Nimes

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Insider tips: Planning a trip to Nîmes

Thomas Dowson is the founder of Archaeology Travel, a website for those seeking adventures in archaeology and history. As a professional archaeologist Thomas enjoys visiting archaeological and historical sites around the world. And sharing these experiences so that others can explore the world’s pasts more deeply. On his blog, you can find more information and all the details for planning a trip to Nîmes.

What should I do on my first trip to Nîmes?

Although Nîmes is well known for its Roman ruins, over the centuries it has developed into a city with a very rich and diverse cultural heritage. That said, top of my list of must see attractions, and there are many, is the Roman amphitheatre. Known locally as Arènes de Nîmes. As amphitheatres go, this is one of the best surviving of them all. It may not be as big as the Colosseum in Rome, but it is certainly as well preserved. An audio guide is included with your entry ticket, and leads you through tunnels to hidden places you probably would not find on your own.

What are some hidden gems to see in Nîmes?

Although not hidden as much as overlooked, the Tour Magne is well worth a visit. These are the ruins of a Roman tower built on the highest point in Nîmes. You will be hard pressed to miss it! Because it is a bit further out from the city centre, however, fewer visitors take the time to walk to the tower. For those that do, and climb the twisty but safe staircase to the top, there are wonderful views of the city before you. Walk via the gardens and you will see many ruins from the Roman era, some of which have been incorporated into more recent features.

How much time should I spend in Nîmes?

Of course you could stay more, or less, but three days is a good amount of time to see all the major attractions and more in Nîmes. It would take the better part of two days to explore the Roman attractions and the new Musée de la Romanité. There are a number of other museums and art galleries, the fine arts museum and the Carré d'Art with its impressive collection of contemporary art. With more than three days, Nîmes can be a suitable base for those with a car to explore further afield in this part of southern France.

What food is Nîmes known for?

There are two dishes that are well known to Nîmes, having been created by local chefs in the 19th century. They are Brandade de Morue (salted cod, poached in milk and served as a puree with olive oil and local truffles) and Nîmes Petit Pâté (a pastry stuffed with veal or pork and eaten hot). For anyone visiting in spring, you will not be able to escape the strawberries. Fraise de Nîmes, known throughout France as amongst the earliest in the year, have had protected geographic origins status since 2013.

What is the best way to get around Nîmes? 

Once in Nîmes, getting around the city is easy on foot. All the major attractions, museums and art galleries are within walking distance of each other. And although there are many hotels on the outskirts of the city, there are just as many, to suit all budgets in the city centre. Some of the other attractions nearby, such as Pont du Gard, require a car or public transport.

What are the best months to visit Nîmes?

During the summer months, June to August, Nîmes can get quite hot. Despite the heat it is also very busy. Even in August Nîmes is a popular tourist destination. There are far fewer tourists in spring and autumn. And this is when the temperatures during the day are much more comfortable, while the evenings are warm enough to enjoy a meal al fresco.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Nîmes has a wonderful collection of restaurants, offering cuisine from all around the world. The best place to look for restaurants and bars is in the city centre, particularly in the area between the amphitheatre and the Maison Carrée (the exquisitely preserved Roman temple). But don't stick to the main street - venture into the side streets and you will find many more restaurants to choose from.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping? 

Nîmes has a vibrant shopping scene, with a good range of luxury shops. If you are looking to buy local produce, for example the region is well known for olives and olive oil as well as fine wine, you should head to Les Halles. The covered food market in the city centre on Rue des Halles. Here you can not only buy fresh food to eat on the spot or take away, you can also buy local produce to take home as gifts.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Nîmes?

There are many good hotels in the city centre and on the outskirts, to suit all budgets. Those on the outskirts of the city will require a car or taxi to get into the centre. When I visit Nîmes I prefer to stay in the city centre. There are a number of good hotels just south of the amphitheatre. These are then within walking distance of all there is to see and do, as well as being close to the restaurant and bars for evening entertainment.

What are the best annual events in Nîmes? 

As the Roman amphitheatre is so well preserved, it is still used for a number of festivals and events throughout the year. For example, the Festival of Nîmes has been taking place since 1997, on dates throughout the summer - attracting international talent including Elton John, Radiohead and Metallica. The ancient arena also hosts the Great Roman Games - a reenactment spectacle for the whole family.

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What people are saying about Nimes

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 48 reviews

Although it rained for the duration of our tour, we'd a thoroughly enjoyable tour. Our tour guide was very sociable and informative. I would like to suggest that some form of step should be provided to enable the less able to climb into your minibus. Having booked tickets to enable us to jump the queue, there wasn't any queue. I feel that this was an unnecessary additional charge and as such the difference should be paid back to us together with compensation for misguided information.

Our guide was just amazing, his name was Djilani!! Luxury BWM, very nice, clean and pristine. He was wonderful and from the moment we met him we knew we were going to have a great time. I would highly recommend him as we did another today, also very nice but it was a different type of tour.

Marc was very personable and informative and kept the tour at a nice pace; so much better than an audio tour! We even took up his recommendation to walk across the Rhône to the abbey and gardens in the afternoon.

Excellent tour for those who have very little time to discover these gorgeous sites

Great trip. Could have used a bit more aT pont du Gard but Aubrey e will go back