Nimes & the Camargue
This region in the centre of the French Mediterranean embodies the core of Roman heritage, with the famous Pont du Gard as its finest example. However not only this architectural miracle is worth a visit, but also the city of Nimes - sometimes known as the ‘French Rome’. The Arènes is well known for being the best preserved Roman arena outside Rome itself.
To the south of Nimes, the east of Montpellier and the west of Marseille lies the outstanding natural reserve of the Camargue. You have probably heard of the white horses and black bulls which come from this wild and watery area; add to this the pink flamingos set against the grey-green of the salt flats and the blue lagoons and this is the vibrant colour palette the Camargue offers the visitor. Enough of all the nature and wildlife? Visit the picturesque villages of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Aigues-Mortes.
Things to See & Do in Nimes & the Camargue
Cities & Villages
Arles is a wonderful town to visit, thanks to its charming small size. It makes for a great holiday base due to its central location, and its closeness to the Camargue National Park. But the most striking feature of Arles is without a doubt its impressive UNESCO collection of intact Roman heritage, one that would make its famous neighbour, Nimes, jealous.
- Nimes is an important historical site, known for one of the best preserved Roman Maison Carrée temples in the World. Other Roman sites include the amphitheatre and Temple to Diana.
Uzès is a peaceful but lively town, with lots to see and do. Uzès is traditionally associated with the production of serge, and possibly, along with the weavers of Nimes, Uzès invented denim ('de Nimes').
Sights and Attractions
- Arles has a number of Roman sites that are well worth a visit. The Amphitheatre is UNESCO listed site is undoubtedly one of Arles’ most popular tourist attractions. Built around 90 AD, this arena could seat up to 21 000 spectators who were drawn from far and beyond to watch the chariot races and gladiator games. Today it is used for plays and concerts during the summer months – a great experience!
- The Roman Theatre is next to the Ampitheatre in Arles. This half-moon shaped Roman Theatre was built at the end of the 1st century BC, and could hold 10 000 people. Although the theatre is not as well preserved as the Arena, it is definitely worth a visit. The theatre had a more civil use as it was built for plays, theatres and concerts – for which it is again used today.
- The Thermes de Constantine (thermal baths) are also to be found in Arles. Although no longer functioning as a Roman spa, the site is open to the public and the impressive remnants can be seen.
- Espace Van Gogh was originally built (and for a long time used) as the main hospital of Arles. It was here that Van Gogh was treated for the infamous “accident” that happened to his left ear his famous painting “Le Jardin de l’Hôtel de Dieu” was painted in the courtyard. Now it has been transformed into the library and also houses some exhibition spaces and a few shops and bars.
- The Pont du Gard is just 20km from Nimes. This spectular aquaduct was built to bring water from Uzès across the river Gard to the Roman garrison of Nimes. It is now a World Heritage Site visited by people from all over the world. It is also a great spot for a paddle and a photo opportunity.
Events and Festivals
- The Feria de Nimes is one of the best known festivals in this area. It celebrates the importance of bull-fighting to the town, fortunately, without ever seeing a bull. During this annual festival the streets come alive with music, bars and dancing. It is a lively affair, with a million visitors arriving over the Whitsun (Pentecost) period!
- The Festival of Nimes is an event for music lovers, where the town hosts some of the top bands in the world; 2019’s offering included Elton John, ZZ Top, Mark Knopfler, and Tears for Fears, with the 2021 line up expected to include The Gorillaz, The Black Eyed Peas, Sting and Deep Purple.
- The Nimes Roman Weekend takes place in spring and is a fascinating and fun-filled weekend taking you back in time, with a grand parade, gladiator fights, equestrian games and many other Roman-themed activities.
Outdoors & Activities for Families
- The Camargue is a vast natural reserve of salt lagoons and marshland. The Camargue has its own breed of horse, the Camarguais, which are always white or grey. As natives to this landscape they are adept at swimming across the canals and ditches that criss-cross the landscape. You are also likely to see flamingos here. With all the wildlife and open space it is a lovely place for walkers, cyclists and nature lovers and a world apart from the busier tourist centres and towns.
- The Fete Foraine in Uzes is a large fun fair that takes place every year, with a mix of thrilling and regular rides, classic fairground games, and fast food stands.
Markets and Shopping
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