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Nimes from the rooftops
Nimes from the rooftops | © Joshua Morley / Flickr
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How to Spend 24 Hours in Nîmes

Picture of Holly Howard
Updated: 15 May 2018
Nestled in the South of France, Nîmes is a Mediterranean city with a strong Roman heritage. Explore the city’s ancient ruins and much more within 24 hours.

Morning

Start the day at Kitchenette Food Store

A lazy breakfast to start your day in Nîmes is a must – you’re in the South of France after all. Now, since we’ve got a more traditional affair for dinner, Kitchenette Food Store is the perfect choice if you’re looking for something more than just a croissant and coffee – although those are quite tasty as well. Situated in the old town with a few chairs street-side and a sweet terrace out back, Kitchenette Food Store is open from 9am every day, except Sundays. The owners serve up authentic, healthy breakfast dishes at a reasonable price.

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Kitchenette Food Store in Montpellier | © Kitchenette Food Store

Explore Nîmes old town

One of the joys about 24 hours in Nîmes is that – unless you’re very unlucky – the weather should be balmy, if not crisp blue skies in winter. This is perfect ambling weather, which in an historic city like Nîmes gives you time to explore the charming streets and independent shops. Streets like Avenue du Général Perrier are great for shopping the French high-street brands, or you could try Rue de la Trésorerie for some independent stores. Head a couple of streets north and you’ll come to Porte Auguste, the first Roman road linking Italy to Spain, which is still incredibly in tact.

Pro tip: head to the south of the old town to see another of the old gates of the Roman city, Porte de France.

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Nîmes old town is delightful | © Mats Önnestam / Flickr

Pick up light lunch at Les Halles de Nîmes

The covered marketplaces in France are an institution. They’re where locals buy their morning bread, stock up on spices, fruits and vegetables, dine on the weekends, or stop for a morning espresso. Wander the aisles of Les Halles de Nîmes to taste flavours of the south, from regional produce to local delicacies. At lunchtimes and weekends especially, the small eateries in the market are buzzing with diners, although people are also shopping for ingredients to cook at home.

Pro tip: Lunch dining hours are quite set in France, usually between 12 – 2pm. To get a table make sure you head over to Les Halles as close to 12 as you can.

Afternoon

Walk off lunch in the Jardins de la Fontaine

Jardins de la Fontaine lies on the north-western edge of Nîmes‘ old town and is the perfect place to walk off whatever tasties you’ve indulged in at Les Halles. Dating back to the 17th century, this impressive park was designed by King Louis XV, who wanted the city’s many Roman ruins and ancient remains to be displayed in a natural setting. So the park is a bit of an oasis in the heart of the city, with sweeping plane trees reaching toward the sky, ancient sculptures, as well as pathways and staircases linking all the different corners. Don’t miss another Roman highlight; the Temple de Diane.

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Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes | © Alexandra Marshall / Flickr

La Tour Magne

At the north of Jardins de la Fontaine is La Tour Magne, an 18-metre watchtower that was once part of the Roman city wall. There are incredible views from the top of the tower – there is a fee to climb to the top – but also from its foot as the building sits on an elevated spot in the city. Approach the tower by foot through the park by car on the Rue de la Tour Magne.

Visit Maison Carrée

When you’ve descended back down into the centre of Nîmes, final stop before diner is the incredible Maison Carrée. This Roman temple boasts one of the best-preserved facades of its kind and is still as impressive and imposing today as ever before. At the back of the temple, visitors can watch a short history of the temple, which makes its preserved state that bit more amazing. If you’ve still got some time before kicking off the evening, then amble across the square to the Norman Foster-designed Carré d’Art-Musée d’art contemporain. This modern art museum couldn’t be better placed, sitting opposite such an historic site, a juxtaposition of the city, old and new.

Pro tip: The Carré d’Art-Musée contains quite an extensive bookshop if you’re keen on buying any reading material on what you’ve seen so far in Nîmes.

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The imposing Maison Carrée in Nimes | © Henri Sivonen / Flickr

Evening

Dine at the Brasserie Le Napoléon

There are many fantastic restaurants in Nîmes to choose from, but for a 24-hour stint we’d have to pick the historic Brasserie Le Napoléon as the place to dine. The brasserie ran from 1813 to 2014 with almost no interruption – only closing for two years for extensive renovations. The new styling shows respect for the building’s history and its splendour of years gone by with the Second Empire architecture, including mouldings, gilding, and large mirrors throughout. It is a real monument in Nîmes, and there’s not a better place to dine for your whirlwind date with the city.

Attend a concert at the historic Arènes de Nîmes

Don’t worry, we weren’t forgetting the most iconic landmark in Nîmes: its amphitheatre. Built around 70 AD and then later remodelled for bull fighting, this Roman amphitheatre is really one of a kind. Now this is time-dependent, of course, but if you can, the best way to view this incredible and historic monument is by attending one of the many concerts held in it throughout the year. You’ll be able to explore the arena on a guided tour in the daytime, too, but there is something magical about the concerts at the Arènes de Nîmes.

Pro tip: There is also the Feria de Nîmes – Spanish-style bullfighting – held each year some time in May, which is another way to view the amphitheatre.

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The historic amphitheatre in Nimes | © Wolfgang Staudt / Flickr

Have a drink on the Boulevard Victor Hugo

End your day on the Boulevard Victor Hugo, one of the bustling avenues in the city where the whole stretch is lined with cafe after cafe. It’s just a stone’s throw away from the arena and to be honest you’re in the south of France – so sit back with a glass of rosé in hand and watch the world saunter off into the night.