4 experiences, 4 aspirations
- The sport experience: amazing sports for extraordinary play
- The historical experience: a rare heritage handed down from Roman times, so you can immerse yourself in the past
- The nature experience: landscapes of surprising diversity only a few dozen kilometres apart
- The epicurean experience: culinary specialties, Michelin-starred restaurants, wine, olive groves, Camargue rice… There’s taste and quality here!
PUT ON YOUR HIKING BOOTS!
Nîmes Métropole has developed an app that helps you plan your hikes through the area, based on criteria you’ve defined (trail times, level, etc.). On foot, on horseback or by bike – there are dozens of trails waiting for you!
5 great reasons to visit Nîmes and its surroundings
- At the heart of Roman tradition, monuments that still have a vibrant public life.
- At the crossroads of the wilds of the Cévennes and the Camargue
- Festivals in all seasons
- Rich culinary traditions with authentic flavours
- Activities throughout the entire area
Whatever your skill or inclination, the Nîmes region offers you invigorating activities in extraordinary settings.
This short list reflects this: it will be good not only for your body, but for your mind, too…
ON THE GREEN
What other city can give you two golf courses as different as Vacquerolles and Nîmes Campagne ? None. These 2 radically different courses, one in the city and the other in the country, let you practice every aspect of the game in a single visit to the area…A dream come true!
True to its Camargue identity, the Nîmes region loves horses. This also shows in its racecourse , which organises not only flat and harness races, but events throughout the year as well, including for children…
Several equestrian centres dot the Nîmes Metropolitan area, so you can explore the wonders of Vaunage or the Cévenol foothills.
In La Calmette or in Lédenon, hear how the engines roar: the go-karting and car racing circuits invite you here to feel the thrill! The circuit in Lédenon is famous for being the most technical racing circuit in France!
GREEN LANES AND HIKES GALORE
From Caveirac to Sommières, the Green Lane stretches over 22 km through stunning surroundings in the heart of the Vaunage, perfect for excursions on bike, on foot, on rollerblades, or for people with reduced mobility.
On adventurous Sunday mornings, you can hit our mountain bike trails found throughout the area!
Russan offers rock climbing routes for seasoned amateurs. There are close to 200 open routes*, which should help you scale up your skills. This majestic site overlooks the Gardon, but beware of the intense heat: this natural cirque is well sheltered from the wind, and hot as an oven during the summer…Opt to go in mild weather!
*Beware: there are routes for all levels, but please ask for information beforehand.
GO WITH THE FLOW…
Have fun with water sports: recreational boat rentals in the southern part of the area for exploring the flora and fauna of the Camargue.
It’s easy, you don’t even need a licence or a permit. All it takes is an introductory lesson, and anchors aweigh! Further north, you can go river fishing in the Vistre or in the small streams that crisscross the area.
Or even go kayaking on the Gardon gorges, passing under the imposing Saint Nicolas Bridge, which you can visit when you go on the historical experience!
A little-known experience: water wasn’t always used for sports! In the 18th century, dyers used the water flowing through the city of Nîmes, especially on the Littré islet, which was once the dyer’s district.
The heart and soul of Nîmes, the arena , is the best-preserved amphitheatre in the Roman world today. It was built at the end of the 1st century AD, originally to host gladiator fights. During the Middle Ages, the area was converted into a fortified stronghold, a full-fledged village with two chapels and 200 houses…
The arena has been a recognised historical monument since 1840, and now hosts concerts, historical re-enactments and bullfights that delight audiences: the amphitheatre is an exceptional, yet easily accessible, monument.
The Castellum is the point of departure or arrival of the Aqueduct, which carries water from the Pont du Gard to Nîmes.
You will find similar evidence of our Roman heritage throughout the area.
A noria originally referred to a hydraulic machine that lifted water using energy produced by currents, thus irrigating subsistence crops and supplying aqueducts with water.
A capitelle is a structure of dry stone, that is, without mortar, that served as a temporary shelter for small landowners, their tools and crops in the old garrigues in the cities of the Gard department.
