Buildings in the old town part of Nice, France.
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, and it is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département. The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of about 1 million on an area of 278 sq mi. Located on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille.
The city is called Nice la Belle, which means Nice the Beautiful, which is also the title of the unofficial anthem of Nice, written by Menica Rondelly in 1912. The area of today's Nice contains Terra Amata, an archaeological site which displays evidence of a very early use of fire. Around 350 BC, Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement and called it Nikaia, after Nike, the goddess of victory. Through the ages, the town has changed hands many times. Its strategic location and port significantly contributed to its maritime strength. For years it was a dominion of Savoy, then became part of France between 1792 and 1815, when it was returned to Piedmont-Sardinia until its reannexation by France in 1860.
The natural beauty of the Nice area and its mild Mediterranean climate came to the attention of the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winter there. The city's main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (‘the Walkway of the English') owes its name to the earliest visitors to the resort. For decades now, the picturesque Nicean surroundings have attracted not only those in search of relaxation, but also those seeking inspiration. The clear air and soft light has been of particular appeal to some of Western culture's most outstanding painters, such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Niki de Saint Phalle and Arm