The French equivalent of Rome, Nîmes is home to impressive ancient sites rivaling those in neighboring Italy.
On our quick afternoon stop-over en route to Nice, we did a whirlwind tour of Nîmes. We were surprised that such a small town had so many historical landmarks. The first site we visited was the Arena of Nîmes, a massive amphitheater dating back to 70AD. With its well-preserved exterior, we found it equally as impressive as the Colosseum in Rome. The nearby Maison Carrée (Square House) is another remarkable site, considered the most intact ancient temple of the former Roman Empire.
Wandering further, we visited the Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens of the Fountain), one of the original city parks in France. We strolled among its beautiful gardens, stone statues and bubbling fountains. Hiking up the Tour Magne (Great Tower), we took in stunning views of the city. Built in 1st century BC, the former watch tower is the oldest Roman site in Nîmes.
The city’s official symbol, the palm tree and crocodile, is a surprise that unexpectedly pops up all over town.
We discovered the unique icon on gates, fountains and countless street bollards. Over 2,000 years ago, Nîmes minted the iconic image on a coin to celebrate the Romans’ victory over Egypt. To this day, it remains.
People often overlook Nîmes since it’s not on the primary tourist route. But even for a few short hours, we enjoyed exploring the rich history of this small, mighty town.