Nîmes- Home Of The Best Preserved Amphitheatre In The World
Back in 2013 we were travelling down to the Marseille in the South of France when we made a de-tour to the city of Nîmes, which has a rich history, dating back to the Roman Empire. Upon arrival in charming Nîmes the first thing you will spot is the Arènes de Nîmes, although smaller than Rome’s Colosseum it is every bit as spectacular, the amphitheatre in Nîmes is a testament to the skill and ingenuity of Roman architects.
Built in around the 1st or 2nd century AD the arena which is oval-shaped and two stories high, once seated 24,000 spectators and staged gladiatorial contests and public executions, and today it is still an impressive venue for gigs and events. (Depeche Mode were to perform a few days after our visit, which is why there is stage set-up in pics)
The Amphitheatre is open every day (except festival days).
January, February, November and December: 9.30a.m – 5 p.m
March and October: 9 a.m – 6 p.m
April, May and September: 9 a.m – 6.30 p.m
June: 9 a.m – 7 p.m
July and August: 9 a.m – 8 p.m
The ‘Free tour of the Amphitheatre’ (with audio guide) is € 10 per person, the audioguide provides context as you explore the arena, seating areas, stairwells and corridors (known to Romans as vomitories), and afterwards you can view replicas of gladiatorial armour and original bullfighters’ costumes in the museum.
Leaving the grand amphitheatre and walking down the Boulevard Victor Hugo you will be stopped in your tracks as you take notice of The Maison Carrée (built around 19 BC), it is one of the best-preserved Roman temples anywhere in the world. With huge columns wrapped all the way around the outside of the striking structure. Constructed in gleaming limestone around AD 5, this temple was built to honour Emperor Augustus’ two adopted sons. Translating to ‘Square House’ (although it is actually rectangular) today you can pay €6 to visit the inside and watch a 3D film about the birth of Nîmes, although if you are here on a short time like we were then the outside will suffice.
The Maison Carrée is open every day.
January, February, November and December: 10 a.m – 1 p.m / 2 – 4.30 p.m
March and October: 10 a.m – 6 p.m (closed from 1 to 2 p.m in October)
April, May and September: 10 a.m – 6.30 p.m
June: 10 a.m - 7 p.m
July and August: 9.30 a.m – 8 p.m
When the population of Nîmes began growing, they needed fresh water to supply the city’s baths, fountains and homes. The solution was to build an aqueduct that transported water from Fontaine d’Eure near Uzès. One particular portion of the aqueduct is famous for its height, engineering and beauty, and this is the Pont du Gard, found just 20km outside of Nîmes on the River Gardon. There is a visitor centre and museum with cafés overlooking the Roman structure.
Nîmes was an unexpected de-tour for us, as we had originally thought we would spend a few hours (breaking up the journey) at the famous Pont du Gard, however (in 2013) when we approached the car park we were told it was €18 to park the car, feeling deterred and knowing we wouldn’t be here long we decided it wasn’t worth the money. I believe since then pricing has changed and to visit the site it is only €8.50 pp.
We loved our little afternoon visiting Nîmes and its amphitheatre, then relaxing in the sun with a cold drink at one of the many cafés lining the atmospheric streets. We said at the time we would love to go back and also name drop it when saying what our favourite places are. We definitely recommend you to go, and indeed Shannon’s parents made sure they stopped off on their recent Europe road trip.