PROMENADE DU PAILLON - Insight Guides: Explore Nice & the French Riviera (Insight Explore Guides) (2015)

Insight Guides: Explore Nice & the French Riviera (Insight Explore Guides) (2015)



The landscaped promenade between Vieux Nice and the New Town is a focus for the arts and daring modern architecture, with plenty of public art to enjoy and the city’s new gallery district to explore.

DISTANCE: 4km (2.5 miles)

TIME: A half day

START: Jardin Albert 1er

END: Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image

POINTS TO NOTE: The Mamac and Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image are closed Mondays; most private galleries open Tuesday to Saturday.


Theatrical fountain along the promenade du Paillon


Running like a border between Vieux Nice and the New Town, the promenade du Paillon was created when the River Paillon was covered over for public health reasons in the 1800s. Today it has become a ‘river of culture’, recently redeveloped, where gardens and cultural buildings mix with outdoor sculptures.

Cont Art Wals



Enter the Jardin Albert 1er 1 [map] from avenue de Verdun. Despite busy traffic along the seafront the meandering paths, palms trees and iron bandstand still have a blowsy, pleasure-garden feel. In the centre, the Théâtre de Verdure amphitheatre is used for outdoor concerts in summer. Towards place Masséna, admire Bernar Venet’s massive 19m- (62ft-) high painted steel Arc 115°5 - one of a series of arcs the French sculptor has made since the 1960s that are designed according to mathematical formulae - which seems almost to float over the lawn.


Place Masséna is Nice’s elegant centrepiece and, since the arrival of the tramway in 2007, is also the setting for an art installation, Conversation à Nice 2 [map], by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Seven resin figures squatting atop tall metal poles, symbolising a dialogue between continents, are eerily white by day and illuminated from within in a subtly evolving colourful glow at night. At the same time, the Fontaine du Soleil 3 [map] (Sun Fountain), with bronze sculptures by Alfred Janniot representing the planets, was returned to the southern side of the square after restoration, minus the nude statue of Apollo that crowned it when it first went up in 1956.

North of the new ‘Miroir d’Eau’ walk-through fountain is Galerie Depardieu (6 rue du Docteur Jacques Guidoni;; Mon-Sat 2.30-6.30pm), a dynamic young gallery, which mixes art shows with a programme of live jazz and readings.


The view from the Modern Art Museum (Mamac)

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications


Continue along the promenade du Paillon. After Lycée Masséna on the left, make a short detour left to 8 rue Désire Niel, where the gallery Atelier Soardi 4 [map] (; Tue-Sat 10am-12.30pm and 2-6.30pm) occupies a disused film studio rented by Matisse from 1930-33 to paint his vast composition La Danse for American collector Dr Alfred Barnes.

Return to the promenade du Paillon, taking steps up onto the esplanade of the promenade des Arts, which was created in the 1980s by mayor Jacques Médecin as part of his ambitious cultural programme.

Architects Yves Bayard and Henri Vidal’s carrara marble complex comprises the octagonal Théâtre National de Nice (for more information, click here), which is renowned for premiering new drama, the Mamac and the sculpture terrace between the two, where a Stabile by Calder, Borovsky’s Man with a Suitcase and Niki de Saint Phalle’s Loch Ness Monster fountain prepare the way for the art to come.


Martial Haysse’s Nissa Bella, Mamac.

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications


While the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain 5 [map] (Modern and Contemporary Art Museum,; Tue-Sun 10am-6pm; free) focuses on art from 1960 to the present, the museum’s strength lies in its holding of the École de Nice, which is pitted against an excellent representation of parallel movements in American Pop Art, including Warhol, Lichtenstein and Johns, and abstraction by artists such as Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly, along with varied temporary exhibitions.

An entire room is devoted to the pivotal figure of Yves Klein, one of the leading lights of the École de Nice art movement (similar to Pop Art) which was popular in the late 1950s and 60s, who reconciled conceptual ideas and performances with a visual sensibility. This is evident in his trademark IKB (International Klein Blue) canvases and sculptures and anthropométries, where female models covered in paint were rolled like a living paintbrush over the canvas. Other rooms contain Arman’s accumulations and cut-up musical instruments, Jacquet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe and an exceptional donation by Niki de Saint Phalle.

Tête Carrée

Continue north, where you cannot miss the Tête Carrée 6 [map] (Square Head) a 30m- (98ft-) high grey head that morphs into a cube (in fact the offices of the Bibliothèque Louis Nucéra, which is itself hidden underground). It is described by its creator, sculptor Sacha Sosno, as an ‘inhabited sculpture’ and its giant chin looks rather menacing when seen from underneath.


Mamac artworks

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications

Palais des Congrès Acropolis

Next cross rue Barla to the Palais des Congrès Acropolis 7 [map] (1 esplanade J.F. Kennedy), a conference centre and concert hall. Although now due for a face-lift, the building by Nice architects Buzzi, Bernasconi and Baptiste was considered one of the most beautiful congress centres in Europe when it opened in 1984, and integrates artworks both inside and out. By the main entrance is Arman’s Music Power, a monumental bronze pile of sliced-up cellos.

Continue walking around the building past the bowling alley and arts cinema Cinémathèque de Nice (for more information, click here) for Noël Dolla’s steel cut-out Les trois mondes.


Martial Haysse’s High Tension, Mamac.

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications


Walk back towards Mamac along avenue Gallieni and turn right into rue Defly. This part of the New Town, largely undiscovered by tourists, is home to a burgeoning gallery district, where contemporary art galleries mix with antiquarian booksellers, unusual design shops and laid-back bars and bistros. On the corner, RDF Galerie (2 rue Defly;; Tue-Sat 3-7.30pm, July and Aug by appointment) features young artists in a variety of media, from painting to video installations to collaborations with DJs

Turn left into rue Gioffredo and then right into rue Delille, perhaps stopping for a meal at Le Gloss, see 1. At the end of the street turn left into boulevard Dubouchage, passing the Villa Rambourg (at no. 21bis), now a library of antiquarian books, posters and postcards, which has an attractive public garden at the rear.

Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image

At no. 27, behind a streamlined Moderne façade, the Théâtre de la Photographie et de l’Image 8 [map] (; Tue-Sun 10am-6pm; free) puts on excellent photography exhibitions in the former premises of the ornately decorated Cercle Artistique, a gentleman’s club founded to promote Niçois writers and artists. There are a couple of good places to eat nearby: try Aphrodite, see 2, for exciting modern cuisine, or L’Instant T, see 3, for light meals.

If you want to extend the tour, continue along boulevard Dubouchage and turn right into avenue Jean Médecin for the Nice-Étoile tram stop to discover Nice’s ambitious tramway art project: works by 15 international artists along 9km (6 miles) of tramway.

Food and Drink


16 rue Delille; tel: 04 93 81 71 87;; Mon-Fri L and D; €

This sleek designer eatery is popular with laidback young Niçois for lunch or an aperitif. The easy-going menu takes in gnocchi, farcis, fajitas and steaks.


10 boulevard Dubouchage; tel: 04 93 85 63 53;; Tue-Sat L and D; €€€

In this dressy restaurant with a lush garden terrace, chef David Faure’s beautifully presented modern Mediterranean cooking is an inventive personal blend of tradition and fashionable touches. In the evening there is also a more revolutionary ‘cuisine techno-émotionelle’ menu using modern molecular techniques.


35 boulevard Dubouchage; tel: 04 93 85 13 50; Mon-Sat 8am-7pm; €

Salads, omelettes, hamburgers and quiches are served all day at this little tea room, which has a prettily planted front garden.