Promenade des Anglais

Nice, France | C.1820

Photo Credit: Claire Evans

Referred to by locals as simply “La Prom,” the Promenade des Anglais is the most iconic seafront in Nice, and perhaps in all of France. The wide, paved promenade runs 7 km (4.35 mi) along the Mediterranean Sea, and is frequently packed with families, joggers, cyclists, and skaters. It’s the center of social life in Nice, running parallel to a famed smooth pebble beach and providing a panoramic view of the surrounding environment.

English aristocrats paid for the promenade, hence its name, which means “Walkway of the English.” Starting in the late 18th century, Nice became a hot spot for wealthy Brits looking to escape the winter. These aristocrats built mansions up and down the coast, some of which are now museums. But after a particularly harsh winter and two bad harvests, Nice was overrun with beggars. So the English proposed that the unemployed be employed by building a walkway along the beach.

Funded by the Reverend Lewis Way and members of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the original walkway was just a wide strip of dirt in the 1820s. The city of Nice, however, was so intrigued by the prospect of a pleasant promenade that they greatly increased the scope of the work, eventually culminating in today’s modern promenade.

During the Belle epoque period, tourism expanded and luxury hotels arose along the boulevard. In 1917, Henri Matisse settled in one of these hotels to recover from bronchitis, beginning an important period in the work of the world-renowned artist. 

Sadly, the promenade has also seen tragedy. On Bastille Day 2016, it was the target of a terrorist attack in which 86 people were killed and hundreds were injured. After three days of declared public mourning, the city came together to rebuild.

Today, La Prom’s stretch of pebble beach is lined with public and private sections, some of which are leased to beach clubs and restaurants offering a range of enjoyment from quiet family areas to party scenes with resident DJs. La Prom is currently a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status. 

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