Nîmes and the world-famous amphitheatre Les Arènes

Nîmes is the capital of the Gard, one of the departments of Languedoc-Roussillon in the Occitanie region. Nîmes is located between the Cévennes and the Camargue on the Rhône with its wild horses and pink flamingos. The Mediterranean Sea is 50km away. Nîmes is a popular place to visit and is also called "The French Rome" seen as it was the most important city in Gaul at the time. Many remains from this period are still visible such as the; Amphitheater Les Arènes, Maison Carré and Tour Magne. The famous Unesco monument Pont du Gard which is part of the aqueduct that supplied Nîmes with water is located only 25km away. Porte d'Auguste belonged to the old ramparts from the year 15 BC. In the Middle Ages, Nîmes was a prosperous textile city. The fabric "denim" comes from "de Nîmes". The houses in the old town with the narrow streets and cozy squares such as Place du Marché and Place du Chapitre were also built during that time. You will find shops, boutiques and cozy terraces where you can enjoy regional dishes. Enjoy a beautiful view of the city from the panoramic terrace on Rue de la République.

Amphitheater with Colosseum

The famous Colosseum in Rome has served as a model for the construction of many other arenas, of which most have largely or completely disappeared. This is not the case for the amphitheatre in Nîmes, which was built 20 years after the Colosseum, around 100 AD, and which is very similar to the arena of Arles. The Unesco monument is one of the best-preserved arenas from Roman times, which is why many want to visit it during their holidays in France. It is the most popular attraction in Nîmes. The imposing oval structure is 133m long and 101m wide. The arena itself is 69 by 38 meters. Approximately 24,000 visitors could be seated in the stands. The 21m high façade has a total of 120 arches on 2 levels. There are Tuscan pilasters on the ground floor and Tuscan columns on pedestals with a cornice on top and the remains of the attic on the first floor. The spectators sat in 24 rows, depending on their social class. Admission was free so that both the rich and poor could enjoy the spectacle.

El Nimeno II

There is a statue of the bullfighter El Nimeno II on the square in front of the arena. He is France's most famous matador who performed in a large number of arenas in France, Spain and Latin American countries. His career was internationally renowned. Especially his performance in 1989 was spectacular when he competed with 6 bulls. During a performance in Arles on September 10, 1989, he was seriously injured. After being in coma and rehabilitation for a long period, it turned out that he would never be able to perform in the arena again.

Arena of Nîmes

Originally, the arena of Nîmes was intended for gladiatorial fights, horse races and other performances. It served for the entertainment of the people and to express the power of the emperor. In the 5th century, the Visigoths turned it into a fortress and in the Middle Ages it became a fortified fortress with houses, churches and a castle so that it could serve as a shelter for the citizens in case of danger. In the 19th century, the complex was restored, removing all houses and other additions and returning them to their original state. Now it hosts all kinds of cultural events, concerts and the occasional bullfight. The Festival of Nîmes and the Roman games take place there. It can accommodate about 13,000 visitors. When there are no shows or events on, it is completely open to the public. You can take a guided audio tour through the arena which will take you back in history and give you an impression of life during the heyday of the Roman Empire.

Maison Carrée

The Unesco monument Maison Carrée is located near the arena and is a reflection of the temples of Apollo and Mars in Rome. It is the only Roman temple that has been fully preserved and built at the beginning of the Common Era as part of the veneration of the emperor and symbol of his divine power. It was probably dedicated to the grandsons of Emperor Augustus "the Princes of Youth". Originally, it was part of the Roman Forum: the centre of religious, political, economic and social life at the time. The temple has a colonnade with beautiful decorations and an enclosed "cella" area that now houses exhibitions and a film about the history of Nîmes. This structure inspired Napoleon to build La Madeleine in Paris. Maison Carrée means "square house", however with its dimensions of 26m long and 15m wide, it is actually not a square but a rectangle. In old French, "carrée" also means "rectangle".

Festival of Nîmes

During the summer months, festivals and events with theater, dance and music are organized in many large towns in France. The south of France in particular is known for its many festivals. Nîmes has hosted the famous Festival of Nîmes since 1997 in the arena with rock and modern music concerts. If you are a fan of this type of music and you are on holiday in this part of France in June, we recommend visiting one of the many concerts. This year, 2024, some examples of  artists that will be performing are Ninho on the 6th of July 2024, SCH on June 28, 2024, Bigflo et Oli, Patrick Bruel, Slimane, Shaka Ponk, Macklemore, Eric Clapton, the well-known British guitarist who will be celebrating 60 years in music on May 31, 2024, The Offspring, Dadju & Tayc, Simple Minds and Patti Smith,  but also PLK and Dua Lipa. Every year, the arena is packed with thousands of visitors who come to Nîmes from different parts of France, Spain, Italy and other countries. The program covers many different musical styles, so there will be something for everyone.

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Fountain Gardens

On the Cavalierhill in the old town of Nîmes lies the "Jardins de la Fontaine", one of the first urban parks in Europe. The Nemausus Well is located in this park. This is the source around which Nîmes was born. The Romans built thermal baths at this spring. Because there was not enough water for the growing city, an aqueduct was built via the Pont du Gard. The Temple de Diane from the second century is located on the edge of the park.  At the top of the mountain is the Tour Magne, the only remnant of the Roman wall which originally had 60 towers. From this tower you have a beautiful view of the city. In 1745, Louis XV commissioned Philippe Mareschal to create a beautiful park on this site. The results is a garden with fountains and ponds that are geometrically arranged. In June and July the "Nuits des jardins", with all kinds of concerts and performances, are held here. Another famous fountain in the city is Fontaine Pradier.

Museums in Nîmes

Musée de la Romanité – In the futuristic building opposite the arena, you can see the history of the region and its Roman past through more than 5,000 objects. This museum is also home to Mosaïque de Penthée, a mosaic from the 2nd century and a reconstruction of a Roman villa.
Musée des Beaux-Arts – A building built in 1907 with a unique Roman floor mosaic called "The Wedding of Admetus", houses a collection of ancient and modern paintings and sculptures.
Musée d'Histoire Naturelle – This museum is housed in an old Jesuit church with a monastery. In the field of natural sciences and humanities, there are exhibitions on prehistory, ethnography and zoology.
Musée du Vieux Nîmes – See the history of the people of Nîmes, the traditions and the costumes. The museum is housed in the 17th century bishop's palace.
Musée des Cultures Taurines – This museum focusses on a very specific subject: bullfights. This museum will teach you all about the bulls, the way of fighting, and the difference between gladiators, matadors and toreadores.

Parties and events

Feria of Nîmes – Since 1952, the Pentecost Feria has been held in May or June and the Féria des Vendanges in September. These both are a big folk festivals with brass band and music, concerts and performances. The most important part of these festivals are the bullfights which are held in forms such as, the encierros (containment) and abrivados (accompaniment).
Grands Jeux Romains – Every summer, the arena hosts the Roman Games which is when all kinds of performances based on the period of Julius Caesar are organised. More than 500 extras re-enact the Roman legionnaires and the imperial court. There are also gladiator fights and races with established cars. Every year there is a different theme. All kinds of demonstrations are given in the streets of Nîmes. On the Place Gabriel Peri, a Gallic village has been recreated where workshops are given. In the evening, there is a banquet with a Gallo-Roman menu.
Jeudis de Nîmes – In July and August, there is a market and live music every Thursday evening in the old town of Nîmes.
Nuits des Jardins – Concerts at the Jardins de la Fontaine in June and July
Festival of Nîmes – Music festival at the arena in July.
Flamenco Festival – This takes place in January.

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