NImes is located in southern France about halfway between Arles and Montpellier. The ancient Roman city lies along the main E-80 highway, which runs from the Spanish border in the west to the Italian border in the east and also lies along the high-speed TGV train line from Paris to Beziers.
Ancient Roman Buildings
The most popular and well known attraction in Nimes is the Roman Amphitheater. Built in the 1st century A.D., the circular structure is the most intact remaining example of a Roman-era arena left on earth. Smaller than the Roman Coliseum, the Arenes de Nimes has only two levels and seated up to 23,000 people. Entry fees are around 8 euros (around $11.50) as of the time of publication. La Maison Carre, or "the square house," is another well preserved Roman structure built in the 1st century A.D. in tribute to the grandsons of Emperor Augustus. While portions of the building have been restored, the structure remains true to its original design, materials and form. Entry fees cost 4.5 euros or around $6.50 at the time of publication.
Ancient Roman Ruins
As a former Roman city, Nimes is home to several ruins worth seeing. The ancient Gates to Nimes still stand in ruin along the Via Domitia toward the west and Spain. The structure was built around 15 B.C. and today consists of two large archways through which cars travel and two smaller archways through which people pass on foot. The Castellum is the junction box into which the ancient Roman aqueducts from Uzes brought fresh water to Nimes. The structure was built around 50 A.D. and is the point from which pipes would fan out to all corners of the city. The only other remaining Roman castellum in the world can be found in Pompeii. The Tour Magne was the ancient tower marking the location of an Imperial Roman stronghold. The Temple de Diane is a mysterious structure whose ancient purpose is unknown.
Nimes is home to a variety of public squares, or "places," with historical and cultural significance that make for a series of pleasant sightseeing areas or, when strung together, make for an entertaining stroll. They are open 24 hours and are free of charge. The Esplanade and its Pradier Fountain welcome visitors arriving by rail with a depiction of the spring of Nimes surrounded by rivers and an open garden. Place d'Horloge is home to the 500-year-old town clock. Place d'Assas celebrates the origins of Nimes with its life-giving spring and representative god. Place du Marche refers to Roman rule over Egypt with a Nile crocodile and a military mural. The well manicured garden-like Square de la Coronne displays a sculpture of the French literary great Alphonse Daudet. Place du Chapitre has been rebuilt and serves as a meeting place in the summer months, and samples of period architecture are displayed around it.
Nimes hosts a collection of events each year. The annual Flamenco Festival takes place in January and presents both Spanish and local French dancers and musicians. The Biography Festival is also held in January and is a major literary event during which authors of the genre meet and greet and perform readings from their works. During one weekend in April, a reenactment of "The Roman Games" is held in the arena where a full recreation of the times takes place. Summers in Nimes are filled with events on an almost daily or nightly basis. With outdoor events such as the Garden Night Festival, "Thursdays in Nimes," the "Festival de Nimes," regularly held bullfights and their accompanying festivals, "A Film Director in Town" and the Artenim contemporary arts fest, Nimes is alive with culture and choices during the warmer months.
The Jardins de la Fontaine is a mid-19th century garden and park in which local breeds of plants and trees are displayed as are promenades for walking, benches for sitting and ponds for contemplation. The entire site is built atop ancient Roman ruins.
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