1 September 2021
With its Promenade des Anglais lined with palm trees and turquoise beaches, the capital of the French Riviera is a change of scenery that is irresistibly exotic for visitors, whatever their country of origin. But Nice also offers surprising spaces that make us travel even further!
How to go around the world without leaving the city? Nothing could be simpler… All you have to do is follow me on a tour around Nice. I will let you discover these little corners of Russia, Asia, America and Southern Africa which are hidden in Nice. And the good news is, you won’t have to change your wardrobe to go from a Soviet atmosphere to a tropical one!
1 – A piece of Russia in St. Nicholas’ Orthodox Cathedral
A little set back from the city centre, in the Imperial Park district, the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas is an architectural splendour unequalled in France and Europe. Classified as a Historic Monument, it is the largest Russian Orthodox church built outside Russia.
From the middle of the 19th century, Nice and the Côte d’Azur attracted the crowned heads and the Russian aristocracy. At the instigation of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the first Othodox church was built in 1859, rue Longchamp in Nice. However, over time it became too small due to the presence of a large Russian community. The need for a suitable Orthodox place of prayer became apparent and the construction of St. Nicholas Cathedral began in 1903 on the very spot where the Tsarevitch, the eldest son of Alexander II, died in 1865. Since its inauguration in 1912, this masterly cathedral has never ceased to be a place of worship frequented by the Russian-speaking community throughout the region.
Like me, you will be in admiration of the richness and beauty of its architecture. Doesn’t it look like a delicious sweet delicacy? The facade is made of pink bricks and light marble. It is topped by a central dome surrounded by four smaller domes made of turquoise glazed tiles. Another dome housing the bell tower is covered in gold. Ceramics enhance the pediments. The whole is quite simply sublime! Inside, gilding is everywhere, carved woodwork and icons to the glory of Christ.
St. Nicholas Cathedral and the park surrounding it are the property of the Russian Federal State. You can also boast of having set foot on Russian soil… in Nice! No need to thank me! It’s a gift…
Outside the services, the cathedral is open to visitors Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday until 5 pm, Sunday from 12 noon. Guided tours of St. Nicholas’ Cathedral and the Tzarevich Chapel in small groups of less than 9 people or individually. Reservation is recommended. The guided tour is included in the French Riviera Pass.
To stay in the Russian atmosphere…
several specialised shops and grocery shops will allow you to find caviar, Russian teas, vodka, Russian ravioli, Slavic fruit juices and spicy sauces.
– Avrora, shop, 8 rue Arson
– Gastronomie Russe, 6 boulevard Gambetta
– Matriochka, 10 boulevard du Tzarewitch
– Kazatchok, 105 rue de Roquebillière
– Épicerie russe Nice, 182 route de Turin
– Kalinka, grocery shop, 12 rue d’Angleterre
2 – The Splendours of Asia at the Museum of Asian Arts
With one wave of my magic wand, I will take you to Asia, including Japan, India, China and Cambodia! Just that, would you tell me? Well yes, Nice is generous…
In a floral park, set on a lake with water birds, the superb marble and glass building is the work of Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. The museum’s plan is based on the geometrical forms symbolic in Japan: the square, a metaphor for the earth and stability, and the circle, symbol of the sky, spirit and wisdom. A glass pyramid completes the ensemble and allows natural light to penetrate the heart of the building.
The originality of the collection of the Departmental Museum of Asian Arts focuses on a selection of emblematic works evoking the spirit of Asian and Hindu cultures. Like me, you will want to photograph everything, as the pieces on display are so refined and the place so full of serenity. I promise you a zen and exciting visit, a visit out of time. Jewellery, sculptures, statuettes, rolls of paper, screens and fabrics, bronze, jade, gold and mother-of-pearl retrace the history of the great Chinese and other dynasties.
The traditional tea ceremony
To introduce the public to Asian traditions, original events and demonstrations are proposed periodically. One of the most popular is the tea ceremony offered by a real Japanese Tea Master. I personally did not have the chance to take part in it (but I did attend a ceremony in a pavilion in Tokyo where I was able to taste a dark green Matcha tea!). Comfortably seated on low wooden benches covered with cushions, you will witness this ancestral art, an expression of Japanese aesthetics and art of living.
The tea ceremony takes place at the Tea Pavilion every other Sunday at 3pm. Other activities include an introduction to Chinese or Japanese calligraphy, or origami, on Saturday at 3pm.
Find the agenda of these events online: https://maa.departement06.fr/en/activities/individuals-32113.html
3 – A tropical atmosphere in Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park is a botanical park which, with its giant greenhouse, plunges us into the heart of a jungle where six climates coexist, all latitudes combined.
To go from Asia to the Tropics, a few steps are enough… So, let’s make the most of it! Indeed, we are already there to begin a completely different journey, that of Wonderland!
