713km (443 miles) S of Paris; 43km (27 miles) W of Avignon
Nîmes, originally Nemausus, is an extraordinarily rich city for Roman relics, with one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world plus a near-perfect Roman temple. During the reign of Caesar Augustus (27 B.C.–A.D. 14) Nîmes became an important city on the vital chariot route between Spain and Rome.
Like many cities, its fortunes waxed and waned particularly after Arles took over as the local capital. By 1860, the togas of Nîmes’ Roman citizenry had long given way to denim, the cloth de Nîmes. An Austrian immigrant to Nîmes, Levi Strauss, exported the heavy fabric to California to make into work pants for gold-rush prospectors. The rest, as they say, is history.
The city is more like Provence than Languedoc in feel. You might notice a touch of Pamplona, Spain, in the festivals of the corridas (bullfights) at the arena and the flamenco festivals. But Nîmes has also championed modern architecture; the latest contemporary building is the Musée de la Romanité opened in June 2018.