All Sights of Nîmes in France

Journey to the Roman city of Nîmes in the south of France

Modest in comparison to Paris and Nice, the French city of Nîmes has an undoubted tourist highlight – the architectural monuments of the ancient Roman era.

Nimes is a city in the south of France, the center of the Gare department. The name comes from the Roman settlement of Nemaus. It, in turn, was named after an ancient water source. Among other cities of the country the small Nimes (about 140 thousand people) is distinguished by monuments of the Roman era. It is sometimes even called the French Rome. That is why it is mostly visited by connoisseurs of ancient architecture.

The narrow streets of the old town

Sights of the Roman era

The first three sites can be visited by a single combined ticket for 11.7 EUR. It can be ordered on the website maisoncarree.eu.

Located in the Fountain Gardens, the site of Guillaume Apollinaire

Tower of Mann

“Grand Tower” Tour Magne is located in the Fountain Garden on the Mont-Cavalier Hill. The original building on the site dates from the 3rd century B.C. Under the Roman Emperor Augustus the tower was built to a height of 36m, becoming part of his fortifications. As such it was used for many centuries. In the 17th century the tower was partly ruined because of an unsuccessful search for treasure. It has reached our days in such a form. The top of the tower is equipped with an observation deck.

The tower can be visited from 9:30 to 17:00 – 20:00 (depending on the month) hours, ticket costs 2.7 EUR.

The Maison Carré in the city center

Maison Carrée

Maison Carrée is the best-preserved ancient Roman temple in France. It was built in the last years BC. The length of the “square house” – 25 m, width – 12 m.

The preservation of the structure was helped by its conversion to a Christian church in the IV century. Later there was a mosque, an aristocratic tomb, a consular house and even a stable (during the French Revolution). In 1823, the Maison Carré obtained the status of a national museum. Today, the building houses a museum of Roman art.

The Maison Carré is a notable structure of French architecture. It served as a prototype for several other buildings. The most famous is the Church of St. Magdalene in Paris.

A toreador greets visitors at the Arena

Amphitheatre

The Arènes de Nîmes Arena (amphitheatre) was built in the 1st century on the model of the famous Roman Colosseum. The dimensions of the amphitheater in length, width and height were 133 m., 101 m. and 21 m. They are second only to the Colosseum. The arenas were divided into 60 sectors and 34 galleries. The high-ranking spectators were protected from the sun by a tent. The amphitheater even had a water supply and sewage system.

Amphitheatre in detail

The grandstands could accommodate up to 25,000 spectators. And they watched the barbaric scenes – gladiators fighting each other and with wild beasts. In later centuries, the amphitheater was used as a defensive shelter, and then inside they began to build houses, markets and churches. At the end of the 18th century the buildings were demolished and the restoration began, which ended by the middle of the next century. The current amphitheater at Boulevard des Arenes has a capacity of 10,000 people.

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At the end of the XX century a bronze statue of a famous toreador wounded on the square in front of the arena was installed. As you can see, even after two millennia, the battles with the animals continue. Camargue races, bullfighting (no killing) and rock concerts are held here. Has much changed in the mores of homo sapiens during this time?

The amphitheater is open to tourists from 9:00 to 17:00 – 20:00 hours. You have to pay the entrance fee of 7 EUR.

Arch of Augustus

The ruins of the Arch of Augustus

The Triumphal Arch of Augustus was erected in 29 B.C. It was dedicated to his victory at Actium over Cleopatra and Antony two years before. Only fragments of the once-majestic Porte d’Auguste are preserved. The address is Rue nationale.

Diana Temple in the Fountain Garden

Temple of Diana

In addition to the Mane Tower, the Fountain Garden contains fragments and ruins of another Roman construction. Its provisional name is Temple de Diane. Built in the 1st century it may have been a sanctuary, library or bath. In the Middle Ages there was a chapel of St. Ursula, so a fragment of the façade with three arches and a hall with two stairs are extant.

Aqueduct of Nîmes

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

The Pont du Gard, or “bridge over the Gard”, is 22 km from Nîmes. This Roman aqueduct with three levels is 275 metres long and reaches a height of 47 metres. It was built in the mid 1st century as part of the 50 km long aqueduct from Uzès to Nîmes. After the fall of the Roman Empire it was used for another purpose, as a bridge. After the introduction of a new bridge in the 18th century, traffic on the Pont du Gard gradually ceased. In the middle of the following century, the aqueduct was restored.

The aqueduct is a unique and majestic structure which is included in the UNESCO list. It is as high as a 16-storey house. The number of arches in the tiers is 6, 11 and 35. Amazingly, of the six arches of the lower tier only one is a carrier. Equally surprising is that the huge six-ton stones are nailed to each other without mortar.

