Picturesque hill-start for Niçois history.
Rising directly behind the Old Town, this is where Nice began – first under the Ligurians, then as Nikaia with the Greeks. (It became Nicaea under the Romans, a name finally scrambled into ‘Nice’). It was also, for obvious defensive reasons, city central in the middle ages. There was indeed a castle up here, though there is no more – or not much of one. Only a few bits of wall remain. Instead, we have a terrific 45-acre park, with an artificial waterfall and outstanding views over the sea, the town and, on the other side of the hill, the port. It also offers a decent selection of play equipment for children who are not generally enchanted by views.
Castle Hill afforded Nietzsche his favourite walk when he spent five summers in Nice working on, among other things, Thus Sprake Zarathustra.
“The colours of Nice!” he wrote to his sister. “I wish I could detach them and send them to you!” Shortly after leaving Nice for the last time in 1888, the German writer went mad.
You can follow in his footsteps (to the hill, I mean, not to the mad-house) by climbing the steps and walkways from the Old Town. Or go the Tour Bellenda just off the Quai des Etats-Unis, where there’s a lift (80p one way). The Tour (tower), incidentally, is where Hector Berlioz composed his King Lear overture during an 1831 stay in Nice – generally agreed to be one of the happiest periods of his life. It now houses a maritime museum which I don’t find very interesting. But you might disagree.