Milestones, for example, punctuate the Nîmes Metropolitan area. Similar to our mile markers, these distance markers use paces as their unit of measurement, with every thousand steps measuring 1481.5 metres. Their appearance changed with emperors and the times: in addition to indicating distance, the milestones were now marked with letters denoting the name of the emperor that funded its placement.
Heading to the eastern part of the area, in Sernhac, you’ll find two tunnels: the Perrotte tunnel and the Cantarelles tunnel, located on both sides in a dale: the Escaunes.
The tunnels skirt around an Ancient quarry, so as not to cross through it. They protected the aqueduct like sheathings over electric wires.
These all but hidden treasures were built during the early AD years.
This encapsulates the spirit of our area: passing on our heritage with care and moderation, without ever altering it.
THE EDIFYING MIDDLE AGES
Continue to follow the thread of our history, and you’ll begin encountering Mediaeval castles and manuscripts!
The Abbey of Saint-Gilles, which you’ll find in the marvellous UNESCO experience!
This edifice is the abbey church of the old Benedictine monestery in Saint-Gilles in the Gard department. The Abbey is classified among the list of historic monuments of 1841. It has also been on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites since 1998, as part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Saint Nicolas Bridge is another staggering structure built in the 13th century.
Last but not least, the numerous castles and temples found in most municipalities speak to the rich history of the Nîmes region during the Middle Ages and leading up to the present day.
So, travel in time, from our Roman heritage to mediaeval structures, using our historical routes: Santiago de Compostela, Via Domitia, the Regordane way, Pope Urban V.
A secret experience: The Maison Carrée isn’t actually square (or “carrée”): in the 16th century, “carrée” simple meant a geometical shape with four right angles.
Discover the Abbey of Saint-Gilles in our area and explore the Pont du Gard, Arles, Orange, Avignon and the Cévennes, which are classified as UNESCO world heritage sites and less than an hour away by car.
Our area is the ideal home base for visiting UNESCO sites.
Our area’s heritage has been passed down through time, and so have the values associated with it – values from generations past…and those yet to come. With the UNESCO experience, the transmission of the local people’s knowledge and skills, the beauty of the landscape and its preservation can be shared all over the world.
World heritage or UNESCO world heritage designates a set of natural and cultural assets that hold exceptional value for our common human heritage. It has been updated every year since 1978 by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), a specialised agency of the United Nations. Through it, UNESCO promotes natural and cultural heritage.
THE MOST INTERNATIONAL: PONT DU GARD – 1985
The Pont du Gard was built around the 1st century AD to ensure the continuity of the Roman aqueduct that carried water from Uzès to Nîmes. 275 metres long and 50 metres high, the structure is remarkable from both a technical and artistic standpoint. It bears witness to the past, while being rooted in the present — thanks to the events organised here (games, tours, workshops, etc.) – and looking toward the future (digital shows and events). The Pont du Gard site connects with every era: while it provided an answer to the water provision needs of past generations, it is now frequented all year long by the current generation, who use it as a magical place of entertainment. Notwithstanding its immovable majesty, the combined actions of humans and nature have changed the Pont du Gard in the course of time.
THE MOST ROMAN: ARLES, ROMAN AND ROMANESQUE MONUMENTS
Arles provides an interesting example of an ancient city that adapted to mediaeval European civilisation. It has preserved some impressive Roman monuments – arenas, ancient theatre, cryptoporticus – including some of the oldest, dating back to the 1st century BCE. During the 4th century, it experienced a second golden age, as evidenced by the baths of Constantine and the Alyscamps necropolis.
During the 11th and 12th centuries, Arles once again became one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean world. The interior of Saint-Trophime, including its cloister, is one of the major monuments of Provençal Remanesque art. The Arles Amphitheatre, like the Arena of Nîmes, is used to host events. It has adapted to the modern world, while preserving its authenticity.
THE MOST EPISCOPAL:
THE HISTORIC CENTRE OF AVIGNON: PAPAL PALACE, EPISCOPAL ENSEMBLE AND AVIGNON BRIDGE
The Avignon Bridge connects two department and regions: Occitania and PACA Avignon was the papal seat during the 14th century, and was given to the city in the 19th century. The Papal Palace also offers visitors regular cultural activities throughout the year. It attracts 600,000 visitors a year. During the famous Avignon Festival, created by Jean Vilar in 1947, the historical centre attracts more than 200,000 people in a single month (July).
