The French Royal family may have lost their heads, but the Ducs of Uzès are still around, as is their duchy. Located in the region of Occitanie (next to Provence) in the South of France, it is about 15-20 minutes away from the city center of Nimes. Don’t mistake it for a suburb of Nimes though, Uzès is a kingdom all to itself.
The charming little duchy of Uzès, epitomizes small-town France complete with its own castle, cobblestone alleys, art galleries, and artisan shops offering everything from faience pottery to lavender oils.
The first settlement at Uzès dates back to the 1st century. When the Roman aqueduct, the Pont de Gard, was built nearby to bring water to Nimes, both Uzès and Nimes flourished.
The title Seigneur d’Uzès was given in 1088 to Crussol d’Uzès family. This was eventually upgraded to Viscount, Count, and finally Duke in 1565. The Ducs de Uzès eventually rose to become the premier title of France, just after the Royal Princes. It was their job to proclaim “Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!”,(meaning “the King is dead, long live the King”).
The family managed to survive with their heads during the French Revolution, although they did lose their castle and their lands. They managed to repurchase the castle in the early 1800s and restore it to its former glory, maintaining the property ever since.
Today, when walking through Uzès, you do notice the impact of the ducal family and the community in Uzès. When wandering through, the town seems like a place where the locals all know each other, having holiday homes in the area for generations.
Things to do in the area
1) Château Ducal d’Uzès
Château Ducal d’Uzès is regularly open for visit, although do check timings, as they often close for lunch, or special events. The building is at once a home, a museum, and a performance hall.
The musical event, Les Nuits Musicales d’Uzès, takes place every July, all in the Château, as well as around in the surrounding area. (We managed to spot the Duke and his family there at a concert during the summer holidays one year).
Since it is a private home, tours are guided rather than just wandering through. You can climb the Tour de Roi, one of the main imposing towers of the castle, for amazing views across the town and countryside.
Tickets can be purchased at the gate.
2) The Town
The streets of Uzès are lined with charming little artisan shops, that converge on to large squares. Basically, it is a smaller, more intimate version of Aix-en-Provence.
One of the largest squares in Uzès is the famous Place aux Herbes, which is filled with open-air restaurant terrasses during the summer months.
There is also a hidden little garden called the Jardin Médiéval d’Uzès that you shouldn’t miss.
3) Cathédrale St-Théodont
The Cathedral in Uzès is an imposing building just outside old part of town with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. The original cathedral was destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade, rebuilt, and destroyed again in the 16th-century Wars of Religion. It was then rebuilt with additional work being done in the 18th century to make it the building it is today.
4) The Markets
Uzès is famous for its Wednesday and Saturday morning markets, where locals and tourists all gather to do their weekly shopping. The streets are packed, and parking is nearly impossible, so be sure to arrive early (or spend the night before).
5) The Food
When looking at restaurants in Uzès, one of the things is you will notice regularly featured on the menu is truffles. There are several truffle plantations in the area which you can visit, such as Les Truffières d’Uzès. The town also holds a truffle festival every year.
The town also has several high-end restaurants known for their gastronomy. The La Maison d’Uzès is a luxury hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant in the historic city center. There are also other great eateries such as Ten, Comptoir du 7 and my favorite, Au Petit Jardin.
6) The Wine
The red wines in this area are dark and aromatic with tones of fruit and licorice. If you are visiting in the summer and prefer something lighter, try the rosés which have notes of citrus, white flowers, and red berries or the whites which are light and fresh with aromas of apricot and peach.
Book a tour to go on a wine-tasting in the area (with a designated driver!) and pick your favorite.
7) Art and Antiques
Uzès has several specialty art galeries, as well as small shops selling antiques and collectibles. If you are looking for unique one-of-a-kind pieces, make sure to leave some room in your suitcase.
8) Pont du Gard
About 15 km (10 miles) away from Uzès is one of the most visited tourist attractions in France after the Palace of Versailles and Mont Saint Michel. Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct that was built in the 1st century. The aqueduct was built to carry water to over 50 km (31 miles) to what was then the Roman colony of Nimes.
The Pont crosses the river Gardon and is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges, as well as being one of the best-preserved.
After the Roman empire collapsed, the Pont du Gard remained in use as it also served as a toll bridge for people looking to cross the river. In the 1400s, the Bishops and Ducs of nearby Uzès being responsible for maintaining the bridge.
Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site, with a large visitors’ center and museum on site.
You will need a rental car to visit, or alternatively you can book a tour.
Read more about Pont du Gard.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to get to Uzès?
The closest airport to Uzès is in nearby Montpellier, about 1h15 away.
The closest train station is in Nimes, which is around 20 minutes away from Nimes, although the public bus between Nimes and Uzès takes 40 minutes.
How many days should you spend?
I recommend spending at least one night in Uzès, to enjoy the city at night. The town has many restaurants and terrasses where the locals make merry long into the night, and you will not want a long night-time drive ahead of you after partaking in the fun.
Where should you stay?
The hotels in the center of Uzès are quite expensive, but I highly recommend splurging on this occasion. There is a charm to the old city that is simply unmatchable, and you will want to make the most of your visit.
So had you heard about Uzès before? Have I inspired you to visit this little town? Comment below and let me know.
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