The story of the most stunning property in Cimiez starts with Queen Victoria’s visit to Nice in 1878. As royalty was the celebrity of its day, every count, baron and prince followed her trail south. City bigwigs were keen to invite her – and her free-spending entourage – back to the Cote d’Azur.
There was just was problem. Nice didn’t have a palace fit for a queen. Particularly one who was willing to block book 80 (eighty!) rooms for her 100 staff. The royal posse included Scottish soldiers wearing kilts and Indian servants wearing turbans.
The Hotel Regina was built in 1897 in just 18 month flats. (Who says French builders are slack?) It was a mammoth affair with all mod cons. Central heating and oil-fired boilers kept guests cosy. Electronic elevators shuttled them downstairs for croquet. The palace’s belle époque façade stretched for 105m. From every angle one could see the sea. Queen Vic was overjoyed and stayed three times.
What’s more, the aristocrats holidaying alongside became a permanent fixture. The suburb of Cimiez underwent the building boom still visible today. Orchards became streets of Normandy-style villas. Farmland became Moorish chateaux. Such rococo property in Cimiez goes under the hammer every single day.
Alas, the sun set on Queen Victoria – the ‘Grandmother of Europe’ – and with her continental peace. During World War I the Regina became a military hospital. Then a public hotel which went bankrupt during the 1929 Wall Street crash. The furniture was sold off in 1934.
The only financial solution was to sell the Regina piecemeal. Its 400 rooms were merged into 98 apartments. Each was massive, with some comprising 350m2. Early purchaser Henri Matisse moved in during 1938. A 25m swimming pool was added later. The once grand lobby is now a highly recommend café.
One final thing, as we’ve save the best bit of the story until last. You actually can own a piece of this property that for decades money couldn’t buy. Nice Pebbles regularly have one or two apartments for sale inside the Palais Regina.
Brace yourselves, as fancy cornices don’t come cheap. Sea view stunners hover between €7,000pm2 and €8,000pm2. But at the Regina you’re purchasing a piece of history. And if it’s good enough for Queen Victoria, it’s probably good enough for you.