Uncover Southern France: Basking in Sunshine, Steeped in History
Nestled even closer to Montpellier, only a few hours away, are a handful of outstanding UNESCO world heritage sites. Some of these historical cities and sites include Nîmes, Carcassonne, Avignon, St. Guilhem-le-Desert and Sète.
The aforementioned Paris, Nice and Barcelona are easy to research and learn about, so, let’s dig deeper into some lesser known gems.
Located a quick 20-minute train ride east of Montpellier, Nîmes is a must-see for any Roman history or bullfighting fan. Fun fact: Nîmes was built on the Via Domitia, the first, Roman road connecting Italy to Spain.
Evidence of the city’s rich Roman history abounds.
When entering the heart of the city, visitors are greeted by the grand Arènes de Nîmes (The Arena of Nîmes). This Roman amphitheatre, built around 70 AD, is one of if not the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in France. It also was and still is used as a bullfighting arena, as well as playing host to other local events.
Another key sight in Nîmes includes the Maison Carrée(Square House), originally built for the sons of Agrippa, and one of the world’s best preserved Roman temples.
And just outside of Nîmes, I highly suggest visiting the Pont du Gard; a three-tiered Roman aqueduct and UNESCO World Heritage site, running from Uzès to Nîmes. Do note however, it is most easily accessed by car or other private transport. Public transportation to get here may be daunting.
When visiting the older, fortified city and looking out below onto the old town, one is reminded of the area’s rich history, spanning from the rule of the Visgoths to that of the Romans, and beyond.
Other sites in the region which should not be missed include the city of Avignon and its famous Pont d’Avignon, the medieval town of St. Guilhem-le-Désert, located on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and the port city of Sète.