With its narrow, shadowy streets, cozy squares, colourful markets, baroque churches and jumble of pastel houses, Vieux Nice looks and feels much as it must have about two centuries ago. The sounds are different though, at least at night when music from the bars and nightclubs fills the air with rhythm. The bustle of tourists and shoppers is replaced by teams of young clubbers prowling the streets for the latest hangout. Especially on summer evenings, the Old Town resembles a vast open-air party.
But during the day, Vieux Nice harbours some remarkable buildings that recall Nice's eventful history.
Walking Tour of Old Nice
A visit to Vieux Nice begins in the Cours Saleya, the sensual centre of life in the Old Town. The daily morning market is thronged. No sooner do the shoppers clear out than the restaurants set up their outdoor tables for dinner. The ambience is casual now but in the 18th century, the Cours Saleya was a hub for only the most well-heeled residents. The Chapelle de la Miséricorde (2 pl Pierre-Gautier) on the northern side is a magnificent testament to the prestige of the Cours Saleya. Built in 1740, it's considered a masterpiece of baroque architecture. The interior is a dazzling display of frescoes and gilt.
Take a left at rue de la Poissonnerie and you'll come to another baroque delight, the Chapelle de l'Annonciation, popularly known as Sainte-Rita.
Continue straight, then take a right at the Place-Veille and then a quick left. In front of you is the Eglise Saint-Jacques, popularly known as the Eglise du Jésu. Begun in 1612 by the Jesuits, this church is notable for its interior decoration. Note the Louis XIII woodwork and the frescoes dating from 1850.
Stay in Old Nice
The rue du Jésus in front of the church takes you to the rue Sainte-Réparate and the Cathédrale Sainte Réparate, consecrated in 1699. Named in honour of Nice's patron saint, the interior is glorious. Over the altar hangs a painting showing 17th century Nice.
From the rue Rossetti, take the third left onto the rue Droite which takes you to the Palais Lascaris. Built in the Genoan style in 1665, the sumptuous interior is wrapped around an amazing balustraded stairway which leads to a riot of paintings and statues in the richly ornamented rooms.
You're just near the Place Saint-François in which a harmonious arrangement of houses encircles a local fish market.
Finish the visit in the Place Garibaldi, recently renovated to highlight the elegant townhouses and arcades surrounding the statue of Garibaldi.
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