THE MOST THEATRICAL: ROMAN THEATRE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS AND THE “TRIUMPHAL ARCH OF ORANGE” – 1981
The “Triumphal arch of Orange” and its theatre were built during the Augustan age, between 10 – 25 AD. The Roman theatre of Orange, inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list and an exceptional remnant of Ancient Rome, is the best preserved theatre in Europe. Built at the beginning of the Christian era, it owes its fame to its remarkably well-preserved stage wall. Its location at the foot of the hill made it an element of the town’s defence.
Over time, it was overrun by houses and became a full-fledged residential quarter. It was not until the 19th century that the Roman theatre was revived as a place of performance. Today, the theatre receives tens of thousands of people every year for various summer events, including the famous Chorégies. As for the Arch, triumphal it wasn’t…seeing as triumphs were only celebrated in Rome. It was actually a commemorative city arch that served as gates to the city.
THE MOST DEEPLY-ROOTED IN THE AREA:
THE ABBEY OF SAINT-GILLES AS PART OF THE WAY OF SAINT JAMES – 1998
The abbey of Saint-Gilles was originally a Benedictine monestery, built in the 7th century AD. Located in Saint Gilles, the abbey has been classified as an historic monument in the list of 1841. It has also been on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites since 1998, as part of the pilgrimage route in France to Santiago de Compostela.
The abbey is an important place of pilgrimage. In addition to its facade, choir and spiral staircase, you should also visit the crypt. Its foundation and the tomb of Saint Gilles date back to the beginning of the 2nd millenium. It is believed to be the fourth most visited place of Christian pilgrimage at the time, after Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims from all over the world used to converge around the tomb to commemorate the life of the hermit 2.
THE MOST NATURE: THE CAUSSES AND CÉVENNES, MEDITERRANEAN AGRO-PASTORAL CULTURAL LANDSCAPE – 2011
The upland landscapes of the Causses have been shaped by agro-pastoralism for three millennia. The Causses and Cévennes are a mountainous landscape forged by agriculture and pastoralism. Tour the area, go for a hike, explore the richness and authenticity of Cévennes, which borders our area to the north and northwest.
A BIOSPHERE RESERVE PROMOTED BY UNESCO: GORGES DU GARDON
A biosphere reserve (BR) is a recognition by UNESCO of model regions that reconcile conservation of biodiversity with sustainable development, using research, education and awareness, and is part of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme. Although they are not a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Gorges du Gardon are highlighted for their biosphere reserves, which traverse our area, and this designates them as learning sites for sustainable development that aim to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with sustainable uses of natural resources.
Here, UNESCO sites come in all shapes and sizes. As you wander about, you will encounter them, echoes of this richness and diversity, a small piece of which you are bound to carry back home with you and share with others.
HIKING TO THE FOUR WINDS
Gard has hiking trails of international renown. They include the Way of Saint James and the Regordane Way, which in their own manner, celebrate faith and tolerance.
This is also true of the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail, which pays tribute to the British writer who, in 1878, created a type of ecotourism on his travels with a donkey in the Cévennes (which is also a book).
The Nîmes Metropolitan area offers more than 450 km of marked routes that you can take on foot, on horseback or even on mountain bike. Each trail has been carefully considered so as to give you the very best this land has to offer.
Want to walk? 4 trail maps are available for sale at the Tourist Office.
At the edge of Nîmes, you’ll find two equipped outdoor spaces. At Clos Gaillard and Espeisses Woods, you can admire the flora and fauna, as well as the dry stone heritage structures. The undaunted can let off steam there on Sunday morning jogs, surrounded by the intoxicating scent of garrigues.
A little further east of Nîmes, you can continue to trek along the 1.9 km route in the Combe des Bourguignons, discovering the remarkable dry stone houses that recount the tales of a bygone era. You can continue along other paths by inquiring at the Maison de la Garrigue and its olive tree ecomuseum.
