- the Rome of southern France
between the sea and the Cevennes hills, Nîmes is one of the
attractive towns in Mediterranean France. The city was established by
the Romans, on the edge of the Mediterranean plain, some twenty-five
miles inland from the sea; and to this day, Nimes has the
collection of Roman remains in France.
Nimes: shady Quai de la Fontaine, in the old town'
Apart from its Roman
remains, Nimes is worth visiting for its attractive old town and its
gardens, as well as its ideal location for discovering the Cevennes
national park to the north or the renowned wetlands of the Camargue to
the south – not to mention the large number of historic sites
sights to be discovered in this part of Mediterranean France..
Nimes is located on the main Paris - Lyon -
route, and also on the Mediterranean coastal route between Italy and
Spain. It is served by the A9 / E15 motorway and the A54 / E80 route
from Marseille. It can be reached by direct TGV high-speed train from
Paris, Lille, Strasbourg and Lyon. Nimes airport is served by only a
few flights each day; but the city is fifty miles from the large
airport at Marseille-Provence.
Nîmes, capital of the Gard
department, is a
popular tourist destination, notably on account of its Roman remains,
and its attractive old town.
Nimes' Maison Carrée - exceptionally well preserved Roman monument
First and foremost among the Roman remains are the
Carrée, the best preserved Roman
and the mighty
one of three large Roman arenas in the south of France. Apart
from these two major monuments of classical antiquity, Nimes has
several other Roman remains, in particular the Temple of Diana and Tour
Magne, a Roman tower that was once a part of the city's
fortifications, and now stands at the top of the Jardins de la
Fontaine, overlooking the town.
The Nimes arena
- though 2000 years old - is still used as a venue for events
today, including concerts and French bull-fighting, a version of the
Spanish tradition in which the bull is not killed.
list of Nimes' Roman remains would not be complete without a mention of
the imposing Pont du Gard (see Roman France),
one of the finest remaining Roman aqueducts,
ten miles to the northeast of the city. This remarkable structure
was built by the Romans to bring water to the city.
Apart from its Roman monuments, Nimes has an
and well preserved historic centre, with narrow streets and tree-lined
boulevards typical of the south of France. The park of the Jardins de
la Fontaine, laid out in 1745, is one of the oldest city parks in
France, and a delightful area of greenery, fountains and shade on the
edge of the old town. The cathedral of Notre Dame &
Castor partly dates back to the twelfth century, but was largely
rebuilt in later centuries - as were Nimes' other churches.
Nimes has several small museums, the most notable
are the Natural History museum, on the Boulevard Courbet, and
Archeological museum ; but both of these museums are in serious need of
Nimes is located in Languedoc
, one of the most popular tourist regions in Europe - but also close to
the border with Provence. Indeed, in classical times, Nimes and its
area were all part of Provence, and the classical heritage of the Nimes
area is part of an ensemble on either side of the Rhone .
In addition to the above-mentioned Pont du Gard, the area round Nimes
offers plenty more in the way of classical remains - including the
Roman Arena at Arles, and the magnificent Roman amphitheatre and
triumphal arch at Orange.
The mediaeval bastide of Aigues Mortes
The area is also rich in
historic monuments from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the most
notable of which ate the Saint Trophime church at Arles, the Papal Palace at
and the mediaeval bastide port city of Aigues Mortes, just southwest
of Nimes, from where the Crusaders set off for the Holy Land in the
Nimes is also a handy base for
discovering the beautiful natural landscapes of the south of France,
including the Cevennes National Park, to the north of Nimes, and the
wetlands of the Camargue
to the southeast of Nimes - a UNESCO biosphere reserve famous
its pink flamingos, its wild white horses, and aquatic wildlife.
Fifteen miles east of Nimes lie the twin towns of Tarascon and
Beaucaire, either side of the Rhone, with their mediaeval castles
standing guard over the river. This was the point at which the Roman
Via Domitia - the route from Italy to Spain, crossed the Rhone.
Beaucaire has an interesting troglodytic abbey, carved into the