Nîmes is a natural hub for roads in the South of France and is linked to Marseille, Toulouse, Perpignan, Arles, Avignon, Valence and of course Lyon.

map nimes
Map showing location of Nîmes

Nîmes was a substantial Roman city located on the Via Domitia, the main trade route between Italy and Spain.  It followed the normal Roman layout in a grid pattern.    Its ramparts were 6 km long, and it had an aqueduct to bring its drinking water from the hills to the north.  Where this aqueduct crossed the River Gard, 20 km away from the city, is the location of the amazing Pont du Gard. 

maison carrée
La maison carrée

The Maison Carrée is a 4th century Roman temple, and is one of the most intact and best preserved examples in the Roman Empire.  

Over time it was used to stable horses, city offices, and a tourist office but today it has a museum and a bookshop.   Its seemingly perfect proportions inspired people like Thomas Jefferson to design buildings for the new republic of the United Sates in a similar style.  Although its name means “square house”, the building is actually rectangular!

les arenes
Les Arènes - the Roman amphitheatre

The incredible amphitheatre, “Les Arènes” is still in daily use, and dates from the second century CE.  It was used in filming “Gladiator” and originally would have hosted gladiatorial fights and executions.   It is over 130 metres in length and 101 metres in width and can seat over 20 000 people.  It has 34 tiers, and today it is used for concerts, bull fights and football matches. 

inside the arena
Inside the arena

It was designed so that everyone could have a full view of the whole arena.  The acoustics are amazing.  The Romans called the very effective system of tiers and corridors to access and leave the structure “vomitaria”; after events, the amphitheatre can spew forth tens of thousands of people and empty swiftly and efficiently through these, without queues building up. 

One of the vomitaria inside the arena.

The arrival of the Vandals, Visigoths and other tribes meant that the city underwent a long period of disruptive tribal warfare, and the later Muslim invasion resulted in much of the city being destroyed.  The amphitheatre provided homes for the locals, swiftly turning into a slum, and shelter for the local government, as well as building materials for those who couldn’t fit in. 

The later Middle Ages were also disastrous for the city, with religious wars, famine, invasion, epidemics, plague and massacres.  The French Revolution brought further catastrophes to the city and it was not until the restoration of the monarchy in 1815 that the city began to flourish once again. 

Fountain on the beautiful Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle in the city centre.

Nimes has a passion for bullfighting, and the Ferias of Nimes are a five day celebration during the Whitsun holiday.  Hundreds of thousands come into the city, hotels are booked out (often a year in advance), and everywhere there are little estaques selling wine. 

bull fight

There are a variety of different types of bullfight held in Les Arènes (the amphitheatre), from the Spanish type of Corridas which result in the killing of the bull, to the Landaise courses where people snatch cocards from the bulls’ horns.  

Grand parade
The Grand Parade into the arena.


Did you know?
Contact the Webmaster
Back to top