Where to Stay in Nice in 2024: Best Places in 10 Neighborhoods
French Riviera

Place Massena

The Place Massena is the heart and soul of Nice as well as its geographic center. Forming a link between cosy Old Nice and the wide boulevard Jean-Medecin, Place Massena is where Nicois gather for any important event. From open-air concerts to the Carnival to a Sunday stroll, it's an extraordinarily convivial spot with statues, fountains, benches and sculpture.

Apollo Statue

Conceived to cover the Paillon river, Place Massena was constructed from 1832 to 1850. The architect, Joseph Vernier, modelled the Italianate porticos that fringe the square on the Rue Rivoli in Paris. The Fontaine du Soleil in the center of the square, contains five bronze statues based on Greek mythology representing Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury.

They surround a 7-ton statue of a nude Apollo.Inauguraed in 1956, Apollo's nudity scandalized right-thinking Nicois. Apart from the nudity the sheer size of the god's endowments caused outrage. The sculptor was summoned to chisel down the offending protrusion. That did nothing to calm sensibilities and the statue was repeatedly vandalized before being exiled to Nice's former football stadium far away from central Nice.

The other statues and the fountain were removed in 1990, only to be re-installed in 2007 with the arrival of the new tramway. It took another five years for Apollo to reappear. He made his triumphant return in 2011.

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The year 2007 heralded a complete redesign of Place Massena. Vehicules were banned, benches arrived and the towering sculptures of the catalan artist, Jaume Plensa, arose to punctuate the square. Called "Conversation in Nice", these seven statues represent the continents and are illuminated at night.

The Place Massena extends outward to the Jardin Albert 1er, a long, tranquil garden shaded with palms, pines, flowering trees, lawns and fountains. In winter, an ice rink is installed in the center and the rest of the year roller skaters practice their moves. The gardens also contain the Theatre de Verdure, a small concert space.


Related Pages

Nice Travel Guide

Sightseeing in Nice

Nice's Top Sights

Place Massena Plensa sculpture
Wiki Commons/Chris Bontemp
Plensa sculptures, Place Massena

Place Massena

Recommended Experiences

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