The city of Nimes lies on the edge of Provence, it’s really in the Languedoc but culturally and visually it is Provencal. Nimes developed under the Romans and retains some remarkably well preserved Roman remains in its old centre, along with the thrust of the modern – star architects have given Nimes more than just the allure of the ancient. Of course for the visitor Nimes is also just 14 miles from the stunning Pont du Gard aqueduct.

Nimes has literally layer upon layer of history stretching back over 2000 years: a Celtic settlement built round a sacred spring was embellished by Roman general Agrippa in the second century BC; an 18th century army engineer built the Jardins de la Fontaine on top of the remains of a Roman temple, baths and theatre; in the 20th century, the Carré d’Art (the town library and contemporary art gallery) designed by Norman Foster, was built on the site of the Roman forum opposite the magnificent Roman temple, the Maison Carrée.  

It’s easy to visit the old town and principal monuments in a day, but Nimes is also a great base from which to explore the Camargue, Arles, the Pont du Gard, the Cévennes and even the beaches of the Mediterranean.

Nimes Gallery

Our Top Ten of Nimes’s best sights


  • Roman Amphitheatre (or les Arènes):  This extraordinarily well-preserved amphitheatre was constructed in the first century BC for hunting wild animals and gladiator fights. 133m (436ft) long by 101m (331ft) wide, it originally seated over 20,000 people. During the Middle Ages, it became a refuge for the town’s population and was filled with private houses until the beginning of the 19th century. It is now used for bullfights, festivals and concerts.
  • La Maison Carrée:  One of the best preserved Roman temples in the world. Its preservation is due to its having been in almost continuous use since the 11th century – amongst other things as stables, a private house, a church and a museum.
  • La Tour Magne:  The city’s highest point. Once part of the city wall, and there’s a lovely view from the top of the city roofs, Mont Ventoux and the Alpilles. Interesting multi-media table showing an overview of the city’s development.
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts:  The fine arts museum owns over 3,600 works including works by French, Flemish, Dutch and Italian painters.
  • Porte d’Auguste:  Ruined 1st century gates to the city where the Via Domitia arrived at the town. It still has the two wide passages for chariots and two narrower passages for pedestrians.

  • Jardins de la Fontaine:  Built around the original sacred spring, these gardens cover about 15 hectares (37 acres) in the centre of the town. Peaceful, with lots of shade and water, a formal 17th century garden, the Temple of Diana and a landscaped Mediterranean garden and, at the top of the hill, La Tour Magne. Designated a ‘remarkable garden’ by the Ministry of Culture.
  • Carré d’Art:  Contemporary art museum housed behind Norman Foster’s glass and chrome façade opposite the Maison Carrée. The permanent collection (over 400 works) focuses on the artistic movements that started in the South of France since the 1960s.
  • Les Halles:  A 3500m2 covered, air-conditioned market – open every day from 6am to 1.30pm – about 100 artisans and stallholders selling fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, meat, cheese, olives, bread, patisseries and a restaurant. Food doesn’t get much fresher than this.
  • Musée des Cultures Taurines:  next to the Amphitheatre, a museum which is unique in France, dedicated to bullfighting – part of the identity of the town.
  • Castellum:  A unique ruin. The remains of the Roman distribution tank from which water brought from Uzes (via the Pont du Gard) was distributed to the city through lead pipes.

Discover Nimes


Nimes Food

Brandade de Morue (creamy salt cod purée) is a speciality of Nimes. In the Middle Ages, Breton cod-fishermen traded their dried cod for the salt from the marshes around Aigues-Mortes which was essential for preserving their fish. It’s a delicious, thick purée of warm cod mixed slowly with olive oil and milk until it’s creamy. Amongst other things, it can also contain truffles or potatoes and might be accompanied by fried bread. You can buy it in jars but it’s best sampled freshly-made in a good restaurant.

