Without a doubt, Nice is one of the most glamorous destinations in the Mediterranean and although it has all the trappings of a modern city, it has a long, rich history you certainly ought to make the effort to see. Head to the old town district and you can explore the ancient settlement of Cemenelum.
Although it is now fully incorporated into Nice – forming part of the Cimiez neighbourhood – Cemenelum was once a great rival to the city. It was an important stronghold during Roman times, serving as the capital of the Alpes Maritimae province, and even after the empire fell it was not until the Lombard invasions that the two were united as one.
Developing a rich infrastructure over time, Cemenelum now has protected status and by exploring the region today, you’ll gain an insight into what life in the area was like many centuries ago. Of course, large parts of it are now in ruin but there is still lots to see and I’m sure you will have plenty of fun imagining what the numerous buildings looked like when in their prime.
In fact, you may not want to wait any longer than is necessary before you start exploring the site and by booking car hire at Nice Airport you can head straight to Cemenelum as soon as you pick up the keys to your vehicle. Of course, there are plenty of other attractions to see but, while the freedom that comes with hiring a car means you can travel around as you please, I’m sure you’ll agree this is a must-visit attraction.
So, what exactly does it have to offer? One thing you certainly can’t miss is the giant amphitheatre, which was used by the Romans for public events such as gladiator combat. It’s still used today, although you’re more likely to now see concerts rather than fights to the death, and exploring the arena hand-in-hand with your partner will certainly be a highlight of your trip.
The Romans were famous for many things and a well-known part of their cultural legacy is public baths and you can certainly see these in Cemenelum. Built between the 4th and 5th centuries, you’ll get the chance to look at the actual areas the Romans used to wash themselves in, as well as the remnants of the heating system utilised to keep the water at a certain temperature. Other landmarks you should keep an eye out for are the remains of a Christian baptistery, church and sewer system.
If wandering around this complex has made you keen to uncover even more of the region’s history, you’ll be sure to want to check out the local Musee Archeologiques – that’s the Archaeological Museum to me and you – where a selection of ancient artefacts can be found. The items on show range from coins and pottery to jewellery and bronze homewares, covering every era from the Bronze Age right through to the Middle Ages. The institution also hosts a number of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, so there’ll always be something new on show, while guided tours are held every Saturday afternoon.
Of course, there are many other romantic things you can do in Nice, from visiting the vibrant Cours Saleya Flower Market to enjoying a meal in the Michelin-starred Le Chantecler restaurant, but there is perhaps nothing as stunning as exploring Cemenelum.
Have you been to this bit of the old town before? If so, leave a comment and let us know what parts of the complex you enjoyed the most!