The capital of the Riviera and fifth largest city in France, Nice lives off a glittering reputation. Far too large to be considered simply a beach resort, it has all the advantages and disadvantages of a major city: superb culture, shopping, eating and drinking, but also crime, graffiti and horrendous traffic, all set against a backdrop of blue skies, sparkling sea and sub-tropical greenery kept lush by sprinklers.
Popularized by English aristocrats in the eighteenth century, Nice reached its zenith in the belle époque of the late nineteenth century, and has retained its historical styles almost intact: the medieval rabbit warren of Vieux Nice, the Italianate facades of modern Nice and the rich exuberance of fin-de-siècle residences dating from when the city was Europe’s most fashionable winter retreat. It has mementos from its time as a Roman regional capital, and earlier still, when the Greeks founded the city. The museums are a treat for art lovers, and though its politics are conservative Nice doesn’t feel stuffy; it has a highly visible lesbian and gay community and spirited nightlife. Of late Nice has been smartening up its act with extensive refurbishment of its public spaces and the construction of an ultra-modern tramway. Conservative it may be, but Nice does not rest on its laurels.