The Provencal town of Nimes, France, about 65 mi/105 km northwest of Marseille, has an ancient past.
Among its historical landmarks are a well-preserved Roman arena, Les Arenes Nimes, which is one of southwest France's most impressive Roman ampitheaters. It was used to stage gladitorial competitions and executions, and it's still in use today for bullfights, serving as the center for the sport in France. Additionally, there is an Augustinian gate, the ruin of the Temple of Diana (in La Fontaine Gardens) and the Maison Carree (Square House—formerly a Roman temple), which was constructed around AD 5 to honor Emperor Augustus' two adopted sons.
The Carre d'Art, a building designed by Norman Foster, was built just across from the Maison Carree to house the municipal library as well as the collections of the Musee d'Art Contemporain, featuring art from the 1960s onward. The building also has a great rooftop restaurant..
Also visit the Museum of Antiquities (local historical exhibits). If the weather is clear, climb the Tour Magne—the view will make you feel as if all of southern France is at your feet.
Spend at least one night in the city.
Also not to be missed is the Pont du Gard, just 13 mi/21 km northeast of Nimes. It's a three-tiered aqueduct, 900 ft/275 m long with 35 precision-built arches. It was built around 19 BC to transport water from Uzes to Nimes. The nearby museum, Musee de la Romanite, provides some interesting context and history about the bridge.
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