An Orthodox Cathedral and the Statue of Liberty are some monuments you would not expect to find in Nice… but its rich history gave the city many more surprising buildings, worth a special touristic itinerary to unusual places.
Saint Nicolas Russian Cathedral
This monument is quite impressive and probably the most unexpected but surprisingly, it is one of Nice top attractions.
The Cathedral was consecrated in 1912 in memory of Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarevich of Russia, who died in Nice In the mid 19th century, as the nobility of Russia began to visit the French Riviera.
Not only a touristic interest, as it is the largest Orthodox worship place outside Russia. It actually belongs to Russia, after an interesting international trial, the Court of Nice ruled that the keys of the Cathedral should be given to Moscow patriarchate in 2011.
Russia decided to make it look great again and there it is with its shining byzantine domes after 2 years of work. It is also richly decorated inside.
The visit is free of charge and the Cathedral is 10 minutes walk from the main train station or from the Negresco Hotel, the opportunity to wander in the Musicians area and its Belle Epoque buildings. Take care with the guided tours proposed by the cultural association in charge of the Cathedral, that requires a couple of hours to get familiar with Russian history.
More information: acor-nice.com
Avenue Nicolas II (Boulevard du Tzarevitch)
If you are interested in Russian architecture, no doubt you get a chance to see the St Nicolas – Ste Alexandra Orthodox Church, a few steps from the Jean Medecin avenue.This church was consecrated in 1860. The fun fact about this church is that the workshop area is located upstairs, as the catholic church from Sardinia ruling on Nice by the time didn’t appreciate a different religion worship place right in the center of the city.
6 rue Longchamp
By the way, this church is facing another original building, the Ideal Cinema, an example of the transition between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, from which only remains the renovated facade in memory of the 1st motion picture projectors.
The Statue of Liberty
It would be easy to miss it, as this replica of the Statue of Liberty is really small, especially compared to the one in New York, THE symbol of freedom worldwide. This 1,35 m statue is well situated though, so you should cross by it during a walk on the Promenade des Anglais, Quai des Etats-Unis, facing the Opera.
This bronze statue of Liberty is an original signed by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, and was probably used as a training before the realization of the New York copy. Unveiled in 2014, it is reputed to be the last copy on the market, bought by the municipality of Nice for €110,000 to celebrate the connections between Nice and the United States and the end of works on the Quai des Etats-Unis. Liberty Enlightening the World, was indeed a present from France to the United – States to celebrate their 100th anniversary of Independence
Take time to watch skaters and roller-skaters who meet under the statue every weekends for their “show”. You’ll feel more like you are in California than New York really…
Quai des Etats-Unis, facing the Opera
This Belle Epoque palace is the best symbol of Nice’s glorious past, reminding me of the Grand Budapest Hotel movie. Atop of the Cimiez hill, you cannot miss it as it is really impressive (a 100 m long facade and more than 6 000 sqm).
This former hotel is nowadays a private apartment building, and cannot be visited though you can imagine from what you can observe through the main entrance glass wall. However, a walk or a bus journey to the Cimiez area is worth it, including the Roman arena and ending with the Cimiez Church and Franciscan Monastery and their gardens.
The Regina was built by Sébastien-Marcel Biasini in 1896, and the construction only took 15 to 18 months (depending on which local history manual you are consulting…), as the purpose was to host Queen Victoria during her vacations on the French Riviera. And she did stay at the Excelsior Regina on 3 occasions.
71 Boulevard de Cimiez
The Spaggiari Window
Albert Spaggiari is one France’s best known burglars, and the robbery he masterminded is still called “the heist of the Century”. He was at the head of a group of partners in crime who organized the heist of the Bank Société Générale, on Jean Médecin Avenue, back in 1976. (The agency is still located at the crossing with Rue de l’Hotel des Postes, 34).
The team built a 8 meters long tunnel between the sewers (accessible from the Paillon river mouth thanks to a subterranean part) and the safe deposit room. This plan involved more than 3 months of hard work and important logistics for safety and discretion.
More than 4000 deposits were emptied over a weekend, mostly from gold and jewels, and some private pictures and documents intentionally left at sight for the Police… A masterpiece of theft signed by Spaggiari :”Without hate, without arms, without violence.”
The loot, of approximately € 26 millions remained the highest in France until 2008.
Not only the robbery of the bank made him famous, but also the way he escaped from Justice on March 10th, 1977. After he approached the desk pretending to draw some maps for the judge to make new revelations about his connexions with public figures, he jumped out of the window of the judge’s office in the Court building. The office was on the 3rd floor of the Palais de Justice, in the old town, facing rue de la Préfecture. A partner was riding a motorbike and waiting beneath the famous window, just by the parked car on which he landed. For the delight of the press, he sent a check to the owner of the car as a compensation for the damage.
He was never to be caught again, wrote books, send funny pictures and postcards to the press from all over the world, even gave interviews … and died of cancer in 1989, leaving a great part of mystery regarding his motivations, accomplices from the Marseille mafia, and connexions to get relevant information for the heist of the century.
Palais de Justice de Nice
Corner with Rue de la Préfecture