Nimes, a city in the south of France, is an appealing destination for a short break
Nimes is home to Roman ruins and a world-class collection of contemporary art and architecture.
There’s an easily walkable old town with narrow streets and pleasant cafe-lined squares, making this southern French city appealing for a short break.
Where to stay
Appart’City Nimes Arenes
Five minutes’ walk from Nimes Centre train station, this grand, 19th-century mansion — formerly the city’s post office — has been a comfortable apart-hotel since 2016. Rooms are decorated with contemporary furnishings — some have original features including fireplaces and parquet floors. All rooms have kitchenettes. Double rooms from £83 (appartcity.com).
Nimes boasts an easily walkable old town with narrow streets and pleasant cafe-lined squares. Base yourself at Appart’City Nimes Arenes, which lies a five-minute walk from Nimes Centre train station
Appart’City Nimes Arenes is housed in a grand, 19th-century mansion that was formerly the city’s post office
Apart from the fact that it’s spotlessly clean and has spacious rooms sleeping up to four people, the main attraction at this three-star hotel, on the east side of the old town, is its fourth-floor roof terrace.
It’s a great spot for breakfast or an evening drink, although you’ll have to bring your own booze because there’s no bar. Doubles from £57 (squarehotel-nimes.com).
Hotel des Tuileries
Check into Hotel des Tuileries, set around the corner from the Philippe Starck-designed Abribus bus stop (above). Picture courtesy of Creative Commons
A homely hotel, run by a British couple, on a residential street around the corner from the Philippe Starck-designed Abribus bus stop.
Ask for a room with a little balcony so you can sit outside to enjoy a craft beer or wine from the ground-floor bar. Breakfast bread and pastries come from the neighbouring bakery. Doubles from £65 (hoteldestuileries.com).
Hotel de l’Amphitheatre
This 11-room hotel near the Roman arena, created from two adjoining townhouses from the 17th and 18th century, has been renovated in a minimalist, southern-French style. There is no lift to reach the two upper floors, but at least you’ll work off the cooked-to-order breakfast. Double rooms from £78 (hoteldelamphitheatre.com).
What to see & do
As a former Roman colony, Nimes has sights including Maison Carree, a well-preserved temple, and the amphitheatre (£11.40, arenes-nimes.com). For floor mosaics, head to the Musee de la Romanite (from £7.90; museedelaromanite.fr).
Admire the floor mosaics at the Musee de la Romanite – tickets are priced from £7.90
Delight in denim
The Musee du Vieux Nimes (£4.40; Place aux Herbes), has a display tracing the history of denim, which is thought to have originated in Nimes.
Great modern art
It’s the 30th anniversary of the Carre d’Art, designed by Norman Foster and housing a modern art collection (from £7, carreartmusee.com).
Examine the modern artwork at the Carre d’Art, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year
Marvel at the market
Les Halles de Nimes, a covered market, has stalls piled with enticing local produce (leshallesdenimes.fr).
Where to eat
Le Bistrot de Tatie Agnes
You have to be quick to grab one of the few tables at this lunch-only ‘hole in the wall’, down an alley just south of the Maison Carree. Try a salad: ‘La Nimes’ features tapenade (olive spread), anchoiade (anchovy dip) and brandade (salt cod mixed with olive oil and cream) for £9 (lebistrotdetatieagnes.eatbu.com).
This pistachio-coloured cafe, with a listed painted and moulded ceiling, has been a popular meeting place for locals since 1813. Drop in for a coffee (£3.25) and cake (£3.70) or for lunch or dinner. There’s a plat du jour for £9.50 and snacks such as terrine (coarse pâté) with bread from £5.70 (le-napo.fr).
Le Nicolas is a family-run restaurant that serves ‘good-value regional dishes’
Run by the same family for 62 years, this cosy restaurant with a beamed ceiling, stone walls and a brightly tiled floor, serves good-value regional dishes such as gardiane de taureau — bull meat slow cooked in red wine — from £13 (restaurant-nicolas-nimes.com).
Gard O Vin
Tucked away in Place du Marche, this wine bar is the place to go to sample the local AOC, Costieres de Nimes (from £3.50 per glass). It opens at 5pm. Settle on a sofa in the vaulted cellar or perch on a stool outside to munch on cheese and charcuterie; a plate of sausage slices comes in at £4.40.
Flights from Stansted and Edinburgh from £12.99 one-way (ryanair.com). The shuttle bus between the airport and Nimes is £6 one way (tangobus.fr). Or take the train from London St Pancras, changing at Lille or Paris, from £75 one way (thetrainline.com).
A two-day Nimes City Pass (nimescitypass.com) gives you access to the main sights for £25.50 (nimes-tourisme.com).