The cuisine is a mirror of Nimes’ position at the crossroads of Provence and the Pyrenees, taking Southern French food and dusting it with a Spanish zing. If you are not a fan of bullfighting, you may want to avoid June’s Corrida.
Rococo-style Pâtisserie Courtois has been an institution in the Old Town’s
place du Marché since 1892. Snag a table on the terrace to sample Courtois’
tarte Nîmoise, crisp pastry garnished with potatoes, creamy cod and sweet
onions, €12.50. (00 334 6667 2009)
Off the beaten track but a firm local-favourite, snug Le P’tit Bec dishes up delights
to a handful of regular diners. Sample John Dory doused in tarragon buerre
blanc, €16, and save room for a platter of goat’s cheese and chestnut honey,
€3. Décor is charmingly dated.
Blowout: Le Lisita by
the imposing Arènes Roman amphitheatre has seasonal menus, €25-98, featuring
celery rémoulade spiked with summer truffles, or chef Olivier Douet’s
thyme-infused brandade - salt cod poached in milk.
Outrageous 1950s décor sprawls over the bar, central courtyard and
labyrinthine rooms at La Casa Blanca. Plump for generous tapas, four for €20,
Provençal, such as garlic-drenched supions (tiny local cuttlefish) and
Andalucían, like paper-thin slices of jamón ibérico de bellota. Local wines by
the litre, €6. (00 334 66 21 76 33)
One bite of Au Flan
Coco’s pat’ à Coco potato cake – layered with Cévennes goat’s cheese, €13,
or homemade foie gras and duck confit, €16, – and you’ll be smitten. Expect
rustic chic and quality wines, from €16 per bottle, €9 per carafe.
Blowout: Super-chef Michel Kayser shimmers at double
Michelin-starred Restaurant Alexandre,
just outside of Nimes. Set menus, €64-89, are splashed with delicacies like taureau
de manade (cuts of Camargue bull) and traditional octopus pie,€44.
Like previous patrons Salvador Dali and Ernest Hemingway, join locals for
an anise-flavoured pastis, €3.50, at La
Grande Bourse. The bar’s capacious terrace looks over the Arènes; inside,
there is more than a hint of Parisian mystique, with low lighting, red velour
banquettes and vaulted ceilings.
Drop into Bistrot
Le Pian to sample top vintages by the glass, €3-€8, served alongside
charcuterie, cheeses and other tapas, €3-18. The on-site shop stocks local AOCs
including Côtes du Rhône and wines from their own Domaine Le Pian.
Blowout: Perched atop Norman Foster’s Carré d’Art (Nimes’
contemporary arts centre), Le Ciel de
Nîmes affords stunning city views. On Friday and Saturday evenings, Ciel de
Nuit features fruity cocktails, from €3.50.
A rambling, renovated mas
(farmhouse), family-run Le Pré Galoffre
floats in a sea of vineyards, far removed from Nimes’ downtown bustle. Bedrooms
have exposed stone walls with their own outdoor suntrap, doubles from €90.
Breakfasts, €10, and three-course dinners, €25, are served by the pool.
Quirky Provençal murals and unpretentious service make Hotel Majestica good spot to
stay. Each bedroom is unique. Doubles from €55. Breakfast, €7, includes croissants
, baskets of baguettes and café crème.
Blowout: Canal-side in an elegant neighbourhood, bedrooms at
the Hotel Imperator buzz
with charm. Dine in the garden restaurant L’Enclos de la Fontaine, or enjoy an
aperitif in the piano bar. Doubles from €185.
Les Halles, Nimes’ covered food market off
boulevard Gambetta, has been a landmark to stock up on regional staples for
over a century. Its 80 stalls include cheesemakers, organic producers and traiteurs.
Look out for oblong Picholine olives, fragrant Gariguette strawberries and
Fleur de Sel de Camargue.
Pop into À
la Fourchette des Arènes to pick up a picnic: its petit pâté Nîmois
(pâte in crispy pastry), €1.50, and lavender honey roasted lamb, €8.50, are
unmissable. Eat by the canals in Jardins de la Fontaine, a medley of ruins and
Blowout: Between Nimes and the Cévennes hills, the Château de la Tuilerie vineyards
have been tended by the Comte family for generations. Taste, then stock up on
one of its dozen AOC Costières de Nîmes wines, from €7 per bottle.
The article 'Budget and blowout guide to Nimes' was published in partnership with BBC Olive magazine.