Nîmes Travel Guide
Nîmes has Roman monuments coming out of its ears. It is singularly the most Roman of all the cities in France, saturated with Roman relics and echoes of Roman culture. What's more, most of its Roman monuments and public buildings are in a remarkably good state of repair, having been in continual use over the centuries. The Roman amphitheater, for instance, built in about 50 BC, continues to be the principal venue for the town's festivals and major events; while the colonnaded Maison Carré, once a classical Roman temple, has in turns functioned as the town hall, a private home, a stable, a monastery, a church, the regional archives, and now a museum of antiquities. The nearby Pont du Gard, too, a fabulous, 2,000-year-old, three-tiered, arched Roman aqueduct that receives more than a million visitors each year, has been well preserved in its original state, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But besides its Roman heritage, Nîmes offers a fabulous mix of classical, medieval, Baroque as well as stunning modern architecture by the likes of Norman Foster, Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Kisho Kurokawa and Jean Nouvel, among others, along with first-class museums and the laid-back vibe of a typical south-of-France city – all of which combine to make this a hugely popular tourist destination.
Nîmes, capital of the Gard department, is situated in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.
Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes Airport is the city's main airport, connected via domestic carriers to select French cities; while Gare de Nîmes, the city central railway station, has rail links to Paris, Marseille, Montpellier, Narbonne, Toulouse, Perpignan and Figueras, Spain. When journeying by car, the A9 motorway connects Orange, Montpellier, Narbonne, and Perpignan to Nîmes, while the A64 links Arles and Salon-de-Provence to the city.
The main draws in Nîmes are of course Roman monuments, notably the elliptical Amphitheater where you can still watch a bullfight; the classical Maison Carré which houses the museum of antiquities; the ruins of Tour Magne, the "great tower"; and the fabulous, three-tier Roman span Pont du Gard, not quite in the city, but well worth the short detour to see. Other points of interest in Nîmes include the Romanesque-cum-Gothic Nîmes Cathedral which stands on the site of a Roman temple; and, among the city's modern architectural flourishes, Norman Foster's 1986 Carré d'art which houses a museum of modern art, Jean Nouvel's post-modern residential ensemble Nemausus, and Kisho Kurokawa's hemicyle-shaped building. Also try to visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes which has not only Roman antiquities but also some 3.600 works of art by old masters from the Italian, Flemish and Dutch movements as well as contemporary painters.
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