French city Nice wins UNESCO world heritage status

The UN’s cultural organisation has added Nice to its World Heritage List thanks to the French Mediterranean city’s centuries-old role as winter residence for mostly wealthy foreigners.

Following the decision by its World Heritage Committee, UNESCO in a statement on Twitter called Nice, famous for its mild climate, the “Winter resort town of the Riviera”.

The city joins France’s more than 40 world heritage sites, including the banks of the river Seine in Paris, the Amiens cathedral, Mont Saint Michel and stretches of the Loire valley.

UNESCO said Nice adapted its urban planning as early as two centuries ago to make itself attractive to foreigners seeking warmer climes.

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Nice has been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

The iconic Negresco hotel in Nice. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

Their cultural influences and “desire to make the most of the climatic conditions and scenery of the place, shaped the urban planning and eclectic architectural styles of those areas”, it said.

With close to one million inhabitants, greater Nice is the second-biggest city on the French Mediterranean coast after Marseilles, and the fifth-biggest in France.

It is a tourist hotspot with several million visitors per year, and its airport is one of the country’s busiest.

Nicknamed “Nice the Beautiful”, the city attracted European aristocracy from the 18th century, starting with British royalty who had the seafront “Promenade des Anglais” (”Promenade of the English”) named after them.

The beach and the famous Promenade des Anglais. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

The city was recognised as a ‘winter resort town of the Riviera’. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

Painters including Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse also stayed there, as did writers Anton Chekhov and Friedrich Nietzsche.

“The history of Nice, which is at the same time deeply rooted and open, Mediterranean and Alpine, European and cosmopolitan, has produced an architecture and a landscape that are unique, a model for many other cities in the world,” Nice’s mayor Christian Estrosi said in reaction to the move.

The Promenade des Anglais became the scene of a murderous attack on July 14, 2016, when a 31-year-old Tunisian drove a truck into crowds gathered for fireworks to celebrate France’s Bastille Day holiday.

The city was gripped by terror on July 14, 2016 when a car ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

Locals on the famous waterfront stretch. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

Eighty-six people, including 15 children, were killed in the attack for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

The UN cultural body awards world heritage status to sites judged to be of special universal value to humanity.

Top heritage sites include the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Acropolis in Greece.

Massena Plaza in Nice. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

The Villa Massena in Nice. Picture: Valery Hache/AFPSource:AFP

The sought-after distinction brings intangible benefits, but also often boosts tourism, and can help secure funding for the preservation of sites.

Meanwhile, Australia has managed to defer an attempt by UNESCO to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status because of damage caused by climate change.

UNESCO had recommended the reef be added to the World Heritage in Danger list, but a committee meeting in China on Friday deferred the “in danger” question until 2023.

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