One of the most beautiful gardens in France, Jardin de la Fontaine ★★, at the end of quai de la Fontaine, was laid out in the 18th century, using the ruins of a Roman shrine as a centerpiece. It was planted with rows of chestnuts and elms, adorned with statuary and urns, and intersected by grottoes and canals. Within the garden are the ruined Temple of Diane and the remains of some Roman baths. Over the park, within a 10-minute walk north of the town center, is Mont Cavalier, a low, rocky hill on top of which rises the sturdy bulk of the Tour Magne ★, the city's oldest Roman monument. It offers a panoramic view over Nîmes and its environs and is worth the climb up the narrow stone stairs. You can walk up it for 2.70€ adults, 2.30€ students and children aged 7 to 17, and free for children 6 and under.
If time allows, visit the Musée du Vieux-Nîmes, place aux Herbes (tel. 04-66-76-73-70), housed in a 17th-century former bishops' palace and rich in antiques, porcelain, and everyday objects from the 18th and 19th centuries. Admission is free, but temporary exhibitions cost 5€ for adults, 3.70€ students and children 16 and under.
One of the city's busiest thoroughfares, boulevard de l'Amiral-Courbet, leads to the Porte d'Auguste (also known as the Porte d'Arles) -- the remains of a gate built by the Romans during the reign of Augustus. About 45m (150 ft.) to the south are the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle (tel. 04-66-76-73-45) and the Musée Archéologique (tel. 04-66-76-74-80), in the same building at 13 bis bd. l'Amiral-Courbet. Admission is free, but temporary exhibitions cost 5€ for adults, 3.70€ students and children 16 and under. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm.
Your Lucky Ticket -- If you want to see all of the city's monuments and museums, consider buying a combined ticket to the Roman arena, the Maison Carrée, and the Tour Magne. They cost 9.90€ (7.60€ reduced), are valid for 3 days, and are sold at the ticket counter of all three attractions. It provides access for a 3-day period to all the cultural sites described below. There are also combined tickets to the Roman arena in Nîmes, the amphitheater in Orange, and the Château des Baux in Les Baux-de-Provence. See www.arenes-nimes.com for details.
A Famous Roman Bridge
Outside the city, 23km (14 miles) northeast, the Pont du Gard, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, spans the Gardon River. The aqueduct was the highest in the Roman world and is constructed of huge stones fitted together without mortar. Although most of it has been reconstructed, it stands as one of the region's most vivid reminders of its ancient glory. Consisting of three tiers of arches arranged into gracefully symmetrical patterns, it dates from about 40 to 60 B.C. Abandoned by the 6th century, it fell into ruin until major reconstruction projects started in the 19th century. To visit it, take N86 from Nîmes to a point 3km (1 3/4 miles) from the village of Remoulins, where signs are posted.
The Pont du Gard has a museum (tel. 08-20-90-33-30; www.pontdugard.fr), with exhibiting detailing the bridge's construction, its function throughout the Middle Ages, and insights into the architectural genius of ancient Rome. There's also a restaurant, cafe, and several gift shops. The Pont du Gard site is open all year round, but the "discovery areas," including the museum, are closed Monday morning. It's free to visit the Pont du Gard, but you have to pay to use the closest parking lot. A daily rate of 15€ covers up to five people and includes visits to the museum and temporary exhibits.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.