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WEEKEND AT THE HEART OF NÎMES, THE FRENCH ROME
 

Duration
2
days
Budget
"Nîmes romaine" pass (Admission to the Arena, Maison Carrée and Tour Magne): €13/adult or €40/family (2 adults and 2 children) - Admission to the Museum of Romanity: €8/adult or €19/family
Features
  • 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
The best period
  • Autumn
  • Winter
  • Spring

After the Camargue and the Pont du Gard, let me take you on a weekend at the heart of French Rome! Ideally located between the Cévennes and the Mediterranean,  Nîmes the Roman city has many advantages! Sunny, pleasant and above all passionate, Nîmes is enriched by its past yet also resolutely contemporary.  But where to begin? Follow me! 

Martine de Gard Tourisme
de Gard Tourisme
Recommended by
Martine
Musée de la romanité
Le Musée de la Romanité

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.

Les grands jeux romains
Les Grands Jeux Romains
Les arènes

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.

Top tip

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!

Place du marché - Nîmes
Place du marché
Hôtel particulier de Fontfroide

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!

Top tip

Also worth a look are unmissable buildings such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame and Saint Castor, along with dozens of mansions from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, with superb inner courtyards! The Tourist Office has a number of guided tours

 

THE TREASURES OF THE FRENCH ROME

Nîmes owes its nickname of "the French Rome" to its seven hills and quality architectural legacy: the Tour Magne (Great Tower, the Maison Carrée (Square House) and the Arena of Nîmes are the finest examples.

Les Halles
Les Halles de Nîmes

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!

 

La Maison Carrée
La Maison Carrée
La Maison Carrée
La Maison Carrée

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.

Our favourite

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.

Les Jardins de la Fontaine

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.

La Tour Magne
La Tour Magne
Tour Magne
Accès Tour Magne

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

Restaurant Le Ciel de Nîmes

NIMESGard
Restaurant

Restaurant Wine Bar Le Cheval Blanc

NIMESGard
Hotel

Hôtel de l'Amphithéâtre

NIMESGard
Cultural heritage

CARRE D'ART Museum of Contemporary Art

NIMESGard
Latitude: 43.834388000000
Longitude: 4.360769000000
How to get there

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

By train
SNCF station 5 minutes' walk from the Arena
Nîmes/Paris (Gare de Lyon): 3h00 
Nîmes/Paris (Charles de Gaulle): 3h30 
Nîmes/Brussels: 5h15 
Nîmes/Marseille: 0h55 
Nîmes/Lyon: 1h20 
Nîmes/Lille: 4h20 
Nîmes/Montpellier: 0h30

By plane: Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes Airport in Garons (15 kms from Nîmes) 
www.aeroport-nimes.fr