CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Nîmes: an insider’s guide

PUBLISHED: 14:16 03 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:54 03 August 2018

Arènes de Nîmes ©Ville de Nîmes

Arènes de Nîmes ©Ville de Nîmes

Archant

The Romans did a lot for this lively city, so it’s only right that their efforts have been commemorated in a new museum. Here’s our guide to this culture-rich destination that has something for every member of the family.

Julius Caesar gets all the attention. The Roman emperor grabs the headlines with the Shakespeare play, the Mary Beard documentaries and the “Et tu, Brute?” But his great-nephew and heir was the original ‘honourable man’ and it is his legacy that is large across Nîmes. It is a devotion that is being highlighted this year with the opening of a major museum and the result of the city’s bid for Unesco World Heritage status.

Things to do in Nîmes

Arènes de Nîmes ©OT NîmesArènes de Nîmes ©OT Nîmes

Arènes de Nîmes: The stunning, twin-level cornerstone of the city with 2,000 years of history enveloped in its circular core. The Arènes de Nîmes has seen gladiators do battle in Roman times, served as a sanctuary for families during the Middle Ages and, more recently, hosted corridas de toros, the controversial tradition of bullfighting that finds a natural home amid its stone pillars. The bullfighting festivals, now held in May and September, were first popularised by Emperor Napoléon III, in the 1850s. During the era of the gladiators, now re-created each April at the Grands Jeux Romains re-enactments, the amphitheatre would hold 20,000 spectators, divided into four sections according to social status.

Musée de la Romanité ©Stephane RamillonMusée de la Romanité ©Stephane Ramillon

Musée de la Romanité: The city’s new star attraction, at least judging by the huge queues over the opening weekend in early June, is the €62 million Musée de la Romanité (Museum of Roman Civilisation). The modernist museum, located just opposite the amphitheatre, brings together the city’s 5,000-piece collection of Roman antiquities, with its four sections tracing the development of the settlement from the Iron Age, through the halcyon days of the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages, and concludes by considering the legacy of the Roman era. Some of the most striking exhibits are the frescoes and mosaics uncovered during archaeological excavations.

Maison Carrée ©OT NîmesMaison Carrée ©OT Nîmes

The Old Town: The former inner sanctum of the Roman old town was home to wealthy merchant families. Guided tours offer entry to some of these 16th- and 17th-century mansions normally closed to the public. Each retains its own secret. The Hôtel Meynier de Salinelles features Roman sculptures in the cold-stone courtyard which are thought to be from the 4th century AD. The Hôtel de Fontfroide houses a Gothic arch over a stone staircase dotted with zesty splashes of lemon trees. Shoppers on Rue de l’Aspic have little idea about the ancient treasures beyond these heavy-wood doors.

Hotels in Nîmes

Set in a grand Haussmann building, Appart’City Nîmes Arènes is a new apartment-style hotel offering a superb central location with everything in walking distance, plus kitchenette-style facilities. Doubles from €120, breakfast €14.90.

Maison Rousseau is a slightly eccentric guesthouse, built around a courtyard, with a dash of design charm and a sunny garden. Doubles from €105 including breakfast.

Restaurants in Nîmes

The pick of the options on Place d’Assas, L’Imprévu is a modern restaurant with a patio and terrace offering a good-value menu du jour (two courses €19). Shut Tue and Wed.

A friendly restaurant and wine bar on a lively street in the old town, Le Vintage is a good place to discover the joys of the café gourmand, an espresso served with a selection of small desserts. Mains around €16. Shut Sun.

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

More from Travel

Friday, December 7, 2018

These welcoming and wonderful Christmas markets are just a short trip across the Channel away, so what are you waiting for?

Read more
Thursday, December 6, 2018

When it’s cold outside, indulge your love of French food and drink at one of these stylish pop-ups and events closer to home

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Discover the Christmas delights of northern France with our top five Christmas markets in the region

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From lakeside jazz festivals to chestnut fairs, get stuck in with these events taking place across France in December 2018

Read more
Thursday, November 22, 2018

You can ditch the airport queues and long drives, and hit the rails instead, says Daniel Elkan. The French Alps has an abundance of ski resorts that suit families, easily accessed by train.

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Budget travellers can pay nothing to stay at bed and breakfasts around the world during Barter Week in exchange for manual, creative or teaching activities

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Find out when your favourite French ski resort opens and closes this year and start planning your ski trip to France

Read more
Winter trips
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Find out what events are taking place in France to commemorate the Armistice centenary.

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

The full route of the 2019 Tour de France was announced in Paris on 25 October

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

From hot air balloon gatherings to scallop festivals, there’s always something fun and unique going on in France in November

Read more
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now