SEP 20,2015 - SEP 20,2015 (1 DAYS)
Nice Castle Park (Parc du Chateau) (Colline du Chateau):
Access: take the 213 steps (‘escalier Lesage’) or the FREE elevator (Ascenseur du Chateau) in the most eastern edge of Rue de Ponchettes near Quai des États-Unis (behind the Hotel Suisse). Access on foot also from Place Garibaldi in OId Nice.
If there is a long queue waiting for the elevator - you may wait 10-20 minutes in a quite stuffy, underground hall. Steps up not too hard (10-12 minutes hike along winding path of approx. 210-220 steps. A bit out of breath). Wear proper shoes. Do not opt for hiking on foot in very hot hours. The hiking is preferable due to unbelievable sights (during the morning hours !). You can ride the little tourist train up the hill and back down. You can pick up the train from the Promenade des Anglais. Our suggestion is to go up through the old town (shorter path and less steps) and go down on the beach side.
The Tourist Train: 10 minute stop at the castle. Duration: roughly 45 minutes. Commentary: (Individual commentary) French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese. Capacity: 55 passengers. Prices: 10 € adults, 5 € children 4 to 12 years. Times: Daily. one departure every 30 minutes (several tourist trains). 10.00 to 17.00 in January, February and March. 10.00 to 18.00 in April, May and September. 10.00 to 19.00 in June, July and August. 10.00 to 17.00 in October, November, and December.
The main reason to visit the Castle Hill is for the stunning views. Great views of Nice Port (afternoon hours - when the sun shines from the west), city and beach (Baie des Anges) (morning or midday hours). Sunset is especially terrific for lovely sights of Port Lympia, east and down to the Castle Hill. Don't just look at the view in one direction. We recommend visiting the Castle Hill twice and getting views from BOTH of its sides. Climb up the Castle Hill during the morning hours for getting wonderful views of Nice city and its l-o-n-g beaches (the red rooftops of Nice old town jointed by the glistening turquoise ocean) and sunrise overlooking the port. Looking west you can see beyond the airport towards Cannes and St Tropez. Visit, again, during the late (sunny !) afternoon hours to get admirable sights of the ports in the east and sunset over the city and its beaches.
Westerly viewpoints which have an absolutely superb picture postcard panorama overlooking the Promenade des Anglais, Old Nice and the Baie des Anges, with further in the distance the Cap d’Antibes, the Esterel mountains, the airport and the Southern Alps: this view is best enjoyed in the morning in order to avoid the sun directly facing you in the afternoon:
View from the Castle Hill east over Port Lympia and looking south-east towards the Cape of Nice (separating Nice from Cap Ferrat):
Opening hours: 01 OCT - 31 MAR: 08.30 - 18:00, 01 APR - 30 SEP: 08.30 - 20.00. Cost: Its a free of charge attraction.
Duration: Allow a few hours to see this area.
The history of the park goes all the way back to the beginning of the 19th century, when the city of Nice was facing the challenge to turn the site of the former castle into a pleasant leisure and tourist area. Thus, at present, the Castle Park is not just just a mere archeological site. in 1706, King Louis XIV asked it to be destroyed. The castle had until then defended the city of Nice against many attacks. Indeed, Nice, at the time, was not yet in France. This fortress was then an obstacle for the French attacks against the Savoie County. Fortunately for Nice, this destruction had a positive effect since the city was forced to open and expand outside its ancient walls. Then the tourist resort was born which allowed the city to develop. In 1828, King Charles-Felix of Savoy, at the time King of Sardinia, originally intialized the project of the Castle Hill Park. He wanted to create a walk for the rich tourists on holiday in Nice. Then the Royal Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and many famous botanists (Risso, Bottière, Milo) began to build a park for the city of Nice:
What is on top of the Castle Hill ?
There are also walkways paved with colourful modern day mosaics. These are, actually, references to ancient Greece, notably on the eastern side of the plateau on top of the hill, with a fountain dedicated to the god Pan and mosaics representing scenes from the Odyssey. Remember: the Greeks founded Nice in around 350 BC and named it Nikaia after the Greek goddess of victory:
Cascade Dijon (which is an artificial waterfall) also counts as one of the chief highlight of the park. The waterfall is worth seeing from above and below. The waterfall was built in 1885 in order to decorate the Castle Hill, but also in order to play the role of on-verses basins of the first modern water supply of Nice. Even today, the waterfall is fed by the waters of the Vésubie valley. The Cascade:
Despite different destructions, the castle park retains traces of its monuments of the past. Many ruins have been found and revealed (cathedral, citadel). Archaeological digs are still active today in an attempt to reveal traces of the fortress (from the medieval to the Baroque period). There are Roman relics well exposed at the archeological site. There are some ruins but not really a chateau to speak of:
In the one remaining tower, the 16th century Tour Bellanda (Bellanda Tower), is the Musée Naval. Bellanda Tower was built in 1844 in typical romantic style. It was built in place of the old tower of St. Elmo, which was part of the ancient castle:
In the north-west part of the hill - there is the Jewish cemetery (Cimetière Israélite, Allée François Aragon). As well as visiting the remains and gazing at the views, while on Castle Hill, visit the beautiful monumental cemetery. It has three sections Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. Many of the monuments are very elaborate and beautiful. Worth a look just to fill you in on Nice's recent history. Garibaldi is buried in this cemetery.