Nice, on the French Riviera, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all France. People come for the glamour and the sun, but the city is overflowing with interesting architecture, galleries, and museums too. Nice inspired everyone from Renoir to Matisse and Chagall to create some of their most famous works here, and even today, there are new art galleries cropping up all over the city.
Getting round all the galleries and museums will take time. A good choice for your first port of call is the Chagall Museum
featuring the world’s largest collections of paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Marc Chagall. The other big must-see is Musée Matisse
. Matisse came to Nice in 1916 and lived close to this museum in the leafy hills of Cimiez. His collection is housed in a magnificent 17th-century Genovese villa – a perfect setting for the great painter’s works. Yet another museum in this area is dedicated to Renoir. Renoir spent his final years in a house in Haut-de-Cagnes
, where 11 of his paintings, as well as many of his personal effects, remain exactly as they were when he was alive.
The Musée des Beaux Arts
in central Nice contains works from Monet and Renoir, as well as lesser-known pieces by artists such as Raul Duffy and Sisley. It’s a fairly small collection consisting of paintings and sculptures, but admission is free and there are some standout pieces, including the Bronzino crucifixion. For more recent works, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
rivals the Tate Modern and, again, there’s no fee for admission. It’s a large airy space in the centre of town and new temporary exhibitions open on a regular basis.
If you want to venture out into Nice’s surroundings, about 20 kilometres along the coast you’ll come to Antibes. If you don’t have a car, there’s a regular bus service between Antibes and Nice. Once there, you can find the Musée Picasso
situated in the imposing Grimaldi Castle at the ancient acropolis of Antipolis. It was here that Pablo Picasso spent one of his most creative periods, and many of his most famous works remain here today, including La Joie De Vivre. Now that you’re here, you should pay a visit to the charming hilltop village of Biot, where you’ll come across the Musée Nationale Fernand Léger
. This impressive building holds over 450 works of Impressionist and Cubist art created by Fernand Léger.
Admiring the Architecture
Some museums are works of art in themselves. One example is Musée Masséna
in rue de France. After viewing the many collections of sculptures and paintings, take a stroll through the immaculately tended grounds of the villa. The Lascaris Palace
is another beautiful piece of 17th-century Genovese architecture that has been lovingly restored to its former glory. Inside, you will find stunning frescoes and tapestries, as well as a unique collection of musical instruments and an old pharmacy. Other buildings of architectural significance include the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, which houses a vast collection of icons removed from Russia during its civil war.