A city and cradle of art and history, Nimes boasts an exceptional and extraordinarily well-preserved ancient heritage.
Also called the French Rome, it is located on the edge of the Mediterranean, in the Gard area: with the remains of the Roman Empire and its festive atmosphere, Nimes is one of the most visited cities in France and enjoys multiple cultural influences, ranging from the Camargue to Spain: you will be fascinated by this cultural richness, which is combined with a mild climate all year round.
Like many Occitan and Provençal towns, Nimes is also linked to the history of the Roman period. In fact, the town’s symbol is a crocodile chained to a palm tree, in honour of the legionnaires who fought alongside Caesar in the Nile campaign and settled here after the war.
The Arena of Nimes is a wonderful Roman amphitheatre dating back to 90 A.D., where gladiator shows were held to entertain the city’s population. In the Middle Ages, the Arena became a fortified district, a small hamlet comprising more than 200 houses, 2 churches and even a castle, becoming the emblem of the city with its streets and shops. Today, the arena hosts concerts, shows and even Roman games.
We recommend a guided tour at no extra charge, which takes place in July and August, 5 times a day from Monday to Friday. The visioguide , on the other hand, is an iPad mini to create total immersion, thanks to virtual images that reconstruct the architecture of the time in 3D. You will be able to admire the perfect symmetry of the oval shape and discover every secret of the structure: for example, that each portico served as an entrance or exit, to fill and empty the venue in record time. Or that to shelter the spectators from the sun, heat and bad weather, a gigantic tarp was stretched out to cover the 24,000 spectators.
Compared to the arenas, the Maison Carrée was a hexagonal Roman temple built at the beginning of the 1st century AD. Imposing at 26 m long and 17 m high, the structure enchants visitors with its surrounding Corinthian columns, the 15 steps to the vestibule and the inner room that served as a sanctuary. Over time, it has served multiple functions: consular house, canons’ house, stable, prefecture building, departmental archives store.
After its recent renovation, the monument now offers a cinema room: it shows a film entitled ‘Nemausus, the birth of Nimes’ every day in a continuous cycle.
The Musée de la Romanité is a building with contemporary architecture, which houses priceless Roman pieces: 5,000 works retracing 25 centuries of history await you with 65 multimedia devices, including immersive projections and interactive maps. On the one hand, you can take a journey through the centuries, thanks to the numerous collections of objects and mosaics from the excavations. On the other, you will have the opportunity to observe the history of Nimes through new technologies, which will transport you to another era.
With its futuristic, undulating façade, the museum creates a stark contrast to the Roman monuments in the city and is also a meeting place for citizens: it also houses a restaurant, a garden and a roof terrace, where it is pleasant to stroll around and admire the neighbourhood from above.
On the edge of the centre of Nimes, the Jardins de la Fontaine were built at the behest of Louis XV in 1745: today they are as appreciated for their flora as for their historical importance. In fact, they house two important ancient monuments of the city: the temple of Diana and the Magne Tower.
The ruins of the ancient temple of Diana are a very romantic corner of the garden and represent the strong Roman legacy left to the city. The Tower, on the other hand, is a Gallo-Roman building that was part of the Roman walls of Nimes.
The gardens of Nimes are among the most charming public parks in Europe and a must-see during a visit to the city.
After the flood of 1988, the city decided to revitalise the square around the Maison Carrée and build a public place that would be both a library and a modern art space. Architect Norman Foster took charge of the ambitious project: the result is a modern nine-storey steel, concrete and glass building that fits perfectly into its urban surroundings, playing with the shape of the old buildings and with light.
The galleries host temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists, a collection of 480 works and permanent exhibitions that are renewed every year according to the new theme chosen.
At 31 metres high, the Clock Tower is located in the historic city centre. It is interesting to visit because of its wrought-iron bell and its location in the heart of the city.
In fact, it is surrounded by a beautiful square with cafés, fountains and a bustling bustle of tourists and residents of Nimes.
Visiting a market is like stepping into the lives of its inhabitants. You will be amazed by the magnificent displays of delicious regional products, especially olives, sea bream or oysters, caught that morning and sold at the stalls a few hours later.
Don’t miss the experience of tasting the delicacies right on the spot, in the various gastronomic outlets serving freshly prepared local dishes such as brandade and cassoulet.
The Gambetta district is a very popular area of Nimes, which in recent years has turned into an open-air street art gallery: it is a must-see for all lovers of the genre, to the point that it has earned the name Little Berlin.
Graffiti artists and skateboarders have found their refuge here: strolling through the labyrinth of alleyways that hide behind the district’s main avenues, one can discover dozens of murals, painted by local and international artists, often created for the L’Expo de Ouf festival.
This area is located on the northern edge of Ecusson, the historical centre of Nimes, north of the Boulevard Gambetta: it can be reached on foot in 10 minutes from the Arena.
The most significant and colourful works can be found in:
The works change from year to year: some have become an integral part of the street furniture, while others are periodically replaced to make room for new ideas.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
The city of Nimes boasts a rich and varied museum scene. For those interested in visiting many museums and monuments, we recommend that you consider purchasing the Nimes City Pass.
This tourist card allows you to discover the entire cultural offer and tourist services at a privileged rate. You can choose a validity of 2 days, 4 days or 7 days, depending on your travel needs.
The Nimes City Pass offers free access to:
Finding a B&B or hotel in Nimes is fairly easy, although it is advisable to book in the high season and during the Feria de Nimes: during major events and in the summer, accommodation rates tend to rise sharply.
Nicknamed the shield, the historical centre of Nimes is the ideal place to explore the Roman monuments on foot. It is home to most of the city’s must-see attractions and has a quiet atmosphere, characterised by small bars and cosy restaurants.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for the true soul of Nimes, we recommend you find accommodation in La Placette, a small neighbourhood west of the Shield: this is the popular area of Nimes, with a strong gypsy identity. Here you can feel all the gypsy influences, to the sound of flamenco and bullfighting. It is a kind of small independent village, where everyone knows each other and where there are no tourist facilities.
Going further west is the Cadereau district, crossed by Avenue Jean Jaurès and Quai de la Fontaine. It is a residential area very close to the city centre, just a stone’s throw from the Jardins de la Fontaine: here prices are decidedly lower and the relaxed atmosphere is characterised by shopping shops, bars and restaurants of all kinds.
This ‘V’-shaped district is an ideal base for tourists travelling by train: the SNCF station of Nimes is located here.
The area has all the amenities and is a stone’s throw from the city centre. It is perfect for those who need to catch an early morning train without having to use public transport.
Nîmes is easy to reach by train or car as it is located on the Paris-Montpellier-Barcelona line and along the A9. Marseille Airport is definitely the closest airport to Nimes: once you land, you can rent a car to start your Occitania travel experience.
Nimes is also very well connected by the French rail network and the SNCF station is only a 5-minute walk from the Arena. The TGV MEDITERRANEANEE passes through Nimes: this means that the city is less than 3 hours from Paris, 55 minutes from Marseille, 1 hour 20 from Lyon.
For all other local journeys, take the TER regional trains.
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Nîmes is a town in the Occitania region in the south of France, between Avignon and Montpellier and about 20 km from the famous Pont du Gard.