You can get here from Nîmes in half an hour by bus B21. Entrance ticket costs 7 EUR.

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Old City Street

Other interesting objects

In addition to ancient monuments, there are several interesting objects and buildings in the city.

Fountains in the City Garden

Fountain Garden

The city park Jardin de la fontaine was laid out in the eighteenth century in the historic center of Nîmes. The Jardin de la Fontaine was designed by the architect Jacques-Philippe Maréchal, a specialist in fortifications. On the site of the original spring, there is now a balustraded pond with swans. The park ensemble includes fountains, statues, and ancient Roman structures, which were mentioned above.

Arts Square

The Arts Square building

The combination of ancient and modern buildings is a feature of Nîmes. Two millennia later, the Carre d’art building was built next door to the Maison Carré temple. According to the architect’s idea, the modern building of the “Art Square” formed a single architectural ensemble with the ancient Roman “Square House”. The author of this daring project is the prominent British architect Norman Foster. Among his creations are, in particular, Mary Axe, City Hall and the Millennium Bridge in London. Carré d’Ar is home to the Musee D’art Contemporain (Museum of Modern Art).

Museum

Museum of Fine Arts

The first exhibition of the Musee des beaux-arts de Nimes was located in the Maison Carré Temple. A special building for the museum, which contained its growing collection, was built at the beginning of the XX century. Today it counts more than 3.5 thousand works of art by French, Flemish, Dutch and Italian painters. The most valuable exhibits are the paintings by Rubens and the mosaic picture “The Marriage of Admeta”.

Cathedral interior

Cathedral

The local Cathedrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor de Nimes is named after Our Lady and the local Saint Castor. It was consecrated as early as the 11th century and was rebuilt several times. Its current appearance bears the features of different architectural styles. The stone bas-reliefs carved with scenes from the Old Testament stand out.

Nîmes is beautiful

In the two days I spent in Nîmes I was not bored. My first day was mostly “ancient Roman. On the second, I got out to the Pont du Gard aqueduct, and when I came back, I toured the museums and the cathedral. The main impressions were the amphitheater, the aqueduct and the Maison Carré.

Nîmes: what to see in 1 day?

Esplanade of Nîmes

Travelers who allocated one day to explore the city of Nîmes are saved only by the fact that all the iconic places are located in close proximity to each other. The city has a rich history: in ancient times, it was considered the capital of a strong Gallic tribe. It was conquered by the Romans 120 years before Christ.

Until today, the magnificent buildings of that era have been preserved in Nîmes. If you don’t have a clear plan of what to see in Nîmes, we recommend checking out the sights below or taking a guided tour by a resident of the city. In general, if you travel through Provence you shouldn’t miss Nîmes: its ancient architecture and cultural heritage will not leave you indifferent.

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The Fountain Garden in Nîmes

Fountain Garden

The Jardin de Lafontaine, or Garden of Fountains, is in the heart of the city. The Jardin des Lafontins is a walkway with statues, artificial lakes, and of course, fountains. Arranged this garden on the model of Versailles. However, unlike its aristocratic elder brother, the Fountain Garden was designed for walks of citizens of different social groups. It is considered one of the first public parks in Europe.

The Fountain Garden opened in the 18th century. The place for it was not chosen by chance. It is in this part of the city are the most important historical monuments, left by its ancient owners, the Romans. Sophisticated French decided that it is especially pleasant to admire the majestic ruins, strolling in the shade of trees and under the splash of cool water. The calculation proved correct. The Fountain Garden, built in the classical style, became the perfect frame for the masterpieces of Roman architecture. To see them all, you don’t have to go anywhere: everything is right here, in the center of the city.

Nîmes Amphitheatre

Nîmes Amphitheatre

By the time the construction of the Fountain Garden began, the Nîmes amphitheatre was listed as one of France’s top tourist attractions. There he is listed to this day. This structure could well compete with the Colosseum in Rome. It was built on the same principle by order of Emperor Augustus, whose army conquered this piece of land from the Gauls. It is believed that the construction began immediately after the announcement of the Roman victory, i.e. in 120 BC.

The amphitheater still performs its main function as a place for performances. Only the repertoire had changed. Originally gladiatorial fights were staged here, but today mostly bullfights are held there. Large-scale concerts used to take place in the amphitheater. Many world-renowned musicians used to perform here. There is enough room for the audience: the amphitheater is designed for more than 20 thousand seats.

