Nice’s candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage status is as much due to its historical role as to its urban planning and natural site, making it a city without equal in the world.

Architectural heritage

Villas are the oldest form of tourist accommodation. There are still hundreds of them in the city of Nice, some are still visible in the city centre, but they are more prominent in the hilly landscape and along the shoreline. The oldest is located on the Promenade des Anglais; built on the shore by Lady Penelope Rivers, it dates from 1787. The vast majority of the villas date from the turn of the 20th century, and some fine examples of Art-deco, modernist or contemporary architecture punctuate the urban and hilly landscape.

The “pleasure” building is the most common form of accommodation. Nice’s architectural heritage is characterised by this particular typology, which is present in very large numbers, rarely found, or in limited quantities, in the usual inventories of holiday heritage. Characteristic of the urban landscape of the city centre; its ornamented facades are reminiscent of those of hotels because they share the same objective of attractiveness. In Nice it is often referred to as a “palace“.

Traveller hotels and pensions date back to the end of the 18th century with the improvement of transport and the shortening of stays. The appearance of grand hotels in the 19th century, then palaces, completes the range of hotel accommodation. Nearly 400 historic hotels (dating from 1835 to 1955) are still present within the property’s perimeter, most of which are palaces and grand hotels. Some of them have been converted, but a third of them are still in use.

The places of sociability also bear witness to the city’s ancient tourist vocation. About ten places of worship of foreign communities (Greek or Russian Orthodox, English, German or American Protestants) are part of the urban landscape of the city centre. Sometimes accompanied by gardens or cemeteries, they are still today bearers of human and historical values. Places of entertainment also shape the image of the city centre and the coastline, both in number and quality, as the opera house, the concert hall of the Château de Valrose or the Palais de la Méditerranée testify, as do the department shops and luxury boutiques, many of which still retain their historic shop windows.

Cosmopolitan and picturesque

Throughout all the stylistic expressions of Nice’s architectural heritage, from neo-classicism to contemporary architecture, including eclecticism, Art Nouveau and Art-deco and all the trends of 20th century modernism, constants appear.

First of all, international influences that testify to the cosmopolitanism of a tourist “capital” that wants to evoke the capitals that were fashionable in each era (Saint Petersburg, London or New York…). These influences are accentuated by the fact that the sponsors and architects involved also came from all walks of life.

Moreover, the vast majority of Nice’s built landscape bears the usual markers of the riviera holiday resort (belvederes, large roof overhangs, bow windows, loggias, luxurious materials and decorations, etc.), but also particular aspects linked to the site (decorations evoking the sea and the mountains, flowers and palms, etc.), or to the picturesque and know-how of Italian craftsmen (coloured coatings, painted friezes, sgraffiti, etc.). Toponymy is a final fundamental characteristic of the resort buildings. In Nice, the eye is drawn everywhere by the names of buildings, which evoke cosmopolitanism, good air, beautiful views, prestige or Arcadian landscapes.

This urban landscape of holiday resorts, this pleasure town which should not resemble industrial or simply functional towns, should express everywhere a certain art of living, exoticism and well-being.

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