Sweet Cévennes onions (l’oignon doux des Cévennes) Cultivated for two hundred years on the steep slopes of the Cévennes mountains, this sweet, crunchy onion is good raw (sliced on a tomato salad for example) or cooked (try baking it whole: drizzled with olive oil and wrapped loosely in tin foil, serve with salt from the Camargue). The ones actually from the Cévennes are designated ‘AOP’ (Protected Designation of Origin).

Cévennes honey: This honey is characteristic of the Cévennes flora. It can be either from a mixture of flowers or single varietal – for example, heather (bruyère), chestnut (châtaigner), raspberry (framboisier) or blackberry (ronces) – and it can be either light or dark in colour.

Salt from the Camargue: There have been sea salt pans in the Camargue since Roman times. Flat land, the salt from the sea, the sun and the Mistral (wind) make for ideal conditions. Both coarse and table salt are produced but the salt for gourmets is the ‘Fleur de Sel’, the thin layer of salt crystals which form on top of the pans in hot summer afternoons. It is harvested by hand and normally just sprinkled on top of food to give a delicious delicate crunch.

Camargue Rice: Rice has been cultivated in the Camargue since the 13th century. The most prized by foodies is the red variety, with its nutty flavour, perfect in a salad.

The covered market ‘Les Halles’: A 3500m2 covered, air-conditioned market – open every day from 6am to 1.30pm – about 100 artisans and stallholders selling fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, meat, cheese, olives, bread, patisseries and there’s even a restaurant. Food doesn’t get much fresher than this. 5 rue des Halles, 30000 Nimes.

Quand j’étais Petit Chocolat: Specialists in rare and unusual chocolate from all over the world.17 Rue des Marchands, 30000 Nimes.

L’Huilerie: Teas, sweets, spices, olive oil, honey, ‘brandade de morue’, tinned sardines… an ‘Ali Baba’s cavern’ of a deli. 10 rue des Marchands, 30000 Nimes.

Nimes Festivals & Events

The Roman Games, Les Arènes: 3 days (in April/May), bringing together 24,000 people in the arena to watch chariot races, gladiator fights, a reconstruction of an event in Roman history with up to 500 participants, as well as street events, Roman food and medicine, a Roman market and more – education and entertainment for all the family, THe city of Nimes states it is the ‘biggest living history event in the south of France’.

The Nimes Festival: Nimes annual music festival held in the Amphitheatre during June/July with international music stars.

A Film Director in Town Festival: In July/August the town plays tribute to a different film director each year. Films are shown on a giant outdoor screen in the Jardins de la Fontaine.

Bull fights (Corridas): Bullfights have been held in Nimes since 1811 and the first bullfight in the Roman amphitheatre was held in 1863. Nimes is passionate about bullfighting and holds major bullfights with international matadors during the Feria de Pentecôte (Whitsun) and the Feria des Vendanges (in September). Camargue bullfights take place May, September and October.

And if you’re in Nimes the off season, look out for the following:
The Flamenco Festival in January, the Nîmagine Craft Show in November and the Théâtre d’Images – light shows on monuments throughout the city in December.

Nimes Shopping

Summer Thursdays in Nimes: Every Thursday evening in July and August the streets and squares fill up with stalls selling arts and crafts and antiques to the sounds of live music (jazz, blues, flamenco, etc.)

The covered market ‘Les Halles’: A 3500m2 covered, air-conditioned market – open every day from 6am to 1.30pm – about 100 artisans and stallholders selling fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, meat, cheese, olives, bread, patisseries and there’s even a restaurant. 5 rue des Halles, 30000 Nimes.

Quand j’étais Petit Chocolat: Specialists in rare and unusual chocolate from all over the world.17 Rue des Marchands, 30000 Nimes.

L’Huilerie: Teas, sweets, spices, olive oil, honey, ‘brandade de morue’, tinned sardines… an ‘Ali Baba’s cavern’ of a deli. 10 rue des Marchands, 30000 Nimes.