The natural and cultural heritage here is as emblematic of the place as its historical heritage. We won’t claim to provide a comprehenisve list of places that Mother Nature has given you to discover, but here are some examples of places recognised by the State as being exceptional for their landscape, both unique and varied, and their preservation.
The Gardon Gorges, an important scenic site carved by the Gardon river, unfurl their languid meanders in a landscape of stunning beauty. The mountains of the Gardon gorges, a major historical and geological site in southern France, have been a “Grands sites de France *(1) since 2016. You will find a typically Mediterranean landscape (made up of garrigue, holm oaks, the Gardon river and cliffs) that is also a habitat for protected species, such as Egyptian vultures, Bonelli’s eagles and woodcock orchids.
The Grand Site de France label was created by the government in 2000 to ensure exemplary management of classified prominent sites with a large number of visitors. These sites are the focus of the Grands sites’ national policy.
The Grands Sites in Occitania is a group of major tourist attractions in the Occitania region. The label was launched by the former Midi-Pyrénées region in 2008.
The label focuses on four objectives:
- Promote these tourist sites on different scales: at local, regional, national and international levels.
- Encourage tourists to visit these sites.
- Prevent any disappointment by tourists over expectations left unmet by reality.
- Give tourists a taste of the Grand Sites, so they will want to visit others.
At present, there are 39 Grands Sites spread out over the entire regional area, including Nîmes-Pont Du Gard and more recently, Aigues Mortes-Camargue-Saint-Gilles in our area.
Then, come wander through the Dale of Escaunes in Sernhac, one of the entrance points into the Biosphere reserve*(2).
You can also explore the Bois de Lens in a series of walks (for a fee), a natural environment between the Gardon and the Vidourle that’s distinctive of Gard’s garrigues.
You might get a chance to learn the story of Saturnin Garimond! Saturnin GARIMOND (1914 – 1987) belonged to an old family in Fons Outre Gardon, the village where he lived his whole life. One of his great-grandmothers had been a nanny to novelist Alphonse DAUDET around 1840.
If you head further south, toward the Gard Camargue, also a “Grands Sites de France”*(1), you can walk along the Sentier du Cougourlier trail: climb atop the Escalassoun and take in the panoramic view of Gard Camargue and the splendid Scamandre ponds. This is an ideal route for families with children, who can discover the distinguished denizens of the rivers and lakes of Camargue: herons, ducks… For more information, visit the website of Gard Camargue.
A secret experience: The fairies’ cave (between the way of Alès and the way of Sauve). During the 18th century, this cave sheltered the faithful, who used to congregate for secret gatherings. This religious site was then walled up to prevent protestants from meeting there, and was reopened in the 19th century.
*(1) The Grands Sites de France network, created in 2000, now has 41 member Grands Sites, which attract close to 32 million visitors. It brings together sites that have been awarded the Grand Site de France label, as well as other sites that have committed to an approach of sustainable development in order to receive it.
*(2) The biosphere reserves, including the Gardon Gorges, are sites recognised by UNESCO within their MAB (Man and the biosphere) programme. Each biosphere reserve aims at becoming a model of sustainable development at the regional level by encouraging local actors, each in their respective fields, to take into consideration the relationship between human beings and the environment.
SERVING UP HAPPINESS!
Sunshine on a plate! Taste the many, assorted local specialties that are intensified by the uncommonly sunny climate.
YELLOW, THE COLOUR OF THE SUN
AOP olive oil is a pure delight for your taste buds! This premium product is extracted naturally, cold-pressed in mills from Gard. Its originality stems from its aromatic intensity, along with its famous pungency and bitterness.
GREEN, THE COLOUR OF NATURE
AOP olives of Nîmes. The mediterranean symbol par excellence, Nîmes olives come in local varieties with a firm and crisp flesh with a buttery, nutty flavour. They offer a feast of sensations that can not only be enjoyed with aperitifs, but also be cooked or prepared in a tapenade…
RED, THE COLOUR OF PASSION
Strawberries are the year’s first soil-grown fruits to appear in France, and the IGP Nîmes strawberry, or the Gariguette, can be found from mid-March until June. The Gariguette variety’s elongated, elegant shape is easily recognisable. These sun-soaked strawberries are widely appreciated by strawberry enthusiasts. Its open ground cultivation gives the fruit its distinctiveness – early ripening and its sweet-sour balance – that is associated with the land.