Covering 7 hectares, the Phoenix Floral Park offers us its twenty or so theme gardens, a veritable “naturoscope” of scenery. Its large 25-metre high glass pyramid (one of the largest in Europe) impresses us with its plant diversity. Discover the exuberance of the equatorial forest, the fascinating world of orchids, the garden of Southern Africa in the Natal desert, or even, in a very humid atmosphere, the tree ferns whose ancestors rubbed shoulders with the dinosaurs. Under these giant plants, crocodiles, turtles, iguanas, Koi carps and pink flamingos evolve in an atmosphere close to their natural habitat…
The park also shelters animals outside the greenhouse, all around the large central lake: marmosets, wallabies, otters and lemurs… In total, more than 2,000 animals representing 70 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects!
Half botanical garden, half zoo, the Parc Phoenix always surprises me by its capacity to offer us a living and evolving show: that of nature! Never the same, always grandiose… You take your time to go through it. You imagine you are really somewhere else than Nice, and yet…
4 – A symbol of America
Don’t laugh at her smallness! Know that this is an original work of art by the artist Auguste Bartholdi!
Like Paris, Colmar or even Tokyo, Nice can also boast its Statue of Liberty ! Indeed, there have been several reproductions or copies. The one in Nice is the last copy held by the Coubertin foundry. Installed on the Quai des Etats-Unis (logical!), the Nice statue has been enthroned facing the sea and with its back to the Opera since 2014. Well, you can actually pass in front of it without seeing it, because unlike the emblematic monument of the USA, this one is only 1m35 high, whereas its New York counterpart is 46… Signed by the famous sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, this mini Statue of Liberty is therefore a “real” one!
The City of Nice acquired it to mark the privileged links between the Côte d’Azur capital and the United States.
If you want to take a photo or a selfie in front of “Freedom Lighting the World” in Nice, choose your shooting angle carefully… You might get the illusion of the greatness it deserves!
5 – India, the Orient and Vietnam meet in Nice…
In Nice, there are other examples of buildings of exotic inspiration.
From the Promenade des Anglais and the Castle Hill, you will certainly see the superb Chateau de l’Anglais in the distance. Overlooking the entrance to the Port of Nice, on the hill of Mont-Boron, this architectural folly of neo-mogul style does not go unnoticed, due to its shape and candy-pink colour. The oriental-inspired residence was built from 1856 onwards for Robert Smith, a colonel who was serving in the British army in India. The castle, with its false air of a maharaja’s palace, is today divided into flats. It has been listed as a Historic Monument.
Let us now take the direction of the Cimiez district. In addition to the splendid Excelsior Régina Palace in Belle Epoque style, the Cimiez monastery and its magnificent garden, the ancient Arena and the hundred-year-old olive grove, the Matisse Museum and the Archaeology Museum, you will also have the opportunity to discover, in this bourgeois district, a surprising building at 46-48 Bd de Cimiez: the Alhambra! Built from 1900 in the neo-Moorish style, this former hotel is marked by its two pointed towers in the shape of minarets. Now converted into a private co-ownership, this building is also listed as a Historical Monument.
Not far away, there is a Vietnamese Buddhist pagoda called Tù Quang. This rather confidential place of worship is in fact a classical house on which a typical roof of a traditional pagoda has been affixed. The temple is located upstairs, at 32 rue Ménard, in the lower part of the Cimiez district. The pagoda welcomes the followers of Mahayana Buddhism for religious services or teachings, but not only…
On the first Sunday of the month, the place opens to the public through a vegan meal organised by the volunteer Vietnamese families. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to participate. The amount collected (the meal is 15 €) is used to maintain the temple. The capacity is around 50 people. This is an extraordinary opportunity to discover and open up to Buddhist culture, don’t you think? It is advisable to make a reservation on 00 33 4 93 81 48 57. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pagode-Tu-Quang/159168737442998
Our short trip in Nice is almost over… Share your best photos with the hashtag #explorenicecotedazur
6 – “Nice est ailleurs”, a book of drawings and watercolours by Sylvie T.
Prolong the discovery with this magnificent book “Nice est ailleurs” by the artist Sylvie T.
In her sixth book, the artist has gone a long way, revealing another dimension of herself: a passion for travel. Sketches, drawings, watercolours and Chinese inks will lead you to a strange discovery, like a revelation.
Indeed, the originality of this book consists in a pictorial reading of subtle and astonishing correspondences between the regions of the world and Nice Côte d’Azur, in the echo of landscapes, scenes of life, colours, shapes…
From this meticulous and accomplished work emerges an unexpected resonance in a harmonious enchantment of places… Where are we? In Nice and elsewhere… (presentation by Sylvie G.).
Sylvie T.’s shop is located at 14 Rue Droite, in Vieux-Nice. Do not hesitate to visit her when you are in Nice. You can also buy her book (and other equally beautiful ones) on her website.
Here is in just a few lines, the little trip around the world that I wanted to offer you to experience without leaving Nice. Exoticism is everywhere, for those who want to open their eyes and their minds…