Nimes Day Trips

The Pont du Gard: about 20km north east of the city, the Pont du Gard is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the wonders of the ancient world, this Roman aqueduct was built around 19BC to carry water 30 miles from a spring near Uzès to Nimes. A colossal feat of engineering, the three levels of arches rise to 49m/160ft, spanning the river Gardon. There is a modern visitor centre with a museum tracing the history and importance of the aqueduct and a 1.4km/0.8 mile trail through 15 acres of restored agricultural land to discover the Mediterranean landscape. There is also an educational museum with hands-on games for children aged 5-12.

The Pont du Gard by Kayak: The Gardon is a calm river and the trip from Colias to just below the Pont du Gard is about 8km (5 miles). Hire a 2, 3 or 4 person kayak from one of the rental companies and take your time. A bus will take you back to your car at the start. The high spot is floating under the majestic Pont du Gard, and don’t forget to pack a picnic to have on the way.

Uzès: A gem of a medieval town about 24km/15 miles from Nimes. Don’t miss the Place aux Herbes with its covered walkways and the 12th century Tour Fenestrelle (the Window Tower) – a round bell tower, unique in France, rising up six stories to 42m/138ft, each storey with its paired windows receding one above the other.

La Bambouseraie en Cévennes: A botanical garden largely dedicated to bamboos (about 50km/31 miles from Nimes). Created in 1856 by Eugène Mazel, a passionate botanist, it is a cool airy garden with an astonishing variety of bamboos and trees. There’s even a bamboo maze! It’s listed as a Historical Monument, and is one of the most beautiful gardens in France.
You can also visit the Bambouseraie on the Cévennes Steam Train: The train runs from Anduze via the Bambouseraie to St Jean du Gard (a journey of about 40 minutes one way). The 13km trip will take you through the valleys of the Gardon, over 5 viaducts and through 4 tunnels.

Nimes History

A short history

The town’s name came from the spring named after the water god Nemausus, around which a Celtic tribe built a sanctuary in the 6th century BC. By the second century BC it was a prosperous Roman colony town, founded by order of the Emperor Augustus, situated on the Via Domitia running from Spain to Rome.

In the Middle Ages the shrinking population took refuge in the Amphitheatre, using the 4 miles of Roman ramparts as an easy quarry. From about 1000 AD, trade picked up again as the permanent supply of water allowed tanners, dyers and sellers of cloth to set up business.

Nimes really made its name worldwide by inventing a fabric known as de Nimes (from Nimes), which was soon shortened to denim.

In the 20th century an ambitious urban renewal was started, involving international star architects such as Norman Foster, Kisho Kurokawa, Jean Nouvel and Philippe Starck. Which accounts for why you will see a Roman temple opposite the glass and chrome façade of the ‘Carré d’Art’ (the art square), which houses a contemporary art gallery and a library, designed by Norman Foster, on the site of the Roman forum.

Nimes Transport

Car: The principal monuments are all quite close together so we suggest you park your car in one of the central car parks, for example either Parking Halles or Parking de la Maison Carrée.

Train: Nimes train station is 6 minutes walk from the Amphitheatre (Les Arènes).
TGV (high-speed train station): 2h 50 min from Paris, 1h 20 min from Lyon, 1h from Marseille

Air: Nimes Alès Camargue Cévennes Airport (12 km/7.5 miles out of town). There is a shuttle bus to Nimes bus station (10 minutes walk to the Amphitheatre) – tickets can be purchased on the bus.
Other nearby airports: Marseille Provence and Montpellier Méditerranée

Bus station: adjoining the railway station.

Getting Around Nimes

Walking: All the key sites and monuments, houses and gardens are located in the city centre and the best way to visit them is on foot.

The Little Train: This 45-minute tour with commentary (in English and French) is a great way to start a trip to the city. It starts from the Amphitheatre, tickets available at the Tourist Office or on the Little Train.

The St James’ Way (Camino de Santiago/Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle): Nimes is on the St James’ Way. Pilgrims’ passports can be stamped at the Tourist Office, 6 rue Auguste.