BLACK AND WHITE, THE COLOURS OF THE CAMARGUE
AOP bull meat. Since 1996, bull meat has been awarded the AOC, and later AOP, labels for the raising of the Raco di Biou breed, or the Camargue cattle. Bull meat is well-known as an excellent-quality meat with an assertive flavour. It can be enjoyed grilled or in a stew called bull gardianne, a typcially Camargue specialty. One of the specialties is Aigriade.
IGP rice. The rice is sown under a razor-thin level of water after mid-April, and the harvest begins at the end of September and continues until November. There are short-grain rice, long-grain rice, red and fragrant, and the black rice, which, although it takes much longer to cook, is very original…
Brandade. Comes from the past participle of the Provençal verb brander, which means “to stir”. The name of the speciality in Occitan is brandada de bacallá / brandada de bacalhau.
Brandade was born from the bartering between Breton fishermen, who were looking for salt to conserve their cod, and sellers of the “white gold”. Nîmes found itself on the salt route, in the middle of these exchanges. This is a dish made from dried and salted cod. This Nîmes speciality, created in Alès, spread throughout the Occitania region, from Languedoc to Liguria, by way of Provence and Roussillon, all the way down to Catalonia.
Here is a recipe for the Nîme brandade.
Basic ingredients: 800 g of salted cod, 1 litre of milk, 3 garlic cloves, 15 cl of cream, 20 cl of AOP Nîmes olive oil, white pepper.
You can also add lemon juice, garlic, parsley or other herbs and spices (thyme, bay leaf, onion, etc.).
• Nîme olives with aperitifs, plain or in a tapenade
• Bull gardianne with Camargue rice
• Olive oil-marinated pélardon cheese
• Nîmes strawberries
TO BE ENJOYED IN ALL ITS DIVERSITY!*
Enjoy this meal with a wine from the area – Costières de Nîmes, Côtes du Rhône, Coteaux du Languedoc, Pont du Gard or wine from Cévennes – to bring out the flavour of these terroir products.
Costières de Nîmes AOC wines belong to the great family of wines from the Rhone river valley. The Costières de Nîmes vineyards are some of the oldest in France: the wines produced here were enjoyed by the Greeks, and later the Romans. The soil is made up of siliceous pebbles rolled by the Rhône river. The sun, the Mistral and the moderate rainfall give these wines their very fruity flavour profiles.
Elegant, modern and aromatic reds, fresh and delicate whites, fruity and festive rosés…the Costières de Nîmes wines all share this southern character, a mark of their origins. It’s like they’re thumbing their noses at heavy, overpowering wines.
From quaffable wines to gastronomic wines, a wide aromatic selection awaits you here.
If you’re in need of advice or want to transform products into atypical local specialties, the area’s restaurateurs are ready to help, whether they have their heads in the stars (3 Michelin stars, to be exact) or in the terroir’s premium products. And if you’re looking for a good restaurant, ask the people from here: they all have their favourite spots – whether ritzy restaurant or small, almost secret, hole-in-the-wall – that make the food from this area shine…
* The abuse of alcohol is harmful to your health, so please drink responsibly.
A little-known experience: petits pâtés nîmois, little meat-filled pastries. It’s said that Alphonse Daudet loved them. The writer used to order them from his butcher in Nimes, who had them delivered to him in Paris. So, these little pastries nourished the musings at his literary gatherings. What’s the recipe? When were they invented? By whom? The petits pâtés nîmois, prepared by butchers or patissiers, are made of shortcrust pastry and a veal and pork filling.
It seems that Delcasso-Vernet, a baker-patissier, invented the petits pâtés nîmois at the end of the first decade of the 19th century, although some people claim that Charles Durand, in the 1820s, was the real inventor of this dish. Every artisan butcher or patissier has their own recipe and creates their own derivative versions: petit pâté à la brandade, à la gardianne, with foie gras, with truffles, à la tiella…