Whether you prefer coastline or country, there will always be lots of historic and fun facts to learn about the French Riviera. Here are just a few to get you started whilst you plan your trip to the Cote d’Azur.
The city of Nice was founded in around 350BC by the Greeks who named the city honouring their goddess of victory, Nike.
Villefranche has been for centuries the only Mediterranean bay of natural deep waters, reaching a significant depth only a short distance from shore. As a result, it has become an important port over the years. Since the 1980s cruise ships have docked in Villefranche making it the most visited cruise ship port of call in France.
The famous Negresco Hotel on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice has one of the largest carpets in the world measuring approximately 4000 square foot. The carpet is rumoured to have cost around 10 percent of what the entire hotel is worth, it was weaved in 1615.
Since the 17th century, the town of Grasse has been named the perfume capital of the world, as it produces over 75% of the world’s luxury perfumes. The towns industry employs 2,700 people and the local museum, factories and shops attract over 2 million tourists a year.
The Nice Carnival is one of the biggest in the world and welcomes millions of visitors each year. Dating back to 1294, the Nice Carnival is the oldest and perhaps the original carnival event.
Fréjus, a town located southwest of Cannes was originally named Forum Julii by Julius Caesar who also named its port Claustra Maris (the sea barrier). The exact date this Roman city was founded is uncertain, but it was certainly before 43 BC since it appears in the correspondence between Plancus and Cicero, 49 BC is most likely. You can still see many Roman ruins scattered around the town of Fréjus to this day.
The Man in the Iron Mask
The island - Île Sainte-Marguerite, just half a mile offshore from Cannes is where you will find the prison where the “Man in the Iron Mask” was held. He spent 11 years of his life in a cell there.
The spectacular Baccarat crystal chandelier in the Negresco Hotels Royal Lounge was commissioned by Czar Nicholas II of Russia, but due to the October revolution he was unable to take delivery of it. It is made up of 16,309 crystals.
A loud cannon fires from Castle Hill, Nice every day at midday. This tradition was started by Sir Thomas Coventry-More an Englishman who in 1860 became increasingly frustrated by his wife’s lack of punctuality in serving his meal at noon. When Thomas, his wife and their canon left Nice, the locals missed their daily lunch reminder so much, they had their own installed and so the tradition lives on to this day.
The large yellow building at the end of the Cours Saleya’s outdoor market was once home to the artist Henri Matisse. Henri lived at No 1 place Charles Félix for nearly 20 years and lived on both the third and fourth floors at different times.
Don’t forget to visit the Matisse Museum in the prestigious quartier of Cimiez, another stunning area of Nice steeped in history, one that we will feature in a future blog.