L’Ampitheatre de Nimes

Nimes, France – Capital de la campagne!

Roman splendour and laid back southern attitude

Clown In Nimes

Nimes, Gard Region, France is a sun-baked southern city with a hint of gypsy tradition, old Roman era streets, beautiful buildings and modern shops and conveniences. Nimes is home to the fabulous amphitheatre, the Roman era Maison Carree, and the fabulous Jardins de la fontaine. If you’re heading around Europe on your backpacking trip and are coming through France on the way to Spain or Italy, then Nimes should definitely be marked off for a visit on your itinerary.

This small French city is not as famous as nearby Avignon, or even Arles, and is often overlooked on many backpacking itineraries in favour of the coastal towns and cities along the Cote d’Azur. But for an amazing cultural experience, plenty to see and do, and for a real sense of the south of France, Nimes is the place to be.

Seeing Nimes – on a backpacking budget

The best thing about Nimes is that many of the great attractions that dot the city are in fact free to access. Those that require an entry fee are either very reasonable or easily photographed from the outside. The city is also remarkably compact, so you can stroll from the fabulous amphitheatre via the Maison Carree and on down through the Roman streets to the fabulous modern shops, which open out onto beautiful atmospheric squares, in next to no time. Once in the city, you’ll likely need to spend no money at all on internal travel, as the majority of attractions can be explored by foot. Here’s a list of some worth-visiting:

L’Ampitheatre de Nimes

Ampitheatre In Nimes

The fabulous Roman era Ampitheatre is one of the city’s (and region’s) most famous attractions. Situated on a busy road, the theatre, known by the locals as ‘les Arenes’, is highly impressive, and the restaurants surrounding the site on all sides provide an excellent viewing point. Inside, take in the site of the many bull fights that have taken place in the amphitheatre in the past two hundred years, and marvel at the interior. Plenty of shows are held here throughout the year, which provide some excellent atmosphere in the summer months. If you can’t stretch to the shows, or even the entrance fee of the interior then never fear. The site is just as impressive from the outside and makes for some excellent photo opportunities.

Maison Carree

Nimes Maison Carree

Situated not far from les Arenes is the fabulous Maison Carree. It is one of the best examples of a Roman Temple on earth and dates back to 16 BC. Thanks to its use as a Christian place of worship in later, the temple was never destroyed and remains to this day a fine example of Roman era architecture. Inside, there is a nice film, shown throughout the high season, about the Roman heroes who lived and fought in the area, but the Maison Carree is just as impressive from the outside, especially when you compare it with the nearby Carre D’Art, which is situated on the same square and provides an excellent contrast between the two buildings whose construction was 2 millennia apart. The square on which the Maison Carree sits has a few nice cafes and bars; beware though as they are pricey. Better to soak up the atmosphere a few streets away to save a few bob.

Jardins de la Fontaine

Another great free activity in Nimes is a trip to the Jardins de la Fontaine. First, why not pick up some bread, cheese and wine in a local supermarket (the prices are really reasonable compared to those in the UK, for example) and head to the park for a picnic.

The park itself was one of the first public parks to be created in Europe and is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive. It is a popular site for locals to stroll and relax, as well as a great location for wedding pictures. Young people come to spend the evening here and take in the views over the city whilst enjoying a nice bottle of wine and the company of their friends. Take in the ancient monuments, the fabulous Mediterranean garden, and the views from the hill over Nimes.

Carre D’Art

Those who are backpacking and love art and museums can head to the Carre D’art, which faces the Maison Carree and displays a number of interesting artefacts from the local area. Perhaps the most interesting part of the museum is in fact its design, initiated by Norman Foster and completed in 1993. A stunning blend of glass, metal and steel, the museum is a great contrast to the beautiful Maison Carree and a nod to the ancient history of the town of Nimes.

Other attractions in Nimes

The Temple of Diane is another excellent sight, as is the Porta Augusta and the Quais de la Fontaine which is the gorgeous embankment leading to the Jardins, and the Tour Magne. If you are backpacking in the area for a long period of time, then you should definitely check out the fabulous and world famous Pont De Gard viaduct which is about 20 kilometres from the city.