It could be said that it was the British who discovered the Côte d’Azur, and Nice in particular, as a tourist destination. It was love at first sight, and they have left their mark on the region. For its part, the French Riviera knows what they like and how to make their holidays utterly perfect.
An enduring love: Nice and the British have almost two centuries of history, and it’s still going strong!
In the 19th century, among Europe’s – and particularly Britain’s – nobility and landed gentry it was the done thing to embark on the Grand Tour, an educational trip through Europe in one’s youth. This tour of Europe of course included Greece and Italy, the cradles of our civilisation, but also one French city that is a key stage on the route to Tuscany: Nice.
While discovering the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) and its exceptional light, the ever-changing yet always magically blue sea and the mild winters with their scent of mimosa, they fell in love with the city, and that love endures to this day. At the start of the 20th century it became a place to recover and convalesce due to its mild climate and air that was believed to be excellent for their health. Those first arrivals took to pacing up and down the Promenade de Mer, the long walkway planted with palm trees that runs alongside the Mediterranean and is today called La Promenade des Anglais (the Walkway of the English).
Memories of Queen Victoria and the British Royal Family in Nice
As the favourite destination of the future Edward VI, Victoria’s eldest son, Nice came to be beloved by all the royal family, starting with the great queen. She holidayed in Nice each spring, staying up in Cimiez at the old Excelsior Regina hotel which was rebaptised the Régina in her honour. In front of the hotel’s imposing edifice, the statue of Queen Victoria seated and contemplating the horizon still presides majestically over Avenue de Cimiez, one of the most beautiful streets in Nice. A little lower down, Avenue Edouard VII and Avenue Prince de Galles (Edward VII Avenue and the Prince of Wales Avenue respectively) are testament to the frequent visits paid by their highnesses to this splendid quarter of the city.
What are the British looking for when they come to Nice?
First and foremost, they come to Nice for something they don’t always get at home: 300 days of sun each year, breathtaking landscapes featuring both coastlines and the nearby Alps, brightly coloured flora that is enchanting even in winter, and of course the heat of the sun that warms both body and soul!
That’s not all. The British also come to sample the Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of vegetables, grilled fish, fresh fruit and lashings of delicious local olive oil. It’s a real feast for the tastebuds, but also for your health. It’s a real feast for the tastebuds and is also good for your health, which is why the British are so enamoured with it.
Finally, our British friends have always enjoyed happy, carefree atmosphere and obvious joie de vivre of the Côte d’Azur and inland area experienced through its festivals, water sports and festivities. “It’s so French!” is a commonly heard refrain.
These days, everyone speaks English to make the British feel at home in Nice!
As they are very used to hosting British tourists, locals, restaurant owners, tour guides and the owners of holiday rental properties have learned English so they can communicate with their visitors and give them a proper welcome. So much so that Brits really feel at home here, and have an excellent reputation. Reserved, polite and with an understated sense of humour, they often opt for holiday rental properties in the hills to enjoy the peace and quiet the higher altitudes provide, the nature and the breathtaking views, not to mention the swimming pools!
There’s a reason that their compatriots Elton John and Bono chose to live here, after all!
All that is to say that we could easily adapt the old saying to “happy as a Brit on the Côte d’Azur”, in particular because they have the good taste to visit out of season when the number of tourists is lower but the sky is no less blue. Even better, out of season there is a huge range of apartments and houses available to rent on the Côte d’Azur, and they are cheaper too. So we would like to say to our British friends, come and visit us!
Head over to make the most of your trip to the Côte d’Azur!