Pont du Gard is a Roman aqueduct in Provence, France, it is a UNESCO site and historically and architecturally significant, well worth a visit if you are in the area.
A Roman aqueduct is part of the ancient water system which would bring water to a city and take away the sewage. It was a monumental invention and really advanced engineering for the time. The aqueduct played the role of carrying the water, almost all of the aqueducts were below ground but where that wasn’t possible they built the graceful arched structures we commonly know today as Roman aqueducts. The system took advantage of gravity and the different heights of the terrain.
This is what happened when the Romans were occupying France and wanted to build a water system for the city of Nimes. The Pont du Gard aqueduct’s purpose was to carry the water over the Gard River.
The Pont du Gard aqueduct is 50 meters high; has three levels; and the longest stretch of the aqueduct is 275 meters long. The large graceful arches have another layer of smaller arches on top and the aqueduct spans the river like a bridge. Actually it is a bridge because today it is possible to drive across the Pont du Gard!
As a tourist attraction you can get a good half day or day side-trip out of the Pont du Gard. The natural surroundings are so beautiful and virtually untouched, there are nature trails in the adjacent forest and along these trails (which are free) you will see remnants of other parts of the aqueduct which didn’t survive as well. I recommend you start your visit on the left side (follow the signs to Rive Gauche) as there is a ticket office, museum and tourist information center etc.
If you start on the left bank at the tourist center you can follow the 7 km of paths through the rural areas and forest to the Pont du Gard, cross it and head down to the other side. There is also “Memoires de Garrigue“, 15 hectares of agricultural land set up to show you how man has worked the land over the past 2000 years. It takes about 1.5 hours to see it all. It is like an open-air museum, but we learnt a lot at the same time as having fun. The site is free but the guide book is 4€.
For the kids there is Ludo, a program with four themes (about 50 minutes) where kids can learn about the aqueduct though playing as if they are Romans; dealing with water; becoming mini-archeologists and learning about the environment. This Ludo program runs from 9:30am-5:30pm daily except Mondays and until 7pm from May to September.
If like me you only have a vague idea of what an aqueduct is and its architectural and historical significance then there is a museum and movie in the tourist site’s tourist center. Basically you can just stroll through yourself but if you want to make a day of it there is a full day guided program. We loved the “Roman Road” that you can walk down and see multimedia screens on each side teaching you about what would have been there in Roman occupied Nimes. There are quite a few sections both about water and about this particular aqueduct. The museum and movie are closed on Monday mornings but the rest of the site is open daily.
Le Vaisseau du Gardon (vessel on the Gardon) is a movie showing the history of man and the land and how he has coped with the changing seasons. The cinema is huge and the quality excellent.
OK, for free you can wander around, cross the “bridge” and enjoy the countryside. Although the aqueduct and trails are free it will cost you an hourly fee to park your car! The parking lots are open from 6am-1am and there is one on either side of the river. For a guided tour of about 1.5 hours you get taken around the site and the surroundings (including the quarry where the Romans dug up the stones for the aqueduct) for 6€. For the guide book of Memoires de Garrigue it’s 4€. I didn’t see individual prices for the museum or movie although there is an option to see just them. The option that most people go for is the “package” and I think it is probably best considering you’ve come all this way and want to make it worthwhile. The daily package costs 18€ for a group of 5 people and you can take your time and spend the day.
The easiest way to reach the site is either to drive from Nimes (27km) or Avignon(21km) or take the bus shuttle from the Nimes bus station (about 45 minute ride). If you are driving then follow the signs from Remoulins or Uzes.
What were the WOW moments you experienced?
This is the highest aqueduct in existence and it’s also one of the best preserved.
France, Nimes, Pont du Gard