Nice archaeology

There are few cities where human presence has been attested for nearly 400,000 years. And yet, this is the case in Nice where it is possible to observe vestiges from prehistory to antiquity, on land and at sea.

Terra Amata, the first traces of fire domestication in the world

The first traces of the domestication of fire in the world were discovered in Nice, on a 400,000-year-old elephant hunter’s camp. A world-renowned site, it has yielded the oldest organised fireplaces in human history.

Today, the Terra Amata Prehistoric Museum presents and preserves the remains of the way of life of the first inhabitants of Nice. They set up their huts on a beach and hunted elephants, rhinoceroses and deer. The men already carved symmetrical tools, called “bifaces” and hunted elephants in the Paillon plain.

The museum has been completely renovated for the 50th anniversary of the excavation of the site. It now offers an updated museography, integrating the latest discoveries and providing visitors with a new interactive and entertaining tour.

The Lazaretto Cave

Close to the port of Nice and neighbouring Terra Amata, the 170,000-year-old Grotte du Lazaret also reveals a prehistoric habitat from the Middle Paleolithic. This site is at the crossroads of human evolution and a source of knowledge of scientific and cultural interest.

Since prehistoric times, the Castle Hill has been occupied by humans for many centuries. Since 2009, excavations by the Nice Côte d’Azur Archaeology Department have brought to light a large number of remains that had been buried for several centuries, such as the fortifications and the former cathedral of the upper town built in the 5th century. Today, the excavations are focusing on the old medieval cemetery associated with the Sainte-Marie cathedral.

Ancient Nice: the hill of Cimiez, capital of the province of “Alpes Maritimae

The hill of Cimiez, occupied since Antiquity, is, with the the Castle hill, one of the principal archaeological sites of Nice. This district, located in the east of the city, is a tourist attraction for its monuments, gardens and museums.

Today a residential area of Nice, Cimiez was home to the city of Cemenelum in Roman times. It was chosen by Emperor Augustus in 14 BC as the capital of the new province of the Alpes Maritimes (Alpes Maritimae). Located on the famous Julia Augusta road linking Italy to Spain, Cemenelum reached its peak in the 3rd century.

It is possible to visit the remains of the Roman era: the Cimiez Arena, the amphitheatre, the thermal baths or the paleochristian basilica, close to the Cimiez Monastery and its gardens, which are very popular places for walking.

In the monastery’s cemetery are buried the painters Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy as well as Roger Martin du Gard, winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Nice, diving under land and sea

Not far from Vieux-Nice, under the Place Garibaldi, is the second-largest crypt in France after the Louvre, barely 6 m underground. Indeed, the tramway works have brought to light about 2,000 m2 of medieval and ancient remains. Well preserved, they tell the story of several centuries of the history of the city of Nice.

It is possible to admire a cylinder of the Pairolière tower dating from the 14th century. Also, the aqueduct supplies water to the gardens of the Sardinian palace of Old Nice and the ruins of the house of the medieval suburb of Augustins. But also the immense Saint-Sébastien bastion dating from the 17th century. Or the ditches of the fortifications or the pillars of the old bridge leading to the road to Turin. A central element in the defence of the county of Nice, these fortifications disappeared on the orders of Louis XIV, in 1706, and were forgotten for three centuries.

Although Nice reveals many of its secrets above and below ground, the underwater archaeology research unit of the Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolis -SANCA-, created in 2011, works on numerous projects ranging from the ancient periods to the more recent past, such as the study of the Casino de la Jetée-Promenade – a glass and metal palace built on the sea in 1882 and destroyed in January 1944 by the Germans.

See also


Sign up now to get a sneak preview of exclusive offers, new experiences and all the news about Nice.

  • Book your accommodation on-line

    Make the most of our booking platform to check availability and compare rates of the different types of accommodation in Nice Côte d’Azur! To help you prepare your stay, we offer a...


Boat trips, parasailing, gourmet tours, hikes in the hinterland or introduction to canyoning…..

Make your choice and book on line.

Book your visit or activity

  • Sorties en bateau

    Boat trips

    Cruise along the coast and admire Nice Côte d’Azur from the sea Take to the sea and enjoy a unique experience onboard a boat. For a coastal area trip to discover marine...

  • Nature and sensations

    With over 300 days of sunshine a year, Nice Côte d’Azur is the ideal destination for outdoor activities! Whether you are a novice or an experienced sportsman, set off on an adventure!A...

Guided tours

Boat trips, parasailing, gourmet tours, hikes in the hinterland or introduction to canyoning…..

Guided walking tours, electric bike tours, Segway tours, bike taxi, minibus or tourist train tours….

Book your visit online

Book your visit

  • Château de l'Anglais Nice

    Guided visits with a qualified guide-lecturer

    Nice Côte d’Azur has a thousand and one surprises in store… Its monuments, its churches, its gardens, its walking paths, but also its museums, its artists, its traditions, its local crafts, and...

  • Visites découvertes

    Discovery tours

    Book an original excursion and discover the hidden treasures of Nice Côte d’Azur Guided tours and discovery walks are accessible to all. On foot, by bike, perched on the roof of a...


Visit more and spend less!

With the French Riviera Pass, make the most of free access to over 50 sites and attractions for 24, 48 or 72 hours with or without the transport option.



  • French Riviera Pass

    French Riviera Pass

    Make your life easier and save money during your holidays in Nice Côte d’Azur! For a 100% discovery holiday, don’t hesitate to get the French Riviera Pass. This is a unique card...

Our special offers

Choose your “all-inclusive” offer according to the theme, the number of persons and the duration of your stay.

Book your stay

  • My gay-friendly trip

    Explore Nice Côte d’Azur during a gay-friendly trip. On the coastal area, beaches, bars, and discos welcome you in all simplicity for a festive holiday rich in new encounters. Live all year...