Nimes For Kids

Nimes for kids and the young at heart


  • Les Arènes de Nimes (Amphitheatre):  
    There is an official app for smart devices, as well as a visioguide and an audioguide. For children they have a fun booklet at the entrance. There is an exhibition in the gladiators’ quarters and short films on training and combats.
  • Jardins de la Fontaine:   Shady, lots of space, lots of fountains. A great place to walk, picnic or jog close to the centre of the city. Climb up to the top of the Tour Magne.
  • La Maison Carrée:   22 minute film about the history of Nimes seen through the eyes of a Roman family. (The film is in French but has English sub-titles.) Every 30 minutes.
  • The Pont du Gard:   about 20km/14 miles north east of the city, the Pont du Gard is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the wonders of the ancient world, this Roman aqueduct was built around 19BC to carry water 50km/31 miles from a spring near Uzès to Nimes. A colossal feat of engineering, the three levels of arches rise to 49m/160ft spanning the river Gardon. There is a modern visitor centre with a museum tracing the history and importance of the aqueduct and a 1.4km/0.8 mile trail through 15 acres of restored agricultural land to discover the Mediterranean landscape. There is also an educational museum with hands-on games for children aged 5-12.
  • The Pont du Gard by Kayak:   The Gardon is a calm river and the trip from Colias to just below the Pont du Gard is about 8km. Hire a 2, 3 or 4 place kayak from one of the rental companies and take your time. A bus will take you back to your car at the start. The highspot is floating under the majestic Pont du Gard and don’t forget to pack a picnic to have on the way.
  • Crocodiles:  
    – Look for the four crocodiles hung above the staircase in the Town Hall – the first one arrived in Nimes in 1597! Followed by the others in 1671, 1692 and 1703.
    – There’s a positively lifelike one in the fountain in the Place du Marché (and he’s not chained to a palm tree!)
    – And just outside the old town, in Rue Notre Dame, architect Philippe Starck designed a contemporary bus shelter which reinterprets the crest of Nimes (the crocodile and the palm tree). The snaking line of small solid cubes represents the crocodile’s neck and tail and the large cube on four pillars represents its body. It was built in 1987.
  • Les Bois des Espiesses:   Less than 2km (just over a mile) from the centre of the city, 83 hectares (205 acres) of wooded area for picnics or letting off steam, with playgrounds for 4-6 and 6-12 year olds. (Get a map from the Tourist Office before you go.)

