Tourism, fishing and trade, the port of Nice is the heart of many harbour activities; it is one of the most renowned ports on the Mediterranean. Its strategic geographic position gives it direct access to Corsica. The port is located in an area that is rich in history; its 18th century foundations have been excellently preserved. Overview of how this port area came to be a real treasure of Nice tourism.

Origins of the port of Nice

The port of Nice was originally built in the 18th century. The Piedmont-Sardinia kingdom wished at the time to create a seaside property. After a failed attempt on the Ponchettes site, the swamps of Lympia were chosen. The Sardinian king at the time, Emmanuel III, ordered a harbour to be built in the area in 1749. It was a project of monumental proportions that took almost 150 years to complete. It included the construction of an artificial port with two berths, an armoury, a wharf and a surrounding district.

Work began the year after and the Lympia harbour was opened to ships from 1751 onwards. The embankment and the first berth were completed fairly quickly, but the project required a substantial amount of expansion and development work, which were undertaken in the following years. The pace was increased when Nice officially became a part of France in 1860. The Ribotti and Trade wharfs were completed at the beginning of the 20th century, enabling, with other structures, the passage of large vessels and ships.

The creation of the port of Nice effectively boosted the city’s economic potential; trade and businesses were developed in the second half of the 18th century. The Italian peninsula became a popular trade partner after a customs reform and new trade agreements. In 1860, the harbour was officially an important economic hub that specialised in food products, generating traffic of 37,000 tons of imported goods per year (which mostly consisted of cereal and wine). In 1910, this figure was increased tenfold. Passenger transport was also very popular, especially with a regular shipping line going to Corsica that started operations in 1860. After the Second World War, the port of Nice experienced a wave of heavy economic and touristic activity.

The port of Nice, one of the city’s treasures

The port of Nice is undoubtedly one of Nice’s architectural marvels. Several important sites are sheltered in the harbour and are visited by many tourists every year. One of the most well-known monuments is the Lympia building.

This historical landmark of Nice was built at the same time as the port in 1750. It was used to store digging material and was later transformed into a prison. It was renovated to include two new buildings in 1840. The first, facing South, was torn down in 1937 to improve access to the Trade wharf and the second, facing North, has been renovated since 2010.

The castle hill is one of the most well-known tourist spots on the coast of Nice, offering a spectacular view of the sea. It is a limestone rock reaching a height of 93m and sporting the Castle of Nice at the top. The hill is a natural formation that is part of the port District. Due to the magnificent panoramas from its summit and its touristic park, it is an inherent part of this historical area as well.

The embankment of the port of Nice – which was completed in 1752 – remains the structure that has undergone the most changes within the district. It has been renovated and expanded countless times to cope with increasing urban requirements and weather conditions; an inner pier was added. Engineer De Vincenti was in charge of the project; prisoners from the Lympia building were the workforce and stones from the ancient fortress were used for construction. In 1840, the embankment was extended by about 50 metres; regular extensions were performed until the beginning of the 20th century. A lighthouse was added in 1872. In 1912, it underwent its last renovation, just before the inauguration of the Trades berth.

The district of the port of Nice has greatly evolved since its humble beginnings. Its main goals are: to be part of the city’s urban development and to cultivate transports of goods as well as passengers. A lot of maritime activities have been developed around the district as well, mainly in the second half of the 20th century: sailing, fishing. The harbour is a perfectly preserved historical heritage, and a legacy to be treasured. It has become a major tourist attraction for the city of Nice.