Nîmes is my heart’s city. I have spent there all my adolescence and I would like to let you discover the town through my grown-up eyes. So let’s make a tour!
We will begin at the train station, because maybe you don’t have a car… The Nîmes train station is the terminus of the high-speed line coming from Paris. This is why the connection between Nîmes and Montpellier is so long by train even if you stay in the same TGV!
To leave the train station with direction city center, go up the Avenue Feuchère. You will find plenty of bus stops there but, as Nîmes is not too expanded, you can easily walk around. You are now arriving at the Charles de Gaulle Esplanade recently renovated and inaugurated on April 7, 2012. The aim of this project was to offer a free view straight to the Arena instead of a wall between the train station and the Ecusson (center). On your left, you can now see the Roman Arena appearing on the horizon.
The Roman Arena of Nîmes is the best-conserved one in all the Roman World. With its 133 meters length and 101 meters width, 25,000 persons could assist to the shows. The Arena is 21 meters high including two levels of 60 arches. Previously used for Gladiators’ fights and hunting wild animals, the amphitheater hosts today the prestigious bull fights and numerous events from national and international artists. The Bull Museum is not far away at the Rue Alexandre Ducros. If you are interested in learning more about the bullfight, read the information provided by the tourism office of Nîmes.
Then go around the Boulevard des Arènes, You can either visit the inside or go further through the Boulevard Victor Hugo. If you are interested you can also walk from there until the crossroad between the Rue Porte de France and the Rue de la République to see the Porte de France, one of the Roman gates to the city. Stop by the Café de la Bourse, if you want to take a break.
Going up the Boulevard Victor Hugo, you are seeing the Lycée Daudet on your left. This is the high-school where I studied! Built in the beginning of the 19th century, it was previously a hospital. Going further you will discover on your right a nice café, l’Olive, and then on your left, the church Saint-Paul built as well in the 19th century; the colored frescoes are from Hippolyte Flandrin.
Going up you will now arrive at the Place de la Maison Carré. On your left, the Carré d’Art, the Contemporary Art Museum designed by the famous British architect Lord Norman Foster, is facing the old temple. At the top of the building, you will find a bar and a nice view of the square.
The Maison Carré is a roman temple that overlooked the forum of the ancient city. The temple, just ilke the Arena, is extraordinarily preserved and was renovated between 2006 and 2010. When I was in high-school, during the lunch breaks, I used to hang with friends at the temple’s side. Now I prefer to watch the temple from the café Le carré with a Monaco or a glass of rosé wine. The tourism office is just there (6 rue Auguste).
Taking left at the Place d’Assas, you will see nice restaurants and maybe young skaters training and shooting videos. Turn right on the Rue Gaston Boissier and walk until the Quai de la Fontaine. On your left is the Imperator Concorde, a four stars hotel and also a very good restaurant. You can try a variation of different menus from 45 to 70 Euros per person.
Walking along the Quai de la Fontaine, you will arrive at the Jardins de la Fontaine. Designed by Mareschal and Dardaihon in the 18th century, the French-style garden encloses the Diane temple and at the top the Magne tower. The view over Nîmes from the top is remarkable. During the summer, I used to come here with friends to enjoy the sun or to have a few drinks, watching the tourists and meeting new people.
In the north of the city, going up the Rue du Fort, you can see the university, which is very close to the Castellum, the vestige of a 50-km aqueduct’s arrival point at the top of the Rue de la lampeze. Go down by the Rue Vaissette, turn left on Rue de la Baume and right onto Rue Porte d’Alès. On the third road on your left is the chapel Saint-Eugénie, which is the oldest religious building in town (built in 956 AC).
Visiting the north of the city or not you can join the Rue Auguste from the Quai de la Fontaine and turn left onto the Avenue Général Perrier. The “theme” of this street is shopping, from the highest to the lowest prices. Doing a bit of window-shopping, you will slowly arrive at the Coupole (shopping center) with the Halles on your left side. All week from 6.00 am to 01.30 pm, you can taste and buy local products. During the Féria, the Nîmois stay awake until 6.00 am to eat several oysters and drink white wine after having partied all night!
Going down the Avenue Général Perrier and the Rue Crémieux, you can turn left on the Rue Xavier Sigalon and then right on the Rue des Orangers and then follow the Passage Gerrain. On your left side, you can now admire the Porte August.
Going down the Boulevard Amiral Courbet, you will see the O’flaherty’s. In this pub they serve draught beers and snacks. They also have a pool table upstairs. I used to often go with my friends there. Turn right on the Rue Curaterie and turn left onto the Rue Saint-Castor. You are now arriving at the Place aux Herbes to enjoy the view of the cathedral Notre-Dame and Saint-Castor. I would advise you to have a drink on a terrace. You will maybe hear some music coming from the nearby music school, where I used to play cello a long time ago. The Museum of Old Nîmes is housed there.
Following the Rue de la Madeleine, you are joining the Place de l’Horloge, hosting the best bakery in town after the Halles, the Maison Villaret. Now you can go down the Rue de l’Aspic abounding of little boutiques. You will pass by the Private Mansions: L’Hôtel de Fontfroide (14 Rue de l’aspic) and L’Hôtel Meynier de Salinelles (8 Rue de l’aspic). At the end of the street, turning right after the Rue des Patins, you can stop by the Place du Marché and you are now only two steps from the Roman Arena and can enjoy your free time!
To discover more about the Roman history of Nîmes, do not miss the Archaeological Museum, 13 Boulevard Amiral Courbet.
As you may have already seen, the Nîmes Tourism Office has done a very good job and you will find a lot of useful information in their website translated to several languages, such as English, German, Japanese and Chinese. And if you are interested in booking accommodation in Nîmes, you should definitely visit Escargot Holiday travel website!