Nimes Culture

Nimes cultural highlights

  • Le Carré d’Art:   Nimes’s museum of contemporary art is housed behind Norman Foster’s glass and chrome façade opposite the Maison Carrée. The permanent collection (over 400 works) focuses on the artistic movements that started in the South of France since the 1960s (such as Nouveau Réalisme, Support-Surface and Figuration Libre). The museum also hosts temporary international level exhibitions.
  • Musée des Beaux Arts:   The fine arts museum holds over 3,600 works (paintings, engravings, drawings and sculptures). Re-imagined by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte in 1987, the two floors of exhibition rooms house Italian paintings from the 14th to 18th centuries, Flemish and Dutch paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as French paintings from the 17th to 20th centuries.
    The large Roman mosaic ‘The Wedding of Admetes’ on the ground floor was discovered at the site of the central covered market in the nineteenth century.
  • Musée Archeologique:   (CLOSED until 2018 when the collections will be transferred to the Museum of Romanity).
    One of the largest archaeological museums in France, the collections are housed in a 17th century former Jesuits’ College. Everyday objects form the basis of the Iron Age and Gallo-Roman collections. There is also a collection of Greek ceramics.
    Iron age and Gallo-Roman collections are dominant, with a host of everyday objects, including sigillated ceramics, bronze tableware, lamps, toilet and dress accessories and items related to various craft activities. The visit is completed by a collection of Greek ceramics.
  • Musée du Vieux Nimes: Housed in a 17th century former bishop’s palace, the museum tells the story of Nimes from the end of the Middle Ages to the present day. Everyday items and reconstituted 18th and 19th century interiors will help explain local traditions and daily life in Nimes over the centuries. The textile industry is an integral part of the city’s history and there are displays of 18th century Nimes’ shawls as well as a room devoted to Nimes’ own cloth: denim.
  • Musée des Cultures Taurines (Bullfighting Museum):   Due to its proximity to the Camargue, bulls have always been a part of Nimes’ identity and the permanent exhibition houses works of art and everyday objects illustrating regional and international bullfighting traditions. Nimes adopted Spanish bullfighting in the 19th century and now has a top level bullfighting ring – in the Amphitheatre. Temporary exhibitions are staged during the bullfighting festivals.
  • Museum without walls: Since 1985, Nimes has encouraged the installation of works of art in the city. Look for:
    • Place Hubert Rouger “Homage to Camus” by Bernard Pagès.
    • Avenue Carnot : monumental bus shelter in green marble by Philippe Starck.
    • Floor of the entry to Hôtel Rivet (the Art School) by Bernard Pagès.
    • The “Signal” by Takis in Place de la Calade.
    • The fountain in Place du Marché by Martial Raysse and Vito Tongiani.
    • Toni Grand’s “Twin Columns” in the courtyard of Hôtel Chouleur.
    • The development of Place d’Assas by Martial Raysse.
    • “Gaul”, a monumental sculpture commissioned by Carré d’Art from Ellsworth Kelly.List of principal monuments of Nimes:
  • La Maison Carrée: Built as part of the Roman forum and dedicated to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the adopted son and grandson of the Emperor Augustus, the Maison Carrée was inspired by the temples of Apollo and Mars Ultor in Rome. It’s 26 metres (85 feet) long, 15 metres (49 feet) wide and 17 metres (55 feet) high. One of the best preserved Roman temples in the world. Its preservation is due to its having been in almost continuous use since the 11th century – amongst other things as stables, a private house, a church and a museum. Inside the Maison Carrée you can watch a 22 minute film about the history of Nimes seen through the eyes of a Roman family. (The film is in French but has English sub-titles, and runs every 30 minutes.) The square was redesigned in 1993 by Sir Norman Forster, who designed the Carré d’Art opposite the Maison Carrée.
  • Roman Amphitheatre (or les Arènes): This extraordinarily well-preserved amphitheatre was constructed in the first century BC for hunting wild animals and gladiator fights. 133m (436ft) long by 101m (331ft) wide, it originally seated over 20,000 people. During the Middle Ages, it became a refuge for the town’s population and was filled with private houses until the beginning of the 19C. It is now used for bullfights, festivals and concerts.
  • Jardins de la Fontaine: Built around the original sacred spring, these gardens cover about 15 hectares (37 acres) in the centre of the town. Peaceful, with lots of shade and water, a formal 17th century garden, the Temple of Diana and a landscaped Mediterranean garden and, at the top of the hill, Le Tour Magne. Designated a ‘remarkable garden’ by the Ministry of Culture.
  • The Temple of Diana: The function and origin of the name of this ruined temple are unknown. It was probably linked to the imperial sanctuary. It was used as a Benedictine convent in the Middle Ages but destroyed during the French Wars of Religion.
  • La Tour Magne: The city’s highest point. Once part of a pre-Roman rampart, it was reinforced and raised during Augustus’s reign as part of the city’s defensive walls. There’s a lovely view from the top of the city roofs, Mont Ventoux and the Alpilles.
  • The Clock Tower: Standing in the central Place de l’Horloge, the current 31m-high tower dates from the mid 18th century. At the top is an elegant, cast-iron campanile housing the early 16th century bell.
  • Porte d’Auguste: Ruined 1st century gates to the city where the key Roman road connecting Italy and Spain – the Via Domitia – arrived at the town. It still has the two wide passages for chariots and two narrower passages for pedestrians.
  • Castellum: A unique ruin (one of only two of its kind in this condition left in the world – the other being in Pompeii), the Castellum is the remains of the Roman distribution tank, fed by water coming via the Pont du Gard aqueduct, from which water was distributed to the city of Nimes through lead pipes.