Read more: “Bullfighting in Provence

Tower of Mann

Magnes Tower

As you stroll through the Garden of Fountains, take note of the hill that rises above the park. It’s well worth the climb. Here is another legendary structure – the tower of Manh. It means “big tower” in French.

In fact, it is certainly not the Eiffel Tower, it is not that big, only 36 meters in height. However, in the 3rd century BC, when, according to historians, the tower was erected, it was certainly impressive. For what purpose was organized this grandiose for those times construction, is not known for certain. According to one version, it had a military purpose. According to another, its purpose was cultic, and the tower was used as a mausoleum.

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There is another, more recent legend connected with the Man tower. In the 17th century, a local resident said he had managed to decipher Nostradamus’ message related to the site. In his opinion, the soothsayer indicated that a treasure was hidden at the foot of the tower. He gained the support of the authorities and began to excavate. The tower was half-ruined in the course of his work, but he did not find any gold. Nevertheless, from time to time there are adventurers who claim that the great “treasure of Nostradamus” is still “out there”.

Temple of Diana

Diana Temple

Next door to the Tower of Man, at the foot of the same hill, is another no less mysterious structure, known as the Temple of Diana. Although few historians today believe that the goddess of hunting was once worshipped here.

The only accurate date of the temple’s construction is the 2nd century B.C. The interior design of the building raises a lot of questions. The central hall, where columns and pilasters are still visible, is in a good state of preservation. Such decorations are characteristic of temple constructions and … baths. The proximity of the source also testifies in favor of this theory.

Place de la Maison Carree

Maison du Carais

A couple of blocks from the Garden of Fountains is another monument not to be missed. The Maison de la Maison Carree or Square House. It’s a Roman temple from the 1st century B.C. It was built by order of Emperor Augustus to honor his grandsons Gaius and Lucius. They were killed in battle when they were very young. The building was austere and majestic. For many centuries it was considered a perfect architectural work. Temples were built in its image in France and beyond.

Over more than two thousand years of existence, the Maison Carais has seen much. In the 4th century it was turned into a Christian temple. In the Middle Ages, consuls and ambassadors met here. French revolutionaries in the 17th century converted it into stables. Only a century later, the horses were removed from the ancient temple and a museum was founded there.

Museum of Modern Art

It was nothing short of French wit that made it necessary to build the Museum of Modern Art right across the street from the grandiose two-thousand-year-old Maison Carais. As a result, “yesterday” and “today” coexist on the same small town square: a monumental ancient temple and a light, “airy” house in a futuristic style. A visit to the museum is sure to be interesting for connoisseurs of new styles. There are exhibitions of works by prominent contemporary artists.

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Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Strictly speaking the aqueduct Pont du Gare, or bridge over the Gare, is located not in Nîmes itself, but in its suburbs. However it is worth getting in the car, driving 20 km along the A 9 and seeing it for yourself. Many people probably know it from the picture: it is the bridge on the Euro 5 bill.

The Pont du Gare is another testimony to the greatness of the Roman Empire. According to the latest data, the aqueduct is the same age as our era, its construction began in the 1st century. It is amazing how engineers and workers of that time managed to build a hydraulic structure 275 meters long and 47 high, which even after two thousand years perfectly fulfills the functions of the bridge. The original purpose of the aqueduct was to supply the city with drinking water. It was part of a vast 50-kilometer long aqueduct. This explains the need for three levels.

No other aqueduct from the Roman Empire has survived as high as this one, not even in Rome. On the eve of the bicentennial of this grandiose construction in 1985 it was placed under UNESCO protection. However, this does not prevent tourists from visiting: one of the tiers of the aqueduct is open, anyone can cross from one bank of the Gara to the other, as it was done centuries ago.

” READ ARTICLE – All About Pont du Gard

If the night is caught in Nîmes…

A Night in Nîmes

The need to spend the night in Nîmes should not be daunting. Finding a comfortable place to rest here is not difficult at all. You don’t even have to leave the historic part of town. Here, on the narrow pedestrian streets, among the small houses built several hundred years ago, there are numerous cafes, pastry shops and hotels. Particularly famous are the following:

Nimotel .

The hotel is within walking distance of the main attractions of Nîmes. It is located in an old building under a red tile roof. The hotel is surrounded by a beautiful garden.

Cote Patio

Cote Patio is separated from the famous Amphitheatre by a five-minute walk. The highlights of the hotel are the cozy patio, open in warm season, and the vintage furniture, with which the hotel is filled with.

Appart Hotel Odalys Le Cheval Blanc

Design hotel located in an old building in the city center. It attracts with its futuristic design, which perfectly blends with the carefully preserved masonry and plaster of the ancient walls.

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