WEEKEND AT THE HEART OF NÎMES, THE FRENCH ROME
- An exceptional Roman heritage
- A Great Site of Occitania: Nîmes – Pont du Gard – Uzès
- Nîmes, City of Art and History
- An ancient city where contemporary architecture takes pride of place
1ST DAY: BEGIN WITH THE MUSEUM OF ROMANITY
I'm a fan! A unique experience, exploring Antiquity! Open since June 2018, the Museum of Romanity is a great success in my opinion! Just opposite the unmissable Arena, a round, massive and stony structure, stands a new building. This one is square and airy-looking, with a glazed mosaic façade designed to resemble a pleated glass toga... A beautiful juxtaposition of ancient and modern styles, reminiscent of the contrast between the Maison Carrée (Square House) and the Carré d'art (Square of Art) a few hundred metres away.
Allow 2 or 3 hours to visit the museum, gardens and roof terrace.
JUST OPPOSITE: THE ARENA OF NÎMES
Monumental. When you see it for the first time, you can't help but be impressed by the Arena!
By its size, to start with. This harmonious ellipse seats 24,000 people!
And above all, by its impressively well-preserved condition. Probably built between 50 and 100 A.D., the Amphitheatre of Nîmes, inspired by the Coliseum in Rome, is the best-preserved arena from Roman times!
Twenty centuries after it was built, it is still used frequently for big performances like the Great Roman Games or Nîmes Festival. And believe me, attending a concert in such a setting is an amazing experience and an unforgettable moment!
Self-guided tour (audioguides for hire on site). In July/August, 6 guided tours a day at no extra cost.
Between visits to the Museum of Romanity and the Arena, enjoy lunch at the restaurant on the Museum terrace, La Table du 2. Its menu is created by a Michelin-starred chef, Franck Putelat, and showcases regional products at affordable prices. Set lunch menu (starter, main course, dessert) for €19.50 with super views of the Arena!
END OF THE DAY: STROLL AROUND "L’ÉCUSSON"
YES, this is the place to take a breather! That's right, Nîmes isn't just about historic monuments.
Steeped in 2,000 years of history, the beauty of its ancient city centre also appeals to visitors, with its exceptional heritage: L'Écusson, a conservation area since 1985 surrounded by the great plane tree-lined boulevards!
An inviting maze of little pedestrian streets, ideal for strolling and shopping, town squares adorned with fountains and terraces of course, lovely for sitting in the southern sunshine!
2ND DAY: BEGIN THE DAY AT THE HALLES DE NÎMES
It's Nîmes' other temple! A place you can't miss on a Sunday morning.
The Halles Centrales, a covered, air-conditioned market at the very centre of Nîmes, not far from the Maison Carrée (open every day except Monday until 1 pm), offers the best of Gard's local produce and gastronomy. It's a delight for the eyes and taste buds: picholine olives and olive oil from Nîmes, rice and bull meat from the Camargue, sweet onions from the Cévennes, pélardon cheese, etc.
And as you'll see... people don't just come to the market to buy fresh local products. No, people also go there for the pleasure of meeting and chatting with others, which you inevitably end up doing!
THE MAISON CARRÉE
Don't miss this little gem!
The Maison Carrée, the best-preserved Roman temple in the world, is a thing of awesome beauty!
Once a part of the Roman forum, the administrative and economic centre of the Gallo-Roman city, the Maison Carrée today stands proudly at the centre of a square redesigned by the British architect Norman Foster, in juxtaposition with the Carré d'Art, Nîmes' contemporary art museum designed by the same architect.
Stop for lunch at the Le Ciel de Nîmes restaurant, on the Carré d’Art terrace. Fresh, seasonal southern cuisine. A warm welcome. A direct view of the Maison Carrée and the rooftops of Nîmes... as far as the Tour Magne.
From October to May: open for lunch only, 10 am–6 pm.
AFTER LUNCH, HEAD TO THE JARDINS DE LA FONTAINE
A wonderful and very peaceful place for a walk and a rest, far from the hustle and bustle of the city!
The Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens of the Spring) occupy the site of the sanctuary dedicated to the original spring. They were created by Jacques-Philippe Mareschal, engineer to King Louis XV, between 1745 and 1755.
Dominated by the Tour Magne, they consist of a lower section in the French formal style, where you can walk along the paths and see the spring, the temple of Diana and some remarkable statues. The Italian-style garden above them is arranged in tiers on the slopes of Mont Cavalier... all the way to the top of the hill.
TO TOP IT ALL OFF: THE TOUR MAGNE
Here we are at the top of the hill...
Ta-da! What an amazing view! From the top of its 140 steps - you have to earn it! - The Tour Magne offers a panoramic view of Nîmes and the surrounding area from the tallest, most prestigious tower in the six-kilometre Roman wall that used to surround the city! At the time, it was used to alert the city and defend it from invaders.
What a lovely way to round off your weekend at the heart of the French Rome... What do you think about that?
Where to sleep and eat, what to do?
Restaurant Le Ciel de Nîmes
Restaurant Wine Bar Le Cheval Blanc
Private room, patio, terrace overlooking the Arena
Hôtel de l'Amphithéâtre
CARRE D'ART Museum of Contemporary Art
By road: Motorway access from the
A 54 from Arles, Marseille, Côte d’Azur, Italy
A 7 from Avignon, Valence, Lyon
A 9 from Montpellier, Narbonne, Perpignan, SPAIN
SNCF station 5 minutes' walk from the Arena
Nîmes/Paris (Gare de Lyon): 3h00
Nîmes/Paris (Charles de Gaulle): 3h30
By plane: Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes Airport in Garons (15 kms from Nîmes)