When I was choosing my next destination for a trip, I noticed cheap flights to Nîmes in France. I’d never heard of Nîmes, but the first thing that came up when googling was loads of photos of the Roman sites in Nîmes. That was enough to convince me to go! I loved learning about the Romans and can never get tired of visiting Roman ruins. I say ruins: most of the Roman sites in Nîmes are incredibly well-preserved and are some of the best I’ve visited! The ones in the city are all accessible by foot, while it’s easy to do a day trip to the Pont du Gard aqueduct via public transport.
As Nîmes is quite a small city, all the Roman sites are within walking distance of each other. There is a small tourist train that you can take, but I chose to walk to all of the locations. I would definitely recommend walking as the walk itself was lovely.
The Pass Romanité
As I wanted to visit all the Roman sites, it made sense for me to buy the Romanities Pass. This pass gives access to all three Roman sites in Nîmes, along with access to the Roman museum. It works out cheaper than buying individual tickets, and lasts for three days so you don’t have to rush.
You can buy a pass that doesn’t include the museum, but then you’d be missing out. I visited the museum last, after visiting all the other Roman sites. I would recommend doing it in that order so that you’ve already seen the places it talks about. You can of course visit it first which would give you more knowledge on the sites you visit.
The Maison Carré
The Maison Carré is an incredibly well preserved Roman temple and was my first visit of the day. The outside of the temple is absolutely stunning and in great condition. UNESCO just added it to their list of heritage sites in September 2023.
Unfortunately, the inside is rather disappointing. At the price to enter, I was expecting a lot more than a small room with some signs and the temple. If you didn’t choose to get the pass, then I’d recommend just looking at the outside then reading more about the history online. If you have the pass then you might as well go inside while you’re there. It was very empty when I visited so it felt very peaceful and I did enjoy reading all the signs. I’m the type of person that will read every single sign in a museum though, so if you’re not that person then it’s probably not for you as you’d be in and out in a few minutes!
One fact I thought was particularly interesting was the fact that it’s called the “Square House” even though it’s not square, or a house. This is because when it was named, they didn’t have a separate word for rectangle, and it was previously used as a residence.
Those that know me will know that despite disliking walking uphill, I always end climbing somewhere high for the views. Nîmes was no exception. The Tour Magne is located on top of a hill beside the Jardins de la Fountaine. It offers stunning views of the city, and is located in a beautiful park.
I don’t usually pay for panoramic view, but since I had the pass I figured it was worth a visit.
The walk up to the tower is quite tiring, but luckily there are plenty of benches to rest on at the top. The tower is quite narrow with a total of 140 steps. There is a big central staircase, then it narrows at the top for the last section. The climb is worth it, though, as once at the top, you can see across the whole city. At the base of the tower, there are a few signs explaining more of Nîmes Roman history.
Temple of Diana
In the Jardins de la Fountaine, there is another Roman site. Despite the name, there is no evidence linking it to Diana. It’s completely free to visit so if you are visiting the Tour Magne then you should definitely check it out too.
The gardens themselves are also a lovely area to wander round and just enjoy nature for a while. The fountain area is quite busy, but once you start making your way uphill towards the tower then it gets much quieter. I had the path to myself on the way up to the tower.
The Arena of Nîmes
The Arena is the most famous of the Roman sites in Nimes, located right in the centre of the city. It’s very well preserved and is still in use hosting music shows and bull fights.
Having visited the Colosseum and El Jem in Tunisia, I wasn’t sure whether it was worth visiting another amphitheatre. As I loved them both I decided I’d still visit, plus it was included in the pass! I’m really glad I visited because it was almost completely empty when I was there! I went during the last hour before they closed and had the place almost to myself. It was really relaxing to just wander round. You are able to explore nearly everywhere and I had a lot of fun just aimlessly choosing paths at random. I eventually made my way to the top then back down to go onto the floor of the arena.
There is also a small section that tells you a bit about the history of Roman entertainment, and a room about the history of bullfighting located nearby.
Have you visited the Roman sites in Nîmes? Which was your favourite? What other destinations would you recommend for Roman ruins?