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10 things to do and see in Nimes

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10 things to do and see in Nimes

The symbol of Nîmes is a crocodile chained to a palm tree, a reminder that the city was founded by Roman legionaries returning from victories in Egypt. The Roman period was the most prosperous of all the history of Nîmes as testified by well-preserved remains:  the Arena, the MaisonCarree and the Tour Magne.

The old town, typical of a small town in the South of France, has small squares, fountains, tables of the outdoor bars, shops for artists and artisans. But Spain is very close and you can feel it in the atmosphere and, above all, in the cuisine. Provençal, Spanish and Roman, so therefore, we could summarize Nîmes. A curiosity: have you ever wondered where did the definition of Denim jeans come from? It means de-Nîmes, it arriving from Nîmes, it refers to a fabric that local industries have exported all over the worldsince the Middle Ages. In Nîmes there is a great textile tradition, so if you look for a gift, you’ll find tablecloths and shawls in huge quantity.

In this page we suggest you 10 things to do and see during a holiday or a weekend in Nîmes.

If you are looking for a hotel in Nîmes, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 100 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The Arena of Nîmes

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The Amphitheatre of Nîmes is one of the best preserved in the world. Built at the end of the first century A.D., it is about 133 m long and 101 meters large and could accommodate over 20,000 spectators.

The Arena of Nîmes
The Arena of Nîmes

The  shows were typically Roman and fierce: hunts, animal fights and gladiators, deadly clashes between slaves. The division of space was strictly linked to social class, divided on 34 bleachers: at the  bottom there were the rich and the dignitaries in the central citizens, at the top and slaves. During the Middle Ages the amphitheatre was transformed into a shelter for the population during attacks by enemies. A safe and scenic place, as a part of the population decided to build small houses knocked down at the beginning of 1800. Today the Arena of Nîmes hosts sporting events, conferences, and above all, bullfights.

Where: old town centre of Nîmes
How to get there: by feet
When:
January, February, November and December: 9:30am – 5 pm
March and October: 9:30 am – 6 pm
April, May and September: 9 am – 6.30pm
June: 9 am – 7 pm
July and August: 9 am – 8 pm
Ticket: Arena ticket + Maison + Tour Magne: 12 € valid for 3 days.

The MaisonCarrée in Nîmes

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The MaisonCarrée in Nîmes is the best preserved ancient temple in the world. The name, in French, means “squared house” and is built inspired by the Temple of MarteUltore in Rome.

The Maison Carrée in Nîmes
The Maison Carrée in Nîmes

26 meters long, 15 large and 17 high, the MaisonCarrée was built by Agrippa, husband of Julia who was daughter of Caesar Augustus. The temple was dedicated to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the couple’s children and heirs of Augustus. The goal was to give to Nîmes the symbol of a new power, the Roman Empire. The perfect preservation is due to its constant use, never abandoned: the Maison has been a Roman Temple, the Curia, apartment, church, seat of the prefecture, archive. Today is transmitted inside a movie in 3D (with glasses) which tells the story of everyday life in Roman times, the Middle Ages and today. In 1993 the architect Norman Foster has reorganized the surrounding streets to create more harmony with the monument.

Where: old town centre
How to get there: by feet
When:
January, February, November and December: 10 am – 1 pm  2 – 4.30 pm
March and October: 10am – 6 pm
April, May and September: 10 am – 6.30pm
June: 10 am – 7 pm
July and August: 9.30 am – 8 pm
Ticket: Arena ticket + Maison + Tour Magne: 12 € valid for 3 days.

La Tour Magne in Nîmes

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From the Big Tower you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city and you can find out, thanks to an orientation table, the changes of the city over the centuries.

La Tour Magne in Nîmes
La Tour Magne in Nîmes

Built on the highest point of Nîmes, Mont Cavalier, it was used as a point of control of  Via Domiziana, so it had a military function which played even after the Roman Empire fell, especially during the Hundred Years War.

The Tower is one of the most powerful tower ever built by the Romans and was part of the massive walls (16 km) built around the city of Nîmes. It has an octagonal base and was composed originally by three buildings. Today the last building has disappeared but the tower still has a height of 32 meters. To get to the Tour Magneyou will cross the magnificent gardens of the Fountain, built in 1700 between the Temple of Diana and the Tower. They were the first public gardens in Europe and now offer a nice shelter, especially during very hot Provençal summers.

Where: In the Gardens of the Fountain, about 800 meters from the center.
How to get there: by feet
When:
January, February, November and December: 10 am – 1 pm  2 – 4.30 pm
March and October: 10am – 6 pm
April, May and September: 10 am – 6.30pm
June: 10 am – 7 pm
July and August: 9.30 am – 8 pm
Ticket: free entrance

The Temple of Diana in Nîmes

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Among the ancient monuments of Nîmes, the Temple of Diana is certainly the oldest but also the most enigmatic one.

