Visiting Pont du Gard is an opportunity to see a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct of absolutely incredible proportions in southern France. In pictures you can tell the scale is enormous, but when visiting Pont du Gard in real life, standing there dwarfed by this monumental structure, it’s hard not to be stunned by it. I mean, look at this:
We decided to do a day trip to Pont du Gard when we were staying in Aix-en-Provence, and it was just a delightful outing. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Pont du Gard.
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Getting to Pont du Gard
First off, Pont du Gard is located in the countryside, about 45 minutes to the west of the city of Avignon. There are buses from Nimes and Avignon that will take you there, and there is also a new train station (Nimes Pont du Gard) that you can arrive at. Use the SNCF site to look up train timetables.
For us, since we were staying in Aix-en-Provence, which would be less direct with bus, and before the train option became available, we chose to use a rental car to get there.
On the drive to Pont du Gard, we drove through the pretty French countryside, through several very small villages, past many vineyards, and on picturesque tree-lined streets. There are several turns to get there, so having navigation on is definitely advised. It may appear there are more turns than there actually are if you look at the direction “list” as our navigation system treated each roundabout as a “turn” even if we went straight.
When we reached Pont du Gard, there was a very large parking lot (free) and a ticket center to get tickets. After purchasing tickets (9.50 euro for adults) you walk down a short trail which goes through some trees, past some large overhangs/caves (that show evidence of ancient use), curves around, and opens to the aqueduct.
I liked this because you don’t see the aqueduct until you are right there! And then there it is, straddling the river in its majesty, surrounded by hills and quiet countryside. Such a cool sight.
Six Ways to Enjoy Visiting Pont du Gard Aqueduct:
1. Take a picture in front of it
This is the easiest, and perhaps obvious choice, but is still a must and a great way to spark memories of the experience later. The best vantage point to capture the whole view is from the walkway leading up to Pont du Gard.
2. Walk across it
The lower level has a pretty wide walkway that allows you to get up close and personal with the aqueduct. It’s really cool to walk under the arches and admire the craftsmanship of the structure.
It’s amazing to realize that this bridge built two thousand years ago is still standing and in such good repair. The engineering behind it is mind-blowing to me – it’s actually three bridges stacked on top of each other and contains more than 50,000 tons of rock.
You’ll notice that there have been some repairs, but not many; it really has stood up remarkably well. You can take time to both admire the bridge and also enjoy the view as you look out over the river Gardon. Such a wonderful experience!
3. Hike up to the top
On both sides of the aqueduct there are stairs/paths you can use to hike up to the very top. Beyond gaining a new perspective on the bridge, you also get to see the section where the water actually flows.
That was something that blew me away, actually, to realize that this amazing structure was really all just to support this little channel at the top. This few feet wide and deep trough is the actual aqueduct and you can see it extending into the hills on either side, now just this small structure.
There are some hiking paths you can follow on the east side to explore the hills:
4. Walk the paths
On the west side of the aqueduct there is another fun path that hugs the side of the hill, and there’s even a cool little tunnel to walk through. It was a little unclear if the tunnel was also part of the aqueduct or if it was made later (I think it is more recent), but it’s fun to imagine the Romans building a bridge and then a tunnel, too.
5. Head down on the rocks to the water’s edge
There are a lot of rocks and a lot of shoreline that you can play on and hang out on. It makes a great place for a picnic lunch and a great view back up toward Pont du Gard.
6. Eat at the café
Alternatively, if you don’t want to do a picnic, there is a really cute café on the grounds just before the aqueduct that you could grab lunch or a snack at.
Tip: On this trip we were in France over May 1, which is France’s Labor Day. Unlike the U.S., Labor Day in France is actually a day off for almost all laborers – most shops, restaurants, cafes, and attractions are closed, so there were limited options for things we could do. Thankfully, though, Pont du Gard was open!
So if you happen to be in the Provence region on May 1, visiting Pont du Gard is a good option for that day. If you are in France at all over May 1, be prepared that many places will be closed and plan ahead to find available options for things to do and places to eat that day.
Where to Stay
There are a lot of nearby cities that make good basecamp cities for visiting Pont du Gard. Marseille and Aix-en-Provence are both just 1.5 hours away by car. Nice is farther – a full 3 hours by car, but still doable for a day trip. Avignon is only 30 minutes away – so it would work well to stay in Avignon, or combine your day trip to Pont du Gard with a visit to Avignon on the same day (that’s what we did!)
Where We Stayed
We stayed in Aix-en-Provence when we took a day trip to Pont du Gard, and it worked out really well! When you stay in Aix, I would recommend staying in or right by old town. This adorable hotel with old French architectural details is centrally located, just a few blocks away from the Cours Mirabeau. It’s the perfect spot for exploring Aix and immersing yourself in old French charm.
Getting To and From Pont du Gard
There are a few options on how to get to Pont du Gard. Here is my breakdown on each of them.
Renting a car gives you the most flexibility, but it is also the most hands-on option (need to navigate, find parking, etc). Thankfully, driving in France is fairly straightforward, road conditions are good, and traffic on the freeways isn’t bad at all.
This is the option we used when we visited Pont du Gard, since the train station was not open yet and buses didn’t run easily from Aix-en-Provence to Pont du Gard.
Most cars in France are manual transmission, so if that’s going to be a problem you’ll want to make your car reservation for automatic as early as possible (limited number of automatic cars) and be prepared to spend a little more. Check current rental car rates here
A new train station has opened near Pont du Gard – called Nimes-Pont-du-Gard. However, the station is actually 15 miles from the aqueduct and would require a shuttle or taxi after taking the train. Still, it’s fairly direct and you don’t have to mess with parking, tolls, driving in narrow old towns, or navigating.
This is the cheapest option, and can be a good option if you are staying nearby. There are direct buses from Nimes, Uzes, and Avignon to Pont du Gard. If you are staying at one of these cities, the bus is a good option! If you aren’t, I think it’s too much hassle to be worth using the bus.
Book a Small Group Tour
This small group tour takes you to several of the old Roman sites in Provence – Pont du Gard, Nimes, and Uze. It’s a great option if you don’t want to deal with any logistics or if you just like having your own personal tour guide! Get more details here
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. (If covid has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what could happen!)
I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Pont du Gard
All told, we spent about 2-3 hours here. I think visiting Pont du Gard is a great half-day trip! You can spend longer, especially if you want to do some more extensive hiking, but I don’t think you need more time than that here if you just want the essentials.
I’m really, really glad we came and visited Pont du Gard aqueduct. The architectural ingenuity was so impressive and it was situated in a really lovely section of the Provence countryside. If you are nearby, its definitely worth the trip out!
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- Best Things to Eat in Aix-en-Provence
- Hiking the Calanques of Cassis
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