Nimes is one of the most overlooked destinations when we think of holidays in France, although it has been a very important geographical spot during centuries of history. So today we want to talk about Nimes and all the things you can visit and do in this beautiful town. Escape from the big city and the crowds of tourists that flood Paris, and visit Nimes in just a few hours by train with Renfe-SNCF en Coopération. A once-in-a-lifetime experience awaits for you to discover.
Nimes is the capital of the Gard department, and has existed since the 2nd century b.C. In Roman times, Nimes was called Nemausus and was a Roman colony, which was a privilege given to only to some cities. Nimes even became the capital of the Gallia Narbonensis province, which made her more important than Narbonne itself. This is main reason for which there are that many Roman monuments in Nimes. But after the Roman Empire disappeared, Nimes began to lose population and importance to other near cities. Nowadays, it is the perfect place to enjoy history and sunshine alike.
Views of Les Arenes
You simply cannot visit Nimes without seeing the Roman Amphitheatre or Les Arenes. This is the most important monument in Nimes and probably the best preserved Roman theatre, or coliseum, in the world. This is because when the Roman Empire disappeared, Les Arenes was used as a fortress, in which a whole neighbourhood was established. Nowadays, the theatre is used as a bullfighting ring, and for those who are interested in bullfighting, there is a Bullfighting Museum just next to Les Arenes.
The other important Roman must-visit in Nimes is the Maison Carrée (which translates to “Square House”). The Maison Carée used to be a Roman temple, but throughout the centuries it has served many purposes. This building has been used as town hall, church, consular house, or archive. This great number of uses has made possible the conservation of the Maison Carrée. Also, if you visit Nimes now, you will find a renewed building, restaurated using the artisanal techniques of Ancient Rome.
Old Town Nimes
The Jardins de la Fontaines, The Place de l'Horloge and The Saint Castor Cathedra - Daniel Villafruela, Wikimedia Commons
But there is much more than Roman ruins when you visit Nimes. This town has a splendid and very lively Old Quarter where you can see some of the Middle Ages monuments in Nimes. We recommend the Place de l’Horloge, where you can see one of the few civil clock towers, and the Saint Castor Cathedral, the most important medieval building in Nimes. Don’t try to figure out the style of the facade of this Cathedral. It has undergone so many restorations and rebuildings that now it represents the melting pot of all European architectonic styles.
Another must-visit in Nimes are the Jardins de la Fontaine. This was one of the first public parks in France when it was designed and built during the 18th century. It is situated over an ancient Roman shrine and the decoration all over the park is inspired in the Roman balustrades and statues. This is a favourite place for a lot of locals and foreigners that come to visit Nimes.
Contemporary buildings and Arts
Views of The Carrée d’Art and The Roman Maison Carrée
One of the best things of visiting Nimes is that you can see tradition and future live together, sometimes in the same place. This is what happens with the Roman Maison Carrée and the ultra-modern Carrée d’Art (“Square of Art”). Twenty centuries separate the construction of these two buildings, and now they stand next to each other, one made of stone and the other made of steel and glass.
The Carrée d’Art is one of the newest monuments in Nimes. It was designed by the famous architect Norman Foster, and it has many different functions. Inside this
must-visit in Nimes we can find a library, a mediathek, and a Contemporary Arts Museum. This is the place to be if you like new and futuristic works of art and activities. Also, you can climb to the terrace and enjoy the stunning views of the Maison Carrée and the marvellous contrast between old and new. Don’t forget to take a lot of pictures!
As you can see, there is a lot to do if you decide to visit Nimes. This city has protected its patrimony for more than 20 centuries so we can go there and see how humanity has evolved throughout history, everything and every age in one place.