Nice, France, the capital of Alpes-Maritimes Department. Nice is on the Bay of Angels, an arm of the Mediterranean, and is at the mouth of the Paillon River. It is near the Italian border and 425 miles (684 km) southeast of Paris. The city is on a coastal plain and is sheltered from cold winds by a crescent of hills on the north and northeast. The sea to the south tempers the heat of summer. Nice's pleasant climate, scenic location, and many festivals (including Carnival) make it a major resort and tourist area. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy.
The Paillon River divides the Old Town from the New Town. East of the river the Old Town, with narrow, picturesque streets, is nestled between the stream and the rocky, 301-foot (92-m) Chateau (Castle) Hill. This mass of limestone, formerly crowned by a castle, now has a park. The much larger New Town has spacious boulevards, attractive shops, cafés, and hotels. Hills above the city are dotted with villas and hotels.
Cultural institutions in Nice include the Archeological Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and museums devoted to the works of Matisse and Chagall. The University of Nice (founded 1971) is here.
Nice probably began as a Greek colony in the fifth century B.C. In Roman times it was called Nicaea, from a Greek word that meant "victory." Throughout most of the early Middle Ages Nice was a part of Provence. In 1388 the city came under the rule of the princes of Savoy. Except for one interlude under French rule (1792-1814), the rulers of Savoy governed Nice until 1860, when the city was ceded to France.