The Temple of Diana in Nîmes
The Temple of Diana in Nîmes

Anybody knows the function and even the origin of the name. It is located in the Garden of the Fountains, in an area that Romans used as a sanctuary dedicated to Augustus. Many people believe it was a library or a hall of worship but over the centuries it was also the monastery until, in 1570, a fire destroyed it. The only evidence of the original structure are the Palladio drawings who went to Nîmes just before the destruction. The temple has an indoor hall with a barrel vault and two stairs that give access to the upper floor.

Where: In the Gardens of the Fountain, about 800 meters from the centre.
How to get there: by feet
When: you have to check the Gardens of Fountains timetable
Ticket: free entrance

The Old Town of Nîmes

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After the must see of the roman monuments in Nîmes, the best way to discover the city is a tour of the old Nîmes. The atmosphere is relaxed, a typical one of southern French town very close to Spain.

The Old Town of Nîmes
The Old Town of Nîmes

The old center of Nîmes is the “Place aux Herbes”, with the façade of the Cathedral, the outdoor tables, students from the nearby Academy of Fine Arts or the Conservatory . In the ancient center of Nîmes there are: old shops, antique stores and local products, while here and there you can see capitals, beautiful medieval houses, neoclassical buildings. Do not miss a visit to the nearby Garden of the Fountain, symbol of the love for water and fountains.

 

The Carréd'Art Museum in Nîmes

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In last few yearsNîmes took a definite path: reevaluate its antique jewels, redevelop neighbourhoods, contemporary art and architecture are considered a tool for tourism development.

The Carréd'Art Museum in Nîmes
The Carréd’Art Museum in Nîmes

This project is part of the Carréd’Art, a museum which houses about  400 works of contemporary art from the sixties to today. The permanent collection, exhibited on the first floor, brings together the works according to three criteria: the art in France, the Mediterranean identity and the art of the Anglo-Saxon countries. The second floor, however, is reserved for temporary and international exhibition.The building of the Carréd’Art is itself a work of art. Built and designed by the architect Norman Foster, it is located on 9 floors, of which 5 are underground with a media library and a library with 360,000 volumes and a cinema. The external structure is a clear reference to the classic forms of the nearby MaisonCarrée but with the use of modern materials, steel and glass.

Where: old town centre, close to MaisonCarrée
How to get there: by feet
When: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 to 6 pm
Ticket: € 3,50

Churches of Nîmes

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Nîmes has no major religious buildings, but three churches worth a visit for sure: the Church of Saint Paul, the Church of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor and the one of Sainte-Eugénie.

Churches of Nîmes
Churches of Nîmes

Consecrated in 1096, the Notre-Dame cathedral had many changes, still visible on the façade. The upper decoration is considered one of the finest examples of Romanesque sculpture in the South of France. Much prettier, at least from the outside, the Church of Saint Paul, built in 1800 in neo-Romanesque-Byzantine style. The church of Sainte-Eugénie is the oldest religious building in the city and has a very particular history: built in 956, was the armoury during the religious wars, billiards factory from 1792 to 1876 and again church  from 1877.

Le Pont du Gard in Nîmes

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A few kilometres from Nîmes there’s an extraordinary architectural work: Le Pont du Gard, built by the Romans to carry water to Nîmes. A work to show the Roman Empire’s power.

Le Pont du Gard in Nîmes
Le Pont du Gard in Nîmes

Nîmes, in fact, had enough water for the uses of the population. The water in abundance, brought by the Roman aqueduct, however, served to bring to the city the water for fountains, baths and gardens. The aqueduct required a genius of which only the Romans were then able. To bring water from the source of Uzès to Nîmes, the engineers had to calculate the gap of the ground for about 50 km and keep it constant, in order to let the water flow easily.

Things to eat in Nimes

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The inhabitants of Nîmesare proud of their cuisine whose main character is oil, the basis of brandade, a plate of crumbled cod andmilk.

Things to eat in Nimes
Things to eat in Nimes

The oil is at the base of tapenade, a patè of black olives and herbs of Provence served on bread. Among the dishes you cannot miss bull meat and lamb from the region. If you want to drink one of the oldest wines in the world and one of the best-known waters, you are in the right place. A few kilometers from Nîmes is thePerrier source, while Les Costières de Nîmes, the wine cultivated by the Romans, red and white, is the perfect wine for each lunch in Nîmes.

Where to sleep in Nimes

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Half way between Provence and Languedoc, Nîmes is a tourist destination but not crowded. It is chosen especially from the ancient art lovers during a tour in Provence or while they’re going to Spain.

Where to sleep in Nimes
Where to sleep in Nimes

During the spring we suggest you to book in advance to find good prices and comfortable places to stay. Nîmes welcomes tourists in a good standard hotel, apartments or typical &B’s. Prices are high (we are in France!) and the breakfast is rarely included in the price. The cost of a room in a 3-star hotel in the center of Nîmesstart from 70 euro per night cost, but there are also several residences for tourists, B&B’s, apartments and hostels with lower prices.

If you are looking for a hotel in Nîmes, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 100 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com