One of the most beautiful day trip destinations in the South of France is Uzès, a pretty medieval town that is an easy day trip from Avignon or Nimes.
I spent a day in Uzès this summer and was mesmerized by the well-preserved historic city center, where cobblestone pathways led the way to ancient castles, hidden gardens and picturesque squares. I was amazed by how few tourists there were as I explored the compact, walkable old town district.
I highly recommend that you consider a day trip to Uzès if you’re in Provence or Occitanie. If you have a little bit of room in your schedule, you might even want to stay in Uzès overnight to experience the evocative tranquility that falls over the town at dusk. Trust me, when you look back on your trip to France, your time in Uzès will be among your most memorable moments.
The History of Uzès, France
Uzès is a small town in the Languedoc-Roussillon, or Occitanie, region of the South of France. If you drew a triangle connecting the cities of Avignon, Nimes and Ales, Uzès would be right in the middle of that triangle.
The origins of Uzès date back to the first century BCE, when it was a point along the (long!) aqueduct that now contains the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site Pont du Gard. By the 700s, the town had expanded and fortified, and over the years it became an important center for cloth-making.
However, Uzès is most famous for its title of First Duchy of France. In 1565, Antoine de Crussol was awarded the title of Duke, and his chateau became a duchy. The castle in the centre of Uzès has stayed in the de Crussol family for the past 450 years, and the descendants of the original duke still maintain the historic property today.
Things to Do in Uzès
The best things to do in Uzès are concentrated in the historic city center, which is inside the town’s circular ring road. I recommend starting your visit with a trip to the town’s tourist information office on Place Albert 1er. Here, you can pick up a free city map with a well-marked walking route that will guide you to all of the most beautiful spots in Uzès.
An easy first stop on your walking tour of Uzès is the Ducal Palace, also known as the Duchy. This huge castle is a mix of medieval, Renaissance, 17th-century and modern architecture. Inside there are luxurious apartments, ancient wine cellars, a chapel and a bell tower that you can ascend for panoramic city views. Or so I’ve heard, as when I visited in August 2022 the doors were firmly locked and there were no signs of the duchy being open to the public. Check the castle’s website before you go to see current opening days, times and prices.
The Medieval Gardens
The Medieval Gardens in Uzès are open seasonally, from April to October. However, before my day trip to Uzès I saw a comment from their staff on Google Maps, where, in response to someone who noted that the gardens were rather barren in the summer, staff had written:
Come in the spring or autumn. The weather is milder and the garden more beautiful.
Since I was there in August during a heatwave, it didn’t seem prudent to pay €6 to see dry gardens. If you are in Uzès during the spring or autumn, you can visit the gardens here to see more than 450 species of plants and learn about how they were used medicinally during the Middle Ages.
The Medieval Gardens are also home to two medieval towers. Visitors who climb the 100 stairs up the King’s Tower are rewarded with beautiful views of the town’s rooftops.
Place Aux Herbes
Did I mention that the skies opened and it poured rain for the entire drive from Nimes to Uzès, and then the rain miraculously stopped the minute I stepped off the bus in Uzès? Yes, my visit to Uzès was rather serendipitous!
On a normal day, Place aux Herbes is the bustling heart of Uzès, with cafe tables spilling out onto the square and carefully-restored medieval homes lining its edges. On the morning of my visit Place aux Herbes was empty as people waited cautiously to see if the rain would return (it didn’t!).
This is also where you’ll find Uzès’ famous market. If you time your visit for a Wednesday morning or a Saturday morning or afternoon, you can expect Place aux Herbes to be full of market vendors selling fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, meats, flowers, handicrafts and more. Some people consider the Uzès market to be one of the best in all of the South of France, which means it can draw quite a crowd. Consider learning some French for travel before your visit, so that you can interact with the market vendors more authentically.
Eglise St. Etienne
If you visited Uzès eight hundred years ago you would find many more churches than are left standing today (you’d also be a time traveler, so…). Most of the churches in the center of Uzès were destroyed during the Religious Wars, when Protestants and Catholics fought for power during the latter half of the sixteenth century.
St. Etienne is one of the few churches that still stand in Uzès today, although only its bell-tower and door predate the Religious Wars (the rest was reconstructed in 1767).
If you’re following the map from the tourist information office it recommends that you now detour to see The General Hospital. I recommend that you skip this stop as it’s literally just a modern hospital – there are no elements of the historic building that are still accessible to the public, and wandering around a hospital parking lot is kind of weird.
Cathedral of Saint Theodorit
Built, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, re-rebuilt… Uzès’ cathedral has a storied history. The current building dates back to the 1600s, and the decorative facade was updated in the late 1800s. At the time of my visit to Uzès there was a wedding taking place in the cathedral, so I opted to take photos from the panoramic viewing terrace below the church, on Promenade Racine.
Near the cathedral you’ll also find the old Tour Fenestrelle – this bell tower is not open to the public. There is also a small domed building devoted to the writer Jean Racine, who is known to have written many letters to his contemporaries during the years he spent in Uzès.
Medieval Streets of Uzès
Really, though, the greatest pleasure of a day trip to Uzès is simply getting lost in its labyrinth of medieval cobblestone streets. Ducking under stone archways, sitting beside an ancient fountain, imagining the barons and peasants who once walked the same streets… it’s the kind of escapism that you can only get from a great travel experience. Plan to spend at least one or two unstructured hours simply wandering, following your eyes and ears as you experience this delightful town.
Haribo Candy Museum
This one is coming out of left field! If you have a rental car (or don’t mind hopping in a taxi), Uzès is home to the Haribo Candy Museum. Located about four kilometers south of the historic center, the Haribo Candy Museum in Uzès is ideal for families traveling with children. The museum features exhibits about the history of Uzès’ candy industry (it was actually an important producer of licorice), the candy-making process and candy advertising over the years. Of course, your visit ends in the Willy Wonka-esque museum shop, where you can buy all the Haribo that your heart desires. Admission is €10 for adults and €8 for children over the age of five.
Bus From Nimes to Uzès
The bus from Nimes to Uzès is #152. It departs from the Nimes bus station (behind the train station). Tickets currently cost €1.50 and can be purchased on board from the driver (cash, exact change recommended). It takes about 45 minutes to travel from Nimes to Uzès by bus.
The bus from Nimes to Uzès drops you off at a stop called “Esplanade”, which is across the street from the post office shown above. On the way back, you’ll catch your bus either at the same stop or in front of the post office, by the sign shown in the photo. From both bus stops, it’s a one-minute walk to the historic center, and three minutes to the main historic square. Check the bus schedule linked below to see which stop you need (depending on the day and time).
Occasionally, the bus from Nimes to Uzès stops at the edge of town (“Uzès – La Refuge”), rather than in the city centre. If possible, avoid using this stop as it’s a fifteen-minute walk to the city center and it’s just not the nicest introduction to the city. If you’re planning to return on a late bus, be careful to go to the correct stop so that you don’t get stuck in Uzès overnight (to be fair, that wouldn’t be terrible!).
Bus schedules vary seasonally, but you can usually find an updated timetable on the official transit website. Set your “department” to “30 – Gard” and then choose #152. Generally speaking “LaV” means “Monday to Friday”, “S” means “Saturday” and “D” means Sunday, and the different colors at the top (red, orange, yellow and grey) indicate the season. If you need help understanding the bus schedule, ask at the tourist information office or at your accommodation.
Bus From Avignon to Uzès
The bus from Avignon to Uzès is #115. It leaves from the Avignon bus station (beside the train station, sort of underneath the Ibis Hotel). As with the buses from Nimes, tickets currently cost €1.50 and can be purchased on board from the driver (cash, exact change recommended). It takes about 45 minutes to travel from Avignon to Uzès by bus.
According to the official transit website, buses to and from Avignon both use the Esplanade stop (so you’ll get off the bus and back on it at the same place – no need to cross the road on your way back). You can get more details about the schedule here, by setting your “department” to “30 – Gard” and choosing #115. See above for help with reading the schedule.
As with the bus to and from Nimes, not all of the buses between Avignon and Uzès stop in the city center. I recommend choosing a bus that goes from Avignon to “Uzès – Esplanade”. Some of the buses only go as far as “Uzès – La Refuge”, which is a fifteen-minute walk from the historic center. It’s not an unpleasant walk, but it’s just something to be aware of (especially on your way back – you don’t want to go to the wrong stop and miss the last bus to Avignon!).
Restaurants in Uzès
There are lots of restaurants in Uzès, but in the high season they tend to fill up quickly and it’s worth making a reservation if there is somewhere special that you want to eat. Some restaurants in Uzès that you may want to consider include:
- Chez Cerise – This is where I had lunch, which is shown above. They had a small menu on a chalkboard outside. One of the options was a “vegetarian plate”, which is my favorite thing to order in France as it’s always different and always surprising. You can see that mine came with several different types of salads, a little bowl of ratatouille and fresh melon slices. Of course, I had it with a glass of rosé wine and a carafe of tap water.
- Les Terroirs – This was my back-up option if I wasn’t able to get a seat at Chez Cerise, since I knew beforehand that their menu had several vegetarian options (on top of more traditional French dishes). They also have a little boutique selling many of the locally-made condiments they use to prepare their cuisine.
- Creperie La Bolée – Right beside the Tourist Information office, this little creperie is perfect for a light lunch or snack. They have both sweet and savory crepes.
- La Table d’Uzès – For a special event, this is Uzès’ only Michelin-starred restaurant. As far as Michelin-starred restaurants go prices here are relatively affordable, with lunch starting at €52 (before the wine pairing).
Hotels in Uzès
I only visited Uzès for the day, so I can’t make a personal hotel recommendation. However, while I was exploring the town I noticed a few cute hotels that had great locations and that have good reviews online. If you’re looking for a hotel in Uzès, these are good options to consider:
- Boutique Hotel Entraigues – This would be my first choice for a hotel in Uzès. Located in a renovated heritage building right in the historic center, the rooftop terrace here has beautiful views and on a hot summer day you won’t be able to resist their swimming pool.
- Hostellerie Provencale – A charming little hotel just on the edge of the historic center, the on-site restaurant here is regarded as one of the best in town.
- Patio de Violette – If you have a car, it’s a quick five-minute drive into Uzès from this countryside hotel. Savor a continental breakfast on their pretty garden terrace.
Is Uzès Worth Visiting?
Yes, Uzès is worth visiting, and a day trip to Uzès from Avignon or Nimes will definitely be a highlight of your trip to the South of France! There are many charming small towns around Provence and the surrounding areas, but few are as well-preserved as Uzès and its historic center. Uzès is the perfect place to spend a day or two on your next trip to France.
If you have any questions about traveling to Uzès, leave a comment below and I’ll answer ASAP!
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