Known as the “La Rome Française,” Nîmes is one of the most beautiful old cities in France, you can find some of the best-preserved ancient monuments, and even though the whole city is affected by its history and old spirit, today, Nîmes is one of the most lively hip places in France and is also known for its charming festivals, concerts, and cultural events throughout the year.
The city attracts tourists from all around the world all year round because of the pleasant warm southern weather and the famous historical and cultural attractions.
Top 12 historical sites in Nîmes
In this article, we try to introduce the most popular historical sites of Nîmes, so if you are interested, keep reading to learn all about them.
- Maison Carrée
- Arènes de Nîmes
- Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain
- La Porte d’Auguste
- Jardins de la Fontaine
- Musée de la Romanité
- Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes
- Musée des Cultures Taurines
- Musée du Vieux Nîmes
- Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle
- Pont du Gard
- Place d’Assas
Maison Carrée, undoubtedly one of the most charming historical sites in the world, was built in the first century BCE during the roman empire and dedicated to Caius and Lucius Caesar by their father, Emperor Augustus. The architecture of the building was inspired by the temples of Apollo and Mars Ultor in Rome, and today, it is the only fully preserved Roman temple remaining in the world.
The Maison Carrée temple has undergone a lot of transformations over the years. It was at first used as a convent and, during the French revolution, became a state property. Most recently, it underwent renovations again and now serves as a museum, and the temple is now filled with presentations about the history of Nîmes.
Arènes de Nîmes
One of the most famous attractions of Nîmes city is the ancient Roman Amphitheater, Arènes de Nîmes, which dates back to the first century CE. Arènes de Nîmes is one of the biggest amphitheaters remaining from ancient times. It was designed to provide seating for 24000 visitors and was originally used to host gladiator shows.
Like most historical buildings, throughout history, the amphitheater has been transformed many times. It was used as a fortress in the 5th century and then a knight’s castle, but today the amphitheater is restored to its previous glory and purpose and is being used to hold festivals, concerts, and even cultural events like Les Grands Jeux Romains, which is a sports event inspired by ancient roman games like chariot racing and gladiatorial combats held during the spring.
Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain
Carré d’Art is a museum and a cultural center dedicated to celebrating contemporary art from around the world. The building was designed by modern architect Norman Foster and represented modern structure and style.
There are art workshops, art exhibitions, and several cultural events held at the Carré d’Art museum throughout the year. The museum also features a library dedicated to contemporary art and also has a partnership with the Centre Pompidou, which is one of the most important museums of France in Paris. Carré d’Art museum is open every day except Mondays.
La Porte d’Auguste
La Porte d’Auguste was built by and named after the Roman emperor, Emperor Augustus, in the first century BCE, he was the first emperor to fortify the town, and La Porte d’Auguste is the ancient entrance gate and the only part of the great Roman wall that used to surround Nîmes that remains from that time.
Jardins de la Fontaine
Jardins de la Fontaine was built in the 18th century and inspired by neo-classical style to add charm to the city, which is why the beautiful garden is filled with monumental vases and Baroque-style statues. The park is spread out over 15 hectares in the heart of Nîmes and contains several separate layers.
You can stroll around the park, and you will come across several ancient charms like the ruins of Temple De Diane from the roman era. On the summit of the gardens, you can see the Tour Magne, which remains from the ancient city’s defensive walls that used to surround and protect the city during the Roman empire. Jardins de la Fontaine was recognized by France’s Ministry of Culture as a ‘remarkable garden’ which shows that the dreamy gardens are also valuable pieces of the history and culture of France.
Musée de la Romanité
The Musée de la Romanité, or Museum of Roman history, was built in 2018 to celebrate 25 centuries of culture and history of the city of Nîmes. The post-modern building was designed by Elizabeth de Portzamparc and resembled a folded glass toga. The museum displays around 5000 pieces of archaeology from the prehistoric ages to the most recent findings and Gallo-Roman pieces.
The museum has an archaeological garden that features three levels which are meant to represent different historical eras of the city: pre-Roman, classical Roman, and post-Roman eras. But that’s not all! The museum also offers a rooftop terrace with a view of the city and a gift shop, a café, and a Michelin-starred brasserie restaurant. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays and also offers tour guides on Sundays and Saturdays.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nîmes is a fine arts museums open every day except Mondays. The building was built in 1907 in a Neo-classical style. The museum displays about 3600 pieces of art by different artists from all around the world, although the collection focuses on 16th and 17th-century paintings from Italian artists and 19th-century paintings from French artists.
You can see two statues by Henri Bouchard standing at the front door. One of the most important features of the museum is The Wedding of Admetus, which is a large ancient Roman mosaic piece from the second century AD located on the ground floor of the museum.
Musée des Cultures Taurines
This museum is dedicated to celebrating the culture of bullfighting. Bullfighting is an important part of Nîmes city’s culture and history, and Feria de Nîmes is a festival held every year dedicated to bullfighting in the Roman amphitheater, which is located just a few steps away from the Musée des Cultures Taurines. In this museum, you can find multiple pieces of history dedicated to bullfighting, from paintings to costumes, and you can learn all about the Spanish heritage and its history and relation to Nîmes.
Musée du Vieux Nîmes
Occupying the 17th-century Palais Episcopal, also known as the Bishop’s Palace, is the Musée du Vieux Nîmes. The building is recognized as a historical monument, and inside, you can find displays of Nîmes’ history from the Middle Ages to this day. The Musée du Vieux is open every day except Mondays and holidays, and you can visit the museum to see ancient everyday objects, pieces of art, crafts, and furnishing to get to know the culture of Nîmes a little better.
The museum is located at the Place aux Herbes, which is a popular local space with small cafés around the square where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and soak in the culture after a long day of sightseeing.
Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle
The main square of Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle is located steps away from the Nîmes station in the heart of the city. Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle is an urban garden, and in the heart of it, you can find the Fontaine Pradier built in 1851 by James Pradier and the female figure in the center of the fountain, which was supposed to represent the symbol of the city of Nîmes and the four watercourses around it which were supposed to represent the four main rivers of the city.
Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard was built in the 1st century AD, and it is the tallest aqueduct and the best-preserved bridge built by the Roman Emperor, Emperor Augustus’ son-in-law, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, to carry water to the city of Nîmes. The Pont du Gard is located near the city of Nîmes and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The structure has been restored many times throughout history and was used as a toll bridge across the valley after the Roman Empire’s collapse. Several artists and writers have been inspired and amazed by Pont du Gard throughout history, including Henry James, Joseph Méry, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Place d’Assas was created and built by the artist Martial Raysse in 1981. On the square, you can find two monumental heads carved out of marble that is supposed to represent Nemausa and Nemausus. This spot is surrounded by chic bars and restaurants, and you can enjoy a pleasant evening in the beautiful atmosphere.