One of the oldest areas in the city, the bourgeois residential area of Cimiez is family orientated. Full of parks, museums, and grand old buildings with intricate facades, Cimiez is middle-class suburbia, French style.
Founded by the Romans, it was originally built as a rival to the Greek city of Nikaia (Nice), before the two cities merged in 850 AD. Throughout the ages, the well-heeled of the society of the day resided here, which gives an indication of the spectacular features and reputation that Cimiez has.
Cemenelum, as it was called then, was the only Roman fortification in Southern Gaul (modern-day France) at the time. Founded in by Caesar Augustus in 14 BC, it was intended as a major trading centre. It was also equipped with traditional Roman structures such as an amphitheatre, an arena, thermal baths, and a Paleo-Christian Basilica, some of which are still standing today. An archeological museum stands on Cimiez hill, where you can discover the unique characteristics that convinced the Romans of the merits of locating here.
Cimiez monastery (Monastaire de Cimiez) and Cimiez church have been used by the Franciscan monks since the 16th century. The church houses important works by the medieval gothic painter, Louis Brea, who was born in Nice. Also on display here are more than 300 documents and works of art from the 15th to 18th centuries and a monumental alter-piece in carved wood decorated with gold leaf. In keeping with the artistic theme, the winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Literature, Roger Martin du Gard, and the painters Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy, are all buried in the adjoining cemetery.
It was this artistic heritage and natural beauty that lured the British Aristocracy to this area. In the 19th century Cimiez was colonised by fabulous mansions and hotels and used as a winter resort for the wealthy. The magnificent Boulevard de Cimiez is lined with beautiful gardens and villas in a variety of architectural styles from Louis IV to Neo-Gothic to Oriental. Widely held to be the most stunning property in all of Nice, the Excelsior Regina Palace Hotel is a belle-epoque masterpiece where Queen Victoria herself once stayed.
Nice Observatory designed by Charles Garnier, with Gustav Eiffel designing the dome, rests on top of Cimiez hill and can be seen from all of Nice. The world’s largest telescope when it was built in 1888, it lost that title just one year later to the Lick Observatory.
Lower Cimiez (Bas Cimiez) borders central Nice yet retains the previously stated characteristics of the rest of Cimiez. A quiet residential area with long terraced views, this area is perfect for those who want all the history and architecture of Cimiez but with a more central location in the city. Prices here also tend to be more value for money. Many once-famous buildings are now used as apartments, giving the property buyer plenty of choice.
However despite being popular with locals it has gained little traction with foreign buyers. It has poor holiday rental potential, it is too far out of town for those that want to spend their days shopping and their evenings wining and dining, and the laid back who want to while away the warm evenings their terrace and inclined to Mont Boron with its breathtaking views.