwater archaeological discoveries.
By the tour guides of the City of Art and History Department – Heritage Center – The Senate

Archéo-walk in Cimiez

Meet at the Nice / Cimiez Archeology Museum

  • Saturday 19 at 10:30 am
  • Sunday June 20 at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • By reservation on 04 92 00 92 41

Visit of the amphitheater, the terms and the Archaeological Museum.
By the mediator of the Archaeological Museum of Nice / Cimiez

Exceptionally accessible free of charge during the event

Program subject to modification due to the health context

Partners

  • Nice Côte d’Azur Archeology Department
  • Nice Archaeological Museum / Cimiez
  • Museum of Prehistory of Terra Amata
  • City of Art and History Department – Heritage Center – The Senate
  • The National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research
  • CEPAM (Cultures and Environments Prehistory, Antiquity, Middle Ages)
  • Nice Côte d’Azur Prehistory Laboratory (Institute of Human Paleontology)

European Archaeological Days

 

As I mentioned in the Old Town walk (item number 47), the former Convent of the Visitation is in the process of being transformed into a five-star hotel. The neighbors waged a lengthy legal fight to prevent it but recently lost the battle. Built in the 17th century, the convent is the oldest in the region and has tremendous historical value.

The good news is that the hotel consortium intends to rebuild the complex according to its original plans. It’s a vast project that encompasses 7500 sq meters including the convent, its annex and three adjacent buildings. They plan to use stones from the original buildings when possible  and period-style materials for the rest.

It will be the only five-star hotel in the Old Town and will boast 88 rooms in addition to cafes, restaurants, bars, a cultural center, swimming pool and even a bakery. It should be quite an establishment. Meanwhile though, there will be substantial noise and disruption from the construction which is why the locals were so vehemently opposed to it.

 

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