Reasons to Visit Nîmes UNESCO Sites and Roman Inspired Sandwich
Not much has changed since the Roman era in Nîmes – fabulous monuments and good food remain central to the city’s fabric. In 1840, la Maison Carrée, a beautifully restored Roman temple, was listed as a French historic monument, and as of September 18, 2023, it is now on the UNESCO list of historical monuments.
To celebrate the city’s Gallo-Roman past, two residents, Jean-Karim Taghzouti, the owner of la Maison du Goût, and Gilles Deschamps, a passionate food lover, shared a Roman-inspired sandwich – Le Crocus de Nîmes.
UNESCO Maison Carrée
Although it is not in present-day Provence but rather in the Gard, Nîmes was the capital of Provincia Romana. Once known as “the most Roman city outside of Italy,” at its heart is a 24,000-seat Roman arena. It is one of the largest and best-preserved globally and is still in use today for events ranging from concerts to mock gladiator battles.
The Maison Carrée (the Square House), a Corinthian-style Roman temple on a raised podium 15 steps above the ground, sits prominently in an open plaza. Over the centuries, the district surrounding the temple has changed dramatically. Today, the Maison Carrée sits on the edge of the Nîmes shopping and entertainment district. Constructed between 10 BC and early 1 AD during the reign of emperor Augustus in honour of his grandsons. The building is 31.81 metres long by 15 wide and 17 metres high, and 30 x 9-metre columns are visible at the entry and along the sides. Built with a high-quality local limestone from Bois des Lens, la Maison Carrée was adjacent to the Roman forum.
Despite the passage of time and an array of different utilisations – a private residence, a church, and a museum the Maison Carrée remains an example of Roman imperial architecture. Along with the Pantheon in Rome, the Maison Carrée is one of the only temples with preserved exterior decoration. The elegant Roman design of the building and its columns influenced Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the Virginia State Capitol.
For additional details, please read about the UNESCO decision here.
Le Crocus de Nîmes
Crunchy, savoury, and slightly sweet, this sandwich is a variation of a classic croque monsieur and a wordplay on Nîmes’ mascot, the crocodile. Le Crocus de Nîmes includes ingredients, such as almonds, honey, onions, saffron, and tapenade, readily found in the South of France. A culinary invention by Nîmes resident Gilles Deschamps, he pitched the concept to Jean-Karim Taghzouti, the manager of the Maison du Goût, a gourmet shop and restaurant. These two gourmet fans hope that you enjoy the recipe (below).
Crocus de Nîmes a Sandwich
- 1/2 Pélardon (goat cheese) cut into slices
- 2 slices Wholemeal Bread
- 2 tbsp Green Olive Tapenade Picholine du Gard
- a handful of Flaked Almonds from the Gard
- a few slices of Sweet Onion from the Cévennes – sliced
- 1 tbsp Honey from the Cévennes
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil high-quality
- a sprinkle of Dried Thyme aromatic herb from the garrigue
- a sprinkle of Saffron
- Lightly sprinkle the bread with the saffron and with a dribble of olive oil.
- Spread green tapenade on one slice of bread.
- Put the goat's cheese in the middle.
- Spread a thin layer of honey over the top.
- Sprinkle on some flaked almonds.
- Garnish with slices of sweet onion.
- Cover with the second slice of bread.
- Drizzle some olive oil on the bread.
- Put it into a toasted sandwich machine or put it under the grill until the bread is golden and crusty. Enjoy!
A Visit to Nîmes
What to See in Nîmes?
Roman Amphitheatre: Although it may not have been the most significant example constructed during Roman times, the Amphitheatre of Nîmes is considered one of the best-preserved. Like many Roman engineering projects, this one required some intelligent minds. The building is an oval 133 metres long, 101 metres wide and rising 21 metres high. The four-story structure includes 60 symmetrical arches, allowing for a canvas “roof” that protected viewers from the elements.
The Museum de la Romanité is a must-see, with a vast collection of historical objects in a modern building. It was an architectural challenge to design a facility to house some 5000+ Roman-era artifacts in a stylish, interactive envelope on a land facing the Roman Amphitheatre. The talented Franco-Brazilian architect Elizabeth de Portzamparc won the commission. Her design, shortlisted from 103 submissions for the Museum de la Romanité, is stunning. She created a four-story cube and wrapped it in a “folded glass toga.” The Museum’s permanent collection includes many classical pieces, including two mosaics —’ Achilles’ and ‘Pentheus’ from a Roman house considered on a par with those of Pompeii.
During the Roman period, a ring of ramparts four miles long surrounded the city of Nemauses, reinforced by 14 watchtowers. One of these, the Tour Magne, still exists, and you can spot it occasionally as you wander through the city. A climb to the top of the tower—100 feet tall—will reward you with excellent views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
There are many reasons to visit Nîmes, but finding a restaurant that serves this delicious sandwich might be one more.
The following restaurants serve le Crocus de Nîmes: Maison de Goût, Le Printemps and Vincent Croizard.
Maison du Goût (website)
20 Rue de la Madeleine
Open Monday – Saturday 10h to 19h
They sell high-quality gastronomic specialties from the terroirs of all French regions on-site and online (shipping to the UK). The store offerings include many products from Provence in particular.
Jean-Karim Taghzouti – Manager
Telephone: +33 (0)6 19 67 59 94
Maison Carrée (website)
Musée de la Romanité (website)
16 Boulevard des Arènes
Open Daily: 10h – 18h or 19h (April – early November)
Office de Tourisme de Nîmes
6 Bd des Arènes
Telephone: +33 (0)